What is empathy? Empathy is a way to connect with others by understanding how they feel and see the world. It is stepping out of your own shoes temporarily and considering the other’s perspective and feelings, accepting their experience as if they were your own.
Practicing empathy on your everyday interactions with your children, your partner and those you love, shows that you are valuing and respecting their experiences, and it helps maintain and improve your connection.
See a video below with a fun example that shows what empathy looks like.
Phil, the Dad from Modern Family, discovers what it means to practice empathy in this episode:
Empathy, The Key To Stronger Relationships with Your Children
Practicing empathy is not easy. It is a skill that requires accepting another person’s experience, even if you have a hard time understanding why they feel that way.
I have been working on improving my communication with my boys and empathy has been a great tool that has provided an opportunity to learn how they experience the world and why they behave the way they do. Empathy really opens the door to finding positive ways to work through different situations.
It is definitely hard to practice empathy when there are many emotions involved, but taking a step back to take the other person’s needs into account really makes a difference on how you see conflict and how you resolve it.
I also think teaching young children how to practice empathy is very important. As they grow older and get to their teen years, having the skills to be able to improve their connection with others is a great advantage.
Here are some simple tips to start practicing empathy:
Listen: Try to really listen to what the other person is saying and how they feel. Try not to interrupt and instead make eye contact, nod, encourage conversation.
Acknowledge their feelings and emotions: Instead of saying things like, “Don’t yell at me!” or “You are always so angry!”, start the conversation with: ” You sound pretty upset, I’d like to try to understand how you are feeling…..”, “You seem really upset, how can I help”.
Offer a Hug: Whenever your children are going through high emotions, a comforting hug letting them know you are there for them can be appreciated. Of course, this doesn’t work in every situation, but being present physically can help provide comfort and help them calm down.
I myself am working on getting better at this with my boys and with all of my relationships in general. It is not easy and it takes work but I can see little changes and I love the fact that I am showing them that I care and I am there for them.
Do you practice empathy when communicating with your children? Do you have any other tips to help practice empathy? I would love to hear from you!