How to help children and adolescents process bitter sweet feelings

Kane: The phrases “move on” or “get over it” are basically saying, “It’s not okay for you to bear your loss for too long. Of course, it’s okay to be sorry on the day of loss. And maybe the day after tomorrow is okay. But there’s a point where we Hopefully you can get over it. It shouldn’t be part of you anymore. Go back to your pre-losses. “

But there is another way: you can move on with your life and bear that loss with you. You may still feel sad sometimes when new experiences are gathered and new joys are found. It all becomes your part. So instead of saying, “OK, I need to be happy as soon as possible,” you realize that life is just a collection of experiences that make you and you carry them.

Chris: While reading your book, I wrote Dr. Susan David’s phrase in the margin: “The beauty of life is inseparable from its fragility.” As adults, we sometimes talk to kids about the fragile aspects of life – and keep a premium to protect them from pain and discomfort. What are some of your thoughts on this?

Kane: I think we inadvertently teach kids, especially those growing up in relative comfort, that “normal” means everything is sky high and rich. But smooth roads are not the default; It is actually the main road with twists and turns. When life seems to go awry, kids need to know that this does not mean that something is wrong with them or their experience. It is made with the bitter sweetness of life that is incredibly comforting for children. The question then becomes, how do you navigate it? Challenges can become an opportunity for them to learn – although still under the loving guidance of their parents – that it is part of life.

When my kids were younger, we rented a house in the countryside right next to a field where two donkeys lived – Lucky and Norman. The kids and the donkey absolutely fell in love with each other. They spent their whole week feeding the donkeys apples and carrots. And then as always with any summer romance, it had to end. The kids cried for themselves, thinking Lucky and Norman had to say goodbye. We said all sorts of things to help them feel better. But what comforted them most was when we said, “This kind of farewell is a normal part of life. This is not the first time you have said that and it will not be the last. Everyone has to say goodbye like this. It’s natural. “It helped them hear that the feelings they were feeling were normal.

Chris: Last night, my eight-year-old son called me to his room crying at 10pm and said, “I don’t want to sleep because I want to sleep once, the vacation is over.” It strikes me that these small changes can be a fertile time for parents and teachers to help kids think about the beauty of bitter sweet.

Kane: Of course. Because the transition mini is goodbye, isn’t it? These are expressions of the ultimate farewell that we all finally face. We don’t know when we’re dealing with transition, but it’s really happening. And so every time you walk your child through the discomfort of transition and the pain of a small farewell – be it the last day of camp or the last day of vacation – they are the key to learning.

I quoted a poem from Gerard Manley Hopkin’s book “Spring and Fall”. And this poet wrote to a little girl that the leaves are crying because of falling and she does not want the leaves to go away. He does not want winter to come. And she says, “Margaret, did you leave the grieving / goldengrove?” And then later he said, “This is the misfortune for which man was born / This is Margaret for whom you are mourning.”
Wisdom and sympathy for that insight I can’t say those lines without trembling: Margaret still doesn’t know it; She is weeping over the fact that life is eternal.

But there is also truth about that instability: it can be so painful, but it is also intensely beautiful. The beauty of instability can be our greatest beauty – and all people feel it. There is something about knowing that we are all in this crazy, beautiful, intensely imperfect experience that is very uplifting.

Chris: Let’s talk about the concept of “effortless perfection”.

Kane: I sat down with a group of students at Princeton and asked them, “How is your life really?” Within two minutes of literally conversing, they started talking to me about what they call effortless perfection, the intense pressure that they all feel to be effortlessly perfect – to be very fit, to look good, to get great grades, to be socially proficient. , All these things. And not just to achieve all these things, but to look like you don’t have to try and it all came naturally to you.

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