The Empathy Chip
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Empathy, as defined in the dictionary, is the ability to understand and share the feeling of another. Often parents want to empathize with their child as they grow and face different challenges in life. Showing empathy in and of itself is not a bad thing. However, when empathy is completely emotionally charged and not regulated with a good dose of critical thinking, it can end up becoming a debilitating crutch instead of helpful support.
Cause and Effect
Parents generally try to make good decisions for their children. However, when we as parents are feeling emotions that we think our child is feeling (often due to past experiences), sometimes our solutions backfire. For example: there is a child who is afraid of heights and does not want to look over the railing at Niagara Falls. A parent might understand that fear of heights, and may remember when they were a child and their caretaker forced them to stand alone on a height. Maybe they had even been taunted because of their weakness.
Now this parent wants to avoid that kind of hurt for their child at all costs. They may, in the attempt to empathize, coddle the child who is afraid of heights. Instead of having a conversation with the child where they might find out why the child is afraid< and how to face that fear in decisive steps, they simply gloss over the issue and the child is left with a fear of heights that reaches into adulthood.
In the above scenario, the parent was trying to do the right thing by empathizing with their child and shielding them from fear. However, if we look at this critically, we can see that in this case fear can provide an opportunity for teaching bravery.
I am not saying that the parent should dare their child to go to the edge of the railing, taunt their child about their fear, or force their child to do it anyway. I am saying that the parent can remind the child of how brave they are. They can explain the reasons why it is not necessary for the child to be afraid, and demonstrate the safety measures that should be taken (for this particular example.) They might even demonstrate themselves performing the actions in a way that their child would be able to see themselves doing it.
What is The Difference?
The difference here is that instead of covering the fear, the parent actively gives the child tools to fight fear. Let’s face it: fear doesn’t just magically disappear when you become an adult. It's there, just hiding behind different issues. But when a child knows the steps they need to take to overcome fear, they will be able to use that skill set all throughout their life. What you get then, is an adult who does not panic and knows how to think clearly even when facing a frightening situation.
As a parent, when you find yourself empathizing with a child, perhaps sensing emotional overload, ask yourself these questions:
What opportunities am I giving my child?
What opportunities am I taking away from them?
What opportunities can I give them, that will help them strengthen their weaknesses and improve upon their strengths?
Am I setting them up for success in life, later down the road, when I am not here to be their guide?
There are always choices to be made as your child experiences the world around them. It is important to consciously realize that for every opportunity you give your child, you are taking away another (which is not a bad thing). Some opportunities are not developmentally friendly for your child. The point is to know when certain opportunities can or should be introduced, and how to introduce them.
A large part of parenting is scaffolding. This means knowing when to introduce new situations or challenges to your child which will stretch them and help them grow while you are there to support them. Be intentional with your scaffolding. If you are conscious about the choices you make with how you handle your child’s daily experiences, you will be better at setting them up for success.
Being intentional requires a great deal of patience. It means giving your child an appropriate amount of space to problem solve and experience the process of trial and error. When you are patient with the learning process, empathy can be used as a motivator for a positive outcome. When your child comes across a hardship, instead of trying to take it away as quickly as possible, (if appropriate) work through it. Being able to break down emotions, reactions, responses, and habits is a powerful ability that will propel your child forward. They won’t be able to exercise their skill in that area if you as the parent don’t give them the time and space needed to figure it out.
When you take time to honestly reflect on how you manage empathy for your child, you will be better equipped to help your child grow into a logical, independent adult, who will impact this world for the better. #love #advocacy #compassion #kindness #highschool #mentalhealth #empath #StarStudents #selflove #peace #healing #motivation #homeschooling #mindfulness #selfcare #happiness #life #homeworkhelp #mentalhealthawareness #gratitude #math #english #homeschool #onlinetutor #respect #teachingadvocacy #understanding #study #tutor #bekind #humanity #hope #tutoringservices #community #inspiration #growth #quotes #school #distinctivepedagogy #onlineeducation #alternativetutelage #learning #meditation #learn #spirituality #psychology #onlinelearning #art #emotions #onlinetutors #leadership #covid #wisdom #student #support #mindset #privatetutor #privatetutoring #empathymatters #onlineclasses #awareness #truth #tutors #teacher #emotionalintelligence #connection #positivity #infj #feelings #care #selfawareness #loveyourself #positivevibes #tutoring #reading #privatetutor #mentalhealthmatters #change #faith #education #depression #education #alternativeeducation #follow #health #kindnessmatters #therapy #help #communication #womanowned #maths #developexceptionally #uniquetutoring #onlinetutoring #mathtutor #students #teaching