Hopeful Parenting When Your Kids Are Emotionally Hurting


As a parent, you never want to see your child in emotional pain. When you do, you often have a natural instinct to want to do everything in your power to take away their pain.  Sometimes, you cannot automatically “fix” your child’s situation as quickly as you would like to. Your child has to go through their own process of healing to find success on the other side.

There is however something very powerful that every parent can do when their child is experiencing emotional pain and that is “Hope.” Parents can create hope within their children that they will work through their feelings and emerge confident and strong from the experiences that caused their emotional turmoil.

Hopeful parenting is about believing that you possess the inner strength, determination and tools to move you and your children beyond emotional pain.

“Hope” encourages you to move beyond fear and despair and helps you to survive and adjust to tough circumstances. It is the backbone of resilience.  It also is the key to beginning your process towards overcoming a traumatic experience.

The first question I ask every parent that signs up for personal coaching with me is, “Do you have hope that you can move through and beyond the trauma that your family is experiencing?” It is the parent that says “Yes” I have “hope” that is more successful in moving themselves and their children through the healing process.

If you and your child are suffering from a traumatic experience or an event, your hopeful outlook will help the both of you to survive and move through your pain. Hope is often the one emotion that pulls us out of the deep trenches of the pain from the past and present.

If you have a child that has experienced a traumatic event, help them to look at the situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Although your child may only be focusing on the pain they are facing in the moment, help them see that there is a future beyond the current situation and that their future can be good. You will be surprised at how far an optimistic outlook can help a child move forward in the worst of times. 

Building hope for your child begins with showing empathy for their situation.  People often become confused by the terms sympathy and empathy. Sympathy is acknowledging another person’s emotional hardships and providing comfort and assurance. When it comes to helping your child overcome a traumatic situation, it is empathy that parents need to provide. Empathy is the ability to mutually experience the thoughts, emotions, and direct experience of others.

Truth be told, any child or adult who has suffered from a traumatic experience is first a victim of unforeseeable circumstances. It is perfectly fine to acknowledge this to yourself. However, it is much more important to see yourself and your child as a “survivor” and not a victim of a traumatic situation to move through and beyond the trauma.

Feeling sorry for you or your child’s traumatic situation is not as helpful as feeling empathetic. No one benefits from a pity party. That approach simply leaves you stuck and unable to move forward. Empathy however is a great approach to help you and your children move through trauma and become a Survivor and not a Victim. You can do this by:

• Joining with your Child: Letting your child know that that you would be feeling alone, scared and shameful and sad if you experienced a traumatic experience.

• Building Resiliency: Assuring yourself and your child that traumatic circumstances do not define everything about who you are or who you will become. Children are young and vulnerable but also resilient. Encourage your child to know that he or she has a choice to form an identity that he or she is proud of.

• Encourage Self-Belief: When a child or an adult views themselves as a victim, they believe that they do not deserve nice things and are filled with low self-esteem, hopelessness negative thinking, shame and confusion. When a child or adult learns to become a survivor of their circumstances they begin to feel proud and live in the here and now. They begin to feel hope that their life can be more than they believed it could be. They look towards the future and become a survivor.

Our first natural instinct when our kids are hurting is to take away their pain as quickly as possible. This is a protective instinct for parents. The better gift that you can give them is empathetic understanding to allow them to move through their journey of healing. 

Dr SueDr. Sue Cornbluth
 is a nationally recognized parenting expert in high conflict parenting situations.
Dr. Sue is a regular mental health contributor for an array of networks and television shows such as NBC, FOX and CBS. She has also contributed to several national publications and  writes an acclaimed, monthly parenting column in Parents Express magazine.  Her new best-selling book, “Building Self Esteem in Children and Teens who are Adopted or Fostered is available now. To find out more about her work, check out www.drsueandyou.com.