You're Only As Happy As Your Saddest Child

PARENTS!!! Could there be any truer words? No! 

I remember when a wise and gracious friend uttered this statement the first time and I didn't really grasp it. Because my kids were littles. Hers were emerging adults. But WOW, did I remember the sentiment the first time my daughter had a major friend break-up, the first time my son had a heart-break, and many times since.

It doesn't get easier. Moms of littles. Prepare your hearts.

So, how do we as moms and dads, steal our hearts to be strong for them? I haven't done it right every time, in fact, I've probably done it wrong more than not, but I'm here to offer some advice for when you find yourself in the midst of their sorrow. A pain that feels so much more because you can't fix it.

My first bit of advice is don't try to fix it. It's futile and it can ultimately put a wedge between you and your hurting child. Instead, try this:

Listen to whatever they wish to share. Try not to prompt or fill in the blanks too much. Sitting with them in their silence as they process and put words to the things they're experiencing helps them learn that skill, and reassures them that they were right to trust you. You are their safe place.

Acknowledge how hard, sad, stressful, (whatever adjective fits best here) the situation is. This is not the place to interject your personal experience, words of wisdom, advice, or really any other feedback than pure acknowledgment. Don't worry...if you have something helpful to offer, you'll get your chance. But this time is for them. Be patient.

Ask one simple question: "What can I do to support you right now?" And prepare for the answer(s) to be: 

  • I don't know
  • Nothing
  • Get me food
  • Give me a hug
  • Sit with me
  • Turn on _____ show
  • Fix everything
  • Some other request or any combination thereof

The important thing is to be there for them so they can figure out how to best help themselves. Resolving problems, having hard conversations, making amends, soothing heartbreaks, these are hard things that everyone must learn to navigate. And oftentimes, the fix isn't quick.

Which means, when we're invited into the moment by our child in need, no matter what the age, it takes time. This is hard on us because we want to fast-forward to all-better so we can be all-better too. 

Humans are wired to avoid suffering. So when you volunteer to be there for your hurting child, you also volunteer to wade with them through the hurt. (UGH!) Maybe a good way to reframe is this: you are sharing your child's burden. You are taking a small portion of the weight off their shoulders. You are helping them get to a place where they will find healing.

Until that time, when you're sitting in the work with them, feeling all their feels, you are only as happy as they are sad. Be steadfast friends. Be strong. It'll make a difference.



Photo by Clément Falize on Unsplash

Holly and Jenn