The Importance of Empathy

Written by Kristin Tallackson, M.A.


Empathy. The word of the year. We hear about it from researchers, teachers, therapists, and our fellow parents. As humans, we could all use a little more empathy. We often confuse empathy with sympathy. To sympathize is to feel bad for how another is feeling; to empathize is to genuinely sit with another in their feeling. Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another. Today I want to talk about the importance of empathy in parenting.

Empathy is a parenting cornerstone; it fosters emotional development in children. But let’s be honest with ourselves. We’re human. Some days, it is not easy to empathize with a child who is sobbing on the floor because they spilled their milk. We want to throw in the towel and join them on the floor sobbing because we are overwhelmed, stressed out, and exhausted. We ask ourselves over and over again, why can’t I get this thing right! Here are a few tips on how to help increase empathy.

  1. Taking your child’s perspective: Putting your own feelings and reactions aside to see the situation from their point of view.
  2. Putting aside judgment: It is important to actively listen to your child and not jump to conclusions about their situation. “You’re doing this to aggravate me”
  3. Understanding your child’s feelings: It will help to remember a time when you felt what your child is feeling now. To help, think of basic emotions- happy, excited, sad, hurt, discouraged, jealous, etc.
  4. Communicating that you understand: As humans, we often want to offer children (or others) advice on what they could do to “fix” the situation. However, empathy lets go of “fixing,” and takes creates team creative thinking. Try using reflective statements such as, “I hear that you…” or “It sounds like…”

Empathy is a powerful tool when used right. It fosters understanding among peers, family, and colleagues. Empathetic children become empathetic adults who pass empathy on to the next generation. Take some time out of your day to practice empathy. After all, we could all use a little more.

Written by: Kristin Tallackson, M.A.

Kristin is a counselor at Heights Family Counseling and is licensed in two states. Kristin's counseling approach is to offer a safe place for you to process and work through a multitude of circumstances, while offering valuable insight and perspective into whatever journey you may find yourself. Her philosophy is to embrace you where you are, equip you with tools, coping mechanisms and knowledge, and empower you to take those tools and lead a fulfilling life. Read more about Kristin at