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Acknowledging and Empathizing Children’s Emotions

Here are some powerful benefits:

The child hears two essential messages:

  1. You are cared about and noticed in this room and emotions are not dangerous things – you can have them, you can speak about them – and you are still okay.
  2. The child also hears someone else express their emotions, which increases the chance they will be able to identify and express themselves next time.

As adults, we are sometimes reluctant to acknowledge emotions and empathize with children:

a) because we feel there is no time,

b) because it will increase the child’s distress and make the situation unmanageable.

c) because  it will excuse the child’s difficult behavior.

None of these things are necessarily true:

  1. Empathizing with emotions doesn’t mean we are excusing or allowing challenging behavior.
  2. Empathizing with emotion does not take a lot of time.
  3. Empathizing with emotion often reduces distress because the child hears that someone understands them.

 Note: Even if distress is momentarily raised, it can be managed and the benefits of the child knowing they are heard, understood and that emotions are okay – far out-weight the occasional temporary increase in distress.  

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