empathy fempathy parenting May 27, 2024


A common complaint that I get from parents is how much their kids “hate” empathy.


Which is ironic. Because in our current culture, now more than ever,  parents are upping their empathy game and attempting to connect to their children with more empathy and understanding. (see footnote!**) So I find it funny when parents tell me that their children “hate” empathy. Like seriously?  


So, it seems that we haven’t yet mastered the art of empathy towards our children. 


Why do some kids hate it?


One of my kids once made up a word for a phenomenon after I was accused of doing it: “Fempathy,” meaning: Fake Empathy. I liked it- ish! Fempathyradars in children are strong…


I get it. Empathy can feel contrived, constricted, forced, disingenuous and annoying at times.  Empathy needs to be timed well, and too much of it or too little of it, (such as a question that is asked but no interest in the answer, or when Child opens up- and Parent explains why they shouldn’t feel that way), can all ruin the empathic experience. 



I ask myself this question: Shouldn’t having empathy towards our children be as natural as loving springtime? (Minus the allergy people.) Why does it sometimes seem that it takes superhuman efforts to make the time and the space to understand each of our children’s needs and feelings?


So, I thought about it.


One answer - of many - is because so often all our children need our empathy at the exact same time!  Right? Don’t you find that they need us at the same time? Plus, how much empathy do we have in our banks to give our children before 8am? When the 12th grader is going on her graduation trip, and another one has a big midterm, and the next one doesn’t like the pony you just made and the next can’t find their shoes and the post seminary child is asking if the shadchan called back yet? Yikes. We’re one person. How can we possibly give authentic, genuine empathy to each of these children - often needing it at the same moment? 🤯


I sometimes feel like putting a sign on my bedroom door: 


Empathy is available between 3-5am 


But really, is it? I’m not so sure about that. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s also not a good time. Sorry, kids. 


If I had to make Mom’s Empathy Store Hours it would look like this: 


8-9am Empathy Store closed for business. (Ain’t got no time for empathy.)

10am-12pm Empathy Store open to all!   (Hope The Boss is ok with that. Plus, it’s a good thing the children are usually in class then 🤣). 

12pm-2pm Empathy store open ONLY for children and in-law children who live in Israel 🇮🇱

2pm-4pm Empathy Store is closed. (Work, Carpool, Chesed, Self Care, Supper, Shidduchim, and Need to prepare for 4pm rush.)

4pm-5pm Empathy Store open for Preschool and Elementary School kids. (HELP!)    

5pm-6:30pm Empathy Store closed for business. (Supper, Homework, busy with Crises and Tantrums) 

6:30pm-7:30pm Empathy Store open ONLY for Bachurim who don’t live at home. (But there’s a sign up sheet, because they can’t all call right when Yeshiva supper starts.)

7:30pm-8pm sharp Empathy store open, but on only light-medium strength because we need to do bedtime, so there’s a limit to how much we can engage. 

8pm-8:30pm Definitely closed. (Bedtime.)

8:30pm-10pm Empathy Store open for teens. Oops, So sorry they’re not home. (🎉! I mean 😪) Their loss.

10pm-11pm Empathy Store closed for All Aged Children. Open only for Empathy for Self (and Spouse, of course, hopefully there’s extra in the empathy bank!) 


So yeah, when the children complain about a fake gesture or comment claiming to be genuine care and concern, they may be on to us! When they feel it being fake, they’re sometimes correct. We sometimes aren’t fully present and available for full blown empathy when they need us. Who can blame us? 


BUT. This is the kicker. And this is the important thing. And this is what we need to remember: 


We do not need verbal communication to show and feel empathy! 


Empathy doesn’t need to be that much effort. Sometimes it can take just a few seconds to stop and be present and tap into the emotions of the moment.  Feeling for someone, especially a child who we are so close to, is magnetic. And the powerful experience of feeling with them is so real that when you feel it, our children (should) know it. Whether words are exchanged or not. It doesn’t always need to be a full fledged conversation. And sometimes we can revisit the issue later at a quieter time. Sometimes Empathy is just a quick wink, hug, a gift, a note, a date together, a gesture, a tap on the shoulder, a kiss, or you being present with them without anything exchanged- and that is so meaningful. 


When we are truly excited about our children’s graduation trip, or really feel frustrated with them (and not at them) when they can’t find their shoes, or nervous with them that they should do well on their test, or sad with them about the shidduch that didn’t work- They. Feel. It. 


Empathy has this incredible ability to break down walls, to transcend language between parents and children. It's like this invisible force that brings us closer together. 


And that’s what we need to work on. And make time for.


Between 9-10am.



💕, Shifi 



** (As  with any new trend, there will be the naysayers, trying to debunk why the new trend is wrong. In our current society, there has been a lot of pushback saying that the current movement towards empathy is ruining our children’s ability to be resilient and brave. As in almost every debate, somewhere in the middle is the golden path and balance is key. Obviously, our children need empathy and to be understood and cared for in a deeper way. That doesn’t mean that they also don’t need boundaries and rules. And I’m not sure why some people feel the answer is to choose between one or the other.)




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