It's easy to forget that our kids are people too (especially when they’re small). We get caught up in the ‘doing’ of the day: get up, eat breakfast, shower, get dressed, get ready, leave the house, get to the activities, participate, eat, get ready, go home… the list never ends. When we’re focused on getting ‘things done’ we can make the mistake of adding our children to the list of ‘things’. We can forget to think of them as their own people with their own needs and wants.
Knowing what is going on in our kid’s heads is hard work, especially as their still figuring it out themselves a lot of the time. We aren’t going to get it right every time, but the key is to think of our babies and children as people.
We can make an effort to empathise with their experiences, think about things from their point of view and remember that they’re complex and fully realised people who are still learning to make sense of their world. After all, that’s what we’re doing too, right?
When we stop and think about things from our children’s point of view it changes the way we interact and engage with them. Empathy has the power to positively impact our relationships with our children. When we cognitively reflect on our child's perspective we are less likely to become angry, frustrated or respond poorly to their behaviour.
The research shows that parents who empathise with and are well-attuned to their child’s inner emotional world are more likely to develop a secure parent-child attachment. Secure attachments are critical for the emotional and psychological health of our children.
When we tune-in to our children’s cues and are conscious and intentional in our responses we help them better recognise and manage their own emotions. By parenting with empathy, we provide our children with a safe foundation from which they can explore their emotional experiences and seek comfort when experiencing emotional distress.
References: Meng et al 2020; Meins et al (2002)