Don’t forget to say, “I love you.”

Growing up these three words were rarely uttered. It could be our Asian heritage, a Guyanese thing, or maybe it was just my parents. Don’t get me wrong, my sister and I didn’t lack anything during our upbringing, my mother and father expressed their love for us by buying our favorite meals, the latest trends, and anything else we desired. We always had the newest shoes, and gadgets, our nails done, and anything else a girl could ask for. However, one thing that was missing during our upbringing was the discussion and expression of emotions.

In my parents household, if you were upset, happy, angry, anxious, moody, or felt anything other than content, well you would have to deal with those emotions on your own. My family didn’t have an open dialogue or a safe space to discuss any of our emotional turmoils. My parents aren’t very vocal about their own feelings and emotions and unfortunately it trickled down to my sister and I. We don’t know how to express our emotions in normal ways like our peers. If we’re angry or upset with one another, we just avoid each other until we’re ready to be friendly again. Even now, saying “I love you” to my parents or my sister, feels odd. There are no goodbye hugs and kisses, just a wave. Our family sounds cold but its worked for us.

I now have a beautiful family of my own and I do things differently. I vow to teach my children how to express their emotions and in a healthy way. I want my children to feel comfortable coming to their father and I, and discussing their emotions, problems, successes, their ups and their downs. I never walk out of a room or leave my daughters side without kissing her good bye and saying “I love you.” If she’s upset, I get down to her level and talk to her about her feelings, explain why she was punished, and that she can always tell mommy how she feels. It’s never too early to start teaching your children it’s okay to come and talk to you. I want Anaís and our future children to know how loved they are, by both of their parents and that no matter what, we’ll always be here for them, whether they need advice or a lending ear.

I am still a work in progress. Being raised in an environment where I had to suppress my feelings and deal with them on my own has its repercussions. I began writing at an early age and it became my escape and a way to resolve my emotional conflicts.

I used to feel inhibited and uneasy when I try to explain my feelings out loud but I’m becoming better. I have my husband to thank for this. He’s helped me discover emotions I never knew I had or were capable of. Expressing my love, compassion, and admiration for him is easier than anything I have ever done and it’s refreshingly relieving.

My husband is an amazing, patient, and understanding man. He knows about my troubled past, my upbringing, and my emotional issues. Jay has been helping me understand my emotions and express them in a healthier way. I will admit, I have a long way to go but it’s comforting knowing that I found someone who understands me and wants to help me grow as a person, no matter how difficult I may be.

Anger is the hardest emotion to tackle. I absorbed my parents way of dealing with fury and frustration and it isn’t the most wonderful thing. I get angry and I shut down. I become primitive and refuse to talk, if I do I yell and tear the other person down. I learned that this is not the way to express your frustration and so I have been working on controlling myself. I have developed coping mechanisms to keep myself from acting out. My children are my motivation. I don’t want them to express their own anger in vile ways. I’d rather they understand what they are feeling, why they are feeling this way, and how to deal with it. Something I wish my parents did.

One concept that I am grateful my parents taught me, is the concept of respect. No matter what emotions or feelings I had, I always respected my parents, and not just because they are my parents. They’ve taught me many wonderful life lessons, and showed me how to get what I want out of life. My mom taught me how to read people and about empathy, whereas my dad taught me how to be strong and not let emotions get in the way of well, anything. Because of their lessons, I don’t take shit from anyone. I couldn’t come up with a better way to state this but it’s true. They’ve taught me that people will treat you the way you allow them to and so you must decide what you will allow. All of these are definitely concepts that I’m teaching my children.

Don’t forget to say, “I love you” to your children. These three words may not seem like much but they mean the world to your little ones even when they aren’t so little. It shows your kids how much they matter and opens a window to a world of emotions. If you explain to your children how much they mean to you, and how much you care about them, chances are they will feel safe, loved, and secure with you. This is the bond you should strive for as parents. To have your children come to you and discuss their problems, feelings, emotions, and anything else weighing on their shoulders, is a blessing. I wish I had this with my parents but it doesn’t matter now, because I’m creating it for my kids.

Do yourself a favor, after you’re doing reading this, please go tell your children how much you love them. Teach them that feelings are nothing to be afraid of.

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