Think about this for a moment… What would you say if your son comes home one day and says he feels bad for losing the student council elections? Or if your daughter says that one of her classmates don’t like her?
I bet you would tell him “That’s ok. There’s always next time.” And you would have told her “You really can’t please everyone. There will always be people who will not like you.”
How we respond to our kids when they open up to us is crucial if we want them to keep that openness. Oftentimes I find myself giving “pat on the back” answers like “It’s gonna be okay” or sounding preachy and saying statements like “You know you should just forgive.” What I’ve realized over the years is, though there will be a time and a need for answers like that, what our kids initially need is our empathy. They need to know that we are not too old or too distant to understand what they are going through. They need to know that we can understand what they are feeling. They need to know that they can vent out their feelings to us without being judged or being preached to. I guess that’s why there is a “communication gap” between parents and children… when both parties fail to make the effort to understand each other.
We need to make sure our kids feel relief and comfort when they open up to us, not guilt or condemnation or frustration. And so whenever they share things to me about their day, I try to ask them first “How does that make you feel?” or say “I know how you feel.” And I also try to remember similar experiences from my past and relate to them how I handled the situation. By doing this, we connect with them on an emotional level and show them that we do understand what they are going through. That’s really the main reason why they vent out in the first place… to know that there’s someone who understands.