Recently, like many other parents, I took my kids to see the new movie, "Inside Out." I was excited to see it because I love everything Pixar does. Their movies are entertaining for kids, but there always seems to be a message for the adults as well.
The movie did not disappoint! It's probably one of the smartest kid movies I've ever seen. Don't take my word for it, go see it for yourself. I found it to be interesting and thought-provoking, but the biggest lesson I walked away with is that it's okay to let my son be sad.
In my head I always knew that was true. I have a Master's in Counseling and I'm a highly emotional person myself. I'm all about being true to your feelings and often have a hard time masking when I'm unhappy. But whenever my son is sad it makes my heart hurt. I want to do whatever I can to make him happy. I want to make him see that it's not worth it to sit around sulking, he needs to slap a smile on his face and enjoy the day!
That's just not his way though. My son feels all the feelings to the max. He doesn't hide anything. It can be exhausting to deal with, especially when I deem that his response does not match the situation. Watching that movie, however, opened my eyes to the fact that it's okay to have big feelings. And it's okay for a little person to not fully comprehend how to handle those big feelings. It's my job as a parent to help my son navigate all the emotions he has without telling him to simply "get over it."
They don't need to be told to "buck up" or "snap out of it." They need someone to be there for them, listen to their story, and help them get back up again.
Being sad isn't necessarily a bad thing. Think about it, if my son were happy all the time that would be pretty weird. I don't want a Stepford son. I want to raise him to be someone who observes a situation and responds to it appropriately. Some situations are sad and it's okay, and even necessary, to cry. I want my son to know that just because you're sad doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you. It's important to recognize the sadness and see it for what it is. Where is the sadness coming from? Why is it affecting you in this way? What can we do about it?
I'm also hopeful that the way I respond to his sadness will help him learn how to respond to others in their sadness. I don't want him shaming his friends or future spouse or children. I want him to know that sometimes people need a hug and a shoulder to cry on. They don't need to be told to "buck up" or "snap out of it." They need someone to be there for them, listen to their story, and help them get back up again. If he learns to deal with his emotions, and the emotions of those around him, in a proper way it will make him a far better human being than if he simply ignored those emotions.
After thinking about this topic for some time I have decided that the next time my son is sad I'm not going to tell him to cut it out, and I'm not going to try to distract him from the pain. I'm going to help him face it. I'm going to help give him the language to express himself. And I'm going to comfort him and let him know that as long as I can, I will be there for him.