What you can do when kids are hurting emotionally

Doctor comforting a sad girl at a hospital

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As a parent or grandparent, you never want to see your beloved little one in emotional pain.

When you do, you often have a natural instinct to want to do everything in your power to take away their pain.

Hopeful parenting (& grandparenting) when kids are hurting emotionally

It’s tough to see one of your kids in great emotional pain. Sometimes, you cannot automatically “fix” your child’s situation as quickly as you would like to. Your child has to go through their own healing process to find success on the other side.

There is, however, something very powerful that every parent can do when their child is experiencing emotional pain — and that is “hope.”

Hopeful parenting is about believing that you possess the inner strength, determination and tools to move you and your children beyond emotional pain.

“Hope” encourages you to move beyond fear and despair and helps you to survive and adjust to tough circumstances. It is the backbone of resilience. It also is the key to beginning your process towards overcoming a traumatic experience.

Empathy is a great approach to help you and your children build hope and move through trauma situations. Here are four steps to doing this together.

1. Joining with your child

Letting your child know that that you, too, would be feeling alone, scared, shameful and sad if you experienced a traumatic experience.

2. Building resiliency

Assuring yourself and your child that traumatic circumstances do not define everything about who you are or who you will become.

Children are young and vulnerable, but also resilient. Encourage your child to know that they have a choice to form an identity that they are proud of.

3. Encourage self-belief

When a child or an adult views himself or herself as a victim, they believe that they do not deserve nice things, and are filled with low self-esteem, hopelessness negative thinking, shame and confusion.

When a child or adult learns to become a survivor of their circumstances, they begin to feel proud and live in the here and now. They begin to feel hope that their life can be more than they believed it could be. They look towards the future, and become a survivor.

4. Future beyond the pain

If you have a child that has experienced a traumatic event, help them to look at the situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective.

Although your child may only be focusing on the pain they are facing in the moment, help them see that there is a future beyond the current situation, and that their future can be good. You will be surprised at how far an optimistic outlook can help a child move forward in the worst of times.

Our first natural instinct when our kids are hurting is to take away their pain as quickly as possible. This is a protective instinct for parents. The better gift that you can give them is hope and an empathetic understanding to allow them to move through their journey of healing.

Dr Sue Cornbluth

Dr Sue Cornbluth

Dr Sue Cornbluth is a nationally recognized parenting expert in high conflict parenting situations. Dr Sue is a mental health contributor for national television shows such as NBC, FOX and CBS. She contributes to national publications and writes a monthly parenting column is Parents Express magazine. Her best-selling book, Building Self-esteem in Children and Teens who are Adopted or Fostered is available now. To find out more about her work, visit www.drsueandyou.com.

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