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Children with excessive empathy who easily connect with the emotions of others and end up suffering: how to help them

Do you think that your child is excessively empathetic, and that this leads him to suffer excessively? Do you connect very easily with the emotions of others and this ends up harming you? How to help you?

We know that empathy is a social and emotional skill that allows us to put ourselves in the place of others, as well as help, understand, validate and accompany. Putting it into practice allows us to cultivate intimate relationships.

However, when this empathy is “excessive”, this can harm children, who feel things a lot and end up “soaking up” the discomfort of others.

In some cases, we even talk about HSPs (highly sensitive people). How do I know if my child suffers from excessive empathy , or if he is PAS? We give you some keys to find out and also to accompany him and prevent him from suffering too much from the discomfort of others.

Children with excess empathy: what are they like?

Children with excess empathy connect more easily with the emotions of others; It is not at all difficult for them to put themselves in their place.

This has good and bad things, as we will see a little later, since, on the one hand, empathy is a good thing, an emotional ability that promotes more intimate and close relationships with others, but on the other, it can make these children suffer more, because they also easily connect with the suffering of others.

They are usually very dedicated, very sensitive and emotional children, who quickly feel what others feel. They have a need to help and are generous.

HSP: highly sensitive people (highly sensitive children)

Some of these children, with an excess of empathy, also have the so-called high sensitivity (highly sensitive people), a trait that includes, among its characteristics, intense empathy.

For some authors, the term PAS is about a personality trait , and for others, rather, a set of personal characteristics.

Although we know that each child is a world, regardless of whether they are PAS or not, the Spanish Association of High Sensitivity Professionals has compiled, by way of summary, the following characteristics associated with highly sensitive children (not all of them have all these traits ):

  • Marked kindness in the treatment.
  • emotional intensity.
  • Easy to socialize and to relate to the environment.
  • Preference for quiet activities.
  • Attraction for the plastic arts; for example, sculpture, plastic, drawing…
  • They are very reflective children, with a deeper and more elaborate thought.
  • High awareness of everything around them.
  • Processing of the information that reaches them through the senses in a more intense and detailed way (easiness to perceive details).
  • Interest in nature and animals.
  • They are intuitive, attentive, constant, creative and understanding.
  • They are children who are easily overwhelmed in situations with many stimuli, or with intense stimuli (for example, bright lights, loud sounds…).
  • They are perfectionists (they are easily frustrated when something does not go as expected).
  • Some of them may show hypersensitivity to tissues, for example, or to certain foods.
  • Life experiences greatly impact your emotional state (both good and bad).

Highly empathetic children: how to accompany them

As fathers and mothers, educators, caregivers, relatives, friends… it is normal that we want our little ones to feel accompanied and protected in the face of life’s experiences.

And more so when these are children with an excess of empathy, a very beneficial social and emotional skill but which, if given in excess, can also harm them.

Therefore, we bring you some recommendations that you can take into account when accompanying or treating a child with excessive empathy, to promote their well-being:

Validate their emotions

It is important that children with excessive empathy know, and feel, that there is nothing wrong with their way of being and relating (on the contrary, that it has many good things); and therefore, that you validate their emotions.

However, it can affect them in some way; Therefore, the task rather consists of making them see to what extent this empathy affects them , or causes them suffering, so that they can begin to put into practice a more selective empathy, which we describe in the next point.

Promotes selective empathy

What does this mean? Psychologist Marcia Reynolds speaks of selective empathy as a form of empathy directed only in certain cases, to a certain extent, with certain people…

Thus, it is about regulating, or directing, empathy, so that it does not end up harming us.

And this is the message that we must transmit to our children with an excess of empathy; that it is great that they are empathic, but that they must also protect themselves from so many emotions.

Therefore, encouraging them to learn about this concept of selective empathy, and to put it into practice, can help them. We can help ourselves with a drawing, or a list… where they express with which people they feel they should empathize more and why, at what times they should activate the “stop” to protect themselves, etc.

Selective empathy involves being aware of the other person’s emotions and needs, but not automatically being swept up in their reality.

It is about teaching them to choose based on their perception, that degree of involvement they want to have with people, but without feeling selfish or guilty.

It is important for children to know that this type of empathy is not synonymous with coldness or indifference, but rather is a way of practicing emotional self-care.

Help him put empathy into practice

You probably have not heard this concept before, as it is not particularly well known.

José Luís González de Rivera, professor of psychiatry, speaks of this concept as complementary to that of empathy, and just as important.

The word ekpathia comes from the Greek ek-patheia, which literally means “to feel outside.” Thus, ekpathy consists of a mental process of active exclusion of feelings induced by others .

According to the professor, it is ” a voluntary process of exclusion of feelings, attitudes, thoughts and motivations induced by another person”.

Through it, children can learn to put aside the feelings and emotions they feel before a certain person or situation (always to a certain extent).

And here it is important that we accompany them, and that they can understand that their empathy is beneficial because it connects them with others, but that they must learn to modulate it to protect themselves, when necessary.

“I listen to you, but I protect myself”

Thus, the message that we must transmit to our children is precisely this: “I listen to you, I accompany you, I support you… but without failing to protect myself”. Since, just as others matter, so do they.

And this should be their goal, to try to modulate their empathy (and in some cases, other characteristics of high sensitivity), so that it does not cause them suffering.

Other recommendations that can help you are:

  • Take distance, both physically and emotionally, when the situation requires it.
  • Explain confusing situations or situations that they do not understand to help them understand and not suffer excessively.
  • Accompany them and encourage emotional relief (so they can also verbalize their discomfort).
  • Ask for professional help from a child psychologist if the situation requires it.

Photos | cover (freepik)

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