But how does a 6, 9 or 10 year old deal with those same feelings? How do they handle a fight with a friend, the consequences of lost homework or a misunderstanding with a teacher? What do they do when they think that no one at school seems to understand?
Quite often a bad day at school travels home erupting in tearful expressions of anger, sadness and frustration. Parents are called upon to stop, react and respond to the needs of their child. And these emotional explosions never seem to happen when time is plentiful.
So what do you do?
First things first - if your child’s breakdown occurs when you are expected to be making dinner, let them know that you need a minute to order a pizza, throw a can of spaghetti sauce in the crock pot or look for something that can be tossed in the microwave later. Now focus on your child.
Sit down calmly and just listen.
Give them the time to tell their story their own way. This means that you don’t interrupt or ask questions.
Don’t blame or try to solve anything.
Empathize. I can see that this is really bothering you or I am so sorry that you are so sad .
Tell your child that you love them and that you are so happy that they are sharing with you.
Sometimes a child who is tired, coming down with a bug or facing a new challenge or frustration may just need a good cry and to be comforted by the person who is always there to support them. Give them the opportunity for this cleansing experience; it may be all that they need to deal with their concern.
Once they have calmed down, paraphrase what you heard them tell you and ask them if they have thought about what they would like to do.
Once you are sure that you understand what happened and if your child wishes to continue talking about it, talk about options. What would you like to do? We can speak with your teacher, find the lost homework or maybe visit your friend. Encouraging your child to do some more thinking is always a good idea. The process of talking a problem through may have been all the support your child really needed to be able to formulate their own response.
Kids need to know that we are always in their corner. That we support them and that even the hardest things can be talked through. If, during your conversation, you hear things that concern you please contact your child’s teacher. By partnering with school personnel most problems can be dealt releasing your child from their concerns before they feel like they’ve been kicked to the curb!