16 Signs Your Child Is An Empath + Tips For Raising Them

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Most adults are pretty attuned to their own emotions, but children aren’t.

They’re experiencing many things for the first time, and their little worlds are maelstroms of emotions that they can’t really understand.

This is magnified a thousandfold for young empaths.

Since they can have such difficulty understanding their own feelings, it can be incredibly hard for empathic children to comprehend that the emotions they’re feeling aren’t always their own.

If you’re an empath, you can probably intuit if your child is too.

That said, people who aren’t might have difficulty recognizing empathic abilities in their kids, let alone figuring out how to support them.

Hopefully this article can provide a bit of a guideline, and offer some helpful tips that can ease the way for all of you.

How Can You Tell If Your Child Is An Empath?

Most children exhibit some degree of spiritual-psychic attunement with their peers, but some are far more empathic than others.

The traits listed below are just a few ways to determine where your kids’ abilities lie.

1. Highly Sensitive Or “On The Spectrum”

First and foremost, they may have been diagnosed as being highly sensitive, whether by teachers or child psychologists.

It may have even been suggested that they have sensory processing issues or autism spectrum disorder.

Not only are empathic children incredibly sensitive to the energies around them, they’re usually sensitive to all kinds of sensory stimuli.

Many have a wide range of food allergies. Others might break out in hives when their skin comes in contact with certain fabrics or detergents.

Tips: Rather than just dismissing their sensitivities, please try to honor and respect them.

Instead of forcing them to wear a scratchy sweater that makes them freak out, even if it’s to please the grandparent who knitted it, understand that it makes them feel awful. Let them choose their own clothing.

If they have issues with certain foods, determine what these issues are, and make compromises.

Do they like to crunch, but dislike anything slimy? You can work with that. Etc.

2. Overwhelmed By Stimuli

Imagine all of your senses being assaulted in one go, on a constant basis.

In a crowd of people, you wouldn’t just be “aware” that there are a lot of folks milling around you…

You’d hear every word of every conversation, smell every perfume, and sense all the emotions that those other people are feeling.

All at once. At full volume.

Empathic children in particular can get overwhelmed easily, especially in crowded, public spaces or when too much is going on around them at once.

This causes a sensory overload that will either make them have a shrieking meltdown, or numb out/disassociate just to get through it.

Tips: Get to know their triggers, and help to reduce them as much as possible.

Furthermore, teach them mindfulness meditation so they know how to ground and center themselves when they start spiralling from all the overwhelming everything.

Leave room in their busy schedules for decompression time, and make sure they have a dedicated quiet space to retreat to.

Setting up a small tent in their room can be a great little “nest” for them. Let them fill it with soft textures and soothing toys, and please don’t disturb them when they’re in there.

They’ll come out when they’re able to.

3. They Cry When Others Are Hurt Or Upset

This is a trait that most empaths can relate to, and tends to show up in infancy.

Does your child cry when they see others – human or animal companions – get hurt or upset?

Do they rush to comfort those who are crying?

Most babies instinctively try to comfort and soothe others who are upset, and this trait can either lessen or intensify as they get older.

Some toddlers will become very self-involved, while others maintain their empathetic hypersensitivity.

Tips: Teach your kids the 5 senses meditation when they’re mirroring other people’s hurts and being affected by them.

Ask if they’re feeling pain or hurt emotions. If they don’t know, focus on what they can smell, touch, hear, taste, and see. This brings them back to the present moment.

Once they’ve calmed, praise them for being kind and concerned for others, and maybe work together to create something comforting-yet-detached.

Writing a card or a letter or baking cookies shows care and concern, without taking on the other person’s pain.

4. Feelings Run Deep

Empathic children often feel things much more deeply than others do.

Whereas one child might shrug off a scolding and get back to playing within minutes, an empathic kid may be absolutely devastated.

Not only will they hurt deeply because of the reprimand, but they’ll also feel terrible about having disappointed a parent.

…and embarrassment at being told off in front of their friends. And guilt/shame about not being able to control their emotions. And… you get the idea.

These kids have to deal with emotional multi-layer cakes on a constant basis.

They’re fiercely aware of what everyone else is feeling, which magnifies their own emotional responses.

