Empathy: The Road to Healing

empathizing even in challenging situations


by Bryan Post and David Durovy

January 13, 2020 / Read Time: 2 Min. 33 sec.

“Empathy is at the heart of what it means to be human. It’s a foundation for acting ethically, for good relationships of many kinds, for loving well, and for professional success. Empathy begins with the capacity to take another perspective, to walk in another’s shoes. And it’s key to preventing bullying and many other forms of cruelty.”—Harvard Graduate School’s Making Caring Common Project

Once we, as parents, begin viewing a child as angry and untrusting, we fail to empathize. When we fail to empathize, we fail to understand, and when this happens, as you can imagine, we will be headed down the wrong track.

For example, parents may have a difficult time in being empathetic to a crying child because as children themselves, they were told that expressing feelings, crying, or being angry was not acceptable. This is much more prevalent in our society for adults than we realize. Generations have left us void of compassion and empathy for a hurting individual. This attitude has left generations of infants being left to cry it out. This idea resonated within societies of overwhelmed, stressed out parents, and thus, a mass phenomenon occurred leaving us still experiencing the fallout.

Empathy is not sympathy. Sympathy is feelings for another’s misfortune. Empathy is feeling what another feels and understanding the impact of misfortunes. This does not give license to unwanted behavior, just because someone justifies it through a history of trauma. It is an honest appreciation for why it is or might be happening. We don’t feel bad for our children because of the trauma, we can touch into that and know what they are dealing with. Once we know, we can never go back to unknowing.

Children with trauma history don’t want to feel their pain, so often it goes by unconsciously. Feeling numb, not knowing, addictions all help them deal with the pain. We must understand this or we will judge them for their behaviors. Do you want to feel your past pain and trauma? No. It still impacts us all, known or unknown.

How do I empathize with my child?

There are simple first steps that anyone can take.

Stop for a moment rather than launch off into lecture, words, lessons, etc. Let a few moments of silence enter and take some breaths yourself.

Look at your child. Observe their physical appearance, skin color, breathing. Notice anything and everything about your child—and yourself during this.

Listen to not just the words as they speak, and the way they say things. Notice also what they don’t say. Then ask questions understandingly (i.e. “you must be feeling sad about that…”, “that must be important to you…” “I know that must be hard for you…”)

Make a note to listen to and watch the words and attitude of yours as you speak—loving and kind or hurtful and judgemental?

Remember that your task in the moment is not to change them, not to correct them, but to know what they are feeling and how they are feeling. Once you know, the path to helping them will be easier and more loving, once you know the pain that drives their unwanted behaviors. Learn from this and also apply to your own unwanted parenting behaviors.

We are all doing the best that we can with the resources and worldview that we have. In a sense, everyone is right according to their worldview. Connecting to others in this way can be scary. It can also be the road to loving them. It’s a double-edged sword that can pierce our hearts along with healing them.

For those parents that need help with developing empathy, Harvard Graduate School has an article that might offer more. You can read it here.

As always with these invitations to contemplate, don’t just read this and move on. Read it a few times with time in-between for deeper understanding. Read it repeatedly over the course of a few days to delve even deeper into its greater meaning and application.

We’d Like to Know What You Think

Did you like this article? Did you disagree? Was it worth your time? A waste of time? Did you learn anything? Did you put into practice something and, what did you find?

If you have a story please send that to us separately.

We may want to use it, but will contact you first.

“In any given situations you can react from the same blueprints of stress and fear, OR you can take 3 to 10 deep breaths and choose love!” – Bryan Post




Don’t miss your chance to get a free copy of

Bryan’s best selling parenting book, From Fear to Love FREE

imageAbout the author

David and Susan Durovy fostered 27 kids and adopted 4 from the Virginia foster care system at ages 6, 16, 17, and 21.

David was the director of The Post Institute for 10 years and continues as a contributing author.

He is the founder and Director of The LoveMore Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to helping people move toward becoming “more fully human” enlarging their capacity to lovemore. Learn more at The LoveMore Institute, read The LoveMore Blog or contact David here. You can also contact him on FacebookTwitter and Linked-In.