When Sadness Affects Kids’ Self Worth

Kids who are wired to experience strong reactions to life, to feel things deeply, and to think about life deeply seem to experience sadness more intensely and more frequently than other children. These same kids are often creative, bright, and socially and emotionally sensitive.

Raise your hand if you were one of these kids or if you’re teaching, counseling, or raising one of these kids. 🙋🏻‍♀️ I was and I am.

As a child, when I experienced something sad, my go-to response was to internalize the problem and overthink things. Some kids externalize and make things someone else’s fault and others internalize looking within themselves for the reason why something happened to them.

And what’s a natural conclusion for a deep thinking child who internalizes to come to when they try to make sense of their world and can’t figure out why “bad” things are happening?

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Guiding Kids to Ask for Help

Your son is building a robot out of legos when you hear a yell of frustration and a crash. You ask him what happened and he says, “It kept breaking. I can’t do it.” And you offer to help him, thinking or saying, “Why didn’t you ask for help?”

Your students are working on their classwork. As you look around you notice that Emma is fidgeting with her pencil, trying to look busy, but isn’t writing a thing. You go over to her desk, crouch down next to her, and ask if she needs any help. “Yes. I don’t know what to do.” she mumbles. And you help her, thinking or saying, “Why didn’t you ask for help?’

The child you work with is sharing one of the stories above and you ask them… (well, no big surprise here, you can probably guess where we’re headed) you ask them, “Why didn’t you ask for help?”

And their answers may vary…

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The Hidden Danger of Teaching Coping Skills to Kids

She came into my office, a brave 9 year old, and with a quiet defeated voice shared with me that even though she used her coping skills, sometimes she still worried about bad guys.

My answer to her:


I still worry about bad guys sometimes too especially if I hear a strange noise at night. It’s normal.

You’re human and I’m human. Having all our emotions including fear and worry is part of being a person. It’s okay to still worry about bad guys.

The goal isn’t for you to never worry again. I know you might want that since worry can feel very uncomfortable and sometimes even painful.

But the real goal is for you to know what to do when you feel worried so it doesn’t stop you from doing fun things, things you want to do, like going to sleepovers, or feeling safe on field trips, or sleeping in your own bed.

Does that make sense?

Relief spread across her face as she nodded and smiled.


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