Kids have big feelings, too
As parents, I think it's easy to dismiss our children's feelings with a "stop crying!" or "you're OK" but the reality is, growing up is hard and it's important for parents to acknowledge and respect their child's feelings. A child's mental health is so important, and even though they may not be able to effectively articulate what they are feeling in words (sometimes anxiety comes in the form of at tummy ache, for example) it's important that we take the time to realize that our children are going through transitions and change every day, and they aren't always emotionally equipped to handle what comes their way. That's where we come in.
Before I go any further, let me address the elephant in the room. I am not naive. I know that kids sometimes feign illness to get out of something they don't want to do. There were many gym classes where I "didn't feel well," as much as I wanted to participate, because I knew that the second I stepped out there, the bullies would be out in full force. That's not what I'm talking about here.
What I am saying is that we owe it to our kids to listen -- really listen -- when they tell us they don't feel well, or when they just seem a little "off." Especially young children who may not be able to tell you exactly what they are feeling. It's often too easy to dismiss their feelings, assuming those tummy aches are attempts at evading school, for example. We owe it to them to slow down, check our immediate tendencies, and just.....listen.
I recently discovered a picture book that beautifully and thoughtfully explores the inner feelings of a young girl, and how her imagination takes her away from her worries. In Being Edie is Hard Today by Ben Brashares and Elizabeth Bergeland, the main character goes through a gamut of emotions, from sadness and loneliness to anxiety and others, just like most of us. She is teased on the school bus and wishes she could fade away. She is embarrassed in class, and outcast on the school yard. As she experiences this tough emotions, she imagines that she is all manner of different creatures, with wings to fly to the sky, fast feet to run far, far away, or chameleon-like abilities to blend in so she wouldn't be seen.
"For the ride home, Edie considered a porcupine or a hissing cockroach. Eventually she decided to be an armadillo. But inside, she felt like a naked mole rat."
One day, Edie tells her mother that she doesn't want to go to school the following day:
"Just saying the words made the tears jump out. Her mom stroke her arm and let her cry."
Edie's mother helps her to understand that her feelings are valid and that everyone has bad days. She shows her that the important thing is to get back up and face the world as ourselves. Because there's nothing better to be than that.
This is a wonderful book, one that beautifully brings to light the big emotions that kids go through in their lives, accompanied by beautifully rendered, thought-provoking illustrations. I love the fact that the characters in the book are faceless in the beginning, with faces becoming more evident as self-awareness and self-acceptance evolves.
Being Edie is Hard Today is the perfect book for parent to share with their children. It can serve as a wonderful introduction into discussing tough topics such as fitting in, self-confidence, and being secure in our own skin.
Disclaimer: The book mentioned in this post was sent to me for the purposes of review. All opinions are my own.