Whatever it is they’re feeling in the moment, they feel it several times more intensely than most other kids ever will. This is just as valid for elation as it is for despair.

Tips: Please don’t invalidate what they’re feeling, and don’t make fun of them for their emotional responses.

A child who’s mocked or teased when they bounce or dance in delight might learn very quickly that their deeply felt joy can’t be expressed. Same goes for their sorrow.

5. Strong Connections With Animal Friends

It’s often easier for empaths to connect with non-human friends.

Their behaviors make sense, and aren’t fraught with often-conflicting body language and verbal expression.

Additionally, animal friends accept their humans unconditionally, and aren’t judgmental or cruel the way human children can be. (Especially to those who are different.)

Tips: Encourage this behavior, and make sure your kid has an animal companion that they get to spend a lot of time with.

Just please ensure that any necessary allergy testing is done on all family members before adopting an animal friend.

There are few things as devastating to an empathic child than bonding with an animal, only to have it taken away from them because of allergies – their own, or someone else’s.

6. They Spend A Lot Of Time Thinking

Empathic kids are often the ones who are told that they spend too much time “in their own heads.”

They can sometimes be accused of daydreaming, and tend to also be told to lighten up, be less serious, etc.

These young people are analyzing every aspect of existence, trying to make sense of the world around them while also revelling in its wonders.

They try to understand duplicity, sarcasm, and countless other contradictory behaviors.

Tips: Ask them what they’re thinking about, and if they choose to tell you, listen actively.

Show real interest in their thoughts, validate their thought process, and ask them challenging (and encouraging, and respectful) age-appropriate questions about them.

Encouraging this type of deep thinking may help them move toward wonderful careers in which they can harness their intellect and highly analytical nature.

7. Compassion Toward Inanimate Objects

If your child cries when you throw out an old, broken garbage can because he or she is scared that said can will feel hurt and abandoned, chances are high that they’re an empath.

Kids who empathize deeply with others can have difficulty with anthropomorphism.

They don’t understand that their stuffed bear doesn’t have nerve endings and thus doesn’t feel pain when it gets a boo-boo.

Tips: If the child is very young (e.g. under the age of 4), go ahead and put a bandage on teddy’s boo-boo, and apologize to the broken garbage can for having to send it back home to be “repaired.”

Older children might take comfort in animistic rituals, in which the item’s spirit is honored and thanked for the joy it brought, and encouraged to go free before said item is recycled.

Try to avoid using terms like “thrown away” or “tossed out,” as these can imply abandonment.

Instead, show how everything will gain new purpose and new life, even if transformed into other shapes.

8. They Are Deeply Upset By Troubling Movie Or TV Scenes

We’ve all experienced moments while watching TV or films where something upsetting happens and we flinch away.

For most of us, this feeling is fleeting, and we can just brush off the experience as a strong reaction to a make-believe scene.

Not so for wee empaths.

They often empathize with characters so deeply that a troubling scene will be deeply upsetting to them.

If it’s traumatic enough, it might cause nightmares, or depression, or even keep haunting them for years.

Tips: If you know their triggers, do research before watching a film or TV show with them to see if there are any upsetting scenes.

Many kids are particularly upset if animals get hurt onscreen, so avoid movies in which there’s any of that going on.

Now, a child empath will have to develop coping mechanisms over time so they don’t hide away from the entire world forever.

As such, it’s good to expose them to potentially upsetting imagery little by little, when you feel that they’re ready.

You can start with cartoon films, as it’s easier for them to understand that drawings are make-believe, and that no one is getting hurt for real.

The stark reality of how much suffering goes on in the world can be truly overwhelming for their little hearts, so gentleness really is the order of the day, for as long as possible.

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9. Love Of Nature

Nature can be immensely healing for empaths for a number of reasons, so understand that it’s doubly so for children.

Kids are drawn to the natural world, and love to explore it. After all, there’s so much to see! And smell!

Being out in nature is immensely calming, and everyone can benefit from a bit more exercise out in the fresh air and sunshine, right?

Children who spend a lot of time outdoors are naturally drawn to environmental stewardship, animal rights activism, and gardening.

They love to grow things, nurture life, and observe wonderful animals in their natural habitats.

