“As parents, what we want to say is, ‘That’s not true!’ because it’s painful for us to think that people hate our child — and it’s painful that our child thinks someone hates them,” says parent coach and psychologist Erica Reischer. “So we want to fix it — it’s a very strong impulse. But we have to hold ourselves back because if we do that, we inadvertently send the message that those feelings are bad, that maybe they can’t handle those feelings, and most importantly, it doesn’t give them the opportunity to develop coping skills. So what do you do?

“Starting with empathy is the most important thing. You say something like, ‘Oh sweetie, I know you feel like everyone hates you. Gosh, that’s really painful.’ Then you go from validation to curiosity. I call this the Colombo approach, where you say, ‘Well, why? Why do you think that?’ Ask a lot of questions to lead them through the thought process, so that they can own their own feeling of, ‘Oh, you know what? I don’t think that is really true. They weren’t really running away from me. There was another game and they didn’t see me.’ If they come to that conclusion on their own, they’re much more likely to believe it. Also it helps them understand how to go through that process on their own.”

Here’s how 4 other parenting experts say to respond…


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Sh*tty Moms
“Aww, suck it up,” says Alicia Ybarbo. “It’s your fault,” says Mary Ann Zoellner. The co-authors of Sh*tty Mom agree that with this complaint, tough love is in order. Format: Video (1:28)

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Christine Carter
Parenting expert and Raising Happiness author Christine Carter says parents shouldn’t rush in to reassure their child. Format: Video (1:56)

Betsy Brown Braun
The author of parenting books Just Tell Me What to Say and You’re Not the Boss of Me says to listen and help your child step up his social interactions. Format: Article

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Madeline Levine
“Don’t jump in too fast!” warns Madeline Levine, author of Teach Your Children Well. Instead, take this approach so your child learns to navigate friendships. Format: Video (1:33)