We all have some version of this memory: We didn’t feel well. We fell awkwardly on our wrist. We hit our head. We told our parents, but they didn’t believe us…they told us we’d be fine. They told us we’d feel better soon. Then a few days later it turned out that we had scarlet fever or shingles. Our wrist was broken. We’d sustained a concussion.
Of course, we don’t remember the times we whined or complained or were scared and it turned out to be nothing. But we remember the moments we didn’t feel listened to. Because we were doubted. Because our pain was denied.
We swore we’d do it differently with our kids…and now here we are debating, is this really worth a trip to the emergency room? Now we’re telling them that they’re fine, not because we don’t think they’re hurt, but because we don’t want them to be hurt. It’s not intended as a denial, it’s wishful thinking. It’s an attempt at comfort. It’s remembering that they told you they didn’t feel well last week, and it was fine a few hours later.
But it is a denial. We know it from experience. We were on the other side of this exchange when we were their age…and it still stings! We talked recently about “taking children seriously.”
Well one place to do that is when they tell you they’re hurt. We have to take their pain seriously. Physical and emotional. If they’re sad, don’t brush it off–really hear them (it could be depression). Consider that the arm could be broken, that the cough could be more than a cold. Because it could be. And if it isn’t? Well, at least you took them seriously…as seriously as you wish someone had taken you.