Let’s be honest, there are some days when even those of us who are always “up” and “happy” end up in a melancholy mood. There are days when we cry easier, get upset faster, or just want to pull away and hide from the world. There are days when, no matter how hard we try, we walk around with a frown on our face and a tear in our eye. We’re sad, mad, fearful, upset – whatever you want to call it. In short, there are days in our lives, even as adults, where we just don’t feel so “swell.”
It should come as no surprise then to discover that our children have those kinds of days too. As the father of four young children I’m quickly learning that my children not only have personalities of their own but that their little bodies are full of emotions. One minute Laura Kate is smiling and laughing, playing with her baby dolls, the next minute she’s crying her eyes out. One minute Jack is singing and having a great time, the next minute he’s hiding in his room with his feelings hurt. One minute Benjamin or Jonathan is playing soccer in the backyard, the next they’re running, crying and looking for mama. Some days some other child treats them badly or takes a toy away and hurts their feelings. Some days they fuss and fight and cry because of each other. There are some days where there’s not even a minute where they seem happy, and just the wrong look or word turns the “sprinklers” and “sirens” on.
So, what can we do as parents when our children are sad, hurt or upset? What can we do to help them “turn that frown upside down?” I’m asking this because it is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. You see, as a Father, part of what I want for my children is for them to be happy. I want them to enjoy life and have fun. I don’t want them to walk around like Eeyore all the time or crying buckets of tears every day. However, I also want them to learn how to handle their emotions when things don’t go their way when somebody hurts their feelings, or they just feel sad. I think this is part of our responsibility as parents – raising our children to be strong and mature men and women of God while still guarding their soft hearts.
How then can we as parents help cheer our children up when they are sad or hurt? Let me share a few ideas.
* When you’re hurting, nothing beats a hug. I think most of us would agree with this statement. There’s something comforting and encouraging about a hug from mom or dad when we’re sad, hurt or upset. I’ve noticed that when my children get hurt, or they are sad, they naturally come running with their arms open, looking for Kim or me to pick them up and hug them. I think God pre-wired them that way.
* Don’t try to stop the tears. It’s okay to cry. I know that may not sound like a very masculine statement, but even the Lord Jesus – the strongest man who ever lived – cried. Also, Dads, don’t make the mistake of telling your little boys (or girls) that “big boys (or girls) don’t cry.” They do. The difference is found in why and when “big boys” cry. Sometimes flowing tears are just what’s needed to wash the hurt from a heart.
* Give them your reassurance. When a child is sad, often they are also afraid. They may be afraid of something that they can put into words, or it may be something that they can’t even verbalize. Sometimes sadness is also caused by insecurity, and they simply need some form of reassurance from their mom or dad. Of course, that reassurance will come in different ways depending on who is giving it and who is receiving it, but either way, reassurance is always welcome when the tears are flowing.
* Tell them it is okay to feel sad sometimes. Let them know that this is part of life. We all have times when we are sad or upset. Give them the example of Jesus or of other family members that they love and respect. Help them to understand that they can’t always be happy, that life doesn’t always go the way we want or expect and that there are going to be times throughout their lives where they will experience sadness.
* Listen to them. Really listen to them. Sometimes it’s not what you say that helps turn their frown upside down, but simply a soft shoulder and a listening ear. Listen for the real reason for their sadness. Don’t just listen to what they are saying, but what they aren’t saying. Again, they may not be able to put everything into words. After all, if they are young this is part of growing up – learning how to handle and express when and what they are upset over. Listen to what they are saying and pray for God’s guidance in how to help them with their hurt.
* Set a mature, Christian, example for them. Don’t hide your tears from them – Jesus didn’t. Let them see you walking in maturity in both the good and bad times of life. Let them see you cry for the right things at the right times. If you want them to learn how to handle their emotions when they are older, you’ll have to set an example of handling yours in front of them while they are young.
Remember that as parents it is our responsibility to help prepare our children for life and love and loss, each of which will bring the inevitable tear and frown. So, take some time today and determine within your heart to do your best to help nurture and develop your children so that they will be able to handle the hurts of life and “turn that frown upside down.”