Maybe using the word empathy to communicate what is required to support your child’s healing is not ringing the “I can do that” button for YOU. YOU can do it though. Empathy sounds something like this:
Your child: “I hate you and I don’t care that you love me!”
YOU: I am sorry that you are feeling so bad Honey. It must be awful to feel so alone.
Your child: “Get out of my f***ing room! I don’t want you in here.”
YOU: I can see you are very angry right now and I think you are telling me you need some space, so I am going to go turn the spaghetti sauce off and give you a few minutes. I will be back though.
Okay, dinner is taking a time-out while we talk. I am not sure why you are so angry. Maybe I am missing something. Tell me again please what you are angry about. It is okay, I can handle you having angry feelings. Try me.
Your child: “I am never going to love you, so leave me alone.”
YOU: Sometimes love takes a long time to grow and it sounds like you think I won’t be here for you if you don’t love me. I want you to know that I am here for you either way. I think you might be mad about being a kid that needed to be adopted. Is that right?
Your child: “No!”
YOU: Okay, you don’t think so right now. I am going to hang out in here with you for a while. Something has been making me really nutty, I keep trying to figure out why Easter bunnies lay eggs. Shouldn’t they be Easter chickens?
What? I can’t figure it out. What do you think?
Ce Eshelman, LMFT
Stay present, adult, and focused on the feelings beneath the biting words.
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