The ability to empathize with others–that is, understand and share others’ feelings– is considered a critical skill for mothers. When our kids are struggling, we want them to know that we understand what they’re going through and share their pain. But, as this excellent article from The Washington Post points out, not all forms of empathy are created equal. Emotional empathy, which involves actually feeling what another person is feeling, can be bad for a caregiver, affecting physical and emotional health. Instead of offering emotional empathy, caregivers should try and offer compassion. When we’re compassionate, we are concerned about another person, but are not so emotionally involved with them that we’re unable to offer them what they truly need–help and support.
How to be empathic
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