How to help your 'sad' child.
By Susie E. Caron © 4/26/15
Parents struggle to understand and help kids with their ‘negative’ feelings. It’s not hard to handle a happy kid, but what do you do when your child is sad?
Some kids will let their parents know that they are sad and talk about what made them feel that way. Other kids don’t. They may arrive home from anywhere appearing quiet, down in the mouth, and sad looking. If you ask, “What’s the matter?” or worse, “Why are you sad?” You will get no answer or perhaps an angry snarl. It’s these kids who make parents feel worried, frustrated, or even angry. “How can I help my kids,” you may ask, “if they won’t even talk about what is going on?” This article can help you to answer that question.
First: Don’t try to change your child’s feelings.
He/she actually has the right to feel whatever feelings come up. It’s not right or wrong to feel feelings. They are just feelings. Instead of trying to dig up the reasons, or ‘cheer up’ a sad child, just take notice. Then you can say something like “Oh, I see you are feeling sad right now.” At this point don’t ask any questions. You can also add this, “When (not if) you want to talk with me about what makes you sad today, I’ll listen.”
Second: Your child wants to know your answers to these three things.
a. Am I bad or awful for feeling sad?
b. Will you accept my feelings as an ok part of me?
c. Will you listen, without judging me, when I tell you about what makes me sad?
Third: You’ll want to be ready to give him/her three answers.
a. It’s okay to feel sad. Everyone has feelings and sad is just one of those feelings.
b. You are not wrong or bad for feeling sad. Sad may feel uncomfortable. After we talk I can help you find ways to feel better soon.
c. I will listen when you tell me what happened and I won’t get upset with you.
Here are two reasons kids won't easily tell you what they are sad about.
1. Kids don’t want to talk about their feelings sometimes, because they believe they have to protect their parents from the ‘awfulness’ inside of them. They fear you won’t love them or like them anymore if they reveal these nasty feelings and thoughts. You can help them, by letting them know that some feelings are easy to have, but others feel more uncomfortable. However, you have experienced all kinds of feelings and you know how to help them when feelings seem difficult or nasty. So they can safely share any feelings with you.
2. One more situation that cause problems is this: separation and divorce can cause kids to bottle up their feelings. If you are involved in this situation, be particularly sensitive to your children’s sadness. Expect it. Validate their feelings (while not getting caught up in the content). Agree that they are likely feeling sad and that feeling sad is to be expected. Let them know that it will take time, but eventually the sadness won’t feel quite as harsh or deep. In the meanwhile, tell them they can come to you for extra hugs and cuddle time anytime they are feeling sad. You may also want to read them some good books written for kids about divorce. Here are some links of books I recommend:
It’s Not your fault, Koko Bear; Vicki Lansky. This one can help really young kids understand their feelings and free them from thinking it’s somehow their fault.
Mom’s House, Dad’s House for Kids; Islina Ricci, Ph.D This book is excellent to read with kids 6 & up one chapter at a time. Older tweens and teens can be encouraged to read it themselves and talk with you after they complete each chapter.
Here’s a really helpful book for separating and divorcing parents to read.
What about the Kids: Judith S. Wallerstien & Sandra Blakeslees
What do you do to help your children when they seem sad? Comment below and I'll respond.
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Remember, Twee means you and me.
Susie E. Caron
How Negative Labels Get 'Stapled To Our Hearts,' & How to help your kids. Susie E. Caron (c) 4/19/2015
How Negative Labels Get 'Stapled To Our Hearts,' & How to help your kids.
By Susie E. Caron © 4/19/15
Most adults agree that ‘name-calling’ between kids is nasty, and parents try to get their kids to stop. What surprises me is how often adults use ‘labels’, such as lazy, messy, fat, or worse,’ when they talk to children. Perhaps they don’t realize how harmful that is. In fact it is far more harmful than the ‘name-calling’ we want our kids to stop. Have you ever heard or said any of these:
“You are so lazy.”
“Stop acting stupid.”
“You are such a mess.”
“Don’t’ eat that. You’ll get fat.”
“Don’t be so silly.”
“You make me sick.”
If you recognize any of these statements, perhaps some of them were directed at you when you were a child. If so, you already know how hurtful they can be. You may also recognize how many negative labels stick with you throughout life. It feels like they were permanently stapled to your heart. That’s because when a parent, teacher or trusted caregiver called you a label, you believed them.
When we speak to children labels can have serious, harmful effects now and in the future. That’s because Kids turn the statements they hear into internal beliefs about who they are. Labels become part of the construction of their self-concept, identity and self-esteem. Labels cause children to act out what they believe they are.
Here are some examples:
1. “Don’t be stupid,” in a child’s mind can become, “I’m stupid,” or “Everyone thinks I’m stupid.” (The child may ‘act’ as though he/she is stupid more often.)
