Try This Instead?
When kids bonk their heads or scrape their knees and burst into tears, our first instinct is to reassure them (“It’s okay! Don’t cry!”). We can see kids getting hurt as an invitation to check in with ourselves, and observe where our discomfort with their pain and surprise originates. Does their pain make us feel anxious, ashamed, or vulnerable? How do we respond to our own pain? Do we suppress, invalidate, and explain away? Do we numb, soothe, and distract ourselves from hurt and discomfort?
Our intention is to comfort kids and make them feel okay, but...it isn’t up to us to decide that they’re okay. Our job is to support them through whatever they are feeling. When we tell them not to cry, even with good intentions, their first thought when they want to cry will be “don’t!”
If we shift our language from “it’s okay” to “I’m here,” we communicate to kids that our connection is unconditional, and that they don’t need to hide their true feelings.
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