Emotional Intelligence, Empathy, Compassion: Terms Thrown Around These Days

What do they really mean and why are they important?

FDR Memorial July 2012 ©Delightfully Different Life

FDR Memorial July 2012 ©Delightfully Different Life

Psychology Today identifies emotional intelligence as the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. I would argue that we are all responsible for our own emotions, but that there are some responses that are more socially acceptable when responding to others’ emotions. This is where some with special needs might need help. You can refer back to my post at Special-Ism.com about recognizing and teaching kindness for this.

The New Oxford Dictionary defines empathy as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all things. —–Thomas Merton

This is my final post for Special-Ism, so I leave you with the following ways you can be more compassionate and continue to help your children too.

Be kind to yourself. 

  • Allow yourself to have at least thirty minutes a day that are just yours even if you have to take the time in five to ten minutes increments.
  • Use this time for prayer, meditation, a nap, taking a walk, reading, or doing something else that makes your heart sing.
  • Acknowledge that you will make mistakes and forgive yourself when you do.
  • Congratulate yourself when you succeed.

Forgive those who do not understand you and/ or your children.

  • Take a deep breath. Then smile at the man who mutters under his breath when your child meltdowns in the store. Then ignore him and attend to your child. This is not the time to educate the world.
  • Calmly educate the teacher who fails to understand your child. Seek help from the school counselor, your child’s aide or another professional to get through to her if you need too, but remain calm throughout the process even if you have to step back or walk away briefly or call her back.
  • Decide in advance how much to share with your extended family, with  other parents and children. And share only on a need to know bases until your child is old enough to decide how much they want to share. Remember it is his life you are talking about and respect that future adult child.

Seek positive role models for your children.

  • When a person you admire does something that helps others, use their behavior as a positive example.
  • Find community mentors who you trust and who have a reputation of supporting all children.
  • Identify kind, older children with the help of teachers or school counselors and see if they are willing to be mentors.

Find positive and supportive friends for both yourself and for your children.

  • Make time for your friends even if it is only to call them during your thirty minutes of me time to touch base. Everyone needs friends.
  • Help your child to develop friendships when they are small by finding ways they can participate in activities even if they cannot tolerate a four-hour long birthday party. They might go for part of the party either at the beginning or the end.
  • Get to know the parents, so you can encourage these friendships for years to come and so you can verify the kind ones.

Give positive stories more power by sharing them instead of the negative stories.

  • We all get upset with misinformation in the media.
  • Give them less attention and instead share positive stories related to the same topic.
  • Start a campaign to get others to share the positives too.
  • One day we will get through to the media if we stop giving them views for the negatives.

Support other special needs parents. Remember everyone experiences life differently, so if you disagree with them please do so privately and with respect.

  • Support the ones you know in real life by calling them or inviting them for a cup of coffee.
  • Share posts of those you only know via the Internet.
  • Leave encouraging comments.
  • E-mail personal advice if you disagree with them and have a more positive solution to offer.
  • Above all please remember we are all in this together.


“Emotional Intelligence.” Psychology Today: Health, Help, Happiness Find a Therapist. Sussex Publishers, LLC, n.d. Web. 24 Dec. 2012.

Walker, D. S. “How Do You Know? Recognizing and Teaching Kindness.”Specialism. Special_Ism.com, 4 Nov. 2012. Web. 24 Dec. 2012.

Originally posted at Special-Ism.com, 4 Jan. 2013