Ankit has been sulking all day. His caregivers look at him and keep asking him what happened. Ankit starts crying and shoves his head into a pillow.
What’s happening to Ankit?
Sulking, crying, broodiness are all ways to express sadness. What Ankit needs right now is a space to feel his sadness and then find healthy ways to cope with it.
What else can sadness look like?
Sadness looks more than tears. It can also look like irritability, isolation, or anger.
If the child is sleeping or a lot or suddenly isolating themselves, it can be a symptom of sadness.
It’s important to do feelings check-in from time to time to understand how the child is doing mentally.
How can help children cope with sadness?
Validate their feelings- Listen to them carefully. Nod your head from time to time and respond by saying “That must be so hard for you.” Even if the reason for sadness sounds too small for you, remember it is real for the child. Be a patient listener first and then ask if they need your advice.
Provide comfort- Provide comfort by hugging them/rubbing them hand and saying “I am here for you.” Let them vent and cry. Don’t keep asking them the reason if they don’t want to talk about it right now. Sometimes sitting silently and grieving provides great comfort to the heart.
Help them express- Expression can be verbal or nonverbal. Both are equally important to cope with sadness. Encourage them to journal their thoughts and voice what they are feeling too.
Integrate emotion and logic- When we feel sad, the emotional part of the brain is in control over the logical part. The first step is to word the emotion by saying, “ I see you are feeling sad/hurt/abandoned.” Use a scale by asking them on a scale of 1 to 10 how sad do you feel right now?” “If they say 3, ask them what can help you move from a 3 to a 5? “. This helps in integrating the emotional and the logical part of the brain.
Moving forward- Try this after the sadness has subsided and the child is in a space to move forward: Make a list of things that make them feel happy. Each time the sadness starts to overpower them. Express the sadness and then channelize it using the things listed in your happy list.
Be a consistent safe space- Being a safe space means respecting their experience and feelings. Even if the reason for sadness angers you as a caregiver, don’t lash out on them later when they have cooled down. Acknowledge their feelings in the present and for the future as well.
Seek professional help- If the sadness continues to persist for days, it might be a symptom of depression. Please don’t hesitate to take the child to a therapist in that case.
Remember, sadness is a feeling all age groups experience. It’s hard to see our little ones upset, but don’t try to fix or rescue them immediately. Simply be there for them and have faith in them to work it out on their own.
Here is a quick refrigerator sheet for you:
1. Don’t dismiss and deny. Remember to listen first.
2. Label the feeling. Express. Then channelize.
3. Use an emotional ruler: Scale of 1 to 10.