The other day, I got this text from my college freshman daughter:

“Please pray for me. I’m so overwhelmed right now.”

I told her that I would. And then I did.

A little while later, she texted again and asked if she could call me. When I heard her voice on the phone, I asked where she was.

“In my car, crying.”

Oh, baby. 

I answered by assuring her of my love and telling her it would be okay and encouraging her to just do the next thing she needed to do, the best that she could. 

And then I ordered her a jacket she’d been looking at online. Because, retail therapy. (Also, because she needed one.)

When kids are hurting, moms want to make it better. So we pray…and pray some more. We worry…and worry some more. But there are also things we say–things that aren’t new or groundbreaking but that are timeless classics for one reason: they work. 

If someone who calls you “mom” is having a bad day, here are some go-to phrases you might want to have in your maternal arsenal. Don’t let their simplicity fool you: in your words, mama, there is power to help and heal.

  1. I love you. The first thing, because it’s the most important thing.
  2. I’m praying for you. Great to say…even better to do.
  3. Take a deep breath. In with the new, out with the old.
  4. I’m already proud of you. How I feel about you does not depend on how this day turns out.
  5. This is not your whole story. Whatever is going on is not the sum total of your life right now or of your future.
  6. Do you want to talk about it? We can, but we don’t have to.
  7. I’m here for you. Sometimes, there is peace just in presence.
  8. It will be okay. And until it is, see #7.
  9. Just take the next step. It doesn’t matter if you know what the next ten steps are. You only need to decide what the next right thing is to do and then do it, the best that you can.
  10. I know you’ll be able to figure this out. I have confidence in your abilities, even if you’re doubting them right now.
  11. Is there anything I can do to help? I’m not trying to fix this for you. But I’m willing to do something if you can name it.
  12. Do you want a hug? Is that what would help most for starters?
  13. Can I give you a hug? Even if you don’t want one?
  14. Remember how you’ve gotten through tough times in the past. So far, you have a 100% success rate of surviving bad days.
  15. I really, really love you. In case you missed it the last time I told you.
  16. How about some ice cream? For obvious reasons.

After I said most of these things to my daughter on that particular bad day, she sent me one more text:

“As always, talking to you made me feel better.”

Which is pretty much the highest mom compliment I ever hope to get, on any kind of day.

Elizabeth Spencer

Elizabeth Spencer is mom to two daughters (one teen and one young adult) who regularly dispense love, affection, and brutally honest fashion advice. She writes about faith, food, and family (with some occasional funny thrown in) at Guilty Chocoholic Mama and avoids working on her 100-year-old farmhouse by spending time on Facebook and Twitter.