My loved one is going through a tough time. I want to be there for him/her/them, but I have no idea how to provide the support they need. What do I say? What do I do?
How many of you can relate to this? The truth is that most of us are afraid of witnessing our loved one’s vulnerability, because we were not taught the right things to say. We are often afraid of hurting them or not offering enough support. In the following article, I will discuss emotional support and ways to show up for your loved ones.
What is Emotional Support?
First, emotional support is when we offer compassion and encouragement. We may accomplish this through verbal and nonverbal gestures. Appropriate physical touch and eye contact can go a long way. Words of understanding and validation can offer more support that we realize. Let’s break this down further.
The following information comes directly from the “You Are Not Alone Workbook” written by Francesca Reicherter, Founder and President of Inspiring My Generation Corporation. The workbook is available for sale on www.inspiringmygeneration.org.
First, check in with yourself.
It is important to check in with yourself first. If you are not feeling well, it can be hard to be there for your loved ones in the way they deserve. Support starts with us. It is not being selfish to take care of yourself first. You cannot pour tea from an empty tea pot, just like you cannot give support if you do not feel supported.
Ask non-judgmental, open-ended questions with support.
Ask non-judgmental, open-ended questions with support. It is also important to create a safe place for ourselves and our loved ones to share their feelings. When we create a safe space, we do not judge or make fun of others for their feelings or experiences.
Examples of Questions:
- How are you feeling today?
- What has been on your mind lately?
A good conversation also includes supportive statements with the questions. Supportive statements let the other person know that you are there for them. This can help them feel more comfortable to share their feelings.
Examples of Supportive Statements:
- I care about you, and I am here for you.
- When I went through a hard time, talking to someone helped me. If you want to talk, I am here for you.
- If you want, I can help you find an adult to talk to. (recommendations: parents, teachers, counselors)
When someone is opening up to you about their feelings, it is important to listen. It can be scary to talk about feelings, so it is important to show the other person that we care.
Examples of how to show you are actively listening:
- Body Language: Nod your head. Use facial expressions. Look at the person speaking to you.
- Do Not Interrupt: Allow the person speaking to finish talking before you speak.
- Show You Understand: Respond by repeating what the person shared to show you are listening and hearing what they say.
Examples of Understanding Statements:
- I am hearing that you feel . . .
- It sounds like you are feeling . . .
- If I understand right . . .
Validate their feelings.
Sharing one’s feelings can be scary. Sometimes, we feel like we are the only one feeling this way. When you validate someone’s feelings, you let them know that what they are feeling is okay and that they are not alone. Validating someone’s feelings can make a big difference in how comfortable they feel. When we feel sad, we can also validate our own feelings, because our feelings are important too!
Examples of Validating Feelings
- It is normal to feel . . .
- It makes sense to feel . . .
- With all that you are going through, no wonder you feel . . .
- That is a lot for one person to handle, you are not alone.
- Going through . . . can be very hard. I am here for you.
Being there for your loved ones during the conversation is important but checking on them after is just as important. Sometimes, we feel embarrassed after we share our feelings or like we bothered the other person. It is normal to feel that way, but our loved ones will not judge us or make us feel bad for sharing. By following up with your loved ones, you can let them know that they can count on you for support again.
Examples of Following Up
- I have been thinking about our conversation the other day. I wanted to check in and see how you are doing.
- I have been thinking about you a lot. If you want to talk again, I am here for you.
- It has been a few days since . . . happened. How are you feeling? I am here if you want to talk about it.
- I just wanted to let you know I am happy we talked the other day and that I could be there for you. I am here if you want to talk again.
Purchase the You Are Not Alone Workbook https://inspiringmygeneration.org/product/you-are-not-alone-the-workbook/
Purchase the You Are Not Alone Workbook: Kid’s Edition https://inspiringmygeneration.org/product/you-are-not-alone-the-workbook-kids-edition/