Empathy is a unique characteristic only found in humans, one that serves as the foundation for caring for others and sustaining strong relationships. Empathy is the ability to consider another’s perspective or to methaphorically walk in another’s shoes.
By developing the skill to be compassionate toward others, family members become better equipped to deal with the many of challenges of a loved one struggling with addiction. For children, the ability to have empathy can help put the problem of addiction into perspective and potentially minimize the negative impact of addiction on their future.
Although salespeople, politicians, marketers and even actors are all skilled at identifying the perspectives of others, this doesn’t mean that they actually care about others. In fact, sociopaths, such as con men and other criminals, are experts in identifying weaknesses in others and exploiting them to their advantage. So, how can a parent foster empathy in a child, particularly when there are family members struggling with addiction?
Ways To Help Your Child Understand Addiction Through Empathy
The following items are a few guidelines that can help draw out this most human of traits.
Like with many other skills, children learn empathy from example. When we demonstrate empathy, children develop greater trust and attachment. It’s these very attachments that propel children to want to emulate empathetic behavior.
It’s also important to show empathy toward others, regardless of their social status. By demonstrating that the server, gardener or family member with addiction deserves the same level of respect as a wealthy neighbor or boss, you can teach, by example, a very important lesson that we all deserve respect and empathy.
Make Caring A Priority
Caring for others shouldn’t be a secondary issue. Rather, it should be the driver of how relationships are managed. Consider reminding children daily to remember the importance of caring for others, and stress the reality that the world doesn’t revolve around them. This more outwardly focused perspective can not only help a child deal with family members who have addiction, but it may also prevent them from developing addiction in the future.
Empathy isn’t just a concept. It needs to be carried out in our daily lives. Acts of giving time, talent and treasure to others who are less fortunate can stress the importance of helping other people and can instill good habits of practicing empathy daily.
Encourage children to develop an understanding of those who are struggling, such as friends or family members with addiction. Help them to look at others’ perspectives and to develop ways to comfort those who are struggling.
Learn To Identify Feelings
Often children can have a difficult time understanding their feelings towards a difficult situation or person. They may feel frustration, sadness or anger that blocks their empathy. By encouraging children to express and manage their feelings, you help them be better positioned to resolve conflicts and develop a level of self-control that can lead to greater empathy.
If A Loved One Is Struggling With Addiction?
Sadly, addiction can tear apart a family. If you have a family member who is struggling with drug addiction or alcoholism, don’t wait for the situation to get worse. It will! Call us now to speak with an addiction specialist.