Why I Stopped Telling My Kids to 'Get Over It'

crying girl hugging motherOne of the hardest aspects of parenting is seeing your child get hurt. Whether it's due to a sibling's teasing, a slight from a friend or classmate, or a skinned knee, a child's sadness or disappointment has given all parents that same pang in their hearts. You know the drill: the quivering lower lip, their big eyes threatening to overflow with tears. Or, if they're older, the sullen shoulder-slump followed by a slammed door. 

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Our first instinct as parents is to make it better, to talk it out and try to solve their problem for them. At our best, we ask them questions and offer solutions. But at our worst, we tend to do what I think all parents have done on occasion, especially when our big old adult minds can rationally deduce that the offending incident is what we consider to be no big deal: We tell them to "get over it." 

I've done this in the past. Plenty of times. Especially when I felt like one of my children was overreacting. And by doing so, I was participating in a behavior that all of us as adults hate having done to them, which is negating someone's feelings just because we feel like we know better or we don't feel like dealing with someone else's emotions in that moment. It's the absolute worst!

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Here's what I've come to realize. Sometimes we don't want to get over it. Sometimes we want to complain or vent or just have our feelings heard. These feelings don't even have to be validated; we just want someone to listen to us. Our kids are no different. If we have the grace to allow others to speak their hurt and frustration, we are giving them something we all want to encounter from our friends and loved ones: the gift of empathy.

By telling our kids to get over it, we aren't even giving them the tools they need to get over whatever it is they're upset about. We aren't offering them constructive solutions, whether that be how they can explain to someone that their feelings are hurt, how they can think about why their feelings are hurt, or how sometimes the only solution to being hurt is to sit with that feeling and let it pass when we're ready to.

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We all want to raise kids who deal with conflict in a healthy way, who can channel their anger and frustrations productively, and who are able to roll with the punches. By letting them articulate their feelings, no matter how trivial they may seem to us as adults, we are doing just that. 

Most importantly, when we let them talk it out, we're teaching them how to get over it. That's a lot better than dismissing their feelings and letting them seethe on the inside. That's not how anyone gets over anything, regardless of his or her age. And if we take the time to teach our kids that lesson, it will make them the sort of adults who can not only handle their own problems, but who can also demonstrate that type of empathy to others. These are the types of lessons that can help us all get over problems when they aren't as simple as a friend's refusal to share on the playground. 

 

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