Raising Sons? Managing Difficult Feelings
The sound of laughter is sweet; we all love to hear a baby giggle, kids and adults laughing! It makes us smile just hearing it. But what happens when your son’s sad or mad?
No Laughing Matter
I talk and write a lot about feelings, “The Big 4”-mad, sad, glad and afraid, more importantly about how to honor those feelings. My focus here is when your son (or anyone) is feeling sad or mad the reaction typically is to stop the feeling! Think about it, what do you typically hear if you’re sad or mad? “Don’t cry!” “Everything’s okay, don’t be sad!” “It’s nothing to be mad about!”
Well guess what? WRONG! Crying is also cleansing tears and when you’re sad, crying is good. It’s our natural way to let go of pain. When you’re sad everything is not okay, you can be sad about that. If you’re mad, likely there is something to be mad about. FEEL your feelings and honor the other person when they’re feeling their feelings!
To take this a step further, when you prevent your son from feeling his feelings what seems to be a logical response on your part’ actually results in shaming his feeling. By telling him “don’t be” sad or angry you’ve now created a feeling of wrong or foolish behavior-and that’s shaming.
As a parent sadness is one of the most difficult feelings to witness with your child. The last thing you want is to see them sad and crying. Your instinct is to hold them, tell them don’t be sad and don’t cry. Or worse, don’t cry be a big boy there’s nothing to be sad about.
Here’s what that teaches him.: Crying is bad and feeling sad is not necessary. Crying is for babies. The behavior is shameful.
Do this instead: Honor the feeling. Be supportive by just being present. If you feel you need to say something, wait until the person recovers then say “I know you’re sad. I understand you feel like crying.” The best way to relieve sadness is to feel it so that you can move on; this goes for kids too.
Feelings: Mad (Angry)
Parents worry if their son gets mad. What is going on, how can he be mad. Your instinct is to put a stop to the feeling, you tell him don’t be mad and stop acting like that. Or worse, it’s not nice or okay to be mad.
Here’s what that teaches him: He’s not allowed to be mad. There’s something wrong with being mad. The behavior is shameful.
Do this instead: Accept the feeling. Being mad is not wrong, it’s normal to be mad or angry when you don’t get what you want. Anger turned inward can cause depression. It’s the behavior that comes along with being mad and angry that can be bad. Make sure you offer a safe place (set this up beforehand when things are calm) for your son to feel his anger and get it out i.e. a punching bag or taking a walk. You might say “I understand you feel mad. I’m here if you need me or when you’re ready to talk.”
Overall the point here is to honor difficult feelings. Mad and sad are healthy feelings and when you teach your son they’re okay, he’ll grow up understanding healthy ways to manage them instead of stuffing them.