My daughter and I watched the movie Inside Out the other day for the 1st time. The Disney Pixar film about our emotions. It was done so well, we loved it. It reminded us of some of my daughter's emotion characters, she is a passionate character designer - of course she did it first :). If you haven't seen Inside Out the main message is: If you always try to stay strong, and you keep pushing sadness out, keep trying to be happy when you're not, you never give your body the chance to process and heal your sadness, and when you push out sadness, joy goes along with her.
When you don't let sadness in and you don't let yourself cry, when you deny your body the emotion of sadness, joy gets taken with it, and the only thing your body can do is choose one of it's other emotions to feel like; fear, anger, anxiety, negativity and depression. I now know after watching that movie why my daughter had her breakdown in 4th grade. Yes, her gifted sensitivities and the severe emotional bullying were the preludes, but I think now the reason it all ended in a breakdown was because she never got to let out her sadness. She was afraid to cry at school, under terrible circumstances she just kept trying to be her usual happy self, she was afraid if she cried it would make her appear weak and the kids would make even more fun of her. On top of that, ever day back then when I would pick her up from school, she would tell me how sad she was, how mean the kids were, and how she just wanted a friend. Inside, I was heartbroken. But I didn't let her know it, I would just go on to give her my best pep talk and tell her how awesome she was, and that if she just waited a little longer she would surely find a new friend soon! In other words I was telling her, "Don't be sad, don't cry, don't feel, don't process this." Why, because her pain caused me pain and I didn't want to feel MY sadness. So, because she was afraid to cry at school because of what the kids would think, and then on top of that me continually trying to cheer her up with my pep talks, she never got to let out any of the fear or sadness or disappointment she felt so strongly inside throughout her bullying experience, she just kept holding it all together, until her body couldn't do it anymore.
After we watched the movie and it was finally over, I was filled with realization and emotion and I just couldn't keep it in, and I said through teary eyes, "I'm so sorry, I'm sorry I never let you be sad when you were hurting so much, I'm sorry I kept giving you pep talks and trying to cheer you up when you were going through such a terrible time! What I should have done was hold you, and listen to you, and let you talk and cry until everything was out and you couldn't cry anymore, and the pain was gone." Of course being the awesome child she is she tried to make me feel better, "Mom, you didn't know! It's ok it's not your fault..." and then we held each other until we weren't crying any longer.
Please tell your kids it's ok to feel sad and afraid or weak and alone, it's completely ok to cry anytime you feel like crying. Model for them that it's ok to cry, instead of trying to keep it all together all the time yourself. Teach them through your words and actions that the only way to get to the other side of sadness is to acknowledge it, talk it out and let it happen, and let it out with a good cry. We as humans were given tears for a reason, to help us heal, let your kids and then yourself, feel free to cry and heal. And if your friends won't let you cry, then maybe they're not really your friends. In everyone's life, I wish for them at least one person, who will hold them as they cry, for as long as it takes :).
Hugs & Happy Parenting!
Julie L Gibson-Vasquez The Proactive Parenting Coach