"Let them Feel Sad" Challenge

This morning, David, my 5yo, was relaying a story from the other day when he was feeling sad because he was missing me.

A well-meaning adult stepped in to see why he was sad. He told her he missed me, and she said something along the lines of “don’t be silly; your mom will be here soon; there’s no reason to be sad.”

David said how it hurt his feelings a little bit, because he didn’t like being told he was being silly. And went on to say “well, I was sad while I waited for you. I didn’t want to explain why. I just wanted to draw you a picture.”

I told him he was right, he was allowed to feel sad. And if what he wanted to do in that moment was draw me a picture and be sad, then that sounded like a perfectly non-silly thing to me.

I explained to him how sometimes, we adults don’t really know how to deal with a sad kid. Maybe because when we were kids, we were probably told the same thing – “it’s ok, don’t be sad, everything’s fine.”

And when we see someone – especially a child – who’s sad, we often start to feel sad ourselves. And we don’t like feeling sad, so we want to put an end to it ASAP.

I read a quote a while back that said “never in the history of calming down, has someone calmed down by being told to calm down,” and I remember being like “YES!” that is so true! (Ironically I also remember later that same day, I heard myself telling someone to "just calm down!" b/c they were WAY overreacting about something…)

Later this morning (after our “it’s ok to be sad!” convo), David started crying as I was walking out the door at dropoff.  All I could think was “I was THIS CLOSE to getting out, on time, for once! And now here we go again; how long is this gonna take to console him so I can get out the door??”

So what did I do? I of course told him to stop crying. Yep. Mindful mom of the year.

Ok, so here’s what I’m thinking. We need a challenge.

For all of us well-meaning adults & parents out there: let’s just let our kids be sad, without judging it as being wrong, or silly; without needing to convince them why they shouldn’t be sad; without looking at the clock and being worried that there’s just no time to be sad.

(Side note, if they’re really upset, first give them some help to take a few deep breaths, so they can regulate themselves and learn how to actually calm down on their own).

Let’s build their vocabulary (& ours!) by encouraging them to put words to how & what they’re feeling. “Looks like you’re feeling sad” “Are you feeling worried (frustrated? Angry?)?” Where do you feel it? (in your chest? In your throat (holding back tears)?

Let’s offer to get them some water or a tissue. Maybe suggest we draw a picture together about the situation. Or perhaps it might feel nice to get up and have a little stretch or go for a walk.

Or maybe we can just be there silently and offer them a hug.

What do you say, anyone else up for the “Let Them Feel Sad” Challenge? :)

May you be… Patient

Shannon Funt