I’m so proud of my 2 year old’s ability to persevere by doing a difficult puzzle. I watch her try so hard with each piece and celebrate her victory when she completes it with a joyful hand clap and smile.
The other day she finished a puzzle and carefully picked it up to bring it upstairs to show me her accomplishment. As she was walking up the stairs, something happened to cause the puzzle to crumble. She burst into tears.
As I ran to the stairs, I was confused about what caused her to go from so much joy to such sadness.
She explained to me what happened through many cries and deep breaths. My initial internal adult reaction was “It’s not a big deal. We can put it back together,” but I quickly moved into my empathy mode. In the eyes of a two-year old little girl, it was a huge deal. She had worked so hard, and her creation was literally broken in pieces.
As parents I know it is tempting to dismiss our child’s reactions because adults can see the bigger picture and think logically. Kids haven’t developed those skills yet. So if you dismiss their reactions, you might accidentally be teaching them to stop feeling. This could end with a child who shuts down all emotion inside or one who is an extreme feeler who over magnifies their reactions to get you to notice them.
Try using statements like “I know” instead of “It’s okay”. Saying “I know” can help reassure them that they aren’t crazy for being upset. Saying “Its okay” can cause them to second guess their feelings because in their reality it is NOT okay!
Modeling empathy with your kids can result in huge benefits in their futures. It can prevent bullying, develop an emotionally intelligent child, and give them people skills that will lead to healthy relationships. Be an empathetic parent today- you won’t regret the positive outcome you get!
Written by Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW, LCAC
Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW, LCAC is a licensed therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Teri enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling. Teri also does family counseling, child counseling, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield.