A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

Helping Your Empath Make Their Way in the World Without Putting Them In a Bubble

My son seeks me out a few days after we’ve returned home from visiting his great-grandmother. She is in good health, but six-year-old Sam knows she is getting older and sees more doctors than she used to. He’s aware of the concept of death, and he is slightly fixated on it.


“I’ve decided that when Nanny dies, I don’t want to know,” he says. “I can believe she is always alive and that I just don’t see her because we don’t live in the same town. I won’t be okay if I know she’s gone for real.” His words come out determined, like he has put thought into this decision.

“Sam, we have to learn how to get through things like that, even when they are hard,” I say. “We can’t put our heads in the sand. I couldn’t lie to you anyway because I will be way too devastated to pretend nothing is wrong when we do lose Nanny.”

He puts his face in his hands and speaks in a muffled tone.

“You’re right. This was a bad plan. You will be hurting, and I will feel it just being near you even if you lie. It’s going to hurt so much.”

“It always hurts to lose someone.”

“Yes, that, but also feeling you lose her. Mom, it’s just going to be so bad. You love her so much.” He is suddenly consumed, not by his future grief but by mine.

I don’t have any reassuring words as I simply hold my son and reflect on the challenges and gifts that come with raising an empath.

Empaths defined

In her book, “Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World,” psychologist Dr. Michele Borba writes that we need our kids to be more empathetic. She points to research that says teenagers are almost 50 percent less empathetic than they were decades ago, and that’s a problem.

Being empathetic makes it easier for us to engage in relationships and allows us to feel connected to others. For most people, empathy is a gateway to a better life with improved communication. However, being an empath is on a bit of a different level than just knowing how to empathize. The road for empaths is more complicated.

Empaths are defined as people who take on the feelings of others – literally feeling their pain or emotions. Imagine Professor X from the X-Men comics. He’s a mutant with the super power of telepathy, but it could be argued that he is also an empath.

His ability to read other people’s minds and experience their emotions drives his character in “X-Men: Days of Future Past” to use drugs to dull the anxiety and depression that come along with all of the feelings he absorbs.

He starts the drugs for other reasons but stays on them to dull pain. This makes sense. Kids who are empaths – also known as orchid children or highly sensitive kids – are more likely to suffer from substance abuse issues and depression, possibly because they absorb the good and the bad from others and have problems coping and so reach for other methods to tune out.

To truly empathize, a person has to truly feel, and Sam can get high on the giddiness of a friend or end up in tears when someone he loves is in any form of discomfort. The problem is he doesn’t have an off switch and can end up a ball of anxiety simply because he feels too much.

Wired that way

It’s been known for some time that psychopaths don’t experience empathy. Studies of inmates who exhibited signs of psychopathic behavior revealed a disconnect when it came to feeling other people’s emotions. Those who were highly psychopathic felt no pain when imagining bad things happening to others, proven by the fact that the parts of their brains wired for empathy did not light up.

Obviously, being capable of empathy is good, but empaths are on the other end of this spectrum. They feel the pain of others, and they absorb emotions like a sponge. It’s exhausting, though it does make them good listeners and nurturers.

How do we introduce empaths to the world?

When bad things happen in the world, my husband and I hesitate to share details with Sam. We want to teach him that he can feel, help others, and still survive, but we fear him falling apart because of how hard it is for him to disconnect from someone else’s pain.

We don’t want to teach kids to be unempathetic, but how do we equip empaths to live in an imperfect environment without staying exhausted, stressed, and overwhelmingly sad? Empath and MD Judith Orloff has some tips:

1 | Teach kids meditation

Teaching empaths to meditate helps them slow down, become aware of their emotions, and work to regulate their behavior. Empaths should have meditation or stillness breaks sprinkled throughout their days. It may help them hit the reset button before they are too overwhelmed.

2 | Explain the power of no

It’s necessary for empaths to protect their down time and know their limits. They shouldn’t sign up to be in a large group of people for an entire day if they know the stress from feeling too much from others will drain them. Help empaths draw lines and shield themselves from too much stimulation when necessary.

3 | Teach them to choose friends wisely

Good and bad feelings are contagious for empaths, so that optimistic friend who builds others up and handles challenges constructively will be helpful for an empath.

Orloff warns that the opposite is true if an empath is around “emotional vampires.” Being surrounded by companions full of fear, anger, or other negative feelings on a regular basis is damaging for empaths. They absorb the strong emotions, and they can actually feel harmed by them.

Teach kids to choose their closest companions wisely, and make sure they don’t live in a house where unchecked anger is the norm.

Guide your empath

The world is one of beauty, but it is also full of evil and pain. It always will be, and empaths have to exist in this world without feeling the pressure Professor X did. We don’t want to change empaths or teach them to be hard. They aren’t weak, and their abilities allow them to feel beauty and appreciate goodness in a way that most of us can’t. With a steady hand we can guide them to use their empath powers and take care of themselves at the same time.

Author Donna Lynn Hope asks the very relevant question, “The empath helps others by absorbing some of their pain, but who helps the empath?”

Those who love them do, by teaching them to embrace the superheroes they are.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

Subscribe to get inspiration and super helpful ideas to rock your #momlife. Motherhood looks amazing on you.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

When you become a parent for the first time, there is an undeniably steep learning curve. Add to that the struggle of sorting through fact and fiction when it comes to advice and—whew—it's enough to make you more tired than you already are with that newborn in the house.

Just like those childhood games of telephone when one statement would get twisted by the time it was told a dozen times, there are many parenting misconceptions that still tend to get traction. This is especially true with myths about bottle-feeding—something that the majority of parents will do during their baby's infancy, either exclusively or occasionally.

Here's what you really need to know about bottle-feeding facts versus fiction.

1. Myth: Babies are fine taking any bottle

Not all bottles are created equally. Many parents experience anxiety when it seems their infant rejects all bottles, which is especially nerve wracking if a breastfeeding mom is preparing to return to work. However, it's often a matter of giving the baby some time to warm up to the new feeding method, says Katie Ferraro, a registered dietician, infant feeding specialist and associate professor of nutrition at the University of California San Francisco graduate School of Nursing.

"For mothers returning to work, if you're breastfeeding but trying to transition to bottle[s], try to give yourself a two- to four-week trial window to experiment with bottle feeding," says Ferraro.

2. Myth: You either use breast milk or formula

So often, the question of whether a parent is using formula or breastfeeding is presented exclusively as one or the other. In reality, many babies are combo-fed—meaning they have formula sometimes, breast milk other times.

The advantage with mixed feeding is the babies still get the benefits of breast milk while parents can ensure the overall nutritional and caloric needs are met through formula, says Ferraro.

3. Myth: Cleaning bottles is a lot of work

For parents looking for simplification in their lives (meaning, all of us), cleaning bottles day after day can sound daunting. But, really, it doesn't require much more effort than you are already used to doing with the dishes each night: With bottles that are safe for the top rack of the dishwasher, cleaning them is as easy as letting the machine work for you.

For added confidence in the sanitization, Dr. Brown's offers an incredibly helpful microwavable steam sterilizer that effectively kills all household bacteria on up to four bottles at a time. (Not to mention it can also be used on pacifiers, sippy cups and more.)

4. Myth: Bottle-feeding causes colic

One of the leading theories on what causes colic is indigestion, which can be caused by baby getting air bubbles while bottle feeding. However, Dr. Brown's bottles are the only bottles in the market that are actually clinically proven to reduce colic thanks to an ingenious internal vent system that eliminates negative pressure and air bubbles.

5. Myth: Bottles are all you can use for the first year

By the time your baby is six months old (way to go!), they may be ready to begin using a sippy cup. Explains Ferraro, "Even though they don't need water or additional liquids at this point, it is a feeding milestone that helps promote independent eating and even speech development."

With a complete line of products to see you from newborn feeding to solo sippy cups, Dr. Brown's does its part to make these new transitions less daunting. And, for new parents, that truly is priceless.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Toxic masculinity is having a cultural moment. Or rather, the idea that masculinity doesn't have to be toxic is having one.

For parents who are trying to raise kind boys who will grow into compassionate men, the American Psychological Association's recent assertion that "traditional masculinity ideology" is bad for boys' well-being is concerning because our kids are exposed to that ideology every day when they walk out of then house or turn on the TV or the iPad.

That's why a new viral ad campaign from Gillette is so inspiring—it proves society already recognizes the problems the APA pointed out, and change is possible.

We Believe: The Best Men Can Be | Gillette (Short Film) youtu.be

Gillette's new ad campaign references the "Me Too" movement as a narrator explains that "something finally changed, and there will be no going back."

If may seem like something as commercial as a marketing campaign for toiletries can't make a difference in changing the way society pressures influence kids, but it's been more than a decade since Dove first launched its Campaign for Real Beauty, and while the campaign isn't without criticism, it was successful in elevating some of the body-image pressure on girls but ushering in an era of body-positive, inclusive marketing.

Dove's campaign captured a mainstream audience at a time when the APA's "Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Girls and Women" were warning psychologists about how "unrealistic media images of girls and women" were negatively impacting the self-esteem of the next generation.

Similarly, the Gillette campaign addresses some of the issues the APA raises in its newly released "Guidelines for the Psychological Practice with Boys and Men."

According to the APA, "Traditional masculinity ideology has been shown to limit males' psychological development, constrain their behavior, result in gender role strain and gender role conflict and negatively influence mental health and physical health."

The report's authors define that ideology as "a particular constellation of standards that have held sway over large segments of the population, including: anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence."

The APA worries that society is rewarding men who adhere to "sexist ideologies designed to maintain male power that also restrict men's ability to function adaptively."

That basically sounds like the recipe for Me Too, which is of course its own cultural movement.

Savvy marketers at Gillette may be trying to harness the power of that movement, but that's not entirely a bad thing. On its website, Gillette states that it created the campaign (called "The Best a Man Can Be," a play on the old Gillette tagline "The Best a Man Can Get") because it "acknowledge that brands, like ours, play a role in influencing culture."

Gillette's not wrong. We know that advertising has a huge impact on our kids. The average kid in America sees anywhere from 13,000 to 30,000 commercials on TV each year, according to the American Academy of Paediatrics, and that's not even counting YouTube ads, the posters at the bus stop and everything else.

That's why Gillette's take makes sense from a marketing perspective and a social one. "As a company that encourages men to be their best, we have a responsibility to make sure we are promoting positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man," the company states.

What does that mean?

It means taking a stance against homophobia, bullying and sexual harassment and that harmful, catch-all-phrase that gives too many young men a pass to engage in behavior that hurts others and themselves: "Boys will be boys."

Gillette states that "by holding each other accountable, eliminating excuses for bad behavior, and supporting a new generation working toward their personal 'best,' we can help create positive change that will matter for years to come."

Of course, it's not enough for razor marketers to do this. Boys need support from parents, teachers, coaches and peers to be resilient to the pressures of toxic masculinity.

When this happens, when boys are taught that strength doesn't mean overpowering others and that they can be successful while still being compassionate, the APA says we will "reduce the high rates of problems boys and men face and act out in their lives such as aggression, violence, substance abuse, and suicide."

This is a conversation worth having and 2019 is the year to do it.

You might also like:

Teaching a young child good behavior seems like it should be easy and intuitive when, in reality, it can be a major challenge. When put to the test, it's not as easy as you might think to dole out effective discipline, especially if you have a strong-willed child.

As young children develop independence and learn more about themselves in relation to others and their environment, they can easily grow frustrated when they don't always know how to communicate their feelings or how to think and act rationally.

It's crucial that parents recognize these limitations and also set up rules to protect your child and those they encounter. These rules, including a parent's or caregiver's follow-up actions, allow your child to learn and develop a better understanding of what is (and what is not) appropriate behavior.

Here are a few key ways to correct negative behavior in an efficient way:

1. Use positive reinforcement.

Whenever possible, look to deliver specific and positive praise when a child engages in good behavior or if you catch them in an act of kindness. Always focus on the positive things they are doing so that they are more apt to recreate those behaviors. This will help them start to learn the difference between good and poor behavior.

2. Be simple and direct.

Though this seems like a no-brainer, focus your child using constructive feedback versus what not to do or where they went wrong. Give reasons and explanations for rules, as best as you can for their age group.

For example, if you're teaching them to be gentle with your pet, demonstrate the correct motions and tell your child, "We're gentle when we pet the cat like this so that we don't hurt them," versus, "Don't pull on her tail!"

3. Re-think the "time out."

Many classrooms are starting to have cozy nooks where children are encouraged to have alone time when they may feel out of control. In lieu of punishment, sending a child to a "feel-good" area removes them from a situation that's causing distress. This provides much-needed comfort and allows for the problem-solving process to start on its own.

4. Use 'no' sparingly.

When a word is repeated over and over, it begins to lose meaning. There are better ways to discipline your child than saying "no." Think about replaying the message in a different way to increase the chances of your child taking note. Rather than shouting, "No, stop that!" when your toddler is flinging food at dinnertime, it's more productive to use encouraging words that prompt better behavior, such as, "Food is for eating, what are we supposed to do when we're sitting at the dinner table?" This encourages them to consider their behavior.

The above methods help create teachable moments by providing opportunities for development while making sure the child feels safe and cared for. It is important to mirror these discipline techniques at home and communicate often with your child care providers so that you're always on the same page.

You might also like:

To the mamas awake in the middle of the night,

If you are one of the many moms with a little darling who doesn't sleep through the night, I feel your pain. I really do.

Having been blessed with two wonderful sleepers (aka my first and second babies), my third baby has been a shock to my system. He hasn't slept through the night since he was born and he's now 16 months. I do everything "right." I put him down sleepy but awake so he can settle himself to sleep. I keep the room dark and quiet.

But one simple fact remains: When my son wakes up in the night, he wants me. And he'll scream the house down if he doesn't get me.

Last night my 1-year-old woke at 3:30 am. He was stirring a bit at first, then started to really let it rip, so I got him up out of his crib and brought him into bed with me. We cuddled for a while. Then suddenly, he wanted to get off the bed and I said no. Then he started to scream and throw himself around on the bed before eventually being sick everywhere.

It was now 4:30 am. I dutifully changed the sheets, changed my son, changed myself, and then we climbed back into bed, the smell of vomit still lingering.

I tried to put him back in his crib around 5 am but he woke right up. I brought him back into bed with me, but quickly realized this wasn't what he wanted either. He was thrashing around again, trying to figure out a way off of the bed.

Finally, close to 6 am he decided he wanted to go to sleep. After about 10 minutes of watching him sleep, I felt brave enough to try to put him back in his room. I gently lifted him up, placed him in his crib and quietly crept back into my bed.

This left me with just enough time to fall back into a deep sleep, which meant I felt exhausted when my alarm went off just after 7 am.

Sadly, last night wasn't a one-off. This is a fairly frequent occurrence for me (although dealing with vomit is luckily quite rare!). Which means that when I say I understand what it's like to have a baby who doesn't sleep, I really mean it.

So here's what I want you to know, mama.

If you are awake in the night because your baby needs you then you are not alone. Despite what you might read, it's common for babies to wake up through the night. So if you're sitting in bed feeling like you're the only mother in the world awake, trust me, you're far from it.

There are mamas like us all over the world. Sitting there in the dark. Cuddling babies or soothing them to sleep again. Some, like me, might be changing sheets or abandoning any hope of getting sleep that night at all. Others might be up and down like a yo-yo every few hours. The rest might just be up once and then will be able to go back to sleep.

There will, however, also be mamas who are sound asleep. Mamas who have older children who no longer wake in the night. And they would want you to know that it will be okay. It won't be forever. One day, you'll realize that your baby no longer needs or wants you in the night.

And while you'll be so glad for your sleep you'll probably also be a little sad that there are no more night time cuddles.

It's hard to cope with a baby who doesn't sleep well at night. Really hard sometimes. You may feel like you can't deal with it anymore or you may be wishing that this phase would just stop already so you can get some rest.

Exhaustion often means that you struggle to get through the day. It can mean that you find it hard to drag yourself out of bed. Or if you're anything like me, you might be irritable and snap at the people you love. Or maybe it means relying on caffeine, sugar and Netflix to get you and your kiddos through the day.

But here's the amazing thing about mothers—no matter what has gone down during the night, we get up as usual. We go about our day just like everyone else. We care for and love our children, without giving them a hard time for disrupting our sleep. We don't moan, we don't complain. We just get on with it.

And when night comes, we go to bed knowing that there's every chance we'll be awake in the middle of the night again...

We get up without fail when our babies need us and we do what we need to do for them. Because we are the nighttime warriors. We are mamas.

You might also like:

No one decides to be a stay-at-home mom for the paycheck—but if we were to earn one, it would put us in league with some CEOs. Although it doesn't do much for the bank account, a survey that calculated what the average salary would be for a stay-at-home mom is mighty validating. (Remember this next time anyone asks what you do all day.)

Keep reading... Show less
Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.