Empathic children in particular get recharged by sticking their hands in soil, playing in water, and even snuggling up to trees.

Tips: Try to make outdoor adventures a regular occurrence.

If you have a backyard, help your kids set up a pint-sized veggie or herb garden just for them.

Plant butterfly- and bird-friendly wildflowers, hang hummingbird feeders, and set out water for frogs and toads.

If you’re an urban apartment dweller, take advantage of children’s outdoor programs at local parks and botanical gardens.

Get out of the city for hikes or camping trips whenever possible, and get engaged in subjects your child is interested in.

Do they like to stargaze? Grab a telescope and learn about constellations together.

Are they natural healers? Take a child-friendly herbal medicine course and do some responsible foraging.

10. Avid Readers Or Information Sponges

Is your child interested in just about everything? Does he or she get fascinated by a topic and want to learn everything there is to know about it?

That’s a very common trait in empaths, and starts as soon as they can raise their heads on their own.

Everything is miraculous, everything is fascinating, and there’s so much to learn!

Your child might start reading at a very young age, and demand frequent library visits so they can plow through everything available on their subject of choice.

Alternatively, especially if they have a learning disability, they might really love nature or history documentaries.

Tips: Encourage this whenever possible.

If the topics that engage them the most aren’t of interest to you, that’s okay: be honest with them about it, and encourage them to explore these options on their own, or with peers (and/or extended family members) who have similar interests.

11. They Need A Lot of Alone Time

Just like adult empaths, kid-sized versions crave (and revel in) solitude.

They’re unlikely to ever get bored, because how could they?!

Many of these children don’t just like being alone, they need that alone time for numerous reasons.

As mentioned before, if they’ve had meltdowns or numbness because of sensory overload, quiet alone time is absolutely vital for them to recharge.

Think of it like the time skin takes to heal after a burn or a cut.

Tips: Please don’t reprimand them for being “antisocial,” or demand that they be more engaged with other people.

You can’t draw blood from a stone.

Adults who are completely drained after harrowing days at work can express that they need silence and solitude, and have their wishes respected.

Kids are basically at the mercy of the adults around them, and feel like they have to cave to demands for social activity or else they’ll be punished.

Please respect their need for solitude and recognize that it has nothing to do with you, and there’s nothing “wrong” with them.

You aren’t being rejected, and it’s not unhealthy for them to want alone time instead of playing with other children.

Chances are your kids will appreciate you a lot more for defending their alone time.

12. Vivid Dreamers

The vivid – often lucid – dreams that many empaths experience often begin when they’re very young.

These might be really intense, with clairvoyant clairsentient aspects, or may manifest as night terrors.

Either way, whether the dreams are wonderful or terrifying, they can affect empathic children very strongly.

Tips: Keeping a dream journal is a great way for kids to process the imagery they’ve seen, and they can look back over time to see which themes or images have been recurring.

Many empaths are also very claircognizant or clairvoyant, and it’s not unusual for their dreams to come true.

This often begins in childhood, and can be intriguing and scary to kids at turns.

By keeping a journal, you can record dreams together and refer back to them if and when they come to pass.

If they do come true, please reassure the child that there’s nothing wrong with them, but that they have a beautiful gift.

Positive reinforcement, again and again.

13. They Know When People Are Lying

There’s no way anyone can lie to these kids: they know immediately when someone’s full of crap.

They’re highly intuitive, and can read your body language like a book.

Not just yours, either: all those little “white lies” that teachers and other adults tell? They see right through them.

Tips: Be honest. Even (especially) when it’s difficult – just express the truth in language that’s appropriate for their age and emotional development.

Lying to your child, even if you believe that it’s in their best interest, will just show them that they can never trust you.

If the subject matter isn’t appropriate for them, then tell them that, albeit in a gentle manner.

Knowing the truth, or even that it’s a topic that they’re not ready for, will allow them to have a lot more faith in you.

14. Artistic Or Musically Inclined

In the same way that mini empaths will revel in nature and emotion, they’re also often drawn to art and music (both creating it, and enjoying it).

Empathic children who struggle to express themselves in words may find it easier to draw or paint instead.

They might enjoy making comic books or colorful paintings, or – especially if they deal with anxiety – they may find it incredibly cathartic to work with clay.

