We all trip over this one from time to time. It’s hard to not get emotionally involved when your child is upset. Here are some helpful To Dos and To Don’ts to get through those tricky times.
What To Say:
- That sounds (painful, upsetting, confusing, etc.) I’m sorry you’re going through this.
- I’m here for you anytime you want to talk.
- Is there anything I can do to help?
- What would you like to do about this?
- How can I support you?
- This isn’t pleasant but I can tell you it’s normal. I want you to know you’re not unusual to be going through this.
What To Do:
- A small act of kindness. Do a favor, run a warm bath, make a special dinner, or pick up a favorite magazine at the store. A big gift makes a big deal of the situation and sets unrealistic expectations. A small kindness says you’re on my mind and I love you.
- Touch base and then back off. Follow up later while cooking, driving, or otherwise being mildly occupied, then drop it. If you make it a BIG conversation your child will probably clam up.
- Remember your “Botox Brow”. Say what you feet but don’t show it on your face. Your child can’t read facial expressions very well until the late teens so keep it neutral.
- Help your child brainstorm what they can do to feel better. This puts the power back in their court.
What Not to Say:
- That makes me so mad!
- I hurt for you. (When your child thinks their happiness impacts your happiness, it’s a big burden. Keep your emotional well being out of this.)
- Don’t worry, I’ll take of it.
- You’ll be fine.
- This will probably pass quickly.
- Don’t make a big deal of it and it won’t become a big deal.
- Here’s what you should do…
What Not To Do:
- Call the school for an intervention (unless you’ve observed a pattern or the issue involves physical harm)
- Call the other parent. Chances are good this will only make it worse.
- Give unsolicited advice
Imagine your best friend came to you with a problem she was having. Perhaps she lost her job, or is in a fight with her sister. What would she want you to do? To listen, to encourage, to distract, to normalize her experience…? If you’re lucky enough that your kids are confiding in you, they’re probably looking for the same.