Being the parent or guardian of a child with special needs requires you to support them in situations you may not fully understand. At CCSN, our Mentors want both the child and family to be successful and understand that empathy plays a huge part in this success. What is empathy? Being empathetic means that you while you may not understand the emotions or feelings your child is directly going through; you do your best to share in their experience. Challenges will come up and they can be unpredictable, but you can keep this technique in your toolbox, so it helps both you and your child communicate better and allows you to provide effective support.
There is a difference between sympathy and empathy. For example, “I’m sorry to hear you had a bad day.” is sympathizing whereas empathizing is saying, “I’ve had bad days too and know they can make you feel sad.” Being empathetic means you listen without judgement and interact with them at their an appropriate level for their age and ability. We want to approach children with empathy, so they are more willing to respond with openness and trust. Often times children with special needs may have difficulties with communication. Here at CCSN we use various evidence-based programs to help educate and enhance a child’s communication while also improving their coping skills and conduct.
Empathy requires active listening and making sure you are giving your child your full attention. When you are actively listening, you are listening to their tone and word choice. You can ask open-ended questions so your child can open up and talk about what is bothering them. Open-ended questions are ones that cannot be answered in a single word or phrase. For example, asking, “What about today was hard for you?” helps start a conversation. By asking for specifics you can examine the problem in depth and explore solutions. You can repeat back what you understood from the conversation to let your child know that you are listening and to make sure you have captured everything they are concerned about in that instance.
By empathizing, you are letting your child know that it is okay to feel how they feel, and you are listening to understand and help if you can. You may not always agree with your child, but it is important that they feel heard and that their needs are being met. Giving your child an opportunity to talk about their perspective allows you to become involved in finding solutions. Just like you, CCSN puts kids first and we want to understand a child’s behaviors so we can find resolutions or teach them skills to help them learn and improve.
Mentors work towards building nurturing parenting skills that are family centered. We can work with parents and children to develop and increase positive interactions among family members. Here are a few key factors to keep in mind:
- The family is a system
- Parenting exists on a continuum
- Modeling active listen skills with children helps them to become better communicators
Our goal is to improve the lives of children and families. We can help parents and guardians learn and practice positive parenting behaviors. Showing empathy towards your child will also help them develop positive self-worth. We assist you in utilizing these techniques at home and reinforcing these lessons with your children. As with all the programs at CCSN, we are flexible to ensure the specific needs of your family are being met.