Recently, a good friend of mine went through this type of moment when the family dog died unexpectedly. Their beloved pet was only 6 years old and seemingly healthy, but sometimes life does what it does and we lose things that are precious to us. The family was a wreck. Their young children couldn’t comprehend why their dog was taken away, and the parents were struggling with the same feelings. When facing moments like this, someone in the family needs to take the lead. That someone is Dad.
We need to prepare our children to thrive in a world that will always provide plenty of hurt.Is there anything more heartbreaking than having a sad child? It brings out all the feelings in a parent, and it’s in that where we find some of our most important teaching moments. We have to be ready to help our sad child learn to process, learn from, and move forward. We need to prepare our children to thrive in a world that will always provide plenty of hurt. Here are some essential tips for parenting your kids through sad moments.
1. Isolate the Root Cause
What specifically is making your child sad? In the case of my friend, the root cause was easy, the family dog. Yet, there are plenty of things that cause sadness in our kids, such as losing a good friend, bullying, or tension inside the home. Sometimes kids may not even know why they are upset or are reluctant to share. Like finding lost car keys, help them calmly retrace the steps until we get to what’s really bothering them. It’s our job as a parent to get to the root of why our child is sad. Then we can begin to move forward in helping them.
2. Grieve with Them
Empathy is necessary to establish. Grieving is ok; give them time to do so. In fact, you should grieve with them. If they are sad, you are sad, and together, you will process the emotions. Give them space to tell you how they are feeling. Allow those emotions to be legitimate. Hurt along with them, but remember that you are the adult who has a healthy perspective. If their perspective is out of balance, help them bring it back. You want to lead them out of the hole…not go down it with them.
3. Display Resiliency
If your child truly believes you are hurting with them, they are going to be carefully watching to see how you respond. This is how a child either learns to become resilient or begins a habit of falling to pieces anytime something negative happens. They will face countless moments in their lives, the same as us, when it will be vital they have learned to be resilient. My dad used to tell me in these type moments: “It’s important to keep living. We wake up, put our pants on, eat, and we go do the things we’re supposed to do.” I have never forgotten that teaching.
4. Reintroduce Joy
You’ve isolated the root cause, you’ve given them time to grieve, you’ve shared their pain, you’ve taught them how to bounce back, so now, it’s time to reintroduce joy. Begin to point out the abundance of good things in our lives. From the simple things like a beloved stuffed animal to the bigger essentials like a roof over the head, food to eat, a parent who loves them. We want our kids to always have hope that stays lit within them. Though hard times will come the blessings will see them through.
5. Allow Closure
Good mental health requires that we find closure with the thing that is hurting us. We accept that the hurt happened and we experienced it fully, and now, we must move forward. Doing something tangible and visible will help them find this closure. For example, having an official funeral for your pet. This provides finality to the event. Closure can be more difficult for things like bullying or a lost friend. It may be a good idea to seek professional child counseling to help them complete this final step.
Sound off: How have you handled sadness in your kids?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What are some things that make you feel sad?”