Creative Child

Helping Children Face Sadness

by Rebecca Eanes

When our children hurt, we hurt. No one wants to see their child facing sadness. Parents are often moved to fix their child’s unpleasant emotions immediately by almost any means necessary. We are much more comfortable when our children are happy, and so we try our best to keep them that way. However, when we move them along out of their sadness too quickly, we actually can do more harm than good according to author and parent educator, Bridgett Miller.

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Miller explains that, as creatures of emotion, our greatest learning takes place when we’re able to feel the sadness in what isn’t working for us. Techniques that prevent children from accessing their vulnerability and sadness don’t serve the child in the way we hope they will. She says, “As parents who love our children with all our hearts, it’s understandable that we become distressed when we see them experiencing any sadness or upset. It also makes sense that we’d want to do whatever we can to keep them happy, but sometimes we do so at the expense of their emotional development.”

It’s normal for children (and adults!) to get emotionally stirred up when something doesn’t go their way. Bridgett tells me that our emotional systems are actually built to help us notice when things aren’t working for us. As adults, we have had plenty of life experiences and disappointments. We know that we don’t always get what we want and that sometimes we have no control to change what is. That’s often really hard for adults, but for children, it seems almost unbearable, and that is why they need us to help them process their feelings.

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Bridgett says, “Anytime humans bump up against a limit, lack, or restriction, we are flooded by the powerful root emotion called frustration. This is no accident - it’s part of nature’s plan to help us learn and grow. We have to feel the frustration and sadness of what’s not working if we are to move through it rather than getting stuck in it. As parents, we must focus on allowing children to feel what they are feeling so they can begin to develop a relationship with their emotions and come to know themselves as creatures moved by emotion. Every time parents change the circumstances in order to keep the peace or spare the child from their emotional discomfort, we rob them of the opportunity to be changed by that which they cannot change.”

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