What is the Value of Empathizing with Our Kids?


Jessica reminds us when we slow down to validate kids’ emotions we can deepen our relationship with them and the trust they have in us. Read on to find out how.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin. Hebrews 4:15

My five-year-old niece is a deep feeler. She hurts deeply when others hurt. She gets discouraged and embarrassed when she gets in trouble. Her sadness and joy are often deeper than the rest of the kids in the room.

Sometimes this makes discipline difficult, but as her aunt (a very similar “feeling kid” thirty years ago), I’ve learned to slow down and relate to how she feels before I get irritated with her seemingly irrational emotions. When I sit with her and attempt to understand and experience where she’s coming from it takes our relationship to a greater level.

So why is it important to empathize with kids? Here are a few reasons I see value in grieving, celebrating and hurting with young hearts:

  1. It validates their feelings. As a feeler kid myself, I remember thinking that my feelings were irrational because no one else felt quite as big. But if someone took a moment to understand and relate, it made me feel less silly. It gave my emotions (whether they were positive or negative) validity. I felt known and loved. Whether my baby doll’s plastic leg was “broken” or my sister made fun of me, having an adult sit down and relate to why I was hurting made me feel like I wasn’t crazy and I needed that before I could recover. Even in scripture, God commands us to this end. Romans 12:15 tells us to slow down and “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.”
  2. It makes us trustworthy. From my sweet niece to the incredible college summer staff we hire at Camp, we earn trust when we sit with them. I can think of several gals who have gotten engaged or passed a test they were really worried about in the time that I’ve known them. When I celebrate their victory moments I become someone they trust. I earn the right to be heard. Even in my own life, I’m drawn to the people who will celebrate with me and grieve with me. Their validation of my feelings makes them safe to me. I want to know them more and be known by them.
  3. Jesus modeled it. I love that God’s plan was for Jesus to experience what we experience. Hebrews tells us Jesus was tempted in every way we will be. He experienced the hard stuff just like we do. The Father sacrificed His Son in this way intentionally. Of course, he did it so we could receive salvation, but I like that it makes me feel less alone when I’m tempted. Jesus put skin on to empathize with us. He’s been where we are.

So next time your kids lose their minds over something as small as their Lego tower getting knocked over, take a moment to sit and imagine how they feel. Isn’t this what Jesus does with us?

From a parent’s perspective, that Lego tower is not that big of a deal. But to your little guy, it just might feel like his life’s work was just destroyed. What a gift it will be to validate his feelings, be a safe place for him and look a little more like Jesus.


Camper Corner:

  1. Think of a time when something really exciting happened to you. Who was there to celebrate with you?
  2. Can you think of a time you were there for a friend who was hurting?
  3. What did you do specifically to be supportive of that friend?

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