As parents, one of the most difficult things to deal with is a situation in which others treat your child, or teen/young adult, unfairly. I don’t know about you, but it kind of brings out the mother bear in me, and I want to rush in, rage, and attack. However, that obviously isn’t the best way to handle the problem! So how should we as Christian parents comfort our children when they are upset?
In any and all situations of parenting, our goal should be to teach our kids what God says about it. So when our kids face unfair or unkind treatment, we need to help them respond right.
What to say to comfort your child
1. Acknowledge your child’s hurt and recognize their emotions.
When our child is faced with a difficult situation, they may or may not want to talk about it or react in a healthy manner. They might burst into tears, throw a tantrum or lash out and try to hurt themselves.
The first thing we should do is acknowledge their hurt and recognize their emotions. We can make them feel better by recognizing how they might be feeling and validating those feelings.
2. Don’t criticize and attack the person who has wronged them.
Being angry does not always mean that we want to confront the other person. Sometimes, there are long-term consequences such as regret and guilt for things we say in the heat of the moment. There are many ways you can deal with anger other than lashing out at someone.
3. Encourage your child to give the benefit of the doubt to the person who treated them wrong, rather than assuming the worst.
It can be hard to help your child when they are upset, but it is important to remember that you are the adult. Young kids often need an adult to help them express their feelings in a healthy way. It’s important to acknowledge your child’s feelings. You might say something like, “I know it hurt when they said that to you.” Then ask your child what they want you to do.
One of the most helpful ways for parents and teachers is by using empathy statements. These statements show that you understand what the other person is feeling, even if you don’t agree with his or her actions or behavior.
4. Encourage your child to forgive and not get bitter.
God tells us in His Word to forgive, and we need to encourage our children to do the same. We need to teach our kids that forgiveness is more than just saying the words “I forgive you.” We need to show them what it means by modeling it- forgiving others, and forgiving ourselves. We all make mistakes, but without forgiveness, we’ll be stuck in a cycle of self-hatred and unforgiveness.
You can’t control what others do to you, but you can control your response.
6. Teach them when to move on.
If the person truly is wrong in how they are handling a situation, encourage your child to respond properly, and then let go of it. If they need to do anything to make it right, they should. They then should move on, and not worry about whether the “offendee” has apologized or tried to make it right. It’s now that person who has the problem, and not your child.
7. Pray with them for the person who offended them.
It’s VERY hard to stay angry or bitter at someone that you are praying for! There are few things more difficult than staying angry or bitter at someone you love, but the truth is that it is possible. Loving someone can be hard work sometimes, but loving them enough to pray for them will always be the right thing to do.
8. Suggest that they give a gift in secret.
How do you communicate with an upset child?
Modeling Christ to our children means we CANNOT always say what we might be feeling in the heat of the moment. My immediate, fleshly response is usually one of anger towards the person who has hurt my child. I want to say things that I shouldn’t, and respond based on fleshly reactions. That is NOT what my kids need. They are already struggling with the wrong emotions, and need me to be able to respond in a calm and Christ-like manner. Instead of jumping in and justifying their anger, I need to model the love and grace of Jesus Christ in my words and actions.
Help your child cope with anger
Life isn’t fair and our kids WILL be treated unfairly at one time or another. As parents, we must prepare ourselves to handle it wisely, and then help our kids handle it in a Biblical way. Many emotions come along with hurt feelings and unkind words/actions. Using the tools above and God’s Word as your guidebook, you will lay a healthy foundation that teaches your child how to manage their anger and hurt in a healthy way.
Genesis 50:20 says: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Remind your child that God uses even those things that are intended to hurt us to accomplish good things!
The skills you teach now will follow them throughout their life as they navigate much bigger disappointments and hurts apart from you. To encourage, model, and most importantly, love them through it.