Tiny humans have big emotions, that much is true. As parents, we get to deal with a lot of feelings, and while approaching their feelings is of the utmost importance, the last thing you want to do is invalidate them.
I grew up in a time in which my parents did not understand much about emotional invalidation. It was pretty common for parents and caregivers to say, “Stop crying!” or “Stop crying, or I’ll give you something to cry about.” However, modern research shows that this directly links to emotional instability. Even worse, it completely misses the mark, which is an opportunity to help emotionally coach your child to be equipped to manage their big feelings.
So, now that is all out of the way, here are some ways you can approach their emotions and cry without emotionally causing harm.
1. We’re on the same team, let me help you.
Even if your child insists they do not want help, they do need to know that you have their back when they need it.
2. I can see this is hard for you.
Acknowledging that you hear them and understand them is a big move that is much needed. It may not resolve their difficult feelings, but it is asserting that you are there for them.
3. Let’s take a break.
You know how when you feel overwhelmed that even just a short break is helpful? The same goes for kids, except they aren’t self-aware enough all of the time to know that is what they need. Remind them
4. I love you. You are safe.
Sometimes big emotions and difficult ones can be scary. They can even fool your little one into feeling unsafe. Remind them that they are safe and that you love them.
5. That really was frustrating.
When they are frustrated, try to affirm that their feelings are valid. Just acknowledging their point of frustration can be a major move in the right direction.
6. Do you want me to help you work it out?
Even though they may not know how to ask, sometimes reminding them that you are there to help can be super beneficial.
7. I’m listening.
Remind them that you are there to listen. Let them vent and explain how they feel.
8. I remember when you…
By reminding them of a time when they were happy, you are effectively paving the way for rational thought. It might seem like a distraction technique, but I assure you it works.
9. Be silent while supportive.
And sometimes, you just need to sit there with them, while holding them and allowing them to process.