How do parents and families provide emotional support for empathic children and help them develop calm and resilience? Experts agree that happy children share characteristics like optimism and a sense of control. The challenge for empathic children is losing the sense of control when witnessing negativity, bullying, injustice, or emotional overwhelm.
Parenting Support Goals
- Our support goal for children with the natural trait of empathy is to strengthen emotional energy, especially of the heart.
- Our second support goal is to empower resilience so they can interact with the environment, not withdraw from it.
- A third support goal is to monitor and maintain an emotionally healthy atmosphere at home.
[bctt tweet=”An empathic’s child’s vulnerability can also be their challenge in an emotionally toxic home, where they learn to repress or cut off their feelings so they can survive. “]
The primary home environment provides the first stable space in which empathic children learn to value personal feelings. If parents talk about feelings, empathic children will hear their values and feel their parents’ comfort levels. They will sense genuineness or lack of authenticity. Empathic children interpret the emotional atmosphere of the home through their feeling or sensing modes. Margaret’ story shows how a psychic, sensitive, or empathic child can interpret a parent’s emotions. How she did so affected her relationship with her father significantly.
Margaret’s was empathic, and she came from a large Italian family of seven children. Family members were talkative and emotionally expressive. Her family had a celebration for Margaret’s first communion day and invited relatives and members of the church community. It was normal to see the men in her family drinking beer and sometimes wine at these family celebrations.
In the late afternoon, Margaret’s observed her father’s emotional energy for the first time: “I kept staring at Dad because I had never seen like storm clouds around him before. Usually Dad was all sunshine and smiles. I was seeing my father’s aura. His alcoholic haze looked like dark clouds, and his mood was angry.
I was used to his booming baritone voice. But when his emotional tone changed to anger, his voice matched the dark clouds I saw as a child. I was confused. I didn’t sense safety although he seemed his happy self on the surface.
That day was the start of my withdrawal from his energy. Being in touch with his stormy emotions made me feel sick to my stomach. My father’s alcoholism grew through the years, and our relationship withered.
There Are Always Options
Rather than Margaret withdrawing from her father to feel safe, another option would be to create communication and understanding between them—a path of resilience for Margaret. She didn’t know she could feel differently, and neither do the majority of sensitive children. The adults in their lives have to ask questions and help children decipher what they feel and sense.
Research from The International Resilience Project reviewed children’s resilience.
Empathic children like Margaret need an adult in the family to model acceptance of other’s differences. A mentor or parents can help sensitive children negotiate adversity by talking about it. For example, an adult could help Margaret
- Clarify that her dad only looked foggy when drinking alcohol.
- How did his energy appear at other times?
- Margaret could have brought to her dad’s attention the fact that his children did not respond well to the anger and alcohol mix.
Conversations have to happen!!