When your child feels upset or sad, you will probably feel bad, too. You may also feel helpless and frustrated at the same time, because you don't know what to do to cheer your child up. But there are some simple things you can do to help your child--and you--to feel better soon.
- Validate your child's feelings. It is very important to let your child know it is okay to feel sad, and she doesn't have to hide the feeling.
- Allow your child to express the emotions. By encouraging your child to talk about what is bothering her, you validate the feelings and help your child to process them and move forward.
- Open the lines of communication. Engage in a conversation with your child and help name some of the emotions the child may be going through. For instance, if your child's best friend just moved away, talk about the loss she feels, and how lonely and sad this can be.
- Assess the situation. Ask questions about any fears the child may have as a result of a change or a loss. The cause of the sadness may go deeper than you think so it helps to pinpoint what is really going on so you can appropriately address the concerns. Sometimes the uncertainty can make things worse and some reassurance can go a long way.
- Share your own feelings. If a relative has died, it is good to let your child know you are sad, too and that this is a normal reaction to such a loss. By talking about it, you can help to work through some of the emotions and bond in the process.
- Take things seriously. Avoid minimizing things that are bothering your child. By dismissing the feelings, or by always thinking you have to "fix" things, you may make your child feel unimportant. Although your intentions are good, instead of distracting your child, your actions may just make her feel worse.
- Brainstorm with your child. For instance, if your child didn't do well on a math test and feels sad, talk about why things didn't go well and come up with a strategy to help your child do better next time. This will help empower your child and take away some of her helplessness.
- Be supportive. Some problems can't easily be changed or solved, but just by letting your child know you are there for her, the feeling suddenly may not feel quite as bad.
- Trust your child. When your child feels especially sad, it is tempting to want to take on this sadness yourself as if that would make her feel better. But for older children especially, this might just make them feel angry that you are overstepping your bounds. Recognize that sometimes children just have to feel sad and cope with their own emotions before they can move on.