I was talking with a mom earlier this week about her sensitive kiddo and I thought that our discussion would help my readers who have sensitive children.
This mom is not by her nature very sensitive, so her daughter is puzzling to her. She doesn’t quite understand how she ticks or why things bother her the way they do.
I really related to this mom because, well, I was her.
My daughter was born an empath. Dr. Judith Orloff describes empaths as people who feel and absorb other people’s emotions and/or physical symptoms because of their high sensitivities. This can cause an endless string of challenges for empaths, including panic attacks, depression, chronic fatigue and other physical symptoms. My daughter’s empathic nature resulted in panic attacks and anxiety when she was little.
This mom told me that her daughter’s sensitivity caused her to be negative frequently. She gets stressed easily and attracts kids into her life who really needed her yet drained her. All of this has been negatively impacting her self-esteem. These are classic traits of an empath.
When my daughter was young, she would become easily stressed if someone around her expressed even the tiniest amount of anger or frustration. These kinds of things would roll off my son’s back, but not her. It almost seemed like she had glue on her that would cause these situations to stick and get absorbed into her little being.
She also was what I called a “fairy in the meadow.” She would literally stop and smell the roses, or the tulips or any smell in the air. She is a Noticer – she notices when one thing in our house has changed. She notices a new shirt someone is wearing, or the haircut they just got yesterday. I think you are getting the idea.
Not the Best Mix
I am a strange mix of empath and type A. Being highly pragmatic, I believe that I intuitively learned to manage my empathic nature in a way that served me. This allowed my type A traits to rise to the surface.
When my daughter was born, she moved at a snail’s pace compared to the breakneck pace I tended to move through life. It was so challenging for me when I would have ten things on my to-do list and she just wanted to stop and smell the flowers.
I found myself frequently rushing her from point A to point B. This just added to the negative energy she was absorbing from the world around her, as she felt that her way of being was not good enough for her Mommy.
But slowly, I began to see how my ways were detrimental to her. I allowed her to teach me, as our children have all come here to do. And I began to grow and learn and understand her better. And she forced me to understand myself even better.
Here are the steps I took with my daughter. I shared them with this mom who I met, and I’ll share them with you now.
Step 1: Raise Empath Awareness
I created a FREE Quiz to determine if your child is an empath.
If these traits describe your child well, chances are s/he is an empath. Step number one is to bring their awareness to these qualities they possess.
This conversation would begin when there is time and space to have it. It would not be good to start when you are rushing out the door, or there has just been some type of emotional heaviness in an interaction. Maybe on a leisurely Saturday or at bedtime one night.
You can begin the conversation with simple observations about their behavior. Something like “I have noticed that when your brother gets mad, it really upsets you”. Or “I have noticed that when your friend is having a difficulty it weighs very heavily on you.”
Then, allow the conversation to unfold as it will. Maybe your child has noticed this about themselves, or maybe not. Maybe your child will share with you what they see going on in school, with their peers, and how they are similar to or different from them.
Step 2: Empath Education
The next step is to educate them. Dr. Orloff’s resources are a great place to begin. I helped my daughter to understand better how she uniquely responds and moves through this world. I also helped her to look at those around her – her parents, siblings, peers, etc. to see how she was similar to or different from the way they are. This helped to put her traits into perspective for her.
Step 3: It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s an EMPATH!
Perhaps the most important thing I did with my daughter was to help her understand that the deep empathy and sensitivity she was born with is actually a SUPERPOWER. But at this point with her being so young, this superpower can overpower her. My job, then is to help her learn how to manage this superpower so that she can bring good into the world to help others (another desire of empaths).
In my podcast on this subject, I share another valuable tool I taught my daughter. You can listen to it below. Or if video is more your style, you can listen to my youtube video here.
Here are some other ways you can support your child. Help them to find some down time/quiet time to recharge their batteries because chances are, they will need this. Additionally, don’t schedule too many activities piled on top of each other without that needed quiet time for him/her. Being in large social gatherings can drain an empath, because they are absorbing lots of energy from those around them.
Step 4: Support is vital
Once you realize you have an empath on your hands, support is vital, both for them AND for you. Parenting these amazing children can be tiring, as it can require heavy “emotional” lifting, so to speak.
These children (as all children do actually) need loving, supportive, understanding parents. It is vital to protect their heightened sensitivity and prevent it from turning into depression or anxiety or self-destructive behavior.
But in order to be that parent to them, it will require you to care for yourself. Find what refills your bucket and do more of it. It could be drawing, bike-riding, having coffee with a friend, yoga, writing, listening to music. Whatever you love, find ways to squeeze it into your life. I cannot stress how important this part is.
Then, find ways to mitigate the stress both on you and your child. Meditation, breathing, warm Epsom salt baths, journaling, getting the proper amount of sleep, good nutrition and exercise are all important aspects of helping you to support your child for the long haul. And then teach your child all of these same things.
Empaths are vital, vital people in this world. You have a huge responsibility if you are blessed enough to have brought one into this world. After reading this, if you feel this describes you and you would like more support, please schedule a FREE consultation with me today.