How to teach kids that it’s okay to have feelings

My 5-year-old came into my bedroom and saw tears on my cheeks. I had to stop my knee-jerk reaction to immediately wipe my tears and pretend all is right in the world.

Mommies don’t cry. Mommies don’t ever get sad, have bad days or feel angry with daddy. Mommies are perfect. Right?

I have worked very hard at teaching my children that any emotion is okay as long as it doesn’t fully consume your life. Having toddlers, tweens and especially teenagers (and trust me, I’ve got all three) means having tons of emotions. One moment’s happiness will become the next moments tear-filled drama fest.

I find that as a society we squelch feelings that make us, well, uncomfortable. We tell ourselves mean, unloving things.

Sad? Suck it up.

Angry? Go cool down.

Grief? Just move forward.

Stressed? You should meditate.

And, of course, there’s a drug for everything too when those don’t work.

My goal, which is not always so easy, is to teach my children that emotions, feelings, and the inner workings of our hearts and minds are there to enable us to move from one place to the next. If it were seamless, our learning opportunities wouldn’t be there and neither would our growth. Of course, if things ever became all consuming or I suspected something more at hand than mere emotion, we would seek further help. But, in the day-to-day, I want my children to know that it’s more than okay to feel.

So, back to my tears.

Many times I would pretend that I’m just fine in this situation. Many times I would say, Oh Mommy just had something in her eye or I was cutting onions. But, this time, I looked at my baby and just owned it. “Mommy is sad.”

Her big, beautiful eyes got bigger. “But, why Mommy?”

I explained to her that sometimes even mommies get sad. I had a very bad day and I just felt sad. More than that she didn’t need to know. Just that even mommies have emotional outbursts too.

She thought on it a moment. Seemed satisfied.

She smiled. She hugged me.

My baby hugged me tightly. I hugged her back. I wiped my tears. I got up and we moved on to lego building. And we both felt better.

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