When kids melt down, we often advise parents to respond with empathy, by saying out loud what the kiddo might be feeling. But sometimes we can communicate everything we need to — without words.
I experienced a vivid example of this one day with our son Daniel. He was upset about something not being fair, and started into a strong rant about it. He was standing at the bottom of the stairs. When he started in I sat down to listen. My head was swirling: “Is this disrespect or not? Should I say something about that? But he’s just really frustrated. I get that. Wow, that is really a bummer what he’s feeling now…”
The funny thing was, I could think of absolutely NOTHING to say. It’s a vivid memory, because it felt like my mouth was simply zipped shut (unusual for me!) and I never uttered a word. I just listened and internally empathized with how frustrated he was.
Daniel finished his rant. We looked at each other sadly. He seemed to feel understood without needing things to change and left to go figure it out on his own.
During this whole interaction, I hadn’t spoken a word, but I still felt like Daniel and I had connected. It taught me the power of the non-verbals that communicate true empathy.
Jesus laid down his life to join us in our struggle (Hebrews 4:15). So join your children when they struggle. Work to have a true heart of empathy and understanding — one that is apparent even if you say nothing! And after your children have felt truly understood they will probably be calm enough to listen to your perspective — or maybe they will have figured out a solution on their own!