I'ma Let These Jokes Fly

Monday my timeline was flooded with smiles and couple of frowns of children returning to school. Summer vacation is officially over. I will admit that going back to school was exciting… for the first week. Fresh clothes. Fresh shoes. And I was back with my friends that I hadn’t seen all summer.

Then reality sets in. School is school, and at times it can be stressful.

Teachers, homework and friends are enough to juggle throughout your journey from Kindergarten to High School. Bullying is another component that children deal with and it can take a toll on their mental health.

When I was in school, it was common for friends to crack jokes on one anther. I was always the victim to the “you are so black…”, “your nose so big…”, “your teeth so big…” jokes. Oh yea. Let’s not forget the jokes about being a nerd for making good grades.

I mean sometimes the jokes came so frequent that I had to second guess if these were really my friends because some of the jokes would actually hurt my feelings. But of course, I would simply fire back with jokes of my own.

Luckily, we barely had the Internet (I say barely because we had dial-up) and every kid did not have a cell phone. I did not have to worry about social media and cyber bullying.

I can’t imagine a picture or video being posted of me for the entire world to comment. At a young age, and even for adults, this can be devastating. I have seen it first hand…kids can be ruthless with their comments.

My parents would tell me that it wasn’t nice to pick on others and every family does not have the resources to provide things like the latest sneakers or clothes. But once the adults are not there, the jokes will fly. Not knowing that there can be a thin line between joking and bullying.

Just like some of the jokes that hurt my feelings and affected me in some type of way, I'm sure some of the jokes I said had the same affect on others.

With the start of this school year, let’s keep in mind that making good grades may not be the only problem that a child faces. We must acknowledge and correct the obstacle of bullying that many children face on daily basis.

Being aware of a child’s concerns is a great way to help them deal with any issues on bullying. This begins with listening to them. Not just letting them talk while you text your friend and give an occasional “yea” or “oh ok”. But actually listen to their issues and provide them with the assistance that they need. This goes for parents, teachers, mentors, and whoever else.

We will all be amazed how much we can help a child by simply listening to their needs. Let's help them succeed in making this school year a successful one.

Calling All Men

It is common for men to negate their feelings and emotions because we are never taught how to recognize what is actually going on, how to effectively, shamelessly express those feelings, nor are we taught how to manage those feelings. Without these lessons in dealing with emotion, men with sons often recycle these patterns, and new generations are taught to suppress their emotions to live up to the facade of always being “strong” and emotionless.

My Father taught me how to rise before the sun to knock out things you have to get done in order to have time to do things you want to do later.

My Grandfather taught me that even though you may have individuals in your ear telling you everything that you are doing is wrong (normally my grandmother yelling at him LOL), consistent hard work and dedication will produce the results that YOU are looking for.

My Uncle Jeffrey taught me the value of having your own but sharing what you have to help others. A simply joy in life.

My Uncle Lamont, by far one of the greatest influences in my life, taught me how to be cool while constantly hustling and grinding.

As a child, I learned things from the men in my life. Things you should and should not do as a man. Things that you strive to be as a man. Ways a man is a man.

They were there to set examples.

BUT…there were things that I did not learn or experience.

Feelings and emotions came from the women in my family. The hugs, the nurturing, and the “I Love You’s” came from the women - my mom, grandmother and aunts.

Never from the men.

I didn’t hear “Love you” from my pops until I was in my 20s and it was awkward. Why?

It’s not like I ever doubted that he loves and cares for me, but it is not something that was verbally said or even expressed through a hug. It was limited to a dap and half hug with a pat on the back. For a growing boy internalizing every interaction with males in his life, this helps create the norm of refraining from displaying feelings and emotions.

This is not only an issue between fathers and sons but generally characterizes male interactions between uncles, nephews, and male friends.

As we continue to recreate his emotional disconnect from generation to generation we do not realize the affect it has on our mental health.

To help break stigma associated with mental health and mental illness, men must step up to the plate and talk. This is not limited to just fathers to sons, but also with friends and family. We cannot be afraid of being perceived as weak for expressing and showing emotions. WE ARE ALL HUMAN.

A man recognizing his ability to address and manage his emotions correlates with how other men will address and manage their emotions, especially for boys that will grow up to be men.

Creating an emotional connection and harvesting a child's mental and emotional health goes beyond assuming that they know you care, tell them!

Children's Mental Health Awareness Week

As I stated in my most recent Instagram video, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. And it just so happens that this week is Children’s Mental Health Awareness week. It’s actually kind of perfect that Children’s Mental Health Awareness is the lead in for this month’s cause, because Mental Illness and Mental Health is just as important for children as it is for adults. Believe it not, children who have their mental health neglected and who suffer from mental illness grow to become adults who continue to neglect their mental health.

Children are very impressionable and things they learn in early years help shape how they view the world. For instance, as child I was always told that crying and showing any emotion were not things a boy should do. So at an early age, I learned how to suck it up and push my emotions and feelings aside in attempts to man up. This was the more socially acceptable way for a male to carry himself, so that’s what I did.

On another note, growing up, I would often say, “I’m stressed out,” and adults would respond “You have nothing to stress about…you don’t have any bills, limited responsibilities, and you have things that your parents didn’t have.” That was true, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t experience stress on a daily basis. No matter how small it seemed to someone else, it was major to me. So like I said…I was stressed out LOL.

So as adults, it’s so important that we don’t dismiss the mental health of children just because we feel that they don’t have a care in the world. That is far from the truth. Beyond being aware of stressors, like school, friends and organizations, that can lead to a decrease in the mental health of children, it’s important to remember that mental illness is not limited to a certain age.We need to be able to recognize potential issues with children and get them the help \ they need. This includes LISTENING to them, TEACHING them how to communicate their emotions and feelings, and INFORMING them that they are not alone when they have a problem.

What are your thoughts on society’s emphasis on mental health for children? What can we do to make it better? What methods do you use to ensure you are paying attention to a child’s mental health? Comment below.