For years now we’ve made it a point in our home to talk about a lot of different things. Talking is important for all families, and especially for adoptive and foster families where there is never any shortage of subjects to talk about.
Sometimes the conversations in our home are serious; often they are more or less commonplace; and at times they are lighthearted and filled with laughter. Still other conversations involve precious few words, with everything that needs to be “said” being expressed most meaningfully through us simply being together. But until recently there was one key element that our conversations rarely included: talking about feelings.
Make no mistake, there were plenty of feelings involved in our conversations. Sometimes really BIG feelings. Whether happy or sad, frustrated or mad, there is generally no shortage of feelings to go around in our family. But we simply didn’t talk about them, as in “I am feeling [fill in the blank]” or “That makes me feel…” No, instead we just felt these feelings and often acted on them – that is until recently.
I realize now that the primary reason we didn’t talk about feelings in our home was because I didn’t make it a priority. I also didn’t really give feelings much attention or credit – in my life or the lives of others. Feelings just weren’t important to me, at least not important enough to talk about or express them verbally. Although I would certainly act (and sound) frustrated, as dads often do, I would rarely if ever say “I feel frustrated.” I just was. When one of my kids might hurt, offend or embarrass me in some way, I almost never said how their actions made me feel. Instead, I would pout or react or, more often, just “stuff” my feelings inside and ignore them. All so very mature, I know.
As a result, my kids learned to largely respond in kind. And in the unlikely event they would venture to express a feeling they felt, it was almost assured that I would discount, dismiss, or altogether disregard it. Nothing says your feelings aren’t real, valid, or important to child like a dad responding with “get over it” or sending the message (verbally and otherwise) that the way his child feels is absolutely ridiculous. I’m guilty on all fronts.
But like I said, things have changed (and are changing) around our place, and looking back I can see that there have been a couple of keys to this transformation – but more about that next week.
So what about you? Are feelings important and safe to talk about in your home?