The Empathic Parent
Intense Emotions of Parenting
As an empathic parent, it is easy to find yourself drained and struggling with emotional separation day in and day out. Children have very little control over their emotional state and, while some may find their tantrum over receiving the red cup instead of the blue one as tedious and unimportant, the empathic parent feels the genuine level of emotion this situation will bring up in their child, leaving them to feel the emotional roller coaster full force all day long.
Parenting for a non-empath is considered one of the hardest jobs out there from an emotional point of view, from infancy all the way through the hormonal teen years. Unlike most intense situations, those involving your child usually do not allow you the chance to seek solitude. For the empathic parent, this emotionally challenging calling is amplified tenfold.
Taking a Moment
It is normal to want to ease your child’s pains, worries and fears by jumping in and taking on responsibilities which should not fall on you. A parent’s natural response is to help lessen negative emotions in their children, trying to make things better, and this response seem amplified for the empathic parent who feels so intensely what their child is experiencing. But this does not help the child, nor does it lessen the suffering of the parent. An enabling relationship is detrimental to both parties and sets our children up for many future failures and disappointments.
In order to stop from being the ingrained super fixer you long to be, when absorbing the powerful emotions of your child, try not to act impulsively just to get the emotion in you to cease. Instead:
- Identify the emotion you are experiencing.
- Note whether the source of the emotion is from your child or from directly within you.
- Recognize that it is okay to experience the emotion. Feelings are uncomfortable but they will not hurt you or your child.
- Pause and breathe, stepping away from your child if the situation allows it.
- Separate your emotion's from your child's before moving forward in assisting your child.
Once you have done this, you can more easily focus yourself on the correct solution, working with your child in helping them understand and cope with their emotions.
Taking a step back to assess the energy and situation and allowing yourself a moment to breathe will help you separate yourself from the strong energies you are picking up from your child. It also gives you a moment to determine whether or not you are acting out of love and guidance or empathic guilt.
Empathic guilt is the feeling of wanting to help, knowing the extent of another's suffering, and yet our humanity or circumstances leave us incapable of fixing the problem and bringing peace to the situation. Because empaths have the strong gift that allows them to fully understanding the suffering of another, especially their child, they feel guilty if they do not take immediate action to end the pain or suffering.
When empathic guilt enters the parent/child relationship, it risks crossing the bounds of healthy assisting and comforting to codependency and enabling. If left unchecked, the empathic parent may only be doing the child more harm than good by attempting to fix uncomfortable emotions.
You do not have to turn a blind eye to the suffering, but in order to lessen the empathic guilt, you do need to turn your focus away from what you cannot do and shine the light solely on what you can do. You can:
- Help the child understand their emotions
- Comfort them as they cope with the situation
- Remind them that emotions are natural and it is okay to feel how they feel
- Work together to come up with solutions to improve the situation
By offering them this help, you set them up for strong emotional health and boundaries in their future as well as feel comfortable in knowing that you are assisting them through their emotions.
"You do not have to turn a blind eye to the suffering, but in order to lessen the empathic guilt, you do need to turn your focus away from what you cannot do and shine the light solely on what you can do."— Jennifer Soldner
Living in a house with others and being involved in any relationship as an empath is overwhelming and exhausting if we do not take the time to care for ourselves and release our empathic guilt. In order to not lose ourselves in the relationship, we have to understand the importance of labeling our emotions, assigning responsibility to each emotion and letting go of those energies that are not our responsibility.