At a certain stage in their lives, our young-adult children leave an institution of higher education (be in high school, college or university) with a piece of paper that declares them literate and numerate, and thus ready for the world of work.
Unfortunately, there is no syllabus, tests or qualifications on the very important subject called emotions.
In a bygone era, it was kind of taken for granted that children learn that from the home. That was in a time where families lived close together and children had the luxury of playing with neighbourhood friends after school. It is amazing how much children learn from unstructured play and from being outdoors: how to get on with others, how to make up rules, conflict resolution, self-regulation, handling playground politics, coping with losing, managing own safety, and the world they live in, to name but a few.
When unstructured, outdoor play and the benefit of extended families are removed from children, the task of emotion coaching is left unfulfilled. To compound matters, growing up in emotionally cold households does not provide children with the opportunities to learn about emotions - theirs and other people's.
Emotions are living beings within our physical selves, vibrant and alive. We have to learn how to connect with the emotions within us and to manage them, rather than control and suppress a part of the human being that is meant to live and breathe. Controlling and suppressing are the cornerstones of discipline. I think a more positive coaching path is to teach children how to connect and deal with the entity within.
We tell children to stop crying, without finding out why they are crying. We tell them it is silly to be frightened, without knowing what their fears are.
If we don't know the emotions that live within us, we feed them the wrong diet. They either grow into beasts or they die. If they are unloved, they will someday rebel or they will simply stop breathing. Even if these worst-case scenarios don't happen, isn't it sad that we are strangers to our own emotions?
I have known adults who have successfully built cages for their emotions, but there are incidences when their caged emotions break free - as they do when they grow too large or too strong to be successfully suppressed by will power.
In some cases, emotions die from neglect or never had the chance to grow to their full maturity. I have known a successful professional, a very charming friend and an attractive looking individual. But peel back the layers and you find a hurt and frightened little boy who lashes out uncontrollably, who was never given the chance to mature into a grown-up lover, a strong husband, a tender father. No outward career success, long line of exciting lovers or big address book of acquaintances can ever compensate for not knowing the deep joys of really loving and being loved, that only comes when we are connected with our own emotions.
Thus, we have to step up to the mark and implement emotion coaching, first on ourselves, then our spouses and children. Be literate in this subject, because you have to know love before you can love; you have to love yourself the way you want to be loved before you can teach someone how to love you in the same way. Yes, it is deep. Yes, the syllabus is arduous and can be complicated. But you can't afford not to invest in emotion coaching. Leave no child (including yourself) stunted, silenced and dying.
Photos: author's own.
First published in www.raisinghappystrongkids.com