What Can You Do When Your Child's Feelings Are Hurt?
Use this simple question to help your child.
Posted December 28, 2020
When your child's feelings are hurt, special care is needed to comfort and stop the hurting. It can be difficult to know the exact right thing to say or do. Also, the circumstance may trigger our own past hurts—which can add another layer of nuance to the situation—and as we try to comfort our child, we may end up making things worse.
What if, instead of trying to make things better, we just stopped and said to our child, “What can I do to love you best right now?” By asking this simple question we are staying present with their pain, their discomfort. By asking this question, we are acknowledging something is wrong, something hurts—that their feelings hurt—instead of trying to fix the problem—what if we first strive to comfort. This is difficult to do. We want to problem solve, we want to ease our child’s pain. By asking how best to be loved during times of discomfort or difficulties, we are saying, “you deserve to be loved, you are worthy of love no matter what is happening.” We are focusing on their well-being as well as allowing space—later—for their own wisdom to surface to then problem solve.
Comforting a child back to a state of well-being by staying connected will prevent those additional terrible feelings of loneliness and isolation. It is important, once you ask the question—“What can I do to love you best right now?”—to be prepared for your child's answer to the question. The answer may be "I need ice cream," or "I need a new toy," or "I need to be alone," or a combination of things. Being able to follow up on the answer to the question is vital to providing comfort, trust, and care.
In the moment, there may not be time to provide the very thing the child has asked for—like an ice cream cone or a new toy. If this is the case, offer alternatives that may help them until you can provide the thing that will help them feel loved best. Together write down the thing that makes them feel loved best, a time when you will be able to get that thing that makes them feel loved best, and post it somewhere you both can see it. This will help your child understand that feelings just don't disappear, that they may have these feelings again later, and that you have a plan for helping them with their feelings.