What to Do When Your Child Gets Hurt
Your child is running and all of a sudden falls down with a smack on the sidewalk. What do you do? Do you rush over and pick him up? Or do you say, “You’re okay. Get up and try again?” Or how about just looking away and waiting to see if he recovers on his own? All of those are reasonable responses and each might be effective depending on the moment.
Some parents don’t take advantage of their choices and react more from their own needs in the moment. But if you stop and consider what your child needs this time, you might try something different. For example, some kids need comfort and your reaction to help might be the best response.
However, some kids need to develop more independence and self-confidence so allowing them to comfort themselves and move on, might be a demonstration of respect for the child’s own ability to solve problems. It might be wise to pause in the moment and plan your response accordingly.
The Value of Empathy
It’s always important to show empathy. Even some of the insignificant pain kids experience is an opportunity to connect with them emotionally. No matter how easy children’s lives are, kids still experience pain. They may not realize how good they have it, or how insignificant their pain is compared to other people, but it’s still real pain to them. A child’s seemingly small hurt is the practice ground to learn how to deal effectively with deeper hurt that may come later in life. As you tune in to your child’s pain, you’ll have the opportunity to help that child learn to process hurt in a healthy way.
Some parents tell their kids to “Stop crying,” “Grow up,” or “Get over it” when they’re sad or physically or emotionally hurt. Sometimes this breeds an angry response. If children are going to learn to receive comfort from God, they must first learn how to receive comfort from Mom or Dad.
Empathize with your children when they’re hurt. After all, you’re modeling the way that God comforts us. In 2 Corinthians 1 we read that our God is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles. I, Scott, always pause when I read those words. I tend to think of compassion and comfort as female qualities but the passage attributes them to our Heavenly Father. I want to develop those qualities in my life as well.
Parents can model this same response to their children. You might say things like, “Ouch, I bet that hurts.” Or, “I’d be sad too if my friend did that to me.” Children need to know that it’s okay to feel sad and hurt and that getting alone, praying, crying on someone’s shoulder, thinking about God’s love, talking about the problem with you, or just allowing you to hold them quietly are all ways to receive comfort to deal with their pain.
Holding a child and gently saying, “I know it hurts now but take some deep breaths, you’ll feel better soon” can teach a young child how to process pain.
Once you’ve expressed empathy, then the next step may be to gently challenge the child to move forward. “I think you’re okay, are you ready to try again?” or “What do you think the next step should be with your friend?” Communicating that we need to keep moving forward can also help kids develop confidence and not fall prey to self pity.
You may need to try all these ideas and more before you find the one that ministers to your child. Keep in mind that what is needed in one situation may be different than in the next. That’s okay. Take the time to experiment. In the process you may even learn more about comfort yourself.
This parenting tip comes from the book Good and Angry: Exchanging Frustration for Character in You and Your Kids by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN. Chapter 9 teaches about forgiveness and helping children deal with hurt anger.