With the start of the school year, I am reminded of how hard it was when my son went off to kindergarten last year. My son is the extrovert of my children and did great in preschool, so I thought it would be a fairly easy transition for him. I was very wrong about that assessment.
My son cried a lot -- not just for the first week, but months. He was mostly upset about how he was treated when he felt scared and sad in his aftercare program he attended daily for two hours. My son’s teacher was wonderful with him, but I felt upset seeing other adults lack of empathy for big changes in these little human lives. It pains me when an adult tells a child, “Stop crying.” I saw many of the little 5 year olds entering into this new experience where they cried because it was scary. Change and transition take time, bravery, and trust. With that comes a lot of emotions, sadness, and fear being some of them. If a person needs to cry a bit over that, they should be able to.
After a recent weekend doing a workshop with teenagers, I again was surprised and dismayed upon hearing the pain they feel when it comes to being true to their emotions. They talked about how it was upsetting for them when they cry in school when the response from their friends and adults are, “Stop crying. You are just crying to get attention.” Let’s look at this. We are raising our youth to not be true to their emotions, to not allow their body to feel, and to then, silence those around them that are hurting. Why are we so afraid of crying? I told the teens that we have mirroring neurons and when we see people in pain, it reminds us of our own, however, that is no reason to silence the grief and pain that another is feeling.
Part of being in a good relationship is being honest with what our bodies are telling us and how we are feeling. When we punish others for responding to the call of their body then we are creating a sick humanity, one where lashing out and lack of empathy reign.
Our emotions, when they are not expressed, get trapped in our bodies. They have to come out some way or they leave us frozen. Are we turning into robots who are incapable of truly knowing ourselves and others? If we keep telling each other to “Stop crying.” I believe we are on the way.
I encouraged the youth in the room who talked about the absurdity of telling another person, “you’re too emotional.” That when they see someone crying to ask, “Are you okay?”,“What do you need?”or “How can I help?”instead. I asked them, “What it would feel like for them to be asked that?” They thought it would be nice and comforting. If someone is crying for attention, who cares? That person is signaling they need help. They need to feel seen and know that someone cares. We all need that to feel like we are connected and whole. Let people cry. If it makes you uncomfortable, that is for you to figure out. Maybe you need to go, grab a blanket and have a good cry yourself. When we are in touch with our emotions, we are better able to ask for what we need and want in a relationship. We are better able to then also be a loving soul in our community of relationships.