How do you cope with the crushing heartbreak of your child’s sadness?
I have been thinking a lot lately about how sensitive I am when it comes to the happiness of my children. I can’t seem to be objective at all. It’s as if I am an extension of them and if they are sad or hurting in any way, then so am I. Maybe all parents experience this – maybe not. Part of me feels like I should step back and distance myself a bit, but at the same time if I do that will my child feel alienated – or get the sense that I don’t really care? I am over-thinking this, right?

Watching my kids grow up, I am transported back to their age – I remember what if felt like to meet new friends. I remember the excitement of hanging out with friends at school and I remember the isolation I felt if, even for one day, my best friend was hanging out with someone else. Everything was intense. Well, maybe I was just extra sensitive. Ok, I was very sensitive and very quiet about my feelings, which may be why I’m an artist and art therapist today. I could use my art as a way of expression when I didn’t know how else to cope with all the mixed emotions. But, not everyone has an outlet for their emotions. Kids may not even know what emotions they’re feeling – even adults don’t always know. It takes effort and awareness to step back and look at our experience from a different perspective – it can be very difficult to make sense of highly emotional situations when we are experiencing them.

I know we all experience ups and downs and as parents we need to let our children experience life and learn from it. But I feel completely responsible for their happiness and at the same time completely incapable of ensuring it. As a therapist, I can objectively listen to a client and offer feedback. However, as a parent I am too intimately attached to my children’s happiness to be able to look at it objectively. We cannot control all aspects of our childrens lives, but we can support them along the way. I think this where the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child” originated. When our child needs help, we call on our village for support – teachers, the principal, school counselor, family, and friends. We do what we can to get the necessary support for our child. Then we keep that support going.

As parents we are always taking care of our family and the one thing we often neglect is ourselves. We put our children first but usually don’t think about how important it is for us to take care of ourselves. When we are at our best we are better able to take care of those around us. Take a few minutes in the morning to check in with yourself. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Take care of yourself and surround yourself with support. If you need professional help, seek it out. Getting support doesn’t show weakness, but just the opposite. It takes great strength to ask for help especially in a society that prides itself on self sufficiency. Know that you are doing your best with what you have, and don’t give up.

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” – Buddha
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