We are all born with the ability to sense emotions in others. It’s is a basic survival skill for humans and animals. This ability usually subsides in childhood as we learn to focus more on verbal cues than emotional ones.
Empaths, on the other hand, have a heightened sensitivity to other people’s emotions that keeps developing over time. As other kids stop picking up emotional signals, Empath children become totally overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of emotional information that they receive in social settings.
Since most parents do not know if they are Empaths, they don’t recognize the signs in their kids. It also prevents them for effectively teaching their kids how to manage emotional overflow. For a more in depth discussion on resources for adult Empaths, you can read my articles on this topic here.
Emotional Intelligence is defined as “the ability, capacity, or skill to perceive, assess, and manage the emotions of one’s self, of others, and of groups” (Salovey and Mayer, 1990). When you teach your children how to manage their Empath skills, you are developing their Emotional Intelligence.
There are three fundamental concepts that need to be addressed in order to effectively manage emotional information.
1. Empowerment: Do you control your Empath skills or do they control you (curse or blessing?)
2. Centeredness: Can you always hear your own internal self above all (raise above the chaos)
3. Flow: Does emotional information come in AND out freely (do you have an outlet?)
Is your child an Empath?
Children have a different way of handling their Empath abilities. Their range of available response is smaller, so they typically pick very quiet (as a way to calm down the emotional chaos they feel) or acting out (as a way to be louder than the emotional noise).
Keep in mind that children learn how to manage their Empath abilities by watching you handle yours. If you’re an Empath but don’t know how to handle it, get help for yourself first!
These are behaviors I have observed in Empath children who don’t know how to handle their abilities:
- Gets unusually quiet (often seen as shyness) around crowds but is fine with the immediate family or smaller groups. Your child is trying to feel empowered and centered by withdrawing from the world.
- Gets physically or verbally out of control around people but is mellow at home. Your child is trying to find an outlet to the overwhelming flow of incoming emotions.
- Resists going to bed or wakes up often. Your child is trying to stay centered while surrounded by the emotional activity of adults.
- Catches every illness available (cold, flu, ear infections, etc.). Your child is trying to feel empowered in shutting down unwanted emotional activity. Being sick is often the only way a child can use to withdraw from social situations.
Of course, this describes about 85% of children. I believe that most children do suffer from a mismanagement of their Empath skills. I also believe that more and more Empath children are born every day. So 85% is not a shocking number to me.
The bottom line is: can you help your child have a happier life by using Empath tools? If it does help, then you’re on the right track!
Disclaimer: This checklist is not a diagnostic or treatment tool. I am not a doctor or a mental health professional. Some of the characteristics of Empaths can be diagnosed as ADD, agoraphobia or clinical depression. Contact your health care professional if you have any questions, need diagnostic or treatment for a mental health issue.
In order to help your child, you need tools that address each of the three concepts (empowerment, centeredness and flow). This is a technique I developed with my son.
Empath Anchoring Technique:
When your child gets overwhelmed, she often just needs a point of reference to stay grounded. You can be that anchor.
1. Calm your own emotions. You can’t be a positive anchor if you’re upset or angry.
2. Tell her quietly “Look me in the eyes” (point to your eyes) and put your hand on her chest. Make sure you have eye contact for the next step!
3. Tell her “We’re going to take 5 breaths together and count them”. Let your child breathe however she wants. You’re just accompanying her, counting out loud with each exhalation.
Breathing quiets down emotional noise, re-centers the mind and helps children feel empowered by having something they can do when they feel uncomfortable. Include Empath anchoring it in your night time routine!