Respond To Children’s Hurts in a Way That Builds Confidence


A Guest Post by Emilie Leeks


We’d only just left for the shops when our youngest, who is three, slipped off his scooter. It was quite a tumble, and he was clutching at his legs and sobbing. I sat next to him on the pavement, pulling him gently into my lap and leaning around so he could look into my eyes if he chose to, and I held him. I watched as tears rolled down his distraught little face.

I hate it when my children are hurt. What I wouldn’t give to wrap them in cotton wool so they don’t have to feel pain in their lives! But I can’t – and, more importantly, I mustn’t. They need to experience these small knocks which life throws at them – physical hurts, disappointments, frustrations, fears – in order to learn emotional resilience.

If they don’t experience setbacks, they can’t learn that they will get through it. And anyway, I can’t protect them, either from everything or forever.

Holding Back from Panic: New Ways To Respond To A Fall

And I too am learning. I am learning how best to help them with their pain. I am learning not to rush – I’m there just as soon as I can be, but they need to be reassured by my presence, not panicked by it.

parenting, responding calmly when a child gets hurtI am learning not to look at them with deep concern in my face. They need to see my confidence that they will get through this. I am learning to use empathy, not pity, in my voice, so they can rest in the realisation that I understand, but that I am not worried.

The message I try to give is that they are not ok right now, but they will be. These hurts are very rarely an emergency.

So I listen – I try to enjoy listening even – through the tears, safe in the knowledge that this is just what he needs right now. His big sister and brother both come over to check that he’s ok and my heart swells just a little.

A few minutes pass, and the tears start to ease. And through the tail end of his pain and fear he says that he isn’t going to do that again when he’s going fast.

He stops crying, jumps on his scooter, and all of a sudden we’re off.

Crying Paves the Way for New Confidence

He races on ahead as we make our way to the shop. After buying the few bits we need he has just the best time, scooting up and down, up and down, up and down the ramp outside the shop.

I see speed and joy and agility and confidence as he races down and around corners – skill that I haven’t seen in him before.

Not so long ago, we would have been turning back to the house after that fall. There’s no way he’d be able to scoot all the way to the shops now after that fall. I underestimated him then. Even with two grazed knees, and a sizeable scrape across his ankle, all he needed was someone to hold space for those big feelings. Someone to hear the expression of shock and pain from his tumble.

After that he was done. Ready to move on with his day without a backward glance.

Meet The Instructor

Hand in Hand instructor Emilie LeeksEmilie Leeks lives in Berkshire, UK with her husband and three children. She is a certified Hand in Hand Instructor with additional experience in speech, language and communication issues.

This post was originally published on Emilie’s blog Journeys-in-Parenting. You can also contact Emilie through her Facebook page.

For more on kids and resilience read Backbone and Bounce: Building Resilience

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