I heard sniffling and coughing from the back seat. When I looked in the rearview mirror I saw my daughter’s bottom lip quivering and her face become droopy.
“What’s wrong, baby?” I asked.
“I don’t feel good and I don’t want to go to school.”
My heart sank. I knew she’d been battling her sinuses for the last few days, but she didn’t have a fever or any other symptoms that would keep her from going to school.
I spent the majority of my school years feeling sick and not wanting to go to school, and always thought that the discomfort I felt in those moments was the worst feeling in the world. But, as I watched my daughter wipe away tears as we pulled into the drop-off line at school, I knew it was just as difficult to be the parent who has to send their kid to school feeling bad.
“I’m sorry, honey, but you can’t miss school. Trust me. It will feel so much worse tomorrow when you have missed out on a day of learning and time with friends.” Although she didn’t quite believe me, she wiped her tear-soaked hands on her pants and nodded her head. I wanted so badly in that moment to just drive past the minivan in front of me and avoid drop-off altogether. I wanted to let her avoid her discomfort and spend the day snuggled up on the couch watching her favorite cartoons. But, I knew that keeping her from dealing with these uncomfortable, difficult moments would not be doing her any favors.
As parents we never want our children to hurt. We want to save them from every bad situation and possible heartbreak. And with today’s helicopter parenting styles running amuck, it’s easy to fall into that trap. But when our kids go through hardships, it actually makes them stronger, not traumatized.
Studies have shown that children who experience discomfort—whether it’s frustration, sadness, anger, or any other seemingly negative emotion— are learning coping skills that will benefit them later in life. It’s okay to feel empathy for them and to guide them through the experience. Letting them figure out these situations by themselves will only help them become well-rounded, emotionally healthy adults.
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Jessa is the Editor-in-Chief of Hooray for Family and the mom of three energetic children. She has a BA in Mass Communication/Journalism from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, and is a long-time resident of Central Texas. When she isn't writing and editing, she enjoys playing board games with her kids, teaching Sunday school and channeling her creativity into craft projects.