Growing Together: emotional growth -my letter to Tom

Dear Tom

This week is Children’s Mental Health Week, and the theme is Growing together. It is the greatest of privileges as your mum to have watched you grow and develop into the young man you are today. As we celebrated your 22nd birthday this week and welcomed you into the business it seems timely to reflect on just how much you have grown emotionally over the last 2 decades and let you know how proud I am of you.

It’s easy to see how you’ve grown physically – at 6 foot 2 you tower over me! But what do I mean by your emotional growth and how do we measure it?

Your emotional growth is all about your feelings and how you have got better at understanding, communicating, and managing them. Being able to stay calm when someone annoys you, dealing with your disappointment when your plans have changed due to the pandemic, sharing your worries and feelings with me. These are all examples showing how much you’ve grown.

Tom, aged 2

Understanding what others are thinking or saying and finding the words to tell me how you are feeling is difficult. It can be tricky for all of us. When you were younger you couldn’t tell us how you were feeling so you showed us. Not with your face or words but with the only way you could communicate with us –through your behaviour.

As a toddler you chewed your clothes, span manically, lined up your toys and tried to run away. Your behaviour was triggered by changes to your routine, sensory overload and sheer frustration in not being able to tell us what you wanted.  We learnt that patience, