Raising resilient kids in a man up world.
From my perspective as a parent, nine seems to be a hard age to be a boy. While my girls are afforded that slow climb from little girl to young adult, society appears to demand my son jump right on in. However, the tween and teen years are so needed for both boys and girls to learn how to deal with all the complex emotions humans have. These are the emotional training wheels years. Kids of all ages must be allowed to safely navigate the highs and the lows of life with compassionate guides or some just don’t make it. The statistics of self harm and suicide for kids is alarming.
Failure feels awful and some kids take it really hard. My son is a sensitive soul and tends to feel all his feelings out in the open as they happen. That has recently led to me being pulled aside and albeit with good intentions, told that other kids are noticing when Kieran gets upset.
That is what is implied. He might be ashamed? He should feel ashamed? I am not sure, but it was essentially about shame.
Emotions are a healthy expression for humans. No one should be made to feel shame for their emotions and I don’t classify feelings as good or bad. They just are.
I mean, I can’t encourage my son to feel joyful, while chiding him when he feels sad. I appreciate his bursts of contagious laughter as I must also abide his tears. Yet, society seems to say that my little boy must “man up” now, amid not-so-quiet whispers of how he is much too old to cry.
Even the saying itself is indicative of a problem. Does being a man mean you can’t cry?
What I aim to teach him is exactly the same as what I want my girls to learn; how to manage his emotions, not stifle them.
Watching members of the cricket team face the media recently was hard. We were witnessing men cry openly live on national television. The emotion was unguarded and the sorrow was so palpable. While I have fallen in love with cricket this past year, it has not been to the extent that the events in South Africa had any real effect on my life. But watching the men involved come home to face the onslaught of shame from the media and fans was gut wrenching in its relatability. Shame was used as a weapon to further punish those men for their transgressions. So it wasn’t as a cricket fan, but as the mother of an Australian boy that my heart went out to them.
How do we teach the kids that failure is not just a disappointment, but an opportunity to learn?
I was able to use that whole event to show my kids that good men are not only fallible, but emotional. I was also able to show them that emotions pass, and even when it might seem that disappointment and sadness will last forever, it doesn’t. That we all must accept when we do something wrong, or when things go wrong, we can feel down knowing those feelings will pass. I am teaching my kids to pivot their thinking so that as they come through initially feeling sad they can re-frame thoughts like “This is too hard, I can’t do this” into questions like “This certainly is a puzzle. How can I do this?”
Bupa is working with Kids Helpline Australia and we recently filmed a video with some thoughts and advice on raising resilient kids. Kids Helpline also wrote an article for the Blue Room, with more tips on how to have tough conversations in a helpful way.
I was not aware of Kid Helpline before this and am in awe that this free service exists. Kids, from ages 5-25, can call, email or web chat with counselors anytime of the day or night. Kids Helpline can be reached by calling 1800 55 1800 or via WebChat counselling. For more information, visit kidshelpline.com.au.
Our new family motto, because feelings are not just for kids!
When nothing goes to plan, pivot those thoughts to now, anything is possible!
post in partnership with Bupa Australia