The other day I was driving my son to school and he was telling me a heartwarming story of his journey to
“look cool” on that particular day. He had donned his snow boots before we left the house and asked me where his sunglasses were, which he proudly put on upon my handing them to him. And as we rode along he proceeded to excitedly tell me how he was looking forward to his day in school of looking cool.
And when I picked him up later that day, I could see he was feeling more deflated than elated so I began exploring why. Turns out one of his classmates told him he could not wear his sunglasses all day. (and I realized I had not known this was going to be an all day accessory for him).
On top of being told this by his friend, “there were a lot of people around too.” And as I began commenting that sunglasses really shouldn’t be worn inside and he didn’t need to feel bad about what the other kids were saying, I stopped myself.
And I simply said “I bet you felt embarrassed didn’t you?” And he nodded. And I said a silent prayer of thanks that it hit me in time that my son didn’t really need any kind of should comment or even me trying to make him feel better. In that moment I had the realization that what he probably needed most was just some validation of his feelings.
It left me pondering how much we try taking hurt and pain away from our kids by trying to make them feel better about what’s bothering them instead of just feeling their pain with them for a minute and letting them know we understand.
I remember being a kid and thinking about how much parents didn’t understand anything. Now as a parent myself I wonder is that what our kids need most, simple understanding?
I am starting to believe they don’t need us bending over backwards trying to make them feel better all the time. In that moment they feel bad and they are not going to buy into, or probably even really hear, what we are saying. They are hurt or upset or embarrassed and they want to be validated.
Of course we are here to teach our children and to comfort and protect them. But it’s possible that a lot of times we are missing the crucial element of letting them know we understand their feelings instead of trying to put a band aid over them.
So this is my next parenting endeavor. I intend to be on high watch for when I am trying to be a salve instead of a sounding board. And I want to try validating my son’s feelings before I go crazy trying to make him feel better. We are not so different ourselves. Think about how nice it feels when someone really gets where we are coming from.
It’s the same for our kids. We just don’t like to see them hurt. But they are sometimes. So perhaps our quest as parents is to be vigilant as to when they need our understanding the most. And then give them just that.
Next time your precious child tells you how they have been hurt by something, take a deep breath before responding and assess what they might need most in that moment. Sometimes a hug and some understanding will be worth more than a thousand words!