TRANSCRIPT: Hi, welcome! I am Dr. Ryan Coral, and I am here to talk to you about parenting and empathy. This is part of a broader series on empathy, the other ones being on working with challenging co-workers and the third one being on dealing with trauma and how empathy can be disrupted in the process and how to reconnect it. But today is more importantly on parenting and how you already use empathy, but how to engage in empathy and make it more useful for you so you don’t feel as overwhelmed, and you’re maybe better able to engage in ways that you want to with your kids.
All right, so before we get into things, let’s talk about a little bit about who I am. Why would I talk about this? So, I come at parenting and empathy from the perspective of trauma. This may seem a little odd because there’s not necessarily a direct connection, but when working with trauma, what I’m really working with is people still having a stress response, and a lot of problems that come up with parenting is about the stress that they’re dealing with and how to manage their stress and still connect with their kids. The other side of this that I attend approach therapy from, in general, is emotion regulation, and in a way that you may not necessarily think about it, but we regulate our emotions, we manage how we feel through our relationships. You can think about this as simple as getting a hug from someone else. Our kids do this in the same way, anytime that they hurt themselves, and they get a boo-boo, they want you to kiss it, or they want a quick snowball before bed. We manage our emotions through others, and so both this aspect of stress as well as how we manage our emotions come into play when talking about parenting and empathy.
An important part that I think is also worth noting is that I am a dad, and I love a good dad joke, but it’s worth bringing up that I’m not just talking about this from a theoretical perspective, but a lot of examples that I’ll pull from this are from my own life as well as from the life of some of my friends to think about hopefully it connects with you in some way. Sorry, let’s keep moving.
Before we get into the meat of what we talk about today, let’s think about how we can conceptualize empathy in this context, and I want to do that with an exercise.
So, and I’ve asked this of many of my clients, I want you to imagine what it is like to throw a ball.
A lot of people, when I ask this question, they’ll say how they are maybe reaching back behind their head a little bit with the ball. They then bring their arm forward and let go at the perfect moment. That’s a good explanation, it helps build a picture. I understand what they’re saying but then I’ll start to ask questions. Right, all right, how much grip do you put on the ball? Like, if you were to measure in pounds, how much weight do you put on the ball to create the perfect grip? And not just the grip to hold the ball, but to also let go of it at the perfect moment? And then I’ll ask, all right, so what is the perfect moment? Like, at what point in that arch do you actually let go of the ball? And then we’ll ask, all right, so then what muscles do you use? Is this more of a bicep or tricep? Do you use your chest? What muscles are you using there? What are you doing with your feet? Like, how are your feet planted? Are they parallel to each other or are they maybe shifted a little bit to the side? Do you, is this just an arm throw or is this a full body throw? Do you twist at all? What muscles in your core do you end up using if you do twist? Do you use your leg muscles at all in this process?
Now I know pandemic-wise a lot of us were relying on television. I know I was. There are a lot of other opportunities to think about, though. Another one of those barriers is thinking about, “Am I thinking creatively about what my kid is going through? Am I thinking about the fact that they don’t know something? Once they get to a certain age, they’re going to know a lot of things, but there are still certain things that they just don’t know.” Are we thinking about all those barriers? Are we engaging with the fact that there are limitations from my kid, there are limitations for me?
Now, you can tackle those barriers directly. There’s also meditation and grounding exercises, which I’m sure you’ve heard of at this point. But think about it from the standpoint of managing your emotions. If you need to think creatively to be able to build that story, to build perspective for your kid, and you’re already at a high level of emotional tolerance, if you just can’t take on anymore, you’re not going to be able to do it. But grounding exercises, meditation can lower that for you, allowing you to take on more emotion, allowing you to think more creatively. I’m not saying go spend half an hour calming yourself down every time you come into the house, but maybe finding those exercises for you. If you want to reach out to me afterwards for recommendations, I’m happy to give those to you. The idea is building a groundwork for those exercises.
