If you’re a parent like me, we tend to get caught up in our children’s problems–whether it’s a failing grade on a test or hearing that someone talked behind their back. When my kids are unhappy, I’m unhappy and I want to: 1. Find out as much information as I can and 2. Go to war or solve their problem. I’d start off by asking my child a whole bunch of questions so I could sort out what was going on for myself. Then I’d often call someone to vent, like a close friend or family member, to get their opinion and ask for advice. What was the point of all this talk? Was I really helping my child–or not?
In a Wall Street Journal article called “Don’t Overdiscuss Your Teen’s Problems” by Jennifer Breheny Wallace, she says “Well-meaning parents can sometimes dwell too long on a child’s difficulties with friends and school, doing more harm than good.”
You can read a few excerpts here:
When the mean girls (or boys) strike at school, many parents naturally want to ask about every last detail—and then they continue to check in to see how the situation is going. A growing body of research suggests, however, that dwelling on such problems can do a child more harm than good.
Talking through a child’s troubles is healthy in moderation. But when children routinely engage in what psychologists call “co-rumination”—excessively rehashing and speculating about problems with a parent or a friend—it can amplify stress, impair judgment and increase the risk of developing anxiety and depression.
Co-rumination involves continuously repeating details or feelings about a situation, or discussing it again even when no new information is being introduced, says Amanda Rose, a psychology professor at the University of Missouri, who developed the concept in a 2002 journal article. “Parents who co-ruminate with their children are on the right path in building warmth and closeness in their relationships,” she says. “They just need to learn to stop some conversations sooner.”
Now that I’m no longer on the daily parenting track and am an empty nester, I can look back and realize that I was a co-ruminator and probably should have stopped conversations much sooner. My daughter said I liked to rehash the rehash. I had an overzealous opinion of what was right or wrong and I never could leave a wrong untouched. If I believed a teacher or so-called “friend” hurt my kids, I became the mama grizzly. In reality, kids do behave badly and can say mean things to each other. It doesn’t make it okay, but replaying it with your child is definitely not going to make them feel better.
I am learning to listen and not say too much. The problems my kids encounter today, I do want them to share with me, but I’m not here to solve anything. I can’t wave a magic wand and make it better. They are on their way to becoming independent adults and can figure out what they need to do. When my son calls up and says, “I need your advice on something,” I mostly listen. He wants someone to discuss an issue with and usually comes up with his own solution. He’s asking for a sounding board, not a problem solver.
What is your opinion about discussing problems with your kids? How do you approach a situation where they’ve been hurt and are unhappy?