Although empathy is an important part of all parent-child relationships, it is particularly central to the relationships between adoptive parents and their children. If your child went through an open, domestic adoption, they will likely learn early on that they were adopted, and they may begin to question their identity and their place in your family. It is your responsibility to respond to these questions with empathy and grace, as doing so will help your child develop self-esteem and positive opinions about their adoption.
The Importance of Empathy
At its core, empathy is about connection. In order to empathize with your child, you don’t need to share all of their experiences; instead, you simply need to make an effort to understand them.
Doing so will provide a variety of benefits for both you and your child. For example, it will give you opportunities to affirm your child, which will help them feel like they belong. Additionally, it will provide you with a framework for navigating challenging conversations with your child, and will help you establish trust with them. Overall, empathetic parenting can go a long way towards ensuring your child grows up happy and healthy.
Encourage Expression and Value Connection
If you are new to the notion of empathetic parenting, it may feel easier said than done. Fortunately, there are plenty of small ways to begin incorporating empathy into your parenting methods.
One technique that you may find particularly useful is encouraging emotional expression in your household. For example, if your child is feeling angry, don’t criticize them or prevent them from expressing their anger. Instead, acknowledge the emotion and the situation that may be causing it. Then, help your child find a healthy way to process their anger.
By empathizing with your child’s feelings, you will teach them that emotions are a normal, healthy part of life. Furthermore, you will help your child feel connected to you, which will further aid in their emotional regulation.
Avoid Shaming and Blaming
In addition to offering healthy opportunities for emotional expression, you should strive to create a family culture that avoids shaming and blaming. More specifically, while you should certainly correct undesired behaviors, you should treat the behavior as independent from your child’s worth, and should remind your child that they are inherently worthy and loved.
Additionally, you should actively teach your child that there is no shame in being adopted. Sometimes, adopted children may feel as though they were placed for adoption because their birth family found them unlovable. If your child experiences this belief, remind them that this is not the case, but that you will always be there for them as they navigate their concerns and insecurities. Above all, remain open to communication, as doing so will allow you to show your child that they are—and always will be—deeply loved.