The 4-Word Phrase Every Parent Needs to Hear
Kaitlyn Collins

Group texts are kind of the worst. But when it comes to parenting, having a small and open-minded sounding board can be a lifesaver for issues ranging from potty training to mask reccos to playground etiquette.

My own group text chain (there are six of us) took a turn when COVID-19 hit. We were all in different places, going through different things, and we all updated each other constantly. When one of my friends experienced a double job loss and subsequent international move to find work, she’d turn to the text chain. When another friend was navigating a developmental challenge that required a lot of PT during the pandemic, we were there whenever she needed to vent.

That’s when I noticed this thoughtful (and validating) response from one of my fellow moms: This is so hard.

It was just four simple words, but the second she expressed them to my friend who was navigating a parenting low point, they felt spot-on—exactly the right thing to say to someone going through a difficult time.

My own response paled in comparison: I noticed my tendency to ask my friend follow up questions, to say “I’m so sorry!” (a misuse of the words, given I wasn’t responsible for what she was experiencing) or to insert my own experiences with a goal of providing helpful advice.

All good intentions, but there’s a reason saying “this is so hard” is a better choice. Not only does it communicate that you’re listening and validating the other person’s emotions, it shows you accept and appreciate their feelings—which can help them regulate and diffuse the intensity of their emotions.

In other words, it’s an empathetic statement, and it also takes the pressure off: No, they don’t have to explain anything further. Yes, this is so hard. You hear them and you’re here for them, loud and clear.

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