Every parent naturally wants the best for their children and to help them succeed in any way they can. However, there is a fine line between “helping” and “rescuing.” The difference is about being empathetic to your child and helping them find solutions, rather than trying to rescue or shield them from situations where they may feel disappointment or failure.
“Empathy” means sharing feelings and experiences with another person, and being able to feel what they feel even if you didn’t directly experience the same things. Likewise, being an empathic parent means you can understand where your child is coming from and patiently listen to them when they express their feelings. It means being flexible and sensitive to your child and their specific needs, while teaching them skills to deal with negative situations.
Being empathetic, however, does not mean you should save your child from ever feeling bad. Feeling upset or disappointed is a part of life and needs to be experienced just as much as happiness and gratification. Sometimes parents think that whenever their child experiences fear or sadness that they are doing a bad job of parenting. Of course, that’s not the case.
These parents are sometimes referred to as “helicopter parents,” meaning that they tend to hover over their children trying to protect them from life’s setbacks and frustrations. However, this is really doing the child a disservice. If they never experience failure, disappointment, or rejection as a child, how are they supposed to adequately deal with these problems as an adult?
Part of a parent’s job is to prepare their children for adulthood, and teach them how to live a happy, productive life in spite of bad things happening. If a child always gets a medal or has never been told that someone else may be stronger or faster than they are, then where is the motivation for them to ever strive to be better? Why would they ever need to push themselves if they are told that whatever they do is already great?
Helping a child cope with life’s disappointments is part of teaching them how to be a confidant, self-sufficient adult who can handle problems on their own. If a parent continually tries to protect their children from life’s pitfalls, they will prevent their child from becoming independent and making their own decisions. Instead, they will always expect their parent to come in and save them from anything bad that happens when they get older.
Being an empathic parent means you can listen to your child and help him understand how to handle life’s curve balls. As he grows into an adult he will be able to take on problems and work out his own solutions instead of needing you to do it for him. Sure, your child may be sad that he didn’t come in first place, but working through that sadness is a part of life and will help him be happier and more resilient in the long run.
If you need help learning how to become a more proactive and emphatic parent, please contact a mental health professional and truly discover the joys of parenting today.