Advice from Brené Brown on empathizing with your kids when they're heartbroken

Advice from Brené Brown on empathizing with your kids when they're heartbroken

Last week, I got to see Brené Brown speak, and the research professor, author, speaker, wife and mom of two was every bit as amazing as I had hoped she would be.

She spoke about a variety of topics related to her new book Rising Strong, which addresses how to not only get up but rise strong after falling, which we all inevitably do, time and time again. She also took questions from the audience and the very last question was from a mother seeking advice from Brené Brown on empathizing with your child.

Brené (I call her that because I like to pretend we are on a first name basis) mentioned earlier in her talk that boundaries are important when empathizing and the mother wanted to know more about how those boundaries work when you are a parent with a heartbroken child and you just want to cry with them.

The question was specifically about a teen going through a romantic break-up, and Brené referenced her own 16-year-old, who recently sustained her first broken heart. The advice she shared, though, applied to all parents dealing with kids of any age who are endure disappointments and failures.

"Our go to as parents is to make everything better. We want to flip on the lights," Brené said. "But our job is to teach our kids that it is okay to be sad and to sit in the dark with them."

She also stressed that it is important to be clear where you as the parent end and where your child begins. Even though your empathy means that you are feeling every bit of the strong emotions that your child is feeling, you need to stay in your role as a parent.

Brené explained that, despite how your heart aches for your baby who is in pain, you should still see this situation as an opportunity. It's a chance to teach your child that they can be sad and they can be okay and they can move through it.

The best part may have come when she said that, after she sat in the dark with her daughter, you better believe that yes, she called her friend to rail "about the douchebag who broke her daughter's heart."

Those in attendance roared with laughter at that comment.

What Brené Brown said reminded me a lot of the movie Inside Out and its message that sadness is not only inevitable, it is also not always bad. It's hard, especially as parents because of course we just want to see our children happy. But allowing space for sadness and teaching them that they can experience sadness and emerge stronger or wiser or on a better path is so important.

I don't know about you, but I'm a big light flipper. If I can't turn on all the lights, I'd at least like a dimmer switch. I don't think I'm alone, though, because of course we want to make things right for our babies. But that doesn't mean that we should.

That's one of the hard parts of them growing up - our ability to make things right and flip on the lights diminishes, if not disappears completely. Taking off the electric company hat before that time, though, does our children a world of good when it comes to resilience and confidence.

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