How do you feel when you see a woman crying in public?
You probably say to yourself, “Poor thing, I wonder what’s wrong with her. Maybe I can do something to help.”
Now, what if you see a man crying in public? Your first thought is probably, “What a baby.”
Why the difference?
For as long as anyone can remember, women have always been categorized as emotional, frantic, fragile and well within their rights to cry when they’re upset. Men, on the other hand, have been branded as tough, logical, calm and complete wimps if they’re caught crying in public.
The Crying Game
Even from a young age, this distinction is made between boys and girls, with boys being taught to keep their emotions in check while girls are encouraged to just let it all out.
Men often process their emotions internally, and with no real outlet for them, they tend to fester and grow until they boil over. This is unhealthy and entirely unnecessary.
Especially once you’re in a relationship and have a family, holding in your emotions in front of your spouse and kids may seem like the brave thing to do, but you’re teaching your children how to handle – or not handle – their own emotional ups and downs.
Being more expressive with how you feel, especially in front of your kids, can pay huge dividends in their personal development. Your children, boys in particular, should learn that it is perfectly acceptable to be open about their emotions and share their feelings.
You Never Know Who’s Watching
As much as we don’t like to admit it, your kids are always observing you. Almost everything you say and do is seen and remembered by your children.
Your kids spend their entire childhoods watching you and forming habits as they grow up, even if they and you don’t realize it. In fact, copying everything you say and do is vital to their development.
Children use imitation to develop many abilities, anything from language to social skills. When you come into the kitchen in the morning and do the same stretch, your daughter will start to do that same stretch whenever you do it. If you watch TV with your feet kicked up on the table, you’d better believe your son will have his feet perched up there too – or at least as high as he can get them.
When your children observe you expressing your emotions with your closest confidantes, and then sharing your feelings and emotions with the kids themselves, they will grow up to learn that being expressive isn’t always a bad thing.
You’ll Connect More With Your Kids
All children crave a connection with their parents. They want to spend time with them, talk with them and feel loved by them.
More often than not, the memories that stick with your kids the most are the ones they share with you – both good and bad.
They’ll remember forever the afternoon that you taught them how to ride a bike (or falling off a bike several times before giving up and going for an ice cream, in my case!), or when you spent hours at the ballfield helping them perfect their swing. Something as insignificant as hanging a picture they drew on the fridge could have a lasting impact on your child’s happiness.
They’ll also remember the sad moments. One of my most prominent childhood memories is from the day we had our loyal family dog put down. He was old and had an incurable illness, but as much as my father tried his best to explain the situation to me, words didn’t mean much to a 5-year-old.
It wasn’t until I saw the tears rolling down my father’s cheeks that I really understood what was going on. For most children, the loss of a pet is their first experience of death and it can be difficult to know how to react. He taught me, through his own grief, that it was OK to be confused or angry.
Being more emotionally available will only bring you closer to your children.
Your Kids Should Be Able to Talk to You About Their Problems
Whether you realize it or not, your emotional bravery could be preventing your children from sharing their problems with you. If you tend not to process emotional conversations or topics very well, your kids might not feel as though they can approach you with what they’re feeling.
As a father, you’re supposed to be a support figure to your children. When your son or daughter comes into the room crying about something that happened at school, he or she isn’t looking for some logical solution to their problem. Your child wants you to listen to them, and then make them feel better. It is imperative to be able to help your children accurately label their emotions in order to get to the root of their problems.
From there, they will begin to trust your judgment, and will seek solace in your advice much more often.
It’s Time to End the Stereotype
It’s OK for men to cry. Say that out loud a couple of times. It’s OK for men to cry.
Do you know why? Men feel too. Men get angry and disappointed, have their hearts broken and try to process the same emotional distress everyone feels at some point.
The good news is that men of this generation appear to be making progress—only 22 percent of men say showing emotion is a sign of weakness. We still have a way to go, but a new age of masculinity is dawning.
Embracing this new idea of emotional intelligence will not only benefit men, but also their wives and children. Being emotionally available will make you a more supportive partner and encouraging father, as well as more loving to both your spouse and kids.