“I didn’t get the part I wanted.”
As we passed through a stoplight, I glanced over at my daughter, who I had just picked up from play practice after school. My eyes immediately moistened when I noticed her eyelids squeezed shut and her chin quivering. But there was nothing I could do to comfort her while I was driving.
Is there anything worse than watching your child suffer from a broken heart?
I just rubber her knee and told her how sorry I was. But as soon as we got home, I reached for her and let her cry. I knew in a couple months she’d forget about the audition. But in that moment, for her, all that mattered was her hurt.
What do we do when our children are hurting?
5 Ways to Help your Child Heal from Hurt
1) Understanding: Accept their feelings, whether you agree or not. Don’t blow off their emotions because you don’t think they are valid. Yes, feelings can lie, and you must help your child control them, but validate the feelings first or your child will not feel loved. For example, when one of my daughter’s friends moved away, I rejoiced! In my opinion, she had been a terrible friend. But my daughter forgave her faults and loved her, so I bit my tongue and let my daughter grieve the loss of the friend.
2) Touch: Children need comfort, and a gentle touch is soothing. Sometimes a pat on the shoulder or fluffing their hair is enough. Typically a hug is best, because it conveys safety and shelter. My son is not a snuggler, yet during times of great pain (when his grandmother died and best friend moved away) he often wrapped his arms about me or curled up next to me because he needed the extra comfort, and I made myself available, no matter how inconvenient.
3) Silence: Typically at first, no words are needed beyond a simple “I’m sorry that happened.” Forcing a child to talk or listen to you talk will add to the emotional turmoil. In cases where they made a mistake, pointing out what they did wrong or discussing punishments must wait for later. When a person is overwhelmed by their feelings, they typically don’t think straight and they need support. In the car with my daughter, it only took a few minutes before she was able to get control and go on with her night. My husband was able to point out the good aspects of the part she did get, and soon had her laughing at his ridiculous jokes. But first, we held our tongues. There is plenty of time to reason with your child after they have calmed down.
4) Space: Older children may want to be left alone to grieve, and that’s okay up to a point (just don’t let them become a recluse.) In situations of extreme pain, children will need a few days, weeks or months to heal and lightening their load will go a long way to soothing their hurt. When my mother-in-law passed, we were all in a bit of a stupor for a few days. I carefully chose where to give my children a little leeway with responsibility. I didn’t require them to do as many chores, and when they did, I often helped them out so we were together. I let them have extra TV time and dessert for a couple weeks. And when they brought up the subject, I was happy to engage them in conversation, but I let them lead.
5) Encouragement: Once you’ve met your child’s need for comfort, find the right moment to offer encouragement. Tell them you love them in the way that means the most to them (bring them a gift, do something extra special that is important to them, offer extra snuggle time, etc). And if correction is needed, that can occur at the same time as encouragement. Always try to end on a positive note so the child walks away knowing you care.
“Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.” – Matthew 5:4
Copyright © Jen Cudmore, Moms of Faith®, All Rights Reserved