The Voice of an Empathic Parent Becomes Your Child’s Inner Voice
Children hear our voices in their minds. If we are negative towards them, they are often negative towards themselves. If we are judgmental and critical toward them, they incorporate our words and their self-esteem is lowered.
Our words and language have a much more powerful effect than we may imagine, even when we believe our kids aren’t listening they are absorbing out words, tone of voice, gestures, and messages.
Tips on Being an Empathic Parent
1. Even in those very hurried moments, when your child tries to tell you something, interrupt what you’re doing and look them in the eye and listen. It may only take a second or lead to an important conversation. Being empathic means showing you care to listen.
2.Listen to your child’s last comments as they run out the door. There’s no time for conversation, but they may have just cued you into something important that’s on their mind. Remember their words and come back to them later in the day by asking them what they meant by that. What could they say so quickly that could be so important.
Maybe something like, “I’ll see you after school.” Sounds innocent and obvious but it suggests they will be thinking of you during the day. You matter to them. They may feel the bit of a pang of leaving you as they go out the door. So when they return, you could say, “Hey. Here I am just as you expected when you left this morning. Tell me how things went today.” This is empathic.
3.Similarly, listen carefully to their first few words when they come home from school before they run up to their rooms. For example, they might say, “ I aced the exam!” or “I met a new girl.” Then they disappear. Don’t forget these precious first words that they clearly wanted you to know. Later come back to them and ask for more detail. Don’t press them to tell you more but be inviting and engaging. This is empathic.
4.You overhear your teen talking to his friend on the phone. He isn’t being secretive but in fact talks right in front of you. Maybe this is his way of telling you about something indirectly that he wants you to hear. You don’t want to press him on something he doesn’t want to say directly (that’s not empathic) yet you do want him to know that whatever it’s about you know it’s important to him. So you might just casually say, “Sounds like an important call.” Leave it at that and if he takes it as an invitation to talk more he will. If not, then you heard what he wanted and that’s that. You’ve been empathic.
5.It’s Sunday night and you hear your child wandering around the house in the middle of the night. He feels too old to wake you but clearly he can’t sleep. Even though you’re exhausted it might be a good time to reach out. Just go in the kitchen and make him a snack. Ask if he wants some company. Then you may learn what’s disturbing him. Or, he may just like that he isn’t alone with his thoughts. You’ve been empathic.
The jist of these examples is that your child hears that you want to understand what’s going on in his mind. From your actions, words, gestures, and tones of voice he hears “my parent cares about me.” He hears “I’m worth being cared about.
That becomes his inner voice that build’s his self-esteem and makes him feel loved.
Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. is a psychoanalyst and author of Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior found on Amazon and wherever books are sold. Visit her website for more guidance; http://lauriehollmanphd.com