For me, quarantine started off strong. I felt extremely equipped to live life in lock down. I was already staying home with my son, Ezra, and we were already going out to explore parks several times a week so it felt like not much had changed for the first month and a half. My partner, Alex, was able to work from home so we were all safe.
But I knew something was wrong when, on a beautiful spring afternoon, I went jogging and didn’t feel elated. Usually the combination of physical activity, beautiful weather, and sunshine makes me feel so happy like I’m just bursting out of my skin with gratitude. But I felt frustrated, and like everything was a struggle.
The definition of empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. I’m pretty sure we’re all on the same page about wanting our kids to develop this trait.
The way I do it is helping Ezra name his own emotions.
When Ezra is crying he’s not showing me that he feels OK, he’s showing me that he currently feels something other than OK. Crying doesn’t signal to me “you’re OK” it signals “you’re angry/upset/frustrated/sad” and I really want my son to learn this. I display empathy by showing him I understand his feelings. I model it. I don’t want to encourage him to repress his emotions. I also don’t want to teach him that as an adult who can see that nothing is actually wrong and he truly is OK, that I have the last say on how he feels.