How to help our children in a hurting world

Seeing the pain in our world can be difficult to process, for both children and adults. The unloving, even violent acts of our people can be hard to fathom. It seems as though each day another tragedy catches our attention and weighs heavy on our hearts. How, as a parent, do we explain suffering to our children when we ourselves can’t find full understanding?

When an experience requires gentle receiving and soft guidance, consider these practices to share with your child.

First, remember: It’s okay not to have all the answers.

It is beneficial to leave space for discovery and know that not everything makes perfect sense, and maybe that is for a reason bigger than our momentary comprehension. Full explanations are not necessary for acceptance.


Offer our children and ourselves the space and permission to feel emotions.

Perhaps say to your child, “I see that you are sad, would you like a hug?” This can provide clearance to feel and comfort to be. Followed by the question, “How can we put our sad away and take out our happy?” can guide a child to discover methods to feel and deal with emotions.

In every trying moment we are offered the choice to change something or change our perspective. Feel it and heal it.

Carefully choose words and express a tone that is appropriate for the developing mind of a child.

We can provide both protection and preparation as we shield yet equip our children to receive and respond to occurrences in healthy ways. We may disapprove of behaviors, and even feel angry toward events, but choose to see other people as imperfect human beings, just like us.

We can forgive, not because we think an action is tolerable but with intention to release the hold of hurt that can block our happiness.

Bring your awareness to the good unfolding in the present.

Pain has a way of stealing our attention because it touches us so deeply. The bad may not disappear, but you will consciously not energize or be energized by negativity, but instead moved by what is virtuous. Where our attention goes our energy will flow.

Believe that even small acts of love can make big impacts.

We can start in our homes by being kind to ourselves, and share that kindness with our families. Then reach to our community being purposeful about creating acts of kindness as we live our day. And, we can trust the ripple effect, that our wave of kindness will be far reaching and infinite.

A warm suggestion to soften the sting of pain while remaining aware is to ask your child (and yourself) to look for the light. Where there is darkness there is always light.

See the light of the helpers, the people hidden in the shadows of the dark that are doing good, and being good. See the light and be the light. Know that without darkness the light doesn’t shine as bright.

And believe that the light will always outshine the darkness.

When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.


The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.

As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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As a mom of three, I frequently get a question from moms and dads of two children: “Ok, so the jump to bad is it?"

Personally, I found the transition to having even one kid to be the most jarring. Who is this little person who cries nonstop (mine had colic) and has no regard for when I feel like sitting/eating/resting/sleeping?

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