The Empathetic Child

Welcome guest blogger, Adrienne Jeffries! She brings to light the realities of nurturing the Empathetic Child!


Being a Social Worker and having at least one empathetic child, I am fascinated by the subject and others’ experience of this gift. Some call it Discernment, others go as far as calling it psychic abilities. Whatever you call it, it is special, you are special, and it is a gift you are blessed with, although sometimes it seems like a double edged sword. It is hard to feel others’ feeling as if they are your own all the time, everywhere you go.

Empathetic Adult VS. Empathetic Child

Like with any muscle or skill the more you utilize it and practice it the more skilled you are in utilizing it. It’s one thing to have it yourself as an adult. You have hopefully developed some coping skills and worked on your own mindfulness and abilities to regulate yourself and your feelings and emotions. It’s another thing to suspect that your child may be an empath. Children haven’t had a chance to learn to deal with the sudden onset of another’s feelings or walking into a crowded place and all of a sudden feeling waves of happiness, sadness, loneliness, anger within a couple of minutes time. They aren’t prepared with how to handle evil energies coming to them or any types of spirits visiting them, that is scary for a child. The gift of being an empath is rarely ever discussed, prepared for, accepted or understood by others’ unless, of course you share this gift are aware of it and are accepting of it in yourself. I am writing this post because I think those of us that are empaths, could do better by being empathic to our own children, whom we may have passed these abilities on to, and better prepare them for what they can, and will experience. The first step is identifying if your child might be an empath to know how to better prepare them. If we are able to help them be appreciative and accepting of all such a gift provides they are less likely to resent the gift and won’t want to give the gift back.

Signs That Your Child May Be An Empath

  1. Kids that are empaths are extremely tuned into others feelings and are very sensitive to their emotions as well as others emotions, thoughts (sometimes), and intentions (good or bad). They have even been known to experience physical pains because others are experiencing ailments in those parts of their own bodies. It is important with suspected or know empathic children to be open and honest with them in age appropriate ways as they will have an idea of what is going on anyway. They are very good at reading and getting subtle clues from body language, picking up on the energy in the room, and can get a vibe of the atmosphere.
  2. Someone may have been described as, or you may even describe your child as, needy, shy (I was often described as this), antisocial ( as I sit upstairs alone an type, while a group of family is currently downstairs), fussy, over-sensitive, emotional, bleeding heart, worrisome, compassionate, empathetic. Worse, these children may have been diagnosed with a social phobia, anxiety disorder, or even depression ( myself having been diagnosed as all three!). These children need extra help and support dealing with such intense emotions. It can be easy to make a child that is so sensitive feel worse if you, the adult, aren’t careful in how you handle help with all they are dealing with. It doesn’t help that these children often feel lonely and different than others.
  3. Empathic children will often complain of different physical symptoms such as aches and pains. These children often suffer from stomach aches, headaches, as well as other bodily symptoms. Often offering them a hug and reassurance is helpful. Their pains are very real for them, and  they may well be a result of someone else’s feelings around them . Children don’t always know how to express their feelings in clear ways and this may be a way that they experience negative energies.
  4. Empathic Children are often very responsible for their ages. You may say, ” Why is a kid that’s responsible a bad thing?!,”. Sometimes empathic kids take on responsibility and worries that are too much for their age. They are too young to deal with how the mortgage is going to get paid, or to take care of their parent who is depressed or passed out drunk on the couch.These kids often live their lives making others happy, doing all they can to help others, as well as trying to heal and fix situations and people. In this way it is often like a child that struggles with anxiety. It is important to help your child to learn to relax, let go of their worries ( and others’ worries), enjoy themselves, and to just be kids and have fun and laugh. It is also important to remind your little empath that it is not their job to make other people happy. This is a lesson we could all learn to accept!
  5. Your child may be an empath if there are certain people, places or situations they just don’t like or are uncomfortable in. This can be hard, especially if you or a family member don’t understand being an empath. Imagine going to a family party and your child just won’t hug a certain family member, not only that but they have a very strong reaction to that person in a negative way. While it may be uncomfortable for you, and maybe even embarrassing, know that your child is struggling and is uncomfortable as well. It is really important that despite maybe not understanding their desire not to be around certain people, they and their intuition should be trusted and not forced to be around the person, those feelings are coming up for your child for a reason. Your child may just withdraw or seem unhappy and may not verbalize what feelings are coming up for them about a certain person or situation, so as not to make you unhappy. Remember us empaths are always trying to make others happy! So while your child may not always give a voice to these feelings and emotions, there may be the above mentioned signs. It is important to listen to them and to validate their feelings.
  6. There seems to be a hypothesis that many with the gift of being an empath have been through some sort of trauma. This would make sense, given that those who have gone through trauma are often hyper-vigilant and are very adept at reading subtle cues that others give off.
  7. There are also many empaths that seem to think it be somewhat of a genetic trait, in that it can be    passed down or that multiple people in a lineage can and do experience this gift.
  8. Your child may be an empath if they seem to have a “knowing” or if they have predicted things were going to happen, and they did.
  9. These children are highly sensitive and may have strong reactions and feel overloaded to certain sights, smells, sounds, intuition and feeling emotions more strongly than others. Bright lights may be overwhelming, strong smelling perfumes and foods, or even certain sounds. They often prefer softer fabric and being out in nature has a calming effect, they also prefer having just a few close friends. They are often overstimulated by people, crowded places,noisy environments, and stress. These children may struggle at theme parks or fairs, playgrounds. I remember my daughter just stopping at the entrance to a playground and staring and taking the scenery in, rather than running and joining the fun like the other kids.
  10. These children are often considered kinder, gentler, and quieter than their same aged peers. They are often very good listeners, and are very compassionate individuals. They often will surprise you with intuitive and insightful comments about others or you or themselves, that seem beyond their years.
  11. Empathic children are sensitive to scary or sad scenes in books and movies.
  12. Children that are empaths have a strong connection to nature, plants, animals and even stuffed animals, they don’t handle animal violence well.

