Some children cry a lot. It is frustrating to everyone. The parent keeps asking what’s wrong but the child just keeps crying. Some children are hypersensitive to the feelings of others. They are empathic. They may be feeling other’s emotional pain and not even realizing it. They experience an emotion first and then try to label and process it later.
I observed this recently with a neighbor’s children. The empathic child is three and her brother is a toddler. He was throwing a temper tantrum. The sweet sister just watched with wide eyes. She then stumbled and fell. Her reaction was over the top. She bawled while repeating that she was very mad. The poor little dear was absorbing his anger as if it was her.
If you suspect you have an empathic child, it is good to help them sort out their emotions. When they get sad, don’t keep asking them what is wrong. They don’t know. They just feel. Be matter of fact about it and don’t add another layer of feelings on it.
Wait until later when the child is calm. Ask leading questions to bring them to the point of the outburst. Help them understand what they are responsible for feeling and what they are not. This will help them separate what they are absorbing internally from the external reality of the situation. It will also teach them better boundaries.
A technique to use when the child is beginning to get emotional is: Tell them to feel the emotion as if it was a cloud in their belly. Tell them to blow the cloud away. This will empower them and they will most likely become joyful. This technique may be the beginning of them imagining a multitude of techniques to help themselves.
Also, when children see monsters or other scary things, please don’t invalidate them. All that does is alienate you from being their advocate in a very real dilemma. They are then left to deal with it on their own. It is very scary.
The better way to handle it is to mock the monsters and say how silly they are. Acknowledge them as real but strip them of of all power. Tell the child that the monsters are really afraid of them. Give them silly names. Explain that more the monsters are afraid, the scarier they pretend to be. Give the child a flashlight and tell them that the light burns them. You will be empowering your child for a lifetime instead of setting them up to being victimized by unseen forces. This will establish you as their confidant instead of a clueless adult.