When your child is hurting
Babies cry, toddlers cry, big kids, teenagers and adults cry... it is an inevitable part of being human. We hurt. Whether that be because we trip and graze our knee, because our big sister takes our toy, because our first love kisses another or a parent loses their battle with cancer. Life can be painful and unfair.
As a parent, seeing my child hurting is tough. I sometimes wish I had a magic wand to take away the hurt and dry up the tears. It is often hard to know how to help.
When I was a kid my Mum would respond to a playground injury with a gentle rub, a twinkle in her eye and the phrase, "We'll have to rub you out and start you again". Dad would quip, "You'll be better before you're married" (which seems particularly inappropriate given the political debate in our country at the moment which sees the perpetuation of an archaic view of marriage that excludes some from this very choice). A quick survey of friends uncovered other parental choices like "Worse things happen at sea", "Suck it up Princess!" and "Why did you have to trip on THAT?."
Of course, there's no magic 'one size fits all' solution to responding to your child's pain but here are a few ideas to add to your treatment kit...
A ritualised rhyme
There is something comforting about a ritual. The warm hug of familiar words that acknowledge a little hurt and remind that bodies heal, can be just the thing to turn a frown upside down.
Magic ointment jar
When my kids were little I had a 'magic ointment' jar that was spoken about in hushed tones. It came out when the tears flowed after a particularly big bump. If the usual cuddle and rub on the sore spot didn't work I would suggest that this was a case for my 'magic ointment'. Really it was just a pretty jar filled with paw paw ointment but the wonder at the appearance of this special, sparkly object combined with the gentle massage often seemed to work wonders.
That must really hurt
Of course, sometimes the hurt isn't physical. As your child grows, so do opportunities for them to be hurt by others... perhaps they are excluded from a game at kinder, perhaps they feel unfairly treated by a teacher, maybe they came last in their race on Sports Day.
This is when I feel particularly helpless as a parent. There's no dirt to brush off, no blood to wipe away and no sprained ankle to ice.
My desire is to tell my little one that everything will be OK, it doesn't matter what the other kids or teacher thinks, that I love them and will protect them. But actually it DOES matter what those kids think, and the teacher WAS unfair and coming last IS humiliating.
So now I try to acknowledge their hurt. I tell them that I can see that they are hurting and let them be sad. After all, this is what I hope for as an adult when I am hurt... someone to hear me and understand me when things are tough. A shoulder to cry on.
And if you can be that shoulder for your little person then hopefully they will grow into a big kid and later a teenager and even later still an adult who will continue to open up to you, safe in the knowledge that you won't judge them or preach to them, but will rather accept them and their pain with love and understanding.