No one is happy all the time and that’s OK. My children and yours need to know you have feelings. They also need to learn the correct responses to events and their associated emotions.
I’m sad that people get sick. I’m sad that in the US people owned people and it still happens elsewhere. That working in criminal defense taught me that minorities are not treated the same, or fairly, and we pretend it doesn’t happen. That women make less than men even if they do equal and/or superior work. That rich white men say things like, “Those 99% people need to go get jobs. I hate hippies”, which then begs the question, does he know what “we are the 99%” means or what a hippie even is? I’m sad that animals are put down in astounding numbers because we cannot control the population and there is no other way to handle it other than to make us all “cat people”.
It is our job to protect our children and let them be children. But it is also our job to teach them that things are not fair. It’s not fair and it’s OK to be sad and angry about it. It’s what we DO about it that matters. Anger is the easiest emotion to portray. Teach them the rest of them. Not everything should elicit an angry response any more than always pretending to be happy and playing a “Stepford wife”, is an accurate portrayal. If you are pretending to be happy all the time, you are doing your child a disservice. Children need to learn that how they feel is acceptable and normal.
Your children need to know that their actions can also affect your feelings. If they say something insensitive or hurtful, explain the following things:
- Why it was inappropriate
- How it made you feel
- What they should have said instead
Number three is the most important. Always teach your kids an alternative behavior. Simply saying “no”, does not teach them how to conduct themselves in the future.
What does this mean for you? You need to talk to your children. Explain how you feel and why. You don’t need to discuss all the big world issues but if you’re having a rough day, tell them. Teach them the full range of emotions above and beyond happiness and anger. Teach them what feelings are appropriate for which circumstances. And most of all, teach them that parents are people, and therefore, they have feelings too.