2. “Don’t eat that. You’ll get fat,” could change into, “I am fat.”, or perhaps, “If I can’t eat this, maybe I won’t eat anything. That way I’ll never get fat.”
3. “You make me sick,” can change into “I am so disgusting that I make everyone sick of me.” (This child could become reclusive, depressed or worse.)
Where did your own negative, personal beliefs come from? Are they accurate? Probably not. If you write down a few, you will soon see that they came from your early memories and they are not true descriptions of you. But, you may wonder “How did these become part of my belief system about myself?” It’s because as a child you believed your caregivers.
Children count on us, their parents, caregivers, and teachers. They want to believe us and please us. This is how they are programmed: “In order to survive, I must try to be what my parents think I am.” That’s why it is important to understand how the labels we apply to children, even in our humor, impact them for life. They internalize and act them out, sometimes even throughout adulthood.
Adults actually have choices. They can discard the negative beliefs, and substitute more positive personal beliefs about their own character. However, many adults do not discard these negatives, but instead, and often without realizing it, they pass them onto their children.
"Negative labels are no fun, and usually undeserved."
What can you do, if you are a parent, teacher or caregiver to help your child? First, write down anything negative you have said to your child. Next, change that into a positive. Write the new positive words down and practice saying them out loud. Practice helps put the new words into your long term memory so they are readily available when you need them. Here are some examples of how that might sound.
You are so lazy. Why not say something like “Wow, you really like to take your time and do things carefully. That’s okay but I need you to get this done by _____.”
“You make me sick.” Say “I’m so unset with you right now, I need time-out and you need to take time-out too. When you & I get calmed down, then we will talk about this.”
“Don’t be so stupid.” You could say “I think you are teasing me. I’ll bet you do know_____ (or you can figure it out.”)
Remember that the negative labels you use to discipline or even talk with your children become internalized, a permanent part of their identities, and the fuel for their actions. Instead, of labeling what’s ‘wrong’ ,think of ways to put a positive spin on what you say. Tell kids often that you trust them, believe in them and want them to do well and to grow up to be the best they can be. When you do this you’ll see your children blossom. They will grow more and more into the positive character qualities you say you see in them.
I also believe in you! I believe in you to grow healthy happy children who know they are loved.
Thank you for reading and thinking about this today. Will you also share this article with your family and friends on your favorite social media. (Quick Links on the left and just below.)
Twee’ means you and me.
Susie E. Caron
What's Time-Out For Anyway? Part II: How to successfully teach kids "Time-Out". by Susie E. Caron © 4/12/15
What's Time-Out For Anyway?
Part II How to successfully teach kids "time-out".
by Susie E. Caron © 4/12/15
This is the 2nd part of my article about “time-out.” Last week I explained "How & why to use time-out with your kids." This week, in part 2, I’ll describe how you can easily teach young children to use time-out and feel really successful in this use of this wonderful training tool.
How to teach ‘time-out’ to kids.
It is best to teach children how to use time-out when they are very little. You can even begin around age 2, but you must be prepared to be very patient and weather some crying protests. If you are patient, loving and unmoved by attempts to get you to give in, you will establish this practice. Then you will be ready to more easily help your children to learn valuable lessons as they grow.
Personal Tools (mindset) you will need:
First you must be very patient. Act as though you have ‘all the time in the world’ to help your child accomplish this task. (It's is best, therefore, to make sure you begin on a day you are not in a hurry.)
Second, you must be totally resolved that your child will stay in time-out for whatever length of time is appropriate. In early ages, that will mean only 2 or 3 minutes then a hug and all done. As the child grows up a little, you can expect your child to calm down first before being released. If the child needs more time to calm down, you can use a timer and reset it for a few more minutes just to allow cooling down. Remain calm and 'matter of fact' about it all.
Third, and this is critical. When your child comes out of time-out, Do Not try to talk with your child about the infraction or problem. (See 4th below) Instead you welcome him or her with open arms back into the family and activities. In fact you may want to have something ready to do with your child for that time. (Don’t make it 'wonderful' like going to ‘Disney’, or you may accidentally cause your child to want to go to time-out more often. Instead make it something simple like helping you bake, or doing a puzzle together, that you just happened to take out.
Fourth, at some other time during this day or next, chat with your child about what happened that caused him or her to have to go to time-out. Don’t ask “why”, because kids cannot readily answer that. Instead ask questions like “What do you think was the reason you sat in time-out today?” and “What do you think you can do differently or better, next time.”
Fifth, Now tell your child “Thank you, for talking with me about this. Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s up to everyone to learn to do better too. I’m glad you and I can talk because I believe in you to be the very best you that you can be.”
Here I will summarize the main messages you want your child to understand:
1. If you do something to hurt yourself, others, or objects, you will have to loose your fun while you spend it in time-out.
