A couple of days ago, Nid had stated to one of her teachers that she was really upset because Babu (her dad) was on the airplane and she missed him. Later that night, as we lay in bed she stated that her best friend, Maya didn’t play with her and she was upset because of it. I asked her why not and she responded, “because she plays in the doll house and there’s so many other kids there and I can’t play there.” I asked her why she didn’t play with other kids and she said they didn’t play with her and that no one plays with her. Feeling helpless, I told her, “don’t worry, mommy will play with you at home and at school, you can try playing with the other kids and try to join in the games and activities they’re interested in.”
My toddler is feeling upset and besides trying to give her as much happiness as I can without spoiling her, there’s not much else I can do but listen to her reasoning for being upset.
I am a strong believer in communication and being someone that dealt with and suffered from depression all my life, I don’t want my daughter to feel like she can’t speak to me about her feelings; which is why every day Nid and I sit down and chat about her day in school. Of course, I ask her the usual questions; “did you eat your lunch? Were you good today? What did you do during activity time?” But I also ask her questions about how she felt, if something made her sad or happy and why she felt that way. I also ask her questions about how she could feel better if she felt upset.
I know she is only three and a half years old and probably has no clue what depression is. But depression can begin at a young age. With everyone being so busy and wrapped up with technology, I feel like families are losing time to communicate. You hear all those news reports of mass-shootings in schools and children committing suicide. Why do you think these children get to that extreme point where they decide to take their own lives or those of others? It’s because they’ve got years of feelings and thoughts built up inside them and no one bothering to ask them how they’re feeling or what they’re dealing with.
I won’t blame parents, it’s not my position to do so, I am not a perfect parent to the least bit. But as the adults, it is our job to open the way for communication and if your child doesn’t talk then either; which some will rebel against, it is also your job to find alternative methods to finding out what your child is feeling or going through.
Growing up, my parents, specifically my father didn’t believe in talking to us or hearing about our feelings. It was the way he was raised; the man works and the woman deals with the kids. Although, my mother played the “I’m your friend” role in our lives, sometimes we just needed a father, a protector to hear us out. But he was too busy working. When my brother started dominating the house in my father’s absence, he became so dominating that you couldn’t even talk to him on a general level, let alone a personal one.
My sister had a best friend, they were inseparable. They shared every detail about their lives. But I wasn’t the type to open up easily to others outside of the family. My tough exterior kept me that way for years. I wanted to tell my dad how I felt and what I feared. But when he wouldn’t take the time to listen, I turned to paper. I wrote 15-20 diaries during my early teen years. My diary was my best friend. It never judged me, it had no boundaries of what I could tell it and was always there whenever I needed it. It just didn’t console me or guide me. That emptiness was never filled and the need to receive guidance filled up inside me. I felt alone and helpless at times and depression engulfed me.
I don’t want Nid to experience that helplessness. I’ve bought her a mommy-daughter diary and a daddy-daughter one too. Although, D and I try our best to ask questions and have an interest in her feelings. I know sometimes it might be hard for her to tell us everything. So, I’ve asked her to draw us a picture whenever she feels like she can’t talk to us. Right now, there’s a bunch of scribbles on the pages. Some are soft swirls and lines on the days when she’s just drawing for the sake of drawing. But there is also a day when she drew hard zigzags and nearly ripped through the paper. I know she was upset that day. She had gotten in trouble for misbehaving and her anger shows on the piece of paper.
I asked her why she was scribbling so hard and she said she was upset because she didn’t like it when I got mad at her. That was the first time I realized she had shown me how she was feeling without telling me directly.
I don’t know if I’m right or wrong to use this method of communication. I don’t know if it will help her tell us how she’s feeling. But for now, it’s an open door. As she grows my hope is that she’ll feel secure and safe enough to write or draw most of her feelings without feeling like we’ll be mad or judge her. My daily chats with her will always continue but at least we have our diaries for the days she doesn’t feel like talking.
How do you deal with your children’s emotions? What are your methods of communication? Do you think my methods are right and will deem helpful in the long-run? Share your thoughts!