Your little one tells you that he hates his friend and won't play with him anymore.
"Of course you want to play with him/her again," you say, trying to soothe your child. "And don't say you hate him; he's your best friend. You shouldn't feel that way."
Whether your child should or shouldn't feel that way is not the issue. He does feel that way. And, when you try to talk him out of his feelings, you do three things, each destructive:
* You send a message that his feeling is wrong (feelings are neither right nor wrong, rather they are a gut response to a person or situation). If your child believes his feelings are wrong, he'll learn to distrust them.
* You send a message of shame. If he feels ashamed of his feelings, he'll learn to deny them and so be out of touch with that valuable part of himself.
* You, by sending those messages, will lose the opportunity to have your child grow up sharing his thoughts and feelings with you.
So, what do you do?
Enabling him to talk about his feelings, rather than wiping them out, is the best way to make him feel better. You might say, "You sound really angry. What happened?" Or, "Sounds like your feelings are hurt. What did your friend do?"
By having a listening ear and an acceptance of his feelings (without your trying to fix things) you will help your child get through a painful time and, in doing so, help build a bond of trust between you.
Barbara Turk is a psychotherapist in private practice.