Teaching children that heartbreak is a real part of the human experience creates a more empathetic and emotionally understanding being. When children can learn early that life involves victory and defeat they begin to see that life is a puzzle much larger than their personal experience.
I always encourage my children to think about HOW their actions affect everyone else. Thinking back with genuine reflection is a great meditative exercise. Asking your young child the right questions will lead to the deeper understanding of how others feel.
Here's an example:
I've made breakfast in the morning and usually eat after the kids have finished. Often my 4 year old wants seconds or wants a serving of something else completely different than what was prepared. Instead of expressing my frustration this is our conversation...
Me: "Have you had a full serving?"
Me: "Who has eaten all of their food?"
Her: "We have"
Me: "Who has yet to eat?"
Me: "Does mommy get hungry when she needs food?"
Her: "Yes. I can wait until you eat. Then can you make x, y, z for me?"
Me: "Of course! Thank you for being so considerate." (Insert hug)
Your child's emotional IQ and level of empathy can be cultivated with patience. Waiting for something allows them to really think about WHY they need it, DO they need it, DO they need it right now, WILL it still be here in a couple minutes.
When children do not get their way immediately these are questions that should be asked and answered.
Moderate heartbreak is a part of every day life. A child may want the red toy but there is only green available. Divert the meltdown by having an honest and brief dialogue about the situation. If a red toy is most important then explain that waiting for the red colored toy must happen; and it is not in the control of the parents, kids or even the retailer. If an actual toy is more important then talk about it. What is available is what is available.
Parents hate to see their children upset or disappointed, but sooner or later their joys and their destiny will not be within our realm of control. It is really important for parents to reflect on their own personal frustrations with their childhood.
- Did you receive all of the emotional love and affection you thought you needed?
- Did you receive all of the material love and affection you thought you needed?
- Did you thrive in your environment? If your environment was toxic, what was wrong with it?
Looking back on your life as unobjectively as possible will allow you the opportunity to parent your child fairly. You should not use your parenting moment as an opportunity to overindulge in the missing elements of your own childhood. Allow your child a clean slate.
Empathy comes from understanding the emotional responses of others. Disappointment and heartbreak are satiated through patience; reflection; as well as knowing and understanding that disappointment is inevitable and moderately regular.