Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another & feeling with a heart of another.
Empathy is the ability to attune to the/your child’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what they may thinking or feeling. “Affective empathy” refers to the sensations and feelings we get in response to the/your child’s emotions; this can include mirroring what they are feeling, or just feeling stressed when we detect their fear or anxiety. “Cognitive empathy,” sometimes called “perspective taking,” refers to our ability to identify and understand the/your child’s emotions. Empathy is a parenting cornerstone it provides the foundation for emotional development in children. It has been associated with two different pathways in the brain, and scientists have speculated that some aspects of empathy can be traced to mirror neurons, cells in the brain that fire when we observe the/your child perform an action in much the same way that they would fire if we performed that action ourselves. Therefore being empathetic towards the/your child means we stand in their shoes & recognise & respond to his/her emotional experience. With the experience of empathy, a child is more able to experience a parent as being with him/her as he/she explores current & past experiences. Such experiences may be positive ones, or the more challenging experiences of trauma & shame. Having empathy doesn’t necessarily mean we’’ll want to help the/your child in need, though it’s often a vital first step toward a compassionate action.
Empathy deepens the understanding created by curiosity by affectively joining with the child in his/her experiences that are being uncovered. Combining with curiosity, empathy does not lose its perspective of the event and so it ensures that the inter-subjective quality of the experience will be present and able to facilitate a re-experience of the event. The therapists/parents/care provider’s empathy often serves to co-regulate the emotions associated with a stressful event or conflict so that the child is able to reflect on the events and experience them more deeply.← Back to Resources