P.E.A.C.E.F.U.L: Eight Components of a Peaceful Parent/Child Relationship
Component #2 Empathy
Empathy is the ability to experience and identify with the emotional state of another person. It is important to understand that there are only two primary emotions: Love and Fear. Often times that which looks opposite to love is stemming from fear.
Understanding the primary emotions will assist you in the process of empathy. This ability is one of the most important aspects in a healthy relationship between a parent and child. One of the most common misconceptions among parents is that a child displaying aggressive behavior is angry.
This shows a lack of empathy and leads the parent to respond as if he is relating to an angry child, which in turn builds up defensive barriers in the child. Once you begin to view your child as angry and untrusting, you fail to empathize with him. It is very difficult for you to move from a place of anger at your child if you are not able to empathize and identify with what your child is actually feeling.
Remember to work diligently to see the fear underneath the anger. Your own personal history and upbringing may get in the way of empathy as well. We have all experienced various traumas of childhood. You need to be careful to empathize with what your child is actually feeling, rather than assuming he is feeling what you felt as a child.
It is important not to react from an unconscious desire to rescue your child from the pain that you may have felt yourself as a child, or to compensate for something missing in the your own interpersonal life. The longer you live with unresolved traumas in your own life, the further down inside you bury them, and they become deeply ingrained into your unconscious drives.
The task of being empathetic becomes a two-fold experience. One, for the parent to be aware of his own unconscious and past issues; and two, to look beyond seeing his child as angry, and to identify with the child’s true feelings. This empathetic connection will make parenting a much more mutually satisfying experience.