Undoing Crappy Emotional Coaching

My 14 year old begins high school on Tuesday. He’s been a bit stressed about it. He said “I just wish people would stop telling me it’s going to be ok. They don’t know that and it feels like they’re lying to me.”

A thread on Facebook discussing loss and stupid things people say- “It’s for the best” or “God has a plan” or “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle”.

Weekly I see post on Facebook by a desperate mother hoping to replace their toddler’s favorite stuffed animal that they lost at the mall…because she can’t stand to see them cry.

Out of our own discomfort, we shush people’s feelings.

“I  know I shouldn’t let it bother me.”

“Shake it off, what’s the big deal?”

“You need to deal with that anger.”

“Forgive and forget”.

“I’ll just go with you, I don’t want you to worry”

“Settle down. Don’t be so silly.”

“He can’t ride the bus, some of those kids are just mean.”

“I’m sure your parents did the best job they could”.

Unless you were raised by super in touch emotionally aware people…in somewhere that isn’t Minnesota, you have likely been socialized to minimize and invalidate any feeling that makes you uncomfortable.

You don’t want anyone to worry. You don’t want them to be sad. You don’t want to make people uncomfortable. You even get agitated when your kids are too happy, all exuberant and silly is just going to lead to something bad happening.

Of course Joey is worried about high school. What kind of idiot wouldn’t be? It is an enormous transition. Every adult who has survived high school wants to help him avoid the unnecessary stress. We did it, we survived… you will too. But that isn’t how this works. First you worry endlessly. You go over a lot of worse case scenarios and pick out your clothes at least 4 times. Then you go and you get to see for yourself just how that first day of school feels. And it isn’t always great.

My friends who are experiencing loss, who have coping with the death of a loved one probably know that life goes on and that this won’t kill them. Thanks. It hurts when we love loved ones. It should hurt. It is important. And it doesn’t go away and you don’t move on. You grieve.

Watch parents whose kids are having fun. It only takes a few minutes of goofing off and the most patient parent is all “knock it off, settle down, be quiet.” As the mother of three rambunctious boys, I know where it is heading but I also know that mostly we as parents are hyper focused on not bothering anyone. Ruining kids’ fun is today’s version of “children should be seen and not heard.” I wonder how much better our grown up life would be if we didn’t knock it off quite so easily.

Our kids are learning disappointment and fear and hurt. Watching them come up against their feelings is a great way to find our own discomfort. Our goal is not to protect them from having feelings but to honor and respect and empathize. That urge to shush…go there…figure it out…wonder when you were shushed. That feeling is your history. Take a moment to honor and respect and empathize those feelings somewhere in yourself. Let your kid teach you to be ok sitting with their worries and their sadness and their deep disappointment. Maybe even let them teach you to be silly and disruptive and bold- together we can make everyone in Minnesota a little uncomfortable.

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