- Stay Close & Stay Quiet – if your child will accept your touch (a hug, a tight squeeze, a back rub or simply holding his hand), stay close. As parents, we rush quickly to trying to fix, minimize, rationalize or make sad feelings go away, and feel better. First, just stay close & listen. Create quiet warm space for your child just to BE sad, safely beside you.
- Offer them a Sensory Support – as adults, words come more quickly & easily and we are ready to explain things away or talk things out. Offer your child a quiet comfort; call your dog/cat into the room for your child to pet/snuggle, find a stuffed animal or soft blanket or bring a cup of tea or glass of water. This acts as an offering of love & warmth, and also begins to gently distract from a big emotion.
- Be honest & Be Brave – say what you see, and share how you feel. “You are all curled up in a ball, and seem so sad, I am worried about you.” It’s not about judging or fixing (you will have to fight these instincts as parents, you just want your child to know that you see them & accept them) “This really upset you, and I’m not sure how to help.” Helping a child label what they are feeling, accept it and when THEY are ready, work to move through it – is a process. It’s a process that we try and rush as parents, wanting our children to ‘feel better.’ “You are really crying, I’m right here and I love you.”
Let it be ok for your children to be sad. Help them learn to sit lovingly & quietly with their feelings, and know that sadness is ok.
We don’t want it to last forever, and we don’t want our children to get stuck and have the feeling grow to overwhelm them, but IT IS ok to feel sad and it is important to feel it, acknowledge it & then decide together how to move through it.
Sometimes, our closeness and our offering of a sensory comfort/distraction begin to soften or shrink the feeling. Once the sadness shrinks a little— when our little one can stop crying, and find their voice or lift their head up from their pillow— then we can help draw out a plan to shift, and let it go. Some children will continue to snuggle, some will want to move, sing, draw, read, or get something to eat.
Offering our children genuine acceptance – of who they are & what they are feeling – creates a connection, creates calm and creates a language of love between you.