Communication and advocacy are crucial to changing how our children grow up and live emotionally healthy lives.
We are born. We live. We die. So, how is it that one of the most important things we will do as living beings is seldom talked about, that we fumble over it when trying to “help,” and that most haven’t a clue on how to help our children address this basic fact?
If we do not advocate for our children, talk about children’s emotional health, and confront death with openness and honesty then we are propagating emotional neglect. When kids are confronted with death and look for help only to find adults who are clueless then the consequences are isolation, fear, and a lack of helpful coping mechanisms.
What do you get when you take away helpful coping tools? Substance abuse, high-risk behaviors, inability to confront life’s challenges, a timid approach to life, or even a desire not to live.
Kids are resilient, however. Many celebrities whose names you know well (for example: Kyrie Irving, Zoe Saldana, Anderson Cooper, Paul McCartney, Bill Clinton, Stephen Colbert, Julia Roberts, Rosie O’Donnell, etc.) have experienced the death of a parent or sibling. They go on to do amazing things because they know what rock bottom feels and looks like. They’ve experienced post-traumatic growth and can see their own abilities. The road, though, for many of these folks was long and hard and they had to do it alone. Imagine if we gave them the tools they needed to confront their grief and get support.
Imagine all those who did not see their own resiliency and strength and now live very difficult lives.
As a community, we need to understand the complexity of a child’s emotional life and we need to prepare for death so that we can care for every child in our community. It’s not rocket science. It’s intentionality, it’s communication, it’s advocacy, it’s taking the time to learn and address our own fears so that the next generation can live more fully and more healthily.