Welcome back to another blog post of my blathering! I am so grateful to everyone who continues to read even when
I’m just rambling. I’ve been struggling to find a topic to write about, but as I have always said, GTW isn’t meant to be a chore, but something I enjoy. So here I am!
I’ve been sitting on this article for almost a year now, knowing I want to write about emotional well-being in children. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it, but I knew that I had to keep this for a metaphorical rainy day. So here we are. And don’t worry, I’ll share the link to the article at the end of this post.
For those who know me, I am an emotional person. Sad movies, other people crying, events in books—you name it, I’ve probably cried to it. Growing up, one may not have realized that I was an empath. To many, I was just quiet and withdrawn. I know some would even call me a spoiled brat. What they didn’t know was that I grappled with feeling like something was wrong with me for feeling constantly overwhelmed, left out, or like a bother. The most attention I was ever comfortable with was when doctors looked into my eyes to see if they were still broken. Now let that sit with you a moment.
While my family was loving, we didn’t talk about emotions. We never took the time to recognize that it was okay to be angry or sad. Happy was everyone’s main goal, and why shouldn’t it be? The fact of the matter is that being happy isn’t worth a single damn if you also don’t know how to feel your way through your other feelings. We grow up being told not to be angry or being asked in exasperated tones why someone is crying. At the end of the day, kids just feel like people are asking just so the adult can then tell you to stop, you’re overreacting, or to calm down.
I wished parents would stop doing that. We can’t allow for our kids to feel that any other emotion except happiness is not acceptable. Kids should be able to cry and experience these emotions without fears of being sighed at because, “Why can’t you just be happy?” Happiness isn’t the only emotion that exists, so why should we treat it as such?
It was with this mentality that I grew up fighting back my tears, suppressing my anger that became my form of lashing out. Ask around—I was a bratty kid for having a razor-sharp comeback. But ai also cried so, so easily. During swim competitions, if people shouted at me to swim harder and faster, I cried. Couldn’t they see I was doing my best? Couldn’t they tell that I was just trying to make it to the finish line and NOT be first place? I didn’t know how to handle anything except being overly enthusiastic when I was happy to SHOW that see, I could do it. I could be a happy kid. But parents, let me tell you, that is NOT okay.
We need to be teaching kids that it is okay to feel anxious, sad, tired… anything else that isn’t always just a default happy. We need to teach kids that communicating our emotions and what made us feel that way IS healthy. Parents have a lot to contend with, but you as a parent also have no excuse to be surprised when your kid screams about wanting to bury someone in the backyard just because, “We didn’t teach them that”. It, doesn’t, matter. The moment you silence a child and their emotions because you are tired and just don’t want to deal with it, you are sending a signal that is clear as day. You are telling your kid, “I just don’t want to deal with you right now.” And that, hurts. Every kid wants to be loved and understood by their parents, but they can’t fully feel the effects of your love if you aren’t treating emotional health the same as physical health. It goes hand in hand with treating mental health as normal. Teaching your kids how to work through those feelings is your responsibility. Not some school. Not a simple phrase like, “sticks and stones can hurt my bones, but words will never hurt me.” That is a bold-faced lie disguised as a mantra. Words hurt. And kids should know that before it hurts them.
As a twenty-two-year-old, I’ve since come to realize that I cannot stand being yelled at. I shut down both mentally, physically, and emotionally. Words are hard to come by for me, as is communicating my feelings and working my way through issues. Don’t let your kid be me. I’m anxious and fidgety, unable to sleep and plagued by way too many nightmares for a person my age. Don’t let your kids be me. Don’t raise your kid to not trust to tell you things, to hide when they’ve been bullied, when they self-harmed, when they felt like dying was their only option. Don’t let them be me. Allow your kids to grow and be better than me. Raise them to be strong and mindful, gentle with their words and others, as well as themselves. Teach them to lift other people up around them and most importantly, that it is okay not to be okay now because it will be okay tomorrow. Teach them to be better than me because I still struggle everyday to feel like I matter, that my anxiety does not make me less of a person. Most importantly, understand this: teach your kids that anything except happiness is okay. If they feel down, it’s okay. If they hurt, if they can’t speak, if it’s all too much… they’re not broken.
For those curious to read the article, click here.