2. In time out your job is to think about what you can do differently and calm yourself down.
3. When you come out of time out you can return to having fun.
4. You and I will talk later about what you learned that you can do differently.
5. I will thank you because I believe in you to always be the best you that you can be. Always.
That's it. With these tools you can be well on your way to help your kids learn how to behave better, think about better choices and calm themselves down. Isn't that something we all need to learn?
What do you think about the use of 'time-out'? What would you add, or subtract from what I wrote? Let me know in your comments below.
Also thank you for sharing this with your friends on social media.
Twee’ means you and me.
Susie E. Caron
What's Time-Out For Anyway? Part I: How and why to use time-out with your kids. by Susie E. Caron 4/6/2015
What’s Time-Out For Anyway?
Part I: How and why to use time-out with your kids.
By Susie E. Caron © 4/6/15
This is a two part article. In Part I, I’ll explain the best use of time-out including the purpose, how and why it works and why it’s so hard for kids to do. Next week, in Part II, I’ll describe how you can easily teach children to use time-out and feel really successful in this use of this wonderful training tool.
What is time out – punishment or training?
Time-out is a useful tool that can help kids and parents through many difficult situations. However it is often used incorrectly and can do more damage than good. Time-outs should not be used only as punishment. It is far better to use time-out as training. I want to explain why and the best way to use time-outs.
Use time-out for the right reasons.
Time-outs should not be used as punishment – to push children away. That feels like shunning to children and can be frightening. That’s why parents must not ‘reject’ children when the time out is over by scolding or lecturing again, etc. When your children complete a time out, do not quiz them by asking “Do you know what you did wrong?” This is double jeopardy and can set up contentious feelings and bad behaviors are more likely to erupt again. I’ll explain below how you can talk with them about their behavior, at a better time.
"Instead of punishment, use time-out as training for kid's future ‘management
of emotions and behavior.’" (Anger management anyone?)
When to use a time-out.
Use a time-out when your kid’s behaviors are unacceptable. Behaviors could include hurting self or another, destroying property, or not complying with a parent’s reasonable request. It’s best to teach time-outs while your children are very young. This establishes the pattern. However you can teach later elementary aged children to use time-out correctly. (Adults can also take a time-out and model its use when necessary.)
What is the purpose of time-out?
The purpose is simply to calm down, readjust attitude and actions, and self-soothe. A time-out gives kids (and adults) time away from any activity in which they were engaged, and during which they did something unacceptable. Time-outs are best used to give kids and parents (caregivers) ‘time’ to feel their feelings, reflect on behaviors and decide that it is ‘worth it’ to amend their ways so they can rejoin friends or family members in activities.
How does time-out really help?
Simply stated, time-out gives kids time to realize that by being good, obeying the rules,
and behaving acceptably, they can continue to have their fun. When they don’t comply, they
lose their fun. This is the KEY. This is what makes a time out work!
Why is it so hard for kids to take ‘time out.’
Children do not want or enjoy being separated from friends or family activities. They are curious and don’t want to miss anything, and they frequently ‘want to have their own way.’ That’s why they will push, bargain and holler about being ‘in time-out.’ Parents must not give in to these tactics, nor argue with children. Instead parents can calmly and openly increase the time, on a timer, until the child calms down and regains more appropriate control over their behavior.
I hope this article is helpful to you to understand the use and reasons for time out.
Next week, I describe the tools and techniques you can use to successfully teach your kids how to use time out. I will also give you tips for what to say to your kids when they need to go to the time out chair, how to keep them there, and what to do for non-compliance.
Until next week, I'd be delighted for you to share this blog with your friends and remember to sign up to the right of this article. That way you'll receive my blogs and other features right to your email inbox.
Twee’ means you and me.
Susie E. Caron
Susie E. Caron MA,
Author, Blogger, Podcaster,
Christian, Wife, & Mother, helps build parent-child relationships, 1 blog, book & podcast at a time.
Welcome! I recently retired from combined careers in teaching, psychotherapy, and parent coaching to spend more time writing.
When I'm not busy creating books or articles, you might find me looking for dark chocolate or riding my beautiful horse Apple in the woods and fields of Vermont.
These articles are for educational and self-help purposes only and are not intended as psychotherapy.
If you experience unusual symptoms or discomfort please see your medical or mental health practitioner.
No patent liability is assumed for use of the information contained. The author disclaims any responsibility for loss or risk for use or application of this material.
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Blog Reviews & Thank You!
July 13 at 7:17pm ·
Just wanted to say that I love your posts about the different ways to connect/relate/understand your child. It has given me a new approach towards understanding my daughter and allowing HER to tell me how she feels instead of me suggesting to her how she should feel. Thanks Susie!