Empathy is something that I often hear fellow trauma mommas struggle with in their children. We envision our child running to help a sibling who has fallen and skinned their knee or comforting a friend who has been bullied on the playground. It can be incredibly daunting to instead have a child kick the family dog, to have them call you vicious names, or to sneak out of their room in the middle of the night to be sexually inappropriate with a sibling. You do what you have to do in your house to create safety, door alarms, line of sight supervision, safety plans, you never thought you would be living like this! But in a way what is worse than all of that is when you sit down with your child to discuss these behaviors and you are met with a blank stare, a laugh, or a "Can I go watch TV now?" It can leave you feeling hopeless, what will this child grow up to be, will I someday see him on the news at the center of some horrible event, will they blame me and say I didn't do enough help my child. I want to offer you some hope over the next few posts, encourage you to keep going, keep teaching, keep modeling empathy.
This quote by Oprah Winfrey couldn't be a more perfect representation of the potential our children have for empathy, Our children who suffer with the lasting effect of traumas so horrible and despicable so early in their young lives. Who better understands pain, abandonment, and disappointment than our children? Its no surprise that when our children come to us they have no empathy! Nobody cried for them when they were molested. Nobody tended to their bruises after they were beat. No one offered to split their sandwich with them when they had been starved. Our children missed that window of opportunity in their development to pick up on empathy naturally from their environment, we must now teach it to them directly just like we would teach math or reading.
According to this article empathy development begins in the womb! Now throw in a birthmother who drank, did drugs, or neglected her and the baby's health during this time and its just one more reason our kids were set up to fail. Our kids come to us often significantly behind in many areas, but where they really lack is in emotional development. Our kids do not understand their own emotions, and they can't recognize emotions in other people if they cant recognize emotions in themselves. In the next few days I will tell you our story and journey to developing empathy, but until then let me leave you with picture of my oldest who ran upstairs to get his brother a band aid this week. Melts. my. heart.