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Everyday Strong: Being the best parent you can be

By Adam Millett - United Way of Utah County | Oct 23, 2021

Image courtesy of StatePoint

Parenting teens

What’s the worst thing that happened to you this week? Does something come quickly to your mind? As an adult, our worries grow and deepen. They are real and heavy and some days, never ending. Making ends meet, coping with chronic illness, meeting work demands while caring for your family. As the years pass, we start to see everything through glasses tinted by our experiences. Our perspective changes.

Now, our children also have worries and stresses. Through the adult lenses that we see life through, we may not view them nearly as valid and difficult as our own “grown-up” challenges, but they are real to them. Their worries. Their woes. They are painful and difficult to bear, even if they aren’t as big as yours.

That’s the struggle of parenting — being able to understand and validate the feelings of our kids.

Every child wants to feel heard and understood. They want their feelings to be validated. They seek compassion and kindness and they need it more from you than anyone else. As parents, we have the opportunity to sit with our kids in their sorrows. It’s our responsibility to help them know it’s ok to be in pain. They are safe to feel all their emotions without fear of judgment or shame. Opening up a safe space to feel these emotions allows them to subsequently feel loved and connected.

So, knowing that our children will always experience doubts and disappointments, how can we help them develop the resilience that will carry them through life, even when we aren’t around? It starts while they are young. And, it all goes back to validating their emotions.

When your student shares with you that they failed their math test, what is your response?

“You’re kidding? I’m very disappointed in you. You’re better than that! You’re grounded till next week — give me your phone.”

All of these responses are rooted in shame and deepen the feelings our kids have. By using shame statements we tell our kids that we are not a safe space to feel.

Instead, we should show empathy and join them in their discouragement. Validating their feelings would mean that you stop what you’re doing and devote your full attention to them. You look them in the eye and you listen. You listen to all their emotions and feelings. Then, and only then, can you respond?

“Ah man, that’s rough. I remember when I failed my math test too. That’s really hard to study and practice and still not do well. I know you’ll get the next one though.”

Teaching our children that it’s ok to fail and that they aren’t the failure is important in helping them to build resilience. They will then have the confidence to move forward and try new things. And, whether they succeed or mess up, they will end up just fine.

United Way of Utah County is on a mission to help every child in our community feel safe, connected, and confident. You can listen to our latest podcast episode at http://anchor.fm/everydaystrong (or on Apple Podcast and Spotify). Learn more about us at http://everydaystrong.org.

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