Do you remember thinking as a teen that your parents couldn’t possible understand – either they were never teenagers or it was so long ago they couldn’t remember? I sure remember that and questioning every guideline they gave me.
Then I had children who became teens and I began to understand. Unfortunately, my teens felt the same way about me as I did about my parents when I was a teen. How about your teens – do they tell you just don’t understand?
Empathy is a powerful tool to keep the lines of communication open. What does it mean to be empathetic? According to Dictionary.com, empathy is “the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.” They define empathetic as “of, relating to, or characterized by empathy, the psychological identification with the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of others.”
So, how do you be empathetic when your child is balking at your rules or guidelines? If empathy is identifying with the feelings, thoughts and actions of another, what do you need to do to identify with your child’s thoughts, feelings and actions? Let’s start by not arguing with our child. Take a break from the discussion and spend some time relating to your child where they are at, not from where you are at. Remember what it was like for you if you had similar reactions to your parents when you were a teen. Remember the feelings, the thoughts you had. Put yourself in your teen’s shoes for a few minutes and see things from his or her perspective.
With empathy, it’s easier to understand and not react to them. It’s easier to explain your thoughts and reasons so perhaps they can empathize with where you are and why you set limits. Empathy allows you to stay calm and not react. It opens the door to communication between you and your child.
How do you use empathy in parenting? I’d love to learn from you!