How to Protect Your Empathetic Kid from All the Feels

Asian baby girl cry on her mother breasts

Everybody touts the benefits of mastering the art of empathy. Feel your feels! It’s true, this is crucial. Empathy creates compassion, which fuels activism. It creates a fighter for the bullied, the oppressed, and the underrepresented. It builds a barrier against callousness. It’s the perfect vaccine against jadedness and cynicism.

Hence, every parent wants to be an Atticus educating a Scout. We want them to walk in another person’s shoes for a little bit to gain some perspective.

But my daughter cried for three days when the circus clowns pushed Dumbo off the high dive. Three days. “Why did they push him, Mama? Why was everybody laughing? Didn’t they notice he was crying? Didn’t they care that he was scared?” Then she asked to watch it again, a sucker for punishment. She wanted to see all the bullying clichés on repeat. She cried every time, as did I. The apple does not fall far from its weepy mother.

She’s also developed the habit of grabbing my face, staring into my eyes in a sweet-verging-on-creepy way, and asking, “Are you happy now? Sad now? Mad now?” Whatever the answer, I see it reflected back from her, like she got struck by the lighting of my emotions. She sucks it in and suddenly she’s overwhelmed too by the fact that the Keurig died a sudden death or that there’s dog hair all over the couch again. She feels it all, man.

As great as…

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