Parenting Guide

Parenting Guide

How to Foster Empathy: Step In, Step Out

Step In: Put yourself in your child’s shoes by carefully listening to your child’s needs and feelings. Ask your child empathetic questions about her experience. Understand your child’s experience from her perspective.

Balance: Recognize the feelings that your child is experiencing and what those feelings evoke within you. Too much empathy or sharing too strongly in your child’s pain can cause a loss of boundaries and confusion about “who’s who.” Keeping one foot in reality will protect you from showing too much empathy by getting lost in your child’s distress.

On the other hand, showing too little empathy by discounting your child’s feelings can leave her feeling overwhelmed and alone.

Step Out: By separating your own feelings and experiences from those of your child, you are now able to assess your child’s distress more realistically. This gives you and your child the ability to problem- solve together. Your empathic response will also help her learn how to manage frustration and disappointments more on her own—of course, with you by her side.

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