One of my take-aways from my interview with Julie Bond Genovese is the importance of open communication in the home.
She states how in her family they didn’t talk about their negative emotions. They wanted to “honor” their parents by not showing that anything was wrong. And there was this “unspoken rule that you keep smiling through the pain and let it roll off your shoulders.”
This brings to mind a personal situation from the opposite angle. When my middle daughter, Nava, was in the hospital for a year, I tried to be cognizant of my younger daughter’s emotional well-being through this critical and very trying time. I would go into her room and try to talk to her about how it was for Her – her concerns, fears, and overall feelings of this medical crisis we were all going through. But all she would basically say is, “I’m O.K. mom, don’t worry about me.”
I knew she was trying to protect me from any additional difficulties or concerns pertaining to her. She didn’t want to add to the drama already going on. And so despite the fact that she lived at home with her step-dad while I lived up at the rehab hospital for 9 months (I am forever grateful they got along), and she came up for dinner once or twice a week with her homework in tow, my Penina appeared to be a well-adjusted freshman in high school.
I felt that she wanted to “honor” me by not showing that anything was wrong. I, however, wanted her to ‘let it out’, to vent. I tried to give her quiet opportunities, permission but she kept tight.
I know how important it is to give expression to emotions, especially negative ones. For as Ms. Genovese states, unexpressed difficult feelings can start to “detonate”. They get buried inside and can eventually start to ooze out like toothpaste from all the little holes made along the sides, instead of from the main one on top. Unexpressed rage can turn inward, fester and grow into depression or unhealthy acting out behaviors.
We obviously cannot make someone open up. But I feel strongly it is our ‘duty’ as parents who want to raise healthy and well-adjusted people, to create a home environment that fosters openness and offers out a safety net for all feelings to be expressed. We’re there to catch them, acknowledge them and validate their normalcy without judgment.
I initiated and continued to ‘check in’ with Penina throughout that year and little by little she was able to let some ‘gunk’ out.
Do you check-in with your kids or anyone of importance as to their feeling states? Let’s hear and share some of your feedback.
Thank you for reading.
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