Teaching Our Kids Not to Mask Their Pain

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I answered the phone and on the other end was a dear friend sobbing.

She was going through a debilitating depression and was making the decision whether to get on medication or not. She has teenagers like myself and I asked her if the kids knew.

I could barely hear her whisper on the other end of the line: “No, and I don’t want them to know.”

Oh, I knew the feeling all too well.

I had just experienced the same thing and had to sit my kids down and explain I had depression and was taking medication. But I too had hidden it from them for quite a while out of shame.

We chatted for a while and in the following days we both wrestled with these questions back and forth to each other:

“How will we teach our kids the path to wellness if we don’t show them?

“How do we explain to them that it’s okay to sometimes not be okay?

“What if they someday go through depression like us. Are we teaching them to hide? To run? To be ashamed?”

I was taught from an early age how to cope with my pain. My father was a severe alcoholic/addict and I learned early on how to numb it by stuffing it down with a substance or food, or to run from it altogether.

My dad ended up getting sober when I was eighteen and was clean for twenty-two years before he passed away two years ago.

Through watching him in active recovery all those years and watching him come out of hiding, God began leading me through a journey of healing.

Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” Mark 2:17

We have been taught by doctors how to pay attention to our pain when our bodies are broken.

But what about our souls?

In order to find healing, I’m learning we must pay attention to our emotional pain and how we deal with it.

Are we prone to stuffing?

Isolation?

Do we cover our pain with busyness or things?

When Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane with the weight of the world on His shoulders, He modeled for us two powerful ways to find strength in the middle of deep pain:

He cried out to His Heavenly Father, laying his heart bare before Him, and, in the middle of His anguish, went to the disciples multiple times asking them to pray.

When my friend courageously picked up the phone that day and invited me into a window of her soul, she may have not realized it, but right then is when her healing began.

I’m learning that vulnerability is one of the most beautiful gifts we can give to each other and model to our kids.

I love this quote from Ann Voskamp’s book The Broken Way: It’s always the vulnerable heart that breaks broken hearts free.

If we want to teach our kids to not mask their pain, we must be willing to take off our masks and be open as well (of course, after asking God for discernment and what is appropriate for their age).

We’ll never be perfect, put together parents, but we can be parents that lead our kids on a path to wellness. 

We can show them that healing our pain always begins with finding the courage to be broken open before the Father and broken open to one another.

And sometimes that can begin with a simple phone call saying, “I need help. Can you pray?”

May we be brave and broken open together.

 

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