A young girl I know tried to commit suicide recently. Thankfully, she didn’t succeed, but it made me think about what makes a child want to commit suicide.
Is it getting bullied? A bad grade? The loss of a friend? Sadly, it could be anything. Anything can trigger despair. Life is filled with triggers. We, as adults, are not immune to them either. Life will never be perfect all the time, for any of us.
Well, I’m not an expert, but I do know this; we need to teach our kids to recognize how they feel. It sounds simplistic, but many people, even adults, can’t recognize exactly what they’re feeling. If you don’t know what you’re feeling you can’t effectively deal with your emotions. This can lead to overwhelm and a sense of hopelessness, like there’s no way out.
There’s a saying that goes something like this; “it’s better to reflect than to react.” When we don’t know how to reflect we wind up reacting instead, often in ways we regret. We can teach our kids how to reflect though. The earlier, the better, but it’s never too late.
When we see that our child is sad, of course we want to know why. We say,“what’s wrong” and listen to their story. Our natural inclination is to want to fix their pain, and we tend to focus only on the story, offering advice and solutions. We make it about the characters in the story and what they said or did, and we forget to address how the whole thing made them feel. What we’re doing without realizing it is ignoring their feelings. We’re teaching them to look outside of themselves, instead of focusing within.
Feelings are there for a reason. They’re internal signals alerting us that something isn’t right. They are there to teach us how we want to proceed in life. We all have a built-in moral code. We instinctively know when we’ve done something to disrupt that moral code, or if someone else did something to disrupt it. We’re born with this ability, which means our kids have it too. This is why they get sad, or lonely, or angry, etc. Something needs fixing.
Digging into the feelings behind the “story” is how we correct the imbalance. We learn things about ourselves when we allow what’s bubbling under the surface to come up, and we can fix it. Sometimes just noticing it allows it to become balanced again, but sometimes it needs a little help (and this is where mom and dad can offer advice and solutions).
We all want our children to come to us with their problems, and they will once they know they can. Teaching them that their feelings are of value will ensure they communicate freely with you, and they’ll never have to feel helpless and alone. But the beauty of self-reflection is that they can also self-soothe. This will come in handy when they’re adults.
There’s a list of every imaginable feeling we can have on the good ol’ internet. Familiarize yourself with them. Get comfortable with them. Your child’s life could be on the line.
Denise Barry is the award winning author of the childrens picture books, What Does the Tooth Fairy Do with Our Teeth? and Soap On A Rope. Shes currently working on a middle grade book titled Sweeney Mack and the Slurp and Burp Competition, so watch for that! She also writes a blog on her website called Raisin' Kids, for parents who want to raise kids who become adults, not adult children. Denise lives in Buffalo, New York with her husband and two kids. To learn more about her visit her website at www.denisebarry.net