Sympathy vs. Empathy

Empathy, what is it?

By definition, it means: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Empathy involves a clear understanding of the way your child is seeing their situation.

Ways to practice empathy:

  • Recognize that every child has his/her own personal, unique, individual "filter" through which he/she perceives reality.
  • Remember, everyone doesn't think like you, not even your own child. Allow your child to be himself/herself.
  • Do your best to crawl into your child's thoughts and see how things might be looking from their point of view. Of course, this can never be done perfectly. Doing this can strengthen and enrich communication between you and your child. True empathy helps focus on feelings. It  conveys concern respect and understanding.
  • Be careful of saying "I know exactly how you feel". We may know how he/she might feel in a similar situation, but never exactly how they feel. Instead, try to understand their feelings.

Empathy is vital in supportive listening. Until we show genuine concern and interest we're just another person who doesn't really understand or really care.

How does empathy differ from sympathy?

By definition, sympathy means: feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else's misfortune. Feeling sorry and pity your child is not always helpful. Sympathy reinforces hopelessness and inability to cope with problems.

An empathetic response places your child and yourself on an equal level. Empathy can be one of the most valuable things that happens to strengthen love.

A New Leash on Life: A Remedy for Healing After Loss Tip: Practice empathy while going through the book with your child!

Let me know how practicing empathy instead of sympathy has worked in your life. I love to hear your stories. Email me at, or subscribe on the website to receive updates, continued learning and inspirations right to your inbox.