Tips for Becoming a More Empathetic Parent

Hugs resizedNo one every said that being a parent would always be easy. There will be times when your child’s behavior frustrates you (or makes you angry). Many people “lose their cool” when they feel stressed and overwhelmed. Children need parents who are empathic to their needs. Here are some tips to help you become a more empathic parent.

There is an article in the Huffington Post titled “How to Be an Empathetic Parent, Even When It Feels Hard”. It was written by Andrea Nair.

She is a psychotherapist and parenting educator who teaches people how to be empathetic. In her article, Andrea Nair reviews the reasons why parents sometimes lack empathy. The reasons range from exhaustion to impatience to feeling just plain overwhelmed (and other reasons, too).

The Free Dictionary defines empathetic as “of or relating to empathy”. It has several definitions for empathy. One of them states “empathy denotes a deep emotional understanding of another’s feeling or problems, while sympathy is more general and can apply to small annoyances or setbacks.”

How can parents become more empathetic? There are many ways. Here are just a few ideas to consider:

Remember what it was like when you were a kid. The days felt longer than they do now. Having to wait for something “until tomorrow” was difficult. Keep that in mind when you have to change plans. Kids often feel that if a parent said he or she would take them somewhere that it was a promise. Empathic parents remember how difficult it was to cope with disappointment when they were a child.

Think back to a time when you felt utterly dependent upon someone else. Maybe you were in the hospital, or you were at home recovering from an illness or injury. You needed someone else to cook food for you, to help you get dressed, and possibly to help you bathe.

This can be very stressful, because there can be times when you aren’t sure if the other person will provide the help you need. Keep in mind that this is the experience of all small children. That screaming fit may look like a temper tantrum, but it really could a child’s way of expressing the fear of not having his or her needs met.

The next time your child is behaving in ways you dislike, stop and think about what his or her motivation could be. Remember what you would have felt like in the same situation when you were your child’s age. Offer reassurance, and a hug, before resorting to punishment. Kids need to know that their parents understand them.

Image by Gordon on Flickr.

Related Articles:

* Reflecting Empathy

* Patience and Empathy Go Hand in Hand

* Teaching Toddlers Empathy

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