We have found that the ability to empathize, along with being flexible, is of paramount importance when working with children from tough backgrounds. Empathizing sounds like a job for social workers or counselors, not the average Joe. But really, it can change the course of post adoption for a family, or even the success and growth of any relationship. There’s a reason those in the field of emotional healing have a high capacity to empathize or see life through others’ perspectives.
The article below from Empowered to Connect, a training and educational resource for adoptive families, references the significance of empathy and “being with” others, specifically your children, during tough times. Sometimes we don’t need a “fixer”, but instead someone who listens and says “I’m sorry you are hurting. Because you hurt, I hurt. And I am here with you.”
Being With by Colleen Derksen
When I was 15 years old, my mom’s youngest two siblings, who were actually more like my big brother and big sister than uncle and aunt, invited me to see Robocop. I desperately wanted to see the movie, or at least I thought I did. I think I mostly wanted to hang out with my aunt and uncle, and I felt flattered that they would include me. But to my utter devastation, my parents decided that I couldn’t go.
Even though the movie had too much violence for me, I threw myself a lavish pity party in my bedroom. In the middle of the melodrama, my dad knocked on the door. He hadn’t changed his mind, but he felt bad that I was taking it so hard. I still remember looking into his eyes and seeing a look that said, “I’m hurting because you’re hurting.” It took the wind out of my sails. I was still sad, but I was able to get over being mad at my parents.
The ability to see, think, and feel things from another’s perspective – to empathize – can be difficult for anyone, especially parents. I often find myself more focused on what my kids should be doing rather than considering why they’re doing what they’re doing.