Hello, Conscious Parent! Welcome to “Dear Katherine,” a monthly Q&A with real-life parents/caregivers. If you’d like to submit a question of your own, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My 10-year-old daughter and I had a bit of an altercation. She and her sister were having an argument over a dress the younger one wanted to borrow. They took the fight into my work-from-home space.
To be honest, I was buried with deadlines and was about to hop on a call, so I immediately told my older daughter to let the younger one borrow the dress. She burst into tears and yelled that I didn’t take her feelings seriously.
Needless to say, I’m gutted. I don’t ever want my kids to feel dismissed. What do I do, Dear Katherine?
— Very Serious (But Very Busy) Parent
Dear Very Serious (But Very Busy) Parent,
I can certainly empathize with your predicament. As a working mom myself, I know what it’s like to feel too stressed and overwhelmed to give my kids undivided attention. You didn’t mean to come off as dismissive, and your gutted reaction shows that you are indeed a serious parent who wants to do right by your children.
It’s important to remember that parents, just like anyone else, are imperfect people living in an imperfect world. Still, it’s our duty to provide a safe and loving environment where our kids can be seen, heard, and supported.
5 Tips to Help Your Child Feel Seen, Heard, and Supported
You know that you take your daughter’s feelings seriously despite being very busy. Here’s what you can do to show her just how much she matters to you:
Apologies are powerful catalysts for healing. Even though you didn’t mean to make your daughter feel ignored or neglected, let her know how sorry you are for hurting her feelings.
Then, ask her what exactly made her feel like you didn’t care. Did it seem like you were taking her sister’s side? Explain that you love them both equally and take both their feelings very seriously.
When everyone is feeling better, bring your two girls together and encourage them to resolve the dress issue. Can the younger one learn to respect the older one’s decision not to share that specific dress? Is there an alternative piece of clothing she can borrow?
Sharing is an important skill to learn, but let your children know it’s perfectly okay if there are some things they want to keep for themselves.
2. Stop what you’re doing and listen.
The next time your daughter demands your attention, step back and observe your reaction. Are you tapping your foot or looking at your phone? Did you even look up from your computer screen and make eye contact?
Give your kids at least a minute or two of your undivided attention when they need something. And if you’re just too busy at that particular moment, schedule a “Mommy and Me” time later in the day.
3. Acknowledge what she’s saying.
Problem-solving is certainly one of our most valuable skills as parents or caregivers, but don’t be so quick to find a solution that you dismiss what your child is trying to say.
Rather than placating children with toxic positivity (“Don’t be sad, cheer up!”), validate how they feel: “I can see that you’re feeling sad. Do you want to tell me why? Is there anything I can do to make it better?”
Raising self-assured children begins with teaching them that it’s important to acknowledge whatever emotion they’re feeling—so they can let it go when they’re ready.
4. Set reasonable boundaries.
As important as it is for children to acknowledge their feelings, it’s equally essential for them to learn that they have power over their emotions. Now is when they can learn that they don’t need to be overwhelmed by their emotions and can be with them rather than overwhelmed by them.
Your daughter may be angry at her sibling, but that doesn’t mean she can take it out on her—or anyone else for that matter. It’s never too early to teach children that negative feelings don’t have to translate to bad behavior.
5. Put yourself in your child’s shoes.
Let’s be honest: sometimes it’s hard to understand why a child could get so upset over being asked to shower, make their bed, or in your case, Very Serious (But Very Busy) Parent, lend her sister a dress.
But try to remember that kids have very little control over their everyday lives. The next time one of your daughters is upset, practice empathy to understand where she’s really coming from.
I hope this advice is helpful, Very Serious (But Very Busy) Parent. You’re juggling so much each and every day between work and parenting and everything else. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
Love and Blessings,
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A 3xTEDx speaker, media contributor, parenting coach, and a mom of two - helping families thrive by using the Guidance Approach to Parenting.