We are all born with the ability to feel emotions in others. It is a basic survival skill for humans and animals. This ability generally disappears in childhood as we learn to focus more on verbal signals than emotional ones.
EmpathicOn the other hand, they have a greater sensitivity to other people’s emotions that continues to develop over time. As other children fail to pick up on emotional cues, empathic children become overwhelmed by the vast amount of emotional information they receive in social settings.
Since most parents do not know if they are empathic, they do not recognize the signs in their children. It also prevents them from effectively teaching their children how to handle emotional overflow. For a more in-depth discussion of empathic adult resources, you can read my articles on this topic here.
Emotional intelligence it is defined as “the ability, capacity or ability to perceive, evaluate and manage one’s own emotions, those of others and of groups” (Salovey and Mayer, 1990). When you teach your children how to manage their empathic skills, you are developing their emotional intelligence.
There are three fundamental concepts that must be addressed to effectively manage emotional information.
1. Empowerment: Do you control your empathic abilities or do they control you (curse or blessing?)
2. Centered: Can you always hear your own inner self above all (rise above chaos)
3. Flow: Does emotional information come in and go out freely (does it have an outlet?)
Is your child an empath?
Children have a different way of handling their empathic abilities. Their available response range is smaller, so they typically choose very quiet (as a way to calm the emotional chaos they feel) or acting (as a way to be louder than emotional noise).
Keep in mind that children learn to manage their empathic skills by watching you manage yours. If you are an empath but don’t know how to handle it, seek help for yourself first!
These are behaviors that I have observed in empathic children who do not know how to handle their abilities:
- He becomes unusually quiet (often seen as shy) in crowds, but is fine with immediate family or smaller groups. Your child is trying to feel empowered and centered by withdrawing from the world.
- Gets out of control physically or verbally with people, but calms down at home. Your child is trying to find a way out of the overwhelming flow of incoming emotions.
- Resists going to bed or wakes up frequently. Your child is trying to stay centered while surrounded by emotional activity from adults.
- Detects all available illnesses (cold, flu, ear infections, etc.). Your child is trying to feel empowered to shut down unwanted emotional activity. Being sick is often the only way a child can get away from social situations.
Of course, this describes about 85% of children. I believe that most children suffer from a mismanagement of their empathic abilities. I also believe that more empathic children are born every day. So 85% is not a shocking number to me.
The bottom line is: can you help your child have a happier life using the Empath tools? If it helps you, you are on the right track!
Disclaimer: This checklist is not a diagnostic or treatment tool. I am not a doctor or a mental health professional. Some of the characteristics of empaths can be diagnosed as ADD, agoraphobia, or clinical depression. Contact your healthcare professional if you have any questions, need a diagnosis or treatment for a mental health problem.
To help your child, you need tools that address each of the three concepts (empowerment, focus, and fluency). This is a technique that I developed with my son.
Empathic anchoring technique:
When your child is feeling overwhelmed, they often only need a reference point to stay grounded. You can be that anchor.
1. Calm your own emotions. You cannot be a positive anchor if you are upset or angry.
2. Say in a low voice “Look me in the eye” (points to your eyes) and put your hand on his chest. Make sure you have eye contact for the next step!
3. Say, “We are going to take 5 breaths together and count them.” Let your child breathe as he wants. You are just accompanying her, counting out loud with each exhale.
Breathing calms emotional noise, refocuses the mind, and helps children feel empowered by having something to do when they feel uncomfortable. Include Empath by anchoring it in your nightly routine!