Now, if you find that meditation and grounding exercises are not working, there may be something else going on internally where you’re being triggered by something that is bringing up a lot of emotion for you. And that’s obviously a bias here where therapy can be really useful, figuring out, “Alright, so what exactly is coming up for me and why is it coming up for me in these situations? Why is it so frustrating when this happens? Why am I having such a hard time really understanding what my kid is going through?” Because as much as I enjoyed building this workshop, it’s not going to have all the answers for you, and that’s okay.
Okay, so now, how do you measure the distance that it needs to go? Like, how do you know what that distance is? How do you calculate that in your mind? And then, once you’ve figured out the distance, how do you know how much effort you need to put in to actually throwing the ball? Like, how do you know what the effort is needed to travel that distance that you’ve calculated? You know the answer to this. You may find, like, you may not be able to precisely explain how you make all those calculations, but you know this. And you know this because you’ve done it a lot. You’ve built a lot of experience. And so, it’s natural for you when I ask, “How do you throw a ball?” Do you skip a lot of those initial steps of, “Well, yeah, you need to stand, you need to twist your body, you need to have this amount of grip?” You don’t think about those things, and you shouldn’t have to.
If a professional baseball player had to think about all those things while he was playing, he wouldn’t be able to think about the strategies of, “Well, what base do I need to throw the ball to?” Or, “How fast do I need to throw it?” Or, “Where are my teammates?” They can’t think about those things and how to throw a ball at the same time. It has to be intuitive, and we do this in a lot of ways in our life. We understand the world around us. We understand how gravity works. We understand water flow. We understand other people in relationships, which is amazingly complex. But we don’t think about all the ground information that we had to build to get to that point. And it’s not surprising when you think of someone who maybe speaks another language, but they’re having trouble getting their words out in English.
You’re going to be able to empathize with that challenge of not being able to communicate what you want. Like, the ideas there, you have some language built around it, but you just can’t spit it out. A kid, on the other hand, may fumble and create an incoherent sentence that you may find amusing, but you can’t really empathize with their train of thought because you’ve had language built for so long that you don’t know what it’s like to just not have language. That’s a hard idea to wrap your mind around.
The lack of information is one thing. It’s one thing to have different information, but it’s another to have a lack of information. So, it can be challenging for parents to empathize with someone who doesn’t have a similar experience as us, doesn’t have even something comparable to. I’m gonna get more into the details of exactly how that works and how we can think about it as we move forward, but keep in mind this exercise as we go forward.
So, this is what we’re going to discuss. First, let’s build a baseline for understanding what exactly empathy is. From there, we think, “What’s getting in our way? What’s stopping us from harnessing empathy to the best of our abilities?” Then, from there, we can think of, “All right, so what exactly are our kids capable of? How can they think about the world? How are they able to develop empathy? Are they able to develop empathy in the way that we hope or expect?” And then lastly, let’s see how exactly we can build empathy and build skills on top of what we already have.
All right, so what is empathy? Now, you may consider empathy as something that is mostly emotional, and that’s generally speaking how we think about it in Western society, at minimum the idea of understanding someone else’s emotions, which is true for the most part. But I want us to be able to expand that definition a little bit because it’s not just bad emotions. It’s also about perspective-taking. So really, how we should think about empathy is, are we able to understand someone else’s experience? Can you understand what that person is going through? And so, with that in mind, we’re going to split how empathy works for us into two different categories. There’s the thinking side, and there’s the feeling side.
When we talk about thinking, really what I’m talking about is perspective-taking. Are we able to understand their perspective? What are they going through? What is going through their mind? And we do this in two different ways. The first one is pulling from our own experience. “Oh, I see they’re going through something that I went through a few weeks ago or a few months ago.” It’s often memories that we have that are easy to grab onto, easy to remember, that we say, “Oh, I felt that way during that experience. I know how they must feel. I was thinking about this when going through that experience. Maybe they’re thinking about that.” And that is the quickest way for us to be able to empathize with someone. We see them going through an experience similar to us. We apply our own experience to say they must be experiencing that now.
