Our kids misbehave, they scream, they yell, they throw tantrums, they use nasty words. They relatively & naturally ‘feel’ all their emotions without blocking or resisting them in any way. They instinctively surrender to the pure feeling, and then release the emotions as it passes on. In this way, their emotions ebb and flow in a wavelike fashion – Feelings come in and go out.
Our kids are brilliant in their loudness of expressions which is captured by our mind’s eye. What we fail to notice are those subtle moments that are masked behind compliance and obedience.
Have you ever wondered how do our kids absorb our daily struggles? How do they perceive our day to day sufferings and pain? Moments such as – ‘I din’t get enough money this month’, ‘My job is too exhausting’, ‘ I feel so helpless – there is no one to support me’, ‘ I have so much to do’…….’Life is tough’.. Emotional pain that is caused by our own inability to handle anxieties, frivolous expectations, and challenging situations which make us feel awfully helpless.
Day to day struggles, which we believe has nothing to do with our kids.
It’s important to note here that there’s a difference between reacting emotionally and feeling the feeling.
One case I would like to mention is Rahul. Rahul was a 12 year boy referred by his teacher at school. He joined them a few months back from a small town in Karnataka. According to his teacher, he was playful, coped well in class but had grave issues with making friends in class. Teachers loved him as he was extremely compliant and amenable but was repeatedly teased and bullied by his mates. His performance was deteriorating day by day so was sent for help.
Most often kids tell stories that are far different from what the adults comprehend. The problem wasn’t his friends or his performance – it emerged from his home.
We, Parents, are excellent in masking ourselves in front of our kids. We hide our true feelings, pains, struggles and sufferings, brilliantly behind smiles and the “I love you, so I will give you the best. Even if I have to stretch myself a bit”.
This child bore his father’s pain, who just got out of a surgery after a road accident. It wasn’t his physical suffering that disturbed the little boy, but the smiles and hugs. Something blocked the authentic – heartfelt love from reaching this boy.
He said, I know my dad is in pain, but he comes home to teach me Chemistry and Math. I can see him pushing himself, but he doesn’t say anything to me. He says, he is happy to travel 30 km to teach me every day. It’s my job.
Rahul was also troubled to see his mom do over time to make ends meet. He said,” It hurts me to see my mom go by 5:30 am and comes back at 10pm. She is doing so much, only for us ( He had a younger sister). And she doesn’t say anything to us. Infact, whatever I ask for I get it immediately.” He added,” They both are not happy, I know that. They are suffering and struggling. But they never express it to me – he cried”
You see, how Rahul internalised his parents’ struggles and quietly blamed himself for circumstances at home. In our quest for love, we hide our true – authentic side from them. Why? because we don’t want our children to see our emotional pains and struggles. We are theoretically meant to be strong role models for our children. More over – we don’t want them to carry our emotionally ladened baggage’s. It’s our job to stretch ourselves for our kids.
This is where kids feel the disparity as their spirits spontaneously surrender to the ‘what is’ of the situation. It is not the ‘doing’ ie extended jobs, long travels but the ‘being’ ie non – transparency & our own inability to integrate pain that disorients them. They see through, very clearly, our resistance to life struggles.
Kids need parents who are fairly grounded, who can remain consistent in their approach, and who are able to stay calm in the face of stormy emotions. They need to feel that their deepest emotional and psychological needs, not just their physical needs, are being met joyfully, graciously and most importantly authentically.
When we learn to accept our painful experiences & not masks it from our kids, is when we build a genuine relationship. They need to know that life is not going to be ‘OK’ all the time. It is in the non Ok-ness, that we need to find peace and joy. They need to see us in pain, through the struggles and making things work, so they learn to be strong and understand perseverance. We don’t run away from pain, we face them in the most dignified manner. Open-ness is an important parenting tool that helps us establish trust and inter-connectedness.
As our children observe us in this life relationship, they learn to play & dance along. They learn to transcend their fear of emotions that are uncomfortable and even painful, so that no part of their being is squelched.
So, talk to them about your hard day at work and the aches and pains. Let them know that it is a part of a daily life. You may be tired, exhausted, worried at the moment, and it’s going to pass with time. Nothing is this world is permanent – not even our hard feelings. Kids sense the energetic connection to life’s hard ships and worries. It all embarks from us diving into our own perception of these hardships.
Our relationship to struggles & making things work sets the tone to teach kids about the dynamics of life. If only, we mindfully allow our pains to spontaneously ebb and surrender to our emotions. This gives us the courage to talk to kids about hard filled pains, which is a parcel of life. In order for our kids to become joyful – warriors of their lives, we need fill their emotional toolbox with feeling – literacy, authentic communication & emotional resilience.
Life is about ‘being’ OK when it’s NOT. It is about embracing moments of unpredictability & non – okness as a way to feel alive. We forget that, it is during these vulnerable moments that empathy can be taught best.