Similarly, different types of music may soothe them, and they may be inspired to learn how to play an instrument.

Tips: Encourage these inclinations whenever possible, without judgment.

If the child shows you a chaotically abstract painting, don’t try to interpret the possible meaning: ask them about it.

Try saying things like, “I really love how you used the color green here. Can you tell me how you were feeling when you painted this?”

Or: “This painting looks like it tells a story. Can you help me to understand it so I can appreciate it the same way you do?”

If your child wants to learn how to play a musical instrument, work together to compromise on one that they’re interested in, but won’t drive you absolutely bonkers.

A violin or cello might be a bit more expensive than a recorder, but far less maddening.

15. They Feel Like They Don’t “Belong”

Many empaths feel very out of place on this planet, and that feeling often begins in early childhood.

Empathic kids experience the world very differently than “normal” children, which can be incredibly alienating.

They might not know how to play properly, or get overwhelmed by game rules and boisterous behavior.

Trendy topics may not interest them, and they’ll end up being ostracized by cliques.

Tips: Telling your kids that they’re special isn’t going to make them feel much better – they’ll just stay resentful, and feel that the only person who’ll ever accept them is you.

Additionally, please don’t encourage them to conform, or to “try harder” to be something they’re not, in order to fit in.

This will just crush their individuality and can manifest in some intense anxiety and depression as they age.

Try to help them find their “tribe,” even at an early age.

If they have specific interests, look for local groups with other kids their own age, so they can socialize with others of like mind.

Older kids can join online groups, or go to summer camps that focus on their areas of interest.

Spending time with kids who are just like them will help them feel less alone.

They might not fit in with one particular group, but they’ll know that there are others in which they’ll be accepted and appreciated.

16. Mysterious Physical Symptoms

Your little empath might suffer from frequent stomach aches, headaches, or sore throats.

Doctors might not find anything wrong with them, but that doesn’t mean that the pain isn’t real.

Quite often, these issues can arise from the intense emotions felt by the child, which will manifest physically if the kid isn’t able to express themselves to release those feelings.

Anxiety or upset will accumulate in the abdomen, causing discomfort. Tension and frustration may cause a severe headache, etc.

Tips: It’s really important to not just dismiss these symptoms as hypochondria, or attention-seeking.

Science has indicated that emotion and stress can manifest as physical pain, as well as inflammation, and endocrine disruption.

Validate your child’s symptoms. Let them know that you believe them, and reassure them that you’ll work together to help them feel better.

If they’re plagued with sore throats, and conditions like tonsillitis and strep have been dismissed, then it might be an emotional issue.

Do they feel like they’re not being heard? Are they having trouble speaking their truth due to fear?

Make some homemade, all-natural popsicles and help them express themselves through writing or drawing until they’re able to verbalize.

Do they have stomach aches? That’s usually related to stress or anxiety. Peppermint tea or ginger ale can be helpful, and then non-judgmental deep-belly breathing, and gentle yoga

Once calmed, see if you can work with them to figure out where the upset is stemming from, and see if you can find solutions together.

Wrapping Things Up

Empaths who are raising, working with, or teaching empathic children have a noted advantage.

We’ve been where they are now, and can relate to them on a level that all can understand.

Parents, teachers, and counselors who don’t have empathic abilities can often struggle with mini empaths.

They don’t understand the hypersensitivity, and try to get children to toughen up, or be more like the others.

Their intentions may be good, in that they want to help the kids avoid ostracization or embarrassment, but they can do more damage than they realize.

Children who are empaths experience the world very differently than “regular” kids, and that has to be acknowledged, and supported.

These children are rare gems, and have the potential to make the world a beautiful, kind, and compassionate place.

They just need the help, guidance, acceptance, and support of those around them.

You might not understand or relate to what these kids experience, and that’s okay: just believe them, and be there for them.

About The Author

Catherine Winter is an herbalist, INTJ empath, narcissistic abuse survivor, and PTSD warrior currently based in Quebec's Laurentian mountains. In an informal role as confidant and guide, Catherine has helped countless people work through difficult times in their lives and relationships, including divorce, ageing and death journeys, grief, abuse, and trauma recovery, as they navigate their individual paths towards healing and personal peace.