A more challenging way that we can empathize with somebody from the idea of perspectives is we build a story. And when we don’t have a similar experience. We have to build a story. We have to say, “All right, so if I were going through this, what exactly would I be feeling? What exactly would I be thinking?” This takes a lot more creativity. Now admittedly, in that first kind of pulling from our own experience, we still have to build a little bit of a story because we haven’t gone through exactly that experience. But when there’s nothing to pull from and we have to develop that full story, that takes a lot of energy, a lot of creativity, a lot of imagination to try to figure out, “All right, what would be going on for us?” And to be able to fully understand, and it’s also pulling a whole bunch of hypotheticals. Well, maybe this, well, maybe that, what about this factor? And so really fleshing out a full story, it can be complex and it’s a lot more challenging, which is why we tend to pull from our own experience first because it’s so much easier.
So that is the thinking side of empathy, trying to build that perspective. The other side is the emotions. How do we feel? Now, we start with this idea of contagious emotions, which can sound a little odd. It’s not like emotions are viruses where we catch one, we pass it on the next person. But what is happening is that when someone else has an emotion they’re expressing, we’re going to have an emotional response to that. Think of when a baby is crying, you have an emotional response that ends up leading you to either helping the kid out or reaching out to someone else to assist. There’s an emotional response to someone having an emotional response.
Now, that is the baseline, that is the activation. You can think about it like the part that is motivating us to do something. But emotions, feelings are a little bit more complex than that. And so how we can think about the next step is, what do we do with those emotions? Do we manage them? Do we figure out, “All right, so I feel this emotion, this is what it means, this is what I’m going to do,” or do we feel overwhelmed and end up needing to be very goal oriented, “This is how I get out of this stressful situation, this is how I protect myself”? Those are two categories that you can kind of go down when it comes to the emotional side of things, is how am I managing my emotions or not managing my emotions, which as parents, it can be easily going in either direction sometimes.
I want to make clear though some things that empathy is not. It’s not compassion, it’s not sympathy either, and it’s not caring. They can often be used in a similar vein, but I want to make an important distinction in this. Empathy can certainly lead to all of these. Empathy is about that emotional and perspective taking of understanding their experience. Sympathy is when you end up taking on either pity or you end up taking on the same emotion. I see that my significant other is sad, I’m going to join them in that sadness. That’s sympathy. Compassion is when you have concern for someone else. You see a homeless person and you want to respond, you want to help them out. And then there’s caring, similar overlap, but the idea is showing kindness towards others. You can see how all those, again, you’re being emotionally activated, but it’s what you do with those emotions, what you do with that perspective taking, what you do with that empathy, that leads to each of these.
I also want to point out at this junction that when we get into all this how to use empathy, it’s important to recognize that
All right, so all that combines towards this idea of building the story. We have to build that story, and anything limiting our ability to build that story, whether it’s creative thinking, how emotionally overwhelmed we are, or the lack of experience that we have, if we can’t do any of that, we just can’t build the story. We can’t think of all the different possibilities that lead to what’s going on.
Lastly, and this is partly just a side note here that is still very true for parents, switching our focus is challenging. As much as we want to multitask, it’s just not possible. As much as we want to do multiple things at the same time, we’re not able to pull away and give full dedication towards everything. And the more you pull away from your ability to empathize, the less you’re going to be able to, which sounds obvious, but when we get to the next slide, you’re going to be like, “Oh yeah, so that’s what he’s talking about.” That’s the kind of task-switching, the multitasking that he’s talking about.
So this is all very kind of theoretical in a way, but let’s get into what it looks like practically real-world here. We struggle to understand how little our kids know, and this brings back to the throne of all experience. We have a hard time imagining what it’s like to throw a ball, to not throw a ball, which is entertaining my five-year-old daughter. She wants to throw things, but even just a year ago, she had this tendency to want to throw things to me, wind up looked like it was going to be perfect but ended up just rolling it sideways. And this is hard. I would see this happen, and I’m like, “Why? Why sideways? How did that go sideways?” But she doesn’t understand when the release is just not there. She hasn’t practiced enough. She doesn’t have the experience, and that’s okay, but it’s hard in the moment to think like, “Well, of course, she doesn’t know how to do that.” So we struggle to understand our kids’ experience.
