Showing Sympathy to Children and Teenagers

Sympathy begins with connection.

Firstly the genuine desire and effort must be there to try to see things through your child’s eyes.  Without that you are trying to use tricks to manipulate your child.  That is not true parenting.  That kind of parenting is selfish.  Children are not objects for us to try and figure out how to control, rather they are unique agents with unique feelings, desires and dreams.  As parents, compassion and understanding is the foundation of all we can do to help them reach their full potential and it has to be genuine, not faked to try and manipulate.   You may not be able to understand your child’s feelings straight away. It may take time, but with effort and a genuine desire it will come.

Some ways to show your sympathy and understanding.

  1. Listen with a nod, a sound or a word.
  2. Put their thoughts and feelings into words.
  3. Wishing! Give them what they want in fantasy when they can’t have it in reality.



1. Listen with a nod, a sound or a word.


2. Put their thoughts and feelings into words.

Examples: A fight between children.

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Parent’s response.  “She made you so angry, you wanted to hit her!”

A child struggling with homework.

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Parent’s response.  “When you spend so long trying and you find the homework confusing, it is so frustrating!”


3. Wishing!  Give them what they want in fantasy.

A common challenge for children…

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Parent’s response.  “Wouldn’t it be great if you could watch T.V. as long as you wanted, then go to school when you got bored!  Or…if you could choose which days are school days and which days are holidays!…Or if you could be the Headmaster and decide to close the school whenever you wanted to!”

“It is easier to deal with reality if a friend can give us what we want in fantasy.” – Faber & Mazlish


The difference between teenagers and children.

“Teenagers do not want instant understanding.  When troubled by conflicts, they feel unique.  Their emotions seem new, personal, private.  No one else ever felt just so.  They are insulted when told, “I know exactly how you feel.  At your age I felt the same.”  It distresses them to be so transparent, so naive, so simple, when they feel complex, mysterious and inscrutable.  To sense when a teenager needs understanding and when misunderstanding is a difficult and delicate task.  The sad truth is that no matter how wise we are, we cannot be right for any length of time in our teenagers’ eyes.”  Dr Haim Ginott.