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2 Words That Changed How I Respond To My Kids

Photograph by Getty Images/Flickr Select

A friend recently told me that her new response to hearing terrible news—you know the stuff, the sort of thing that makes you cringe, makes you count your blessings—was to look the other person in the eye and say, "That sucks."

I furrowed my brow. Seems a little harsh, doesn't it? A little to the point, wasn't it? Doesn't a person who just suffered something huge, something devastating, need a little TLC instead?

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But Jessica's point was this: sometimes, the only way to respond to something is to acknowledge how rough it is. We're getting to the age where our friends' parents are dying, where people we know are being diagnosed with horrible illnesses, where people are losing their jobs, their homes. And you know what? It sucks.

It really does suck.

I thought about this message when dealing with my kids. Sometimes, I'm so quick to tell my kids not to cry or that plans change, that's just the way it is, and so on that I haven't properly validated their feelings. I haven't taken the time to show them that I see it from their perspective. I get it, it sucks.

Jess was right. And I was going to slow down and take that extra beat. The one where I didn't go from A to B. The one where I acknowledged there was a step between. I didn't have to move right into encouraging them to get over it, to move on. I could take a breath and be present with the kids. Tell them that I understood their frustrations.

I took Jess's advice and I made it my own. I would take the adult version—that sucks—and use a gentler version with the tots: that stinks.

So, when a playdate got canceled because his friend was sick? I didn't just segue into what we were doing that day instead, desperately trying to avoid the tears. I acknowledged how much of a bummer the situation was. I told my son that I got why he was so upset—we had a plan. A fun plan! A totally awesome plan that we'd been looking forward to for days. And it got canceled.

That stinks.

And once he knew that I got how upset he was, we were able to move on.

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If there are tears? That's OK. Part of my job as a mom is to teach my kid how to deal with disappointment. And sometimes that means having a good cry before you can move on. Sometimes we need to acknowledge the hurt and frustration, really feel it, and get it out of our systems. Because life isn't always going to give you exactly what you want. As parents, we need to teach our kids how to deal with that.

These days, I try to validate my kids' feelings, expressing that "I get it" when something's really bad. And that I'm bummed about it, too. I want them to understand that it's OK to be upset, or angry, or just plain pissed off, but we acknowledge those feelings, and then (and only then) can we move on.

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