Now, a little bit more practical, when we are trying to do something like make dinner, this can be even broader, like just trying to talk to your significant other or trying to talk to anybody on the phone because you haven’t had any adult connections that day that are meaningful to you. And this is all happening while your kid wants your attention. They’re trying to get something done, or they want to do something on their own, but it’s not exactly safe for them to do it on their own or, at least, it’s not going to end up lean. That sense of trying to multitask, of doing something else that needs to get done in a lot of cases while our kid is doing something that requires our engagement in a lot of cases, and it ends up being kind of frustrating because you’re trying to get multiple things done. And you can see how that multitasking and that inability to really take in their perspective is limiting our ability to empathize with what’s going on with them in the moment.
Next, we’re focusing on something else entirely, and much like the last one around building better, we can often just mentally be distracted by other things like an email we read at work or it could be just something that we’re trying to figure out like trying to plan what our kid is going to do for the summer. It’s so small things.
Next is just work was exhausting, and I just need a break. I just want to go home. I just want to sit quietly or maybe sometime on my phone. I just want to relax while my kid is asking me a bunch of different questions.
“They’re bless their heart like they just want to understand, but they want to understand something. They want to be able to do something, and they don’t have the empathic skills yet. They don’t have the experience to build up to go, ‘Oh, all right, my parent needs a break.’ And so, you’re ending up having to deal with the frustration of not getting the break that you so desperately need.
The last piece is you’re just already upset, nothing to do with your kid, nothing to do with anything that they did wrong, but they are just adding on to the emotional pile of things that you need to stretch your attention to do. And you’ve lost your patience in this process. You may find that like you maybe are a little snappy with your kid, or you say, “Uh,” that they don’t get dessert just because they didn’t do something perfectly right.
Everyone has their little thing, their little way of letting the frustration come out a little bit, even if they’re trying to be as patient as possible. And it’s just because that’s limiting. We’re limiting our ability, unintentionally or out of our control in a lot of cases, we’re limiting our ability to empathize with our kids, to understand their experience, and in a lot of cases, to really empathize with our own experience of really understanding that we are frustrated, or that we’re exhausted, or that we’re trying to multitask and it’s not working.
All right, so you’ve looked at empathy, what it is, and we’ve looked at the barriers involved. Let’s look at how do we improve our chances, and the first way we’re going to do this is from the perspective side of things. We know how to build a story, generally speaking, but we don’t know how to build a story around what’s going on for our kids mentally. So that’s what we’re going to focus on first, is understanding what exactly is their mental capabilities as they develop.
With that in mind, our children are little scientists. That’s what I want you to think about in the first few years of life. Think about how they are experiencing the world. They are grabbing the nearest toy, they’re putting it in their mouth, they’re chewing on things, they’re slamming things around, they’re making weird, nothing cute sounds, just playing. Just understanding, and they’re experimenting.
They’re doing these fun little experiments because they’re trying to understand what is life, what exactly is going on, and in a lot of cases, it’s fun to watch. But they just don’t understand what exactly is happening, and so they’re constantly manipulating the world to the best of their abilities to figure out how does the world work, how do I work, what are my needs, my desires, and they progress over and over, and they’re continually building data, continually trying to figure out what the rules of the world are. Now, they’re going to create rules.”
They’re going to start to figure out how to do things like walk. They’re also going to start trying to figure out, “All right, what exactly are the rules going on?” and they’ll come up with some bizarre ones at first. So think about a kid who, when they cry, a stuffed animal appears in front of them. And they start to think, “Well, my cry makes the stuffed animal appear. Like, I am doing that. I am making a stuffed animal appear because I cry.” And so they’re making these what seem to us as illogical connections, but that’s the information they have to go off of.
