As adults, we do a pretty decent job of hiding our emotions when we are hurting — we wear the mask to let the world think we are OK. In reality, for some, nothing could be further from the truth. It is easier to hide emotional turmoil from another adult because he/she will usually have their own issues to deal with, but kids are smart as a whip and know when a parent is going through something.
Our kids grow up looking at everything we do, good and bad — and they learn from it. No matter how much you would like to protect your child from life’s difficulties, if you are depressed, addicted, not around a lot or violent—we are creating a direct legacy of pain.
We always want to be the strong one, the all-powerful and perfect one. We do not want to admit our vulnerability or mistakes to our young. Kids are intuitive and miss nothing. If they live with us, work with us or go to school with us — it’s not like they can’t tell that we’re crazy — they already know; we cannot hide it. So when a young person in your life says “mommy, daddy, adult figure Are you sad? Are you angry? Did you hurt yourself?” And we say “no” or “nothing” – it is at that point that we are unintentionally setting them up to hide emotions and suppress their feelings. We are teaching them to:
- - Lie
- - Wear the “mask”
- - Not deal with their emotions
- - To second-guess their intuition — they asked because they sense something. Yet they see that this most high person in their life just lied to them.
- - Lastly and most critically, we are not providing them with the tools and coping mechanisms that we are supposed to provide them as the adults in their lives.
- Who else should they be getting this information from?
We are supposed to tell our kids what we do when we fall down — we must help them to recognize the signs that we might exhibit if we are going through something. For example, tell them: when I am sad, I may cry, it is a healthy thing to do because it means that I am releasing pain and or disappointment. I may go for a walk or run; write in my journal; I might pray; I might ask God to order my steps — because I am not sure how I am going to get there and I may talk to my therapist or take medication to feel better.
Kids really are smarter than we think. Have you ever taken the time to view some popular television shows aired on ABC Family, Nickelodeon, and Disney Channel? Show content ranges from trials and tribulations of divorcing parents and manipulation, to teen sex. Therefore, if we’re keeping a secret or lie to our kids, they know.
Anyone can experience depression, regardless of race, gender or age, there are no barriers. Depression will rob an individual/family of enjoyment found in daily life and can even lead to suicide. It is important to recognize the signs of depression and to know “what depression looks like, sounds like, feels like.” Prevention is a cure! Not recognizing the signs will create pain, confusion and hinder necessary treatment to enable healing….Healing Starts With Us!
Terrie M. Williams is author of the critically acclaimed Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting, and founder of The Terrie Williams Agency (est. 1988)
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