Disclaimer: I’m a parent, and being a parent is a highly fulfilling, enjoyable part of my life. I love my kids very much.
Still, when I came across this article, I found it amusing. I’m not going to use it as ammunition against my kids, but it’s still an odd thing to consider.
According to a study from Northwestern University, parents who are empathetic and understanding of their kids’ needs tend to suffer from chronic, low-grade inflammation. They tend to experience their kids’ suffering, leading to reduced immune function.
Now, let me make this clear: psychologically, empathetic parents and their children tended to be healthier than non -empathetic parents and their children. Children with empathetic parents were also physically healthier, with less risk of aggression and depression and overall more empathetic. But empathetic parents had higher levels of inflammatory markers, indicating chronic inflammation–though, thankfully, on a fairly low level.
Why is this? One belief is that to be empathetic, we have to push aside our feelings in order to focus on the feelings of the person we’re empathizing with. This “pushing aside” can cause stress, which in turn causes inflammation. Parents who are empathetic often sacrifice their sleep, exercise, food, and leisure time for their children’s sakes, leading to reduced overall health.
Does this mean you should be a cruel, heartless parent? I wish! No, the children who are psychologically the healthiest are the ones with empathetic parents. It’s in your children’s best interest for you to empathize with them and try to understand how they feel. But if YOU feel like you’re dying a little inside every day, at least now you know what’s killing you…