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Moms Talk: Healing a Child's Broken Heart

Last week we discussed how to deal with a child being exposed to pornography. This week, Moms Councilmember Marsha Hays asks, "How can I help my child mend a broken heart, whether from an absent parent, a break-up or just disappointment?"

When our children are little, it is often easy to fix the "boo-boo's" in their lives. A Band-Aid and a kiss can make almost any small hurt better. When they are sick, we give them medicine, chicken soup and popsicles to ease their discomfort. As they grow up, however, the "boo-boo's" get bigger and the remedies can be all but impossible to find.

Recently, we traveled to Tennessee to visit some of my ex-husband's family. One of the things my daughter wanted to do was to try to reach their step-grandfather who they call "Pa." (A quick background - the children's grandmother "MeMee" died from lung cancer in 1999 and we moved to St. Louis in 2000. We have not interacted with the majority of his family since we moved.) On our last day in Tennessee, we pulled into their Pa's driveway, but he was not home. My boys did not seem to care one way or another since most of what they remember of this man is from pictures and stories I have shared with them over the years. My daughter Caiti, however, remembers her Pa very well. She remembers the family barbecues in the summers, the Christmas holidays with MeMee and Pa, and all the attention and love lavished on her, as their first granddaughter.

We left for home, and I did not think much about it, until Caiti started crying quietly from the back seat. Her heart was broken. She had not allowed herself to miss them in a long time - until that day. She saw the saplings they planted together now great sprawling shade trees, and the flowerbeds she helped to plant as a little girl. It was just too much for her to bear.

When we got home and I discovered what was on her mind. I tried to console her but all I could do was hold her as she cried. She felt her Pa had rejected her. She felt the loss of her grandparents all over again. I tried explaining that he probably did not know we were in town and that she has to give him a chance. But I am not sure any of my words got through to her broken heart. I tried to reach their grandfather through Facebook and telephone. I would love to see these two reconnect after all these years. My biggest fear is that he will not want the reminder of the times before his wife died and will indeed refuse contact with my children.    

This leads me to this week's question. I know that broken hearts are a part of growing up, but when they happen, how do we as parents help our kids pick up the pieces and carry on with their lives?

Helena Hewlett April 20, 2011 at 02:25 AM
Marsha, this is such a tricky one b/c you're right - there really is no "textbook" answer for healing a broken heart. For ANY age, but particularly for our sweet little ones. If there is anything in the world that can make me cry or absolutely break MY heart, it is seeing my son sad. He is a tenderheart himself, and a very sensitive little guy. His little feelings often get hurt, and watching that is so hard. I know that as he gets older, it will only get harder. Sometimes I think that the only thing we can do is hold our little ones, just like you did for your sweetie. Sometimes a hug can do a LOT more than talking until we're blue in the face. Explaining things, especially to youngsters, doesn't always take away their pain, and when they don't understand it makes it even more challenging. When their little hearts are hurt or broken, just make sure they know that YOU love them no matter what. I think you did exactly what you could do, and even if you felt like you weren't helping, it was the best thing you could do. Keep hugging and loving on her!

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