Why It’s Good For Your Child To Hurt

by Dorathy Gass
ClarkandCompany / Getty

Not being invited to “that” birthday party, having a friend reject them, being picked last for a group project, or not making the sports team they tried out for; no parent likes to see their child hurt or disappointed. In fact, dare I say, most of us would rather take a gut punch than see our kiddos sad.

Still, pain and tears are a part of life, and while I personally hate it when either of my daughters are going through “unfair” life situations, as the old saying goes, “what doesn’t kill them, will only make them stronger.”

Because, let’s face it: life is not fair. And sheltering children from an “unfair” world is not the solution.

As parents, our natural reaction is to protect our kids from disappointment or hurt. Sometimes we try and compensate their anger/hurt/disappointment. I’ve been guilty of that as well. If we could place our kiddos in a bubble and protect their feelings from being hurt as they grow up, I know most parents out there would opt for that idea in a milli-second. I would ponder the thought myself. Still, while one of my kids was going through a hard “unfair” situation last year, an incredible mom friend relayed this thought during a conversation we had, as I sought advice around what I should do to help my girl.

Her response?

It’s good for our kids to hurt now and again.

Wait … what? When was the part of the discussion where she’d give me suggestions to help my kid through this, things I could do to make it better?

It never came.

And then I let her words truly sink in.

I couldn’t really do anything for my kid to “make it all better” and let the hurt vanish. This mom had relayed some unfair situations she had growing up, which got me thinking: had I not had unfair circumstances as a kid? Had the hurt and disappointment of it all shaped me into the person I am today, an adult that can handle any dark cloud thrown my way? The answer is an astounding “yes.”

Hurting is a part of life for children and adults alike; it helps built character, compassion, empathy, and offers a true sense of joy during the good times. Disappointment in general sets children up for how to get over hurdles or obstacles in adult life and keep going. And while it may be hard for parents to see their kids hurt, the truth is, any disappointing situation is a solid life lesson.

If not making a school club or team is the issue, it may help your child stay focused on goals and what they need to do to get there. Feeling sad allows them to dive into layered emotion and understand that, while life is amazing, it won’t always be perfect. And the bad times, along with the good, will transform and evolve your child’s character. All too often, we overcompensate for our children’s disappointments and hurt in life, and I hear parents bark on social media about how the kiddos of this generation are far too entitled.

Yes, they are entitled because of the material things they get, sometimes the inability for some parents to say “no,” and the fact that some parents hold kids with zero accountability for their actions; but children of this generation also get a sense of entitlement when they aren’t fully allowed to “feel” disappointment. I’ve been guilty of trying to compensate hurt feelings as well, when my kids were younger, but as they have grown older, I’ve come to realize overcompensating doesn’t allow kids to truly feel negative emotions.

If your kids don’t know what disappointment, hurt, sadness, and sometimes feeling left out is all about, they won’t be able to understand another child’s point of view when they are hurt and sad. The end result? Kids can become one-dimensional; happy is where they want to “always” be, and life is “no fair” if they aren’t always happy.

But, the sad reality is, life isn’t fair in the real world. And our kids need to learn this.

Because, in the “real” world, your kids won’t always get invited to the party. In the real world, they won’t make the team unless they truly are the “best of the best.” In the real world, they might not have the means to take the trip they want to take, or buy their dream house out of college. In the real world, they may lose friends at times, and it may seem “unfair” … still, the true challenge is not focusing on the negative, but helping them to navigate through those emotions, to understand what they have learned from the situation in order to eventually dust themselves off, and move on. It’s okay to feel sad, but it’s vital to trudge on and get over it.

Now, I’m not suggesting parents not sympathize, support, listen, and offer lots of love (and hugs) during the hurt and disappointing times. Listen and examine your kiddo’s feelings, offer advice if solicited; let them know you are there for them. However, you are not doing your child any favors by working overtime to try and make sure they are always included in something or to overcompensate pain, disappointment, and hurt in their lives – or make excuses for them. You are only creating a delusional world that they will (at some point) come to realize is false when they hit adulthood. And how will they cope then?

Hurt, disappointment, sadness are all healthy emotions that all kids should feel. And while it’s a heartbreaking experience for us parents to sit back and watch, it’s good for your kids to feel this way once in a while. Life, as they grow up, won’t always be sunshine and rainbows with other people compensating for their sadness and disappointment. Children need balance to fully experience all the ups and downs that encompass this wild thing we all call life.