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My Child is Hurting? What Do I Do?

by Dr. Sandy Gluckman | Contributor

From the moment of birth we have so many dreams for our children. We want them to be happy, confident and smart. We want them to feel so good about who they are, about life and about their relationships with others. We want them to feel the joy of being successful and achieving their goals. Oh… I could go on and on about what we wish and dream for our kids.

And with these dreams come our fears and anxieties. We never want them to feel sad or afraid.  We certainly don’t want them to doubt how talented and special they are. The problem is that life is not perfect, and they are going to have experiences we wish they did not have.

Avoid the “Stress Trap”

As a parent what can you do when your kids hurt? Because the truth is that when they hurt, you hurt—sometimes even more than they do!  Empathy, compassion and caring are good, but only in healthy proportions and done in a positive way.

Here’s why: when you care too much and feel your kids’ pain too much, it causes anxiety for you and for the kids. Being stressed hurts you physically, mentally and emotionally and causes you to react to your children’s hurt in unhelpful ways. Stress causes you to say and do things you may regret later.  The last thing you want is to respond ineffectively to your hurting child and get the response, “I wish I hadn’t told you!” or, “You don’t get it, leave me alone!”

So how do you avoid becoming stressed when your child is hurting?  How do you respond in ways that help you and your kids grow stronger from life’s challenges?

You must balance what you can do for you and what you can do for your kids.

Begin First with YOU

1.Understand that you have two responsibilities: the first is to deal with your own feelings in a stress relieving, life enhancing, creative way.  And the second is to help your child do the same.

2. Remember if you are stressed, your child will pick up on it.  This will trigger more stress for them.

3. Before reacting, take a step back from the situation to calm your thoughts and your feelings.  I know that is easier said than done!  I have spent decades studying strategies and techniques helping parents learn to do this. Visit my website ParentsTakeCharge.com for an abundance of information or join me at one of my upcoming free webinars or small group seminars.

Once you master the ability to de-stress, you will literally have calmed your brain chemistry and will be able to think creatively and positively.  

Have Healing Conversations

Now let’s look at how you can help your child deal with difficult situations.

1. Always remember that each of these challenges is an amazing moment to help your children connect with the inner strength that they all have but may not be using at the moment.

2. Totally avoid lecturing, defending, explaining, analyzing or pontificating. Hurting kids don’t want to hear this stuff.

3. Be there to listen—really listen. It is helpful to gently solicit more of their story and their feelings.

4. Let them know that their feelings are totally valid.  Let them feel it and work through it with calmness and compassion. (“Darling, I know it’s really hard to feel left out.”)

5. Don’t try to change their feelings.  Don’t try to make them feel better. This will enrage them.  More importantly, it will hold them back from growing stronger.

6. Create a picture for your children of how they can stand tall and be proud of the amazing, special people they are. Remind them of exactly what it is that makes them special. (“You are caring, smart, funny, and creative…”) But do not do this until they have released their feelings and are ready to hear this.

7. As the days go by, gently keep remind them that they can do this, that they do not have to be diminished by this experience.

Your teens will handle the curve balls that come their way, in exactly the same way they see you do it.  Be a role model for them of how to face tough times calmly and creatively.  What an amazing gift you will be giving them!

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