By Becky Beresford
I cry at everything. All the time, all the feels. I wish I could blame it on pregnancy or having three kids, but the truth is I’ve been this way my entire life. Growing up, I used to be ashamed of my deep emotions. I’d hide behind fake smiles and well-timed nods. Happy moods were okay to express, but negative ones were another ordeal. I was labeled “sensitive,” which wasn’t a good thing coming from the labeler. It wasn’t until recently that I took this label as a compliment. It’s how God has made me. I like who I am. I’m thankful for my feels.
As I’ve stepped into motherhood, however, I’ve felt myself struggle again. It’s easy to believe that to raise emotionally “stable” kids, we have to keep it all together. We can’t show them our struggles. We can’t let them know we are in pain. Everything’s fine. Mommy is FINE.
But Mommy isn’t fine.
Mommy is hurt. Mommy is scared. Mommy is mad.
And Mommy needs to know that it’s okay to let it show. It’s okay to look your little one in the eyes and be honest with them. So often we crave authentic relationships with others, ones where we can be ourselves in all our imperfect glory.
But we avoid this same type of connection with our kids. I’m not saying we should spew all of our burdens on our kids, telling them the in’s and out’s of our troubles and trials. But I think it’s okay to say, “Mommy is really sad.”
Our kids are experts at spotting fakes. They know when we are hurting, and they want us to be real. Deep down, I think we want it too. Our hearts need to know there is liberty to express our feelings in truth and love, especially to those in our closest circle. By taking off the mask and giving our babies the gift of authenticity, we teach them holy things. Still don’t believe me? I’ve got you.
Here are three Biblical reasons why we should share our feelings with our kids.
1) It shows them how to approach God.
If our relationship with our children reflects God’s relationship with us, then we need to look at how He interacts with His kids, especially when we are messy. God doesn’t expect us to have it all together when we come to Him. He tells us to come boldly – arms open, feelings flowing. I can guarantee ‘when we need it most,’ we are not calm and collected. Our knees are on the floor, face to the ground, tears streaming down our cheeks as we cry out to heaven. And God wants this.
When we live with unguarded hearts we are showing our littles a crucial lesson: It’s okay to lay it all out there, but then we must lay it all down. Casting our cares before our Savior, we show our kids how to have a deeper relationship with Him.
2) It shows them how to have healthy relationships.
Healthy relationships hold all the emotions. Our kids need to understand that people have many types of feelings. And when they encounter them, we can guide them in knowing what to do. Emotions don’t need to be ‘fixed.’ They need to be felt in order to heal.
I let my kids know it’s alright to be angry. I ask them to tell me how they are feeling. And then I listen. We talk. We pray. We bring our deep emotions back to Jesus. And you know what, my kids are starting to ask me questions too! When they see me crying, they ask why. They don’t say stop; they try to connect. They are imitating what they’ve seen, and when they see mama hurting, they practice what they’ve learned. Authenticity fosters an environment full of compassion, kindness, and empathetic listening.
3) It shows them how to love others well, including themselves.
Starting with ourselves, we need to not get after people for having negative feelings. David was called a man after God’s own heart but have you read the Psalms? He was all over the place! And yet, he always turned back towards God and His promises. David’s emotions were not neat and contained, and neither are ours.
On harder days, they can cause wounding and unwanted harm. But our Father is a forgiver. He is capable of redeeming any situation and every separation. When we sin in our feelings, His grace is there to meet us in full abundance. We can forgive ourselves because God’s love holds nothing against us and covers everything for us. When we understand this truth, it takes the pressure off. It inspires us to offer the same divine forgiveness to others, especially our kids.
Family relationships are the best place to practice the art of apologizing, forgiving, and extending unconditional love. Freely we’ve received. Freely we can give.
Remember, mama friend. God never wants you to feel bad for feeling. Invite your kids into your heart. Be real. Be what you ALL truly need. You’ll be so glad you did, and your family will be better for it.