We know the reality of this, though. When they cry, we know that they, like stuffed animals, want something soft and cuddly to hold. And so we present it. And so they start making these connections. Now, they’re very loose associations, and they’re going to continue developing rules. And they’re going to continue to experiment like writing on the walls, “What happens when I do this? What happens when I test the boundaries? I learned how to draw. Where can I draw? Am I allowed to draw on this?” And you can start to see that they’re running multiple experiments at the same time. And you’re going to start seeing their logic getting more and more concrete.
You’ll also notice them developing, when they first develop these rules, really understanding, especially like the rules of the house. They won’t understand the perspective of others necessarily. They think, “All right, well, these are the rules. That’s the rules in my house, and everyone else must have those same rules because those are the rules that exist. They don’t know any other rules or even the possibility that someone else would have different rules.”
And you may hear your kid come back from PK or kindergarten, and they’re talking about this sense of like one of their friends didn’t follow the rules when it’s a rule for our home, but it’s not a rule for school or maybe they have a different rule at their house. So eventually, they start to understand a way of the world that is beyond just themselves. And so they start creating this understanding of, “All right, so this is the way the world works.” Very concrete, logical ways of understanding the world. And they’re able to develop rules and even start predicting a little bit of like, “If I do this, that will happen.” And then eventually, they’ll get to a point where they can start thinking creatively, really understanding people’s other perspectives, start building nuance to it because they’re able to create more and more rules, more and more nuance to those rules. And they’ll start experimenting in ways of, “All right, where are the rules flexible? Where do some rules apply, and others don’t? And how do I move forward with that?” And so you can see the little scientists growing in them as they move forward.
All right, so then parents, where do we play a role in any of this? And the idea is that we are a secure base for them. We are a secure base for their experiments. When they try something out, they will end up maybe a little uncomfortable, maybe a little scared, and they’ll come back to us. And the reality is that it’s an unknown world. It’s a world of unknowns. Think about when you take your kid to the park or you have taken your kid to the park, and they’re going on the swings, they’re going down the slide, they are on the jungle gym. They may want you to come along with them. Like they’re exploring, and you’ll be at a distance
Or maybe you’re sitting on the bench and every so often they come up and want to tell you about something. I want to tell you about their most recent experiment. Or maybe they just want a quick hug and then they go and continue to play. They’re coming back to you after running some experiments to ensure that you are a sense of safety for them, that it’s okay to experiment, to learn, and move forward. So you’ll notice that it starts off fairly small. They’re constantly looking for you as a secure base. You’ve been worried when you’re not there. And then the older they get, the more that they’ll maybe come back to you as a secure base, or in some cases try to see how well they can go without a secure base. Can they do this on their own? And so they’ll test more and more how much they need this secure base, how much they want this secure base. But in moments of stress and fear, and this comes even as adults, in those moments where we’re worried, we still want our parents because we are still, even as adults, experimenting. So each step, our kids are experimenting and returning to us, trying to figure out how do I understand the world? How do I understand my perspective of the world and stay safe?
Let’s run through some real-world examples here. Your three-year-old kid wants to pour a glass of milk or juice. They really want to do it by themselves and manage to get a try in before you notice. They line it up and they still spill, making a sticky mess on the counter or the floor or just please, not the rug or the couch. What’s going on with the kid? Well, they feel that you as a parent are close enough that it’s not terribly unsafe, but they also want to experiment. Can I do this myself? Can I quench my thirst? Am I able to pour this? So as a parent, I know my response has been, “Wait, wait, what are you doing? No, stop!” But a different way that you can maybe approach this, thinking of the empathy side, is seeing that they want to experiment, they want to try. And so instead of the “no, no, wait, go,” all right, I see the experiment you want to do. Let’s figure out a way to do this experiment. So you’re really just correcting the experiment, giving them boundaries and understanding of this is how you can conduct this experiment safely. So you’re acting as that secure base and helping them understand the experiment that they want to do and an ideal way of doing it. So you’re guiding them through their experiments.