Most kids naturally have 1-3 of these traits. The more of these traits that you recognize in your child, the more empathic they are!

Closing thoughts

It is important to be open and honest with empathic children. They will know if you are lying to them and there is no point in trying to keep things from an empathic child, or adult for that matter. While this  doesn’t mean sharing all of your problems with them, but to acknowledge it, in an age appropriate way, explain, and reassure that you are the adult and that they are things you will handle, and that your child doesn’t need to worry about it.

Remember, empathic children are dealing with a constant barrage of excess emotions. They value being listened to and not being judged when it comes to expressing what they are dealing with and going through. They need reassurance and benefit from love, hugs, and compassion of what they are experiencing. Helping to teach them skills to cope with all their experiences is also vital to your little empath learning to use, accept, and even grow their skills with their gift.

Resources for the article:

https://www.learning-mind.com/empath-child/

https://www.lifecoachcode.com/2017/07/31/traits-child-empath/

Resources for more information:

The Empath’s Survival Guide- https://www.amazon.com/Empaths-Survival-Guide-Strategies-Sensitive/dp/1622036573/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1514151961&sr=8-4&keywords=empathic+child

The Highly Intuitive Child: A Guide to Understanding and Parenting Unusually Sensitive and Empathic Children- https://www.amazon.com/Empaths-Survival-Guide-Strategies-Sensitive/dp/1622036573/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1514151961&sr=8-4&keywords=empathic+child


Adrienne Jeffries, MSW, LCSW-A
Mrs. Jeffries has worked with adults and children, helping them navigate their mental health concerns, symptoms and traumas. She is finishing her licensure hours in Elizabeth City, NC to be fully licensed in September 2018. Adrienne is a military wife and mom to a toddler, preschooler, and 3 dogs, who just accepted a counseling position in a local school system. In her spare time she enjoys all forms of creativity, learning, reading, and spending time with her family.

Jennifer Taylor, LCSW, RPT is an experienced child and family therapist and public speaker who specializes in trauma, ADHD, and conduct problems. Discover more about her diverse clinical background and family. Reach out to Jennifer with questions or comments by emailing at info@jentaylorplaytherapy.com

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *