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Teaching and Modeling Empathy for our Kids with ADHD

EMPATHY 
It’s simply listening, 
holding space, without judgement, 
emotionally connecting, and communicating 
that incredible healing message of ‘You’re not alone.’ 
~ Brene Brown


Empathy helps you build social connections with others. Dr. Ned Hallowell describes connection as the new Vitamin C. Empathy, then, is an essential ingredient in creating heart-based connections with a child with ADHD. 

But the empathy piece can be tricky, because it doesn’t come naturally for a lot of people. Our fast-paced society does not often encourage us to take a moment to connect with others. It is therefore a conscious choice we have to make, and 

the more we practice empathy, the more intuitive it becomes. Think of it like learning a language or a sport. Both require practice and guidance. 

How Can Parents Teach Empathy? 

● Parents can model empathy by showing it when the child has a strong emotion, whether fear, surprise or something else: “Whoa, you are having some really big feelings right now.” 

● To actively teach children empathy, parents can explain their own emotions during significant events. For instance: “When I learned Poppy had cancer, I felt stunned at first, then scared and sad.” 

● Parents can prompt empathy when their child is unkind to another child by asking the child questions like, “How do you think your brother felt when you threw his toy and it broke?” 

How Can Parents Increase Their Own Level of Empathy? 

● Start by looking for signs that others are experiencing an emotion. These can include facial expressions, postures, sighs, tone of voice, the content of what they say and their apparent situation. 

● Be curious when someone is experiencing a strong emotion. Try to understand it from their perspective by asking questions to understand.

● Put away your phones and other screens while you are having a conversation, so you can fully listen and notice facial expressions and gestures. 

How would you describe your empathy muscle? With more exercise, what would that look like? Could more empathy increase family connections?

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