My Son, The Empath

He had a really bad day…

As soon as I walked into the house after work, I dropped my things at the door and pulled my 5-year old onto the sofa. He wrapped his arms around my neck, tucked his little face into my shoulder and burst into tears. My heart sank; his day had been worse than I thought. I know that his speech is further impaired when he is distraught so I just let him cuddle up and cry.

Boys and Empathy

One of the biggest revelations of the #boymom world is that our little ‘rough and tumble‘ tykes are deeply compassionate at heart. Their experiences affect them deeply and, where there is a significant impact, they can empathize with someone going through a similar situation. It’s one of the things I love most about raising sons, this capacity for compassion.

“The tears keep coming from my eyes … I don’t know why …”

My son, who was already struggling to find his stride in kindergarten this year, experienced a significant incident at school where one of his peers physically accosted him. The experience clearly shook him and I watched him struggle with it the rest of the evening. At the dinner table. During play with his brother. While taking a bath. While reading a bedtime story. I could see his little face reflected a myriad of emotions as he mulled over his experience and tried to internally process what happened to him. Each attempt to explore it with him brought his empathic nature into the light. I realized that what he felt was deeper than the emotions tied to the immediate experience. His emotional exploration included how he perceived the other kid felt about him. As he attempted to talk about it, tears would begin to flow. At five, this is already a part of his emotional processing, this ability to consider how another person feels even when he is hurting. My heart broke for my little Empath.

Now, y’all, total honesty. I knew exactly how I felt about the kid at that moment. He hurt my son physically and emotionally; I was indeed angry about that. But, I understood that taking a position of explosive retaliation was not helpful in this situation. He just needed the space to explore his feelings, fully, in the safety of my arms. He needed to know that he didn’t deserve to be mistreated; his sense of value and safety was my top priority. Lastly, he needed to know his emotions were valid and that expressing big feelings appropriately (and, yes, crying was appropriate!) is a sign of courage and strength. So, at bedtime, I laid with him as he struggled to fall asleep, his face still wet with tears. I held him until I heard the gentle sounds of slumber because I wanted him to know that I would be with him every step of the way.

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