Recently, a friend of mine’s child was upset about an event cancellation. My friend told me how she (the parent) was more emotional over the situation than her child. Her child began focusing on the next thing, while the parent dwelled on the loss. My friend worried her daughter wasn’t displaying the proper level of emotion. (Whatever you think this is about, you’re mistaken. This was not a local event.) I asked her what was lacking and why she didn’t consider her child’s reaction enough. Is there a correct way to grieve?
I listened and heard her. She felt disappointment was so commonplace that her kid lost faith in everything. It was a grounding conversation because my friend needed space to express frustration. She needed to find the area to separate her own emotions from her child’s.
I asked if she ever confronts her child about what is happening or does she gloss it over? I’ve been guilty of supplying my kids with how they “must” feel with well-intended words like “you must be disappointed,” or “I know you must be,” rather than letting them explain themselves.
During our talk, I was reminded that disappointment doesn’t belong exclusively to the young. It comes to all of us. How we grapple with our grief can help us teach our children to figure out their unhappiness. I still struggle over the numerous ways I have no control over situations. Sharing my experiences with my children allowed them to understand they didn’t always need to let everything go. I didn’t saddle them with my baggage, but I claimed my feelings. I believe it helped them understand they were not alone.
My girlfriend equated our talk with an airline’s oxygen safety drill. When the oxygen line drops down on an airline, the instructions are to have parents put on the gear first and then assist the child.
The reason is obvious. If parents run out of oxygen, they can’t help anyone else. It is the same for emotions. Taking time to process her feelings allowed her to be clear-headed to focus on her child. We need to give ourselves the time to process so we can help the other people in our lives. Sometimes talking with a friend isn’t enough. If you or your child are suffering, please reach out to school guidance counselors or medical professionals to ensure you are all in a safe state.