Example number two. Your 15-year-old child comes home past curfew, complaining that everyone hates them. They do not want to talk to you about it and head straight to their room. So what we know about scientists, little scientists at this point, is that a 15-year-old can start thinking abstractly. They’re understanding the nuances and they’re trying to apply in all these different ways, but they’re still trying to figure out the rules of interpersonal interactions, of what it means to be friends with others, of what everyone means. They’re also maybe testing a little bit what a secure base will do in this situation.
They may be testing, “All right, can I get through this without my secure base? Can I get my secure base to respond without me explicitly asking for it?” And this is a child. I don’t have a clear answer just because, as an example, it’s not going to be clear-cut and it’s going to be different for every situation. It’s going to be different based off of the relationship built through that secure base.
Example number three: Oh man, this is a personal one. This hits home for me. So it is now 30 minutes past bedtime. Your five-year-old is slowly doing what you ask, but really they are just playful. You, in your desire to have some time of your own to relax, put on a stern voice, quickly rush them through the nighttime routine, maybe skip over reading a book or telling a story because it is late, and they begin to cry because you rushed them and it’s not right.
So what’s going on for them? They have an understanding of the rules or at least some understanding of the rules that this is what happens at bedtime. “I get ready for bed, we read a book, you say good night, that’s it.” And even if you’ve done the, “All right, you’re running late for bed, you’re not gonna have time to read a book,” you’ve already tried this in the past. They haven’t run enough experiments, they just, it’s not a firm rule for them yet. And so it’s, they end up testing or I think they have some wiggle room because tests so far have been varied, and so maybe they can be playful and still get a book. Not our fault, not their fault, there’s just not enough experiments yet. And so that’s what’s going on for them, while at the same time, you as a secure base are not providing the base that they were hoping for. Not that you’re providing a wrong base, it was just different than what they’re hoping for.
So what do you do in this scenario? The hope is that you can ideally help reinforce boundaries, help them reinforce what the experiment is, and let them see the different factors that are contributing to this experiment, even if it means saying something like, “Hey, I have a lot that I need to get done tonight. It’s not that you’re doing anything wrong, we just ran out of time,” so that they can understand the experiment based on the situation in your case. So again, it’s helping them understand the experiment and you taking a moment to understand what their experience of the experiment is.
All right, so this is all the perspective-taking. That was the goal of this piece. We haven’t touched the emotional side of the house yet, so let’s get into it. Let’s start with self-empathy. First piece here: accept your emotions. You are going to be frustrated with your kid, that’s going to happen. You’re going to be annoyed, and there are also going to be other emotions that you bring home with you. If you want to be able to emotionally engage with yourself and with your kids, accepting your emotions also means recognizing your emotions. If you recognize that you have your emotions, you may be able to say, “All right, this is the limit of your empathy at bare minimum because you know how overwhelmed you could be trying to take on someone else.” There are good days and bad days with my daughter, and part of that is the emotions that I’m already carrying with me. But I also don’t try to stretch myself beyond what I know my capabilities are based off of the emotions that I’m already dealing with, and I set expectations for myself because I know what emotions that I’m having, and it’s okay that I’m having those emotions.
Thank you. The other piece is knowing the natural struggle of parenting. There are a lot of things as parents we are trying to get done. We are trying to take care of our kid, we’re trying to nurture, and we’re trying to get food on the table. We’re trying to get the house clean. We’re trying to get work stuff done. We’re trying to plan for the future. All these things are happening, and it’s just hard. I’m not saying it’s not rewarding as well, it can be, but we also have to recognize the struggle of it and give ourselves a break, knowing that it is challenging. I’m not saying this should excuse absolutely every behavior, but the sooner that we can recognize the struggle, the sooner we can move on from it.
