Speaking to the Hearts of Our Hurting Children


So how do we help and encourage our hurting children?

How do we respond to them in a manner that will ensure they feel loved and accepted, and ultimately lead them to healthy, safe, and hopeful living? How do we speak to their hurting hearts?

Build up our relationships.

In order to reach the hearts and minds of our kids, we need to build up our relationships. For when our relationships with our children are strong, we have a much better foundation for soothing emotions and encouraging healthy thinking and decision making. When we keep in view that our children are in pain, we respond to their behaviors, however unusual, dark, or confusing, with compassion and patience.
Empathy and communication are the arteries that carry our love to our children; and an essential part of communication is listening. We need to listen with our ears, our eyes, our whole hearts. Pay attention to more than their words. Observe body language, tones, behaviors. The best way to express this is: we “enter in.” We fully engage, leaning in, placing ourselves where they are, experiencing what they feel— our hearts hearing and beating with theirs.

Touch the heart of their emotions first.

It is true for all of us that during times of intense emotions, it’s hard to think clearly, make decisions, or be certain of what to do next. Our children with these diagnoses find emotions to be even more overwhelming than most of us can imagine. The very nature of these disorders entails emotion overload.

When our children are in emotional distress…

  • it doesn’t matter what we think about the trigger,
  • it doesn’t matter how we think a problem might be solved,
  • it doesn’t matter what our feelings are,
  • and there is no right or wrong about feelings.

What matters is our responses to our children; particularly how we interact with them during times of distress. So BEFORE we help them handle issues, problems, or consequences, we must appropriately respond with love and concern to their emotions. This is how they feel heard.

We begin to do this by listening and entering in. We tend to their feelings with great care. We create an environment of warmth and health and intimacy where love overflows, our children feel heard, and hope and healing take root.

Even if we are already parenting with compassion, we can always enhance our parenting abilities. No matter the age of our children, we can always enrich our relationships, refine our communication skills, and touch our children’s hearts. To this end, we highly recommend Between Parent and Child by Dr. Haim Ginott. His principles will benefit all families, yet dovetail perfectly with the guidance given to meet the needs of our children with emotional disorders. In addition, Overcoming Borderline Personality Disorder– A Family Guide for Healing and Change by Valerie Porr, M.A. sensitively and beautifully teaches the emotional language our children need. (These titles are listed in Vital Books and Resources.) To grow further as a parent, and to be better equipped to help our children, these books provide unsurpassable insight.