No, our kids are not ok
We need to delete this phrase from our parenting vocabulary.
Picture this: A young child, contentedly playing at a park. He falls over. He cries. He runs to his parent. And his parent utters the words “you’re ok”.
I get why we do this.
We, with our mature brains and capacity for insight, know that he is physically ok – and our instinct is to provide reassurance.
The problem is: In the moment, our child is very much not ok.
It might be the shock of the unexpected event that causes the tears, or perhaps the final straw after a long day, filled with life’s stressors, frustrations, and discomforts.
The tears are often not caused by physical pain.
But still, the tears are real. The discomfort is real.
And when we say “you’re ok”, we’re telling our kids the opposite.
This phrase shuts down empathy at a time when our kids need it the most.
This phrase implies that our kids can’t trust their own feelings and intuition.
When we repeatedly discount or negate someone’s feelings, we cause them to lose trust in themselves (the psychological manipulation tactic known as gaslighting).
Intuition can sometimes be the difference between harm and safety – and it should be nurtured, not suppressed.
In our desire to soothe and placate our kids, are we unwittingly causing them harm?
Perhaps it’s time to remember that our role, as parents and caregivers, is to support our kids as they traverse their uncomfortable feelings – their annoyances, frustrations, and worries.
We are not here to remove their distress altogether – rather, we are here to provide guidance, so that they can develop healthy coping skills (resilience and emotional intelligence).
Rather than telling our kids they’re ok, perhaps it’s time we started asking them “Are you ok?”, instead.