We use the word “empathy” a lot at Project Bond. We talk about showing our kiddos empathy, that they may have a hard time understanding it, and why it’s so important. I’ve found that a lot of adults don’t quite know what it is. (Our Top 10 Tips for a More Peaceful Home can help – get them here.)
It’s not feeling badly for someone.
It’s not saying, “oh, that really stinks.”
It’s connecting with and feeling what the other person is feeling. It’s attuning to their emotional state and opening yourself to their experience.
No one captures it quite as well as Brené Brown does in this brief video:
Think about how you’ve felt when you’re having a hard time and your spouse or friend says, “hey, it’s not so bad,” “don’t be upset,” or “better luck next time.” It sort of feels like our emotional experience is wrong or doesn’t matter. Our kids are even more sensitive to those interactions, as their early thoughts, feelings, needs, and wants were treated as if they did not matter.
Show them they matter. Validate your child’s emotional experience, even if you don’t understand or agree. Join them in their sadness – sit with them, hold them, just be there. It’s not so scary when you’re not alone.