Commentary by Jim White
Your 15-year-old daughter arrives home from her second day of school freshman year with a sad look on her face. When you ask if everything is OK, she bursts into tears. After a few minutes of consoling, she regains her composure enough to tell you what happened at school.
Apparently, as she was walking through the halls between classes, she saw two other girls with the same top on that she was wearing. Your first thought is that she is being way too dramatic, but this is the moment where we have to be careful about passing judgement.
If you launch into a lecture about how she needs to be more confident in herself or worse, if you smile and say, “Well, that is ridiculous,” she will stomp out of the room screaming “no one in this house understands how hard it is to be in high school.”
I invite you to have some compassion and see this circumstance from her perspective. She is a 15-year-old girl in a new environment. These emotions are very real for her. The opportunity to empower her and move her along her journey of personal growth will come later. For now, the goal is to communicate that she is safe, and she is loved.
A compassionate response can go a long way in a situation like this. Say something along the lines of “that sounds like it was awful for you” or “I can tell this is really upsetting.” Notice that while these responses are comforting, you are not approving or disapproving of her reaction. You are just being with her in the moment without judgement. Again, the opportunity for empowerment will come later, after the negative energy has completely dissipated.
Love is always the answer.
Carmel resident Jim White is a family enrichment coach and the founder of The Successful Family, which provides coaching and educational content designed for parents with teenagers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.