Ohhhh, was she mad. It was shocking to see her little body so fierce on rage mode. Her face was red and tear stained, she was in attack mode and ready to strike. A 12-year-old almost circled by adults, shouting commands at her. “Calm Down”, “If you do not stop this now, you will face the consequences”, “ This behavior will not be tolerated”.
“Hi”, I chimed in. Now generally when I’m asked to come chat, it’s less chaotic, but I’m pretty assertive and I kind of take-over, because I am on the child’s side. I am the advocate of an authentic childhood experience and I defend that title with the most deliberate care. “Can I ask for the adults in the room to please leave”.
“GET AWAY FROM ME”, she screamed. I knew she was talking to me, but I had take sides with her at the moment to show her I had her back. “You heard her”, I said, “get away”. She immediately took to that statement, I could feel the energy shift. As the last adult left the room, and that door fully closed, I could see her gaze shift down. See, this wasn’t the first time this girl had become combative in the classroom. This isn’t the first time her big emotions got the best of her and sadly, it wasn’t the first time, that she was surrounded and being talked at instead of listened too.
Open arms, soft voice, gentle eyes. “May I sit” I ask. “Go away from me, I don’t need help, I am not crazy, I hate it here”. I pull out my waters and my snacks and just put them on the table. She has no idea what’s happening, but whatever it is, she is still ANGRY! “Would you like any snacks or water, or to sit?” I ask. “NO, I want to be left alone, LEAVE ME ALONE, CAN YOU HEAR ME”.
“I hear you, and I am listening”, I tell her. I sit, showing her, that no matter what she’s dishing out, I am not leaving her. I will stay by her because she deserves love and support.
You see, 7th grade is tough. There’s a lot of things happening, and if you have not been taught some emotional intelligence and you have some unmet needs, you are not going to fair well in this rocky and ever-changing atmosphere. 7th graders have so many changes happening in their bodies and minds. They are not little kids anymore but still want cuddles, just not old enough to have relationships and they are not big kids yet. It’s just a weird spot of hormones, emotions and bullshit that would put us all over the edge. Hence, this child on fire in front of me. But let’s double click on this angry tirade to find out what’s fueling it.
“What do you even want?” she shouts. “I do not want to talk to anyone” she says a little softer than the first statement. “Okay, that’s fine with me, I love silence” I reply. Middle school is brutal, there is plenty of data to research on it. Her feelings of embarrassment, isolation, depression and lack of self esteem are all perpetuated by the 7th grade…seriously, look it up.
I start in with my attempt to make her at ease. I am on your side here; I came to support you in any way I can. I am a good listener and I had a pretty horrible 7th grade year myself, so, if I can help you, please let me know. She takes a step closer. “This school sucks, the teachers hate me and treat me like crap, my parents do not let me do ANYTHING and I have no friends, well I did, but I don’t now”. That single tear that ran down her cheek, clued me in on her heartbreak. She wasn’t a problem child, she was a child with a problem.
“Can you tell me what happened”? I asked as I slide the water and snacks in front of her. “Why, so you can tell the school and get me in trouble, or have me labeled as crazy”. “Girl”, I say. “I don’t work here, I am just a person who knows exactly what you feel like, I have zero authority for anything”. She sat down, opened her water, seemingly at ease and was willing to talk. Sometimes, these kids are guarded thinking that expressing their truth has consequences, this is the stifling effect that starts when we are children that creates barriers in open communication for our lives. You know, the “stop crying” statement.
As she proceeded to drink her water and play with the table sensory toys, she opened up about her pain, and boy troubles, and her feelings of insecurity. Her social media issues and disappointment. She even told me about some traumas and things that should have never happened to her. She did this, because I made her feel safe. This is the area that our schools and group homes need so much help with. This is why I do what I do, because I know this girl…I was this girl.
This day was long and draining, but for her, it was freeing. She and I worked on some real strategies from breath work to self-esteem. We talked about sharing our pain with a trusted adult to make it more “get -thru-able”. She was very interested in the sensory toys and said just holding them and breathing made her feel better.
I gave her plenty of worksheets on holistic stress management and healthy self- talk and expression. We worked thru so many big emotions, I felt like I was on an interview, I let her lead! She felt respected and heard and that made me so happy. She agreed to employ these strategies before she lashes out at home or school. She admitted she didn’t know why she “freaked out” so much, she just didn’t know what else to do.
I am just so grateful; she got to tell her truth, tame her traumas and release the beast. She cried a lot and I know she needed too. She was able to open-up where she is usually stifled or called “dramatic”. Sometimes, we just need to spill all our shit and get it our of our brains and bodies and dump it. This is what she did, and in turn, she gained some clarity, self esteem and control of her emotions.
You see, it wasn’t just anger …it was sadness wrapped in fear…based in trauma. Sometimes that comes out as a beast…in all of us!
If we are not protecting our mental health, we are not preventing negative mental health outcomes. All emotions are okay and valid. Today she learned that and was validated in her feelings. We just needed to sort them out a bit and find creative and safe expressions for release.