Empathy is the part of the therapeutic parenting attitude developed by Dan Hughes, where we journey with our child into their distress or difficult feelings & feel it with them. Empathy enables our child to feel our compassion. We are not trying to reassure or fix them; we are just interested in understanding them.
Our capacity to empathise develops in relationships & by having experienced empathy ourselves, either with primary caregivers or in relationships later in life. It is a skill that is ‘caught’ not ‘taught’. When we provide empathy & curiosity, we help our child make sense of their internal world & we show them through our words & our non-verbal behaviour the impact that they are having on us. In this way, we hope to help them develop their own abilities to empathise, slowly & over time.
Through empathy, we demonstrate that we know how difficult an experience is for our child & communicate that they will not have to deal with the distress alone. We show our strength and commitment, letting them know we will stay with them emotionally & comfort them when they need it most. The pain that they are experiencing is not too much for us & we have confidence that it will not be too much for them either. There is strength in connection & whatever is going on for them we will get through it, together.