You all, I am angry… Angry at the schools, that I have to cook dinner one more time, that I’m in charge of teaching my son how to read, that there is a mental health crisis, racial injustice, economic disaster, and a pandemic all happening at once. I am angry that, as a child psychologist, the world really needs my help right now and I have to fight tooth and nail to find time to work (or even think). I’m angry that my friends have lost love ones to COVID and the neighbor down the street won’t let the kids walk through a tiny sliver of his lawn to get to the park. I’m angry that I can’t see my mom and angry at myself for being angry because I am fortunate in so may ways.
And I, like most people, am taking my anger out on the people I love the most. At my husband because he didn’t cook dinner at the precise minute I thought he should, my dog for walking just a little bit too slow, and my kids for not using the Unmute button correctly. There are times in my home when it seems like anybody who comes in my path is going to feel my wrath and, I promise you, before the pandemic I was not an angry person!
So, I did what any good psychologist would do— had some wine with my therapist friends and processed, processed, processed my anger and guilt AND how it could impact my sweet boys. And what I realized was this…
In every family there are themes that are so obvious that they sometimes don’t get said out loud. We, the adults, think that everybody “gets it” and there is no point in verbalizing our feelings to our loved ones. For example, my cute husband understands that I’m not really mad at him when I’m screaming about the 17th lost water bottle or the kids making a fort RIGHT AFTER I CLEANED! I can be a total jerk and, while he doesn’t love it, he knows that we are living in unprecedented times and he’s not ultimately responsible for my rage. I try to give him the same grace.
Our kids, however, don’t understand that yet. In their minds (ages 3, 6, and 9), it is really easy to see my anger and believe I’m mad at THEM because I have to say, AGAIN, to eat their soup with a spoon (isn’t that why I send them to school?). And while it sure looks— and FEELS— like they are causing my bad attitude, it is really not their faults that I am recreating society in my own home. I hate that they are in the crossfire.
So I’m going to start saying the obvious out loud to my boys. I am going to handle my anger in the way that I teach my clients and kids to handle their anger everyday. I am going to say directly and clearly to those sweet faces, “I am mad at the pandemic and the president— I am not mad at you all and it is not your faults.” I hope that this is what they internalize; when we have big feelings, we say them out loud and clearly.
Incidentally, I began writing these thoughts a few weeks ago (after my big night out). For me, just organizing my feelings and being direct has made my family life so much easier. Saying I am pissed (which can be frowned upon for a woman) has really given me the freedom to be less pissed!
So if you are raging at your family for ridiculous things, that is totally normal and I get it. I am angry, too. I found some peace for myself and my children by naming my feelings out loud and clearly. I am mad at the pandemic and at the president. Whew. I feel better already.
If you are feeling a little too angry or want some help figuring out how to talk to your kids, please reach out to us at www.virginiafamilytherapy.com. We have individual and family therapists, parent coaches, and parenting groups that are offered for folks living in and out of Virginia.