All right, I think something we also forget about is that as parents, we are also our own scientists in a way. This is the first time you have been a parent of a kid your age. I love the quote, “I don’t know how to act my age. I’ve never been this old before.” In the same sense, that’s how parenting is working. Yes, you’ve never been a parent to a kid this age, or if you have been a parent to a kid this age, you haven’t been a parent to this kid at this age because no kid is the same. And if it’s because it’s the younger sibling, well, you also haven’t been a parent to two kids while one of them is an age that you’ve already dealt with. So there’s still this unpredictable nature of you haven’t had this experience before, you’re not an expert at it, and that’s okay. It’s expected. So really learning that you are learning to be a parent while your kid is learning to be a kid, as they’re running experiments, you are running experiments, and oftentimes you two are running experiments together.
All right, there’s also the idea of the imperfect parent. This is something that’s pulled from therapy as well, because we, or at least I, run the philosophy of, “I don’t want to be the perfect therapist. I want to be good enough.” And I say that in the sense of, I don’t want to have the perfect interpretations. I don’t want to create this perfect cocoon for my patients where they can come in. I want them to also feel a little bit tested. I also want them to come in and have that sense of inherent motivation where they’re the ones moving forward. That it’s not me. In the same sense, yes, you want to be able to create that secure base for your kid, but you also want to have those moments of frustration where they learn to develop and grow. So, the imperfect parent is the ideal parent. So, when you notice your flaws as a parent, where you notice, “Alright, that’s not how I wanted that to turn out,” know that that is also likely a good growing moment for your kid. That it’s not just about you creating this perfect environment for them.
Alright, so let’s talk about improving your emotional empathy based off of the barriers. So, some of the barriers that we talked about were the multitasking and the tendency to task switch. Now, I can’t say, “Alright, stop making dinner and focus solely on your kid,” but it may be an opportunity to figure out, “Alright, how do I get it so that I’m not pulling my attention? Is there something that my kid may be able to do while I’m making dinner so that I can focus on dinner or focus on doing dishes or focus on doing work and my kid can solely focus on something else?”
You can explore what specifically is going on for you in therapy. All right, so you can also think about this in terms of building empathy skills with your kids. So obviously, you remember that they’re developing, but you can also model empathy for them and to them. When you’re empathizing with them, when you’re practicing your empathy, you can be verbal about what’s going on. This is how I’m thinking about this situation. This is how I’m thinking about what you’re going through.
There’s also thinking about kids and the rules. My daughter and I were driving down the road, and this car sped by, and she’s like, “That car is going too fast, they’re breaking the rules.” Maybe some of you have had that experience, and I mean, they’re not wrong, but you can maybe practice with them. Be like, “All right, well, let’s think about why they may be going past. Maybe they’re in a hurry to get somewhere. Maybe one of them is pregnant and they need to get to the hospital.” And so think about, “All right, how do I build the story?” Practice with them the possibilities of building the story of someone else’s experience.
The last thing is practicing together, especially grounding exercises. I really like a sense-based exercise that my daughter calls the Name and Game, and it’s very simple. All you do is you name five things you see, four things you hear, three things you feel, two things you smell, and one thing you taste. It’s just this grounding exercise that she enjoys playing, but there are all these different things that you can do together. You can get a singing bowl and you hit it, and you both listen in to see, “All right, how long does it ring for?” And is this practice of bringing you to the present moment, bringing your senses to the present moment? It is something you can do together, and it’s one of those things that you can explore with, figure out what works and what doesn’t.
All right, we are at the end of this workshop. Here are a few books that I recommend. They’re about self-empathy and working within parenting. They’re books that I recommend. On top of this, I would also recommend, it’s not directly around empathy, but it’s around cultivating joy, and part of it is through that kind of building that story and building empathy. It’s called “Book of Joy,” and it’s by the Dalai Lama and the Bishop of Cape Town. It’s a great read. Let’s see, that’s all I have for you. If you have any questions for me, if there’s anything that comes to your mind, feel free to reach out to me. That phone number brings us to the clinic, and that email goes directly to me. So feel free to bring up anything that comes to mind for you. All right, I just want to remind you that there are two more workshops that I’m presenting. The next one will be on dealing with conflict and co-workers, and then the last one will be on trauma and how to rebuild connections through empathy after having gone through a traumatic event.
All right, thank you, and have a good day.