“This Is The Worst Day Ever!” Helping Kids Through Difficult Situations

Posted December 23, 2015 by

“This Is The Worst Day Ever!” Helping Kids Through Difficult Situations

My daughter called me on my lunch break yesterday. I answered quickly, only to be greeted by a heavy sigh on the other line.

“Mom, I’m having the worst day ever…I had to do a presentation this morning and everyone was staring at me…the boys started laughing…I got so nervous, I cried in front of the whole class.”

I felt a lump form in my throat.

Part of me was angry at the boys for laughing, and at the teacher for allowing it to happen. The other part of me was asking, what can I say to help my daughter feel better right now?

Parents can help children navigate difficult situations by responding effectively. Using my coaching experience here at Empowering Parents, I put together the four steps I applied when responding to my daughter:

  1. Pause and breathe. Even though I felt angry at those responsible for my daughter’s bad day, I knew it wasn’t worth it to get worked up. Save your energy for listening and finding ways to help your child.
  2. Ask yourself, “What does my child need from me right now?” My daughter didn’t need me to call the school or get mad at the boys in her class — she needed a supportive ear. As parents, sometimes we have to put our emotions on hold in order to see what our kids really need from us.
  3. Listen. Let your child tell the story. For me, this was tough — I wanted to respond and ask questions right away. Ultimately, however, your response will be more effective if you know the full picture before weighing in.
  4. Get the facts. Ask questions in a business-like way. For example, “Then what happened?” or, “How did you handle it?” Try to understand your child’s perspective.

Read more tips in James Lehman’s article, When Your Child Says, “I Don’t Fit In”

Remember, your role as a parent is to balance reassurance with coaching — your child’s experience may feel large and life-threatening, but you can help by reinforcing that the feelings are temporary and common. This is called “right-sizing” the problem.

While it can be difficult, this is also an opportunity for your child to learn how to problem-solve appropriately. Encourage your child to talk through what they did that was effective, or how they might handle the situation differently next time. Together, you can plan what their next steps will be.

In my case, my daughter mostly needed a safe space to vent her frustrations. Depending on your situation, further steps may be necessary. Use your best judgement. If your child is being bullied or you have additional concerns that require parental involvement, contact your child’s school for more support.

Warmly,

Darlene B., Empowering Parents Coach

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About

Darlene Beaulieu is a parent to two teenage daughters, ages 13 and 16. She has been an Empowering Parents Coach since 2009 and has helped thousands of families in that time. She earned her Master’s Degree in Counseling and has worked in school and community settings helping children and families with academic, social, and behavioral issues.

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  1. Kandice (Edit) Report

    Good article, I have found myself many times having to calmly talk my 15 yr old son down from being angry. Today he called me after one of his classes upset cause he didn’t finish the assignment when everyone else did and had to bring book home to finish. I have learned it doesn’t help to yell at him when he is yelling, it just escalates everything. I find myself talking in nice calm soft voice. I let him vent and get it all out and then I let him know I understand how he feels however it doesn’t matter what others think when at the end of the day he did his best. It can take awhile (more times longer than others) but he does calm down.

    Reply
  2. Empowering Parents Coach drowden Report

    @Stephanie
    I am so sorry to hear your daughter is in an abusive
    relationship. I can only imagine how distressing that must be for you. It’s
    understandable you would want to do everything in your power to protect her. It
    may be helpful to reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline to speak
    with someone about the concerns you have regarding your daughter and her
    boyfriend. You can reach them at 1-800-799-7233. You can also find some helpful
    tips for what you can do to help your daughter on their webpage http://www.thehotline.org/help/help-for-friends-and-family/.
     Good luck to you and your family moving forward. Take care.

    Reply
  3. Mama Laurie (Edit) Report

    Good article and helpful. Please share a few tips for dealing with a 12 year old daughter that always sees the glass half empty.

    Reply
  4. Daxa (Edit) Report

    Can u please help me my 18 years old daughter lie to me too much and she miss school as well just find out from her phone she txt to his friend parents are strict but I told lie and coming out all like that to boyfriend how to deal this suitation…thank u

    Reply
  5. Mom Uncool (Edit) Report

    Those 4 tips were extremely helpful for me. I have a recently turned 13 year old daughter and if I can find a way to recall these tips when appropriate I believe I will be a better support to her throughout these difficult teenage years for both of us. However, I believe that at this age and stage she feels that her stepdad and I are the most uncool people on the planet but I know she loves us. She kind of treats us like an ATM & her personal chaffeur. Any tips on that?
    Thanks,
    Mom Uncool 🙂

    Reply
    • Empowering Parents Coach drowden Report

      Mom Uncool
      I hear you. It can be tough to know how to handle
      entitlement in young teens. The behavior you describe is fairly common, as
      Debbie Pincus points out in the article https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/demanding-children-and-teens-is-entitlement-just-a-stage/ As much as possible, try
      not to personalize your daughter’s behavior. At 13, she lacks the skills for
      dealing with challenges she may be facing. Hold on to the fact that you know
      she loves you and know that this behavior won’t last forever. We appreciate you
      writing in and sharing your story. Be sure to check back if you have any
      further questions. Take care.

      Reply
  6. strong kids (Edit) Report

    Hi jùst interested in some view points in a difficult situation. Short backģround-i have a son -9yrs. Father is extrodinarily emotionally abusive causing anxiety & despite attempts to stop abuse (also through court order) the problem continues. My motherly instinct says “cease w/end access” (possibly put in place supervised visits). I dont know how to make this better for my son other than emotionally coach him through this struggle that will last a lifetime. Any suggestions most gratefully appreciated.

    Reply
    • Empowering Parents Coach drowden Report

      strong kids
      This sounds like a very difficult set of circumstances. I am
      sorry you are having to deal with this type of behavior from your son’s father.
      It may be helpful to speak with legal counsel for information on how to limit
      your son’s exposure to his father’s abusive behavior. The 211 Helpline would be
      able to give you information on services in your area. You can reach the
      Helpline 24 hours a day by calling 1-800-273-6222 or by visiting them online at
      http://www.211.org/. You might also find it helpful to
      contact https://www.childhelp.org/ at
      1-800-422-4453. One of their professional crisis counselors may be able to
      offer you guidance on effective ways of managing this distressing situation for
      yourself and your son. We appreciate you writing in and wish you and your son
      the best of luck as you work through this tough issue. Take care.

      Reply

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