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My childhood wasn’t carefree.
I worried a lot about grownup things.
I think that’s how it is when you’re a highly sensitive empath.
The world is noisier for us. The news is heavier. Relationships are deeper.
We know a fake smile when we see one. We easily sense tension between people. We know how to read the room even at an early age.
Now, I’m an empath raising an empath, and it can make for a bumpy ride.
What is an empath and how to recognize if your child is one
Recognizing if your child is an empath is an important first step that can guide your parenting to smooth out some of the bumps.
By definition, empaths have the ability to sense the mental or emotional state of another person. We don’t simply hear bad news, we take on the emotions of it. We feel the disappointment, pain, or grief, and that gets to be heavy.
Now imagine carrying that extra emotional baggage with a not-yet-fully-developed brain and raging hormones.
Empath teens are navigating a lot of emotions. Whether you’re an empath yourself or not, if you find yourself raising an empath it holds some extra emotion to an already challenging season. Recognizing that may help you to understand them a bit better.
Leading empathy researcher Judith Orloff, MD says this: “Empaths feel things first, then they think [about them], which is the opposite of how most people function. Empaths sense other people’s emotions in our bodies without the usual filters; we can hear what they don’t say.” Orloff is an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA and author of the book, The Empath’s Survival Guide.
Here are five tips to help you and your empath thrive:
Help them understand the nature of an empath. Once you recognize your child as an empath, have a conversation about it. Many times, empaths go through a lot of life before meeting someone who experiences life the way they do, and it can feel lonely.
They may feel like they’re the only ones wired this way. It is important to reassure them that they’re not the only ones. This is how they were made, and it can be a gift that allows them to have greater compassion for others.
Identify common empath triggers. There are some common traits that empaths experience. These typically include:
- Easily overwhelmed by stressful situations
- Dislike crowds and excessive noise
- Be deeply caring and impacted by news, tragedies, and events.
- Have a love for nature,
- Strong problem-solving skills
- Strong intuition.
Understanding how empaths experience and react to certain situations can help you guide your teen through challenging situations.
As a parent, if you know your teen is easily overwhelmed, you can help them by breaking big situations into smaller, more manageable pieces. If your teen gets stressed in crowds, recognize that packed hallways and loud cafeterias may cause anxiety and help them with some tools to stay calm, such as a mindfulness app or some soothing music in their Air Pods.
Most of us don’t get enough time in nature and it is especially important for empaths, so encourage your teen to go for a walk or watch a sunset – they may not want to, but it will benefit them. When possible, model this behavior for them.
Being an empath can feel like both a gift and a curse, even as an adult. I know when I was a teenager without the maturity or life experience to process it fully, it often simply felt like everything was too much.
Teaching teens tools to handle the emotional weight of being an empath is crucial to their happiness and well-being.
Boundary setting is imperative. Empaths need to set boundaries to protect themselves.
As an empath, the news can feel unbearably heavy. We live in a 24-hour news cycle, and we’re bombarded with bad news constantly. It is often too much for an empath to absorb.
Teach your teen to limit their exposure to news, social media, and even negative people. They may feel guilty or weak in doing so, but teach them that this is self-preservation. None of us were meant to carry it all.
Assure them it probably won’t always feel as intense as it does now. Remind them they are still growing and learning how to manage their emotions.
While many adults struggle with their empathetic nature, teens must deal with it in lockstep with a still-developing brain, fluctuating hormones, and other issues, such as peer pressure, academic stress, and social media, among others.
A heartbreak or disappointment feels more intense for an empath, whether it is theirs or that of a close friend. As a parent, offer extra grace and comfort them through these times, and watch for signs of other problems as empaths are particularly vulnerable to developing depression, anxiety, emotional burnout, and addictions.
Be a safe space for your teen. Empaths need a place to unload their burdens and a place to offload their feelings. We are sponges, absorbing hurts, and every once in a while, we need to be wrung out.
Make yourself available to listen, especially to the feelings that go unspoken. Provide a judgement-free place to let it all go.
Focus on the beautiful parts of being an empath. There are many great qualities that empaths possess, including greater intuition, compassion, creativity, and a deeper connection with other people. Teach your teen to use their empathetic nature for good. Their innate ability to feel can serve them well in their personal and professional relationships.
Their compassion could be what makes them exceptional as a partner or a boss. .An empath’s ability to connect can shape them into an understanding manager who sees people for their whole selves and not just their production. Their ability to empathize may empower them to serve those without a voice or those in need of a champion.
Encourage your teen to view empathy as a strength and not a weakness because the world will tell them otherwise.
Modeling self-care is an important part of raising an empath
Raising an empath teen can add extra emotion to an already emotional season. If you’re an empath raising an empath, it is multiplied.
I know that this stage of parenting will test my own self-care skills. I can’t take it all too personally, and I can’t allow hormone-infused moods to determine my own.
I think raising a teen when you’re an empath hurts a bit more, it adds a layer of complexity to an already complex relationship.
Being a teenage empath is a lot to ask of a still-developing brain and a tender heart. Patience and grace must guide our days.
This is a contributed post by Michelle Koch of One Grateful Girl.
Raising an empath or are you the parent of a stressed-out teen? The team at Parenting Teens & Tweens loves this therapist-recommended book, Zen Teen. A warm and relatable teen guide to reducing anxiety, depression, and panic while developing resilience and confidence with 40 tips and tricks that guide, support, and inspire teens to keep calm and stay mindful
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