Emotion That’s Taken Me Over: Talking About Feelings With Teens

Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about!
How many of us grew up hearing this from our parents? Or – 
You have no reason to be angry.
Get over it.
Buck up!
I heard it. I admit, I also started the first years of mothering the same way. Thank God for therapy, if even for different reasons. There I learned the importance of listening and validating.
My kids are cry-ers. They take after their mother. The first time they heard, “No!” tears welled up and it was all over from there. That also may have been the first time I said these two dreaded words myself. 
Stop crying!
Who knows what was going through their toddler brains when the wailing started. I know how I felt. Uncomfortable. I wanted the crying to stop because it affected me. 
Years later, as tweens and teens, tears come for a variety of reasons. My first instinct is always – Stop crying.
But if I catch myself and I silently validate my own discomfort for a moment, I respond in a much more nurturing manner. 
I’m sorry you’re crying. Do you want to talk about it?


I understand you’re upset. Why don’t you take some time in your room and when you’re ready to talk, we will.

or (and this usually happens when there is a mother/daughter disagreement)

I need a time out. When I’m ready and when you’re ready, we can talk about this more.
Granted, this seems “Pollyanna”ish, especially from someone with a temper like mine. But I’ve learned if I can acknowledge their emotions rather than tell them not to experience their emotions, opening up to discussion becomes way easier. 
When sharing feelings after an emotional breakdown becomes the norm, then sharing feelings before the breakdown happens becomes a natural opener to conversation.
Last Friday, just a little north of where we used to live, Jaylen Fryberg brought a gun to school. He shot 3 girls, 2 of his cousins, and himself. All kids said to be his friends. Jaylen and one girl are dead. Reports circulating say he was a happy-go-lucky kid. He was 14.
My kids are happy-go-lucky kids. My oldest daughter is 14. Neither of my daughters has had a breakup yet because they haven’t had boyfriends yet. They’ve been upset about other things. Things that seem devastating at the time they are happening. I hope and pray every dang day the girls knows they can come to their parents instead of doing something drastic.

“When kids trust parents, they’ll put parents in selfies”
~ Dr. Spock (maybe)

I’m not so naive to think my teenagers will include Edd and me in all matters at all times. Every one of us has kept secrets from our parents. If my girls ever feel they’re at the point where there is no way out of the situation they’re in, I don’t want the reason to be “I didn’t feel like I could talk to my mom or dad.”

I don’t know anything about Jaylen’s life. I do know there are a lot of kids out there holding a lot of emotion inside because they feel they don’t have a choice. Lately, it seems suicide and killing others has become a viable option. This must stop.
Are your kids able to come to you with their problems? 
Is the temptation to tell them to “shut up and buck up” strong? 

What can we do to encourage affirmation of vulnerability in the younger generations?

Free to Be You and Me is one of my all-time favorite books. This song from the book and record (yes, I said “record” as in “vinyl”) are close to my heart. Can we live these lyrics?


  1. dana goodman says

    Thank you for this post. Allowing children and adults to experience their full range of emotions is so critical. We honour pain when we enter into other's pain stories. One of the best books I have read on this is Daniel Siegel's Whole Brain Child. It is a wonderful read.

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