While most of our daily conversations with our child are going to be casual, there comes a time now and again when we will need to show them a little empathy. Your instinct will clearly tell you when this time is, a time when your child is wanting to let you know how they feel. But while its easy to reflect our child’s feelings when they are positive (“You got a goal at soccer today, that's great!!!!) It's the negative feelings that are much harder for us to respond to.
At kindergarten and preschool, teachers encourage children to “Use their words” but teachers as well as parents need to understand that it may not always be the case that children are able to express themselves clearly. In fact many children are fearful of being misunderstood by adults.
If a child is distressed there can be times when its best not to ask the child “why?” Asking a distressed child this question only adds another layer of complexity to the child’s thinking process. In many cases the child can not analyze the situation and simply does not have the ability to answer. It is therefore better not to have the child try to figure their way through the circumstances.
The best response from an adult at this point is to show empathy by reflecting the child’s feelings. “Hugo, I can see that you feel sad…” The adults acceptance opens the way, creates a space so to speak, for the child to express their feelings in the best way they know how. It is at this point that the situation my be resolved.