Helping Your ADHD Child Develop Stronger Empathy

Empathy and the ADHD Child

Empathy is defined as the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another.

Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be just as caring as other kids. But because of their poor impulse control and short attention spans, they often come across as remote or self-centered. Some research has suggested possible genetic links between lower levels of empathy and ADHD. Also, pharmaceutical companies have published research on new medications under developed that seemed to boost empathy. Wherever these research paths lead, there are steps that you can take to strengthen your child’s empathy.

Brené Brown on Empathy

Tips for Helping  Children Develop Stronger Empathy

Children with ADHD often appear to others as self-centered and aloof. Their inattentiveness around other people can make it appear as if they don’t care what others think, feel or say. Here are some ways, suggested by Eileen Bailey at, to help you strengthen empathy in your child:

Be a role model – Your child will look to you for cues on how to act around others. When you exhibit empathy, they learn to model that in their own behavior.

Talk about feelings – Talk about your feelings, your child’s feelings and the feelings of other children with your child. This will help them to think more about how others might be feeling in a given situation.

Teach problem solving strategies – Bouncing back from adversity helps build empathy. You can help your child cope with negative emotions and disappointment by problem-solving solutions with  them.

Explain individuality and uniqueness – Talk with your child about how one situation can be viewed in different ways by different people. Emphasize that each person sees the world differently.

Point out similarities – Help your child understand that their feelings are similar to those of others. Explain how, despite our differences, everyone feels happiness and sadness. Everyone wants to be loved; everyone feels disappointment. Explain that no matter who the person is, they have feelings.

Practice emotional facial expressions – Research has shown that if someone is sad, and you make a sad face, you are more likely to be empathetic. Practice this with your child when reading books or watching television. For example, when someone is sad, stop and have your child make a sad face. Ask him about what he is feeling. Try this with several different emotions.

Get Help

While there are many approaches to helping your child strengthen his or her empathy, you don’t have to go it alone. Your child’s therapist, doctor and teachers can all provide useful advice on how to do this. You should also consider consulting a certified ADHD coach has been specifically trained to understand the needs of ADHD children.

Learn About Edge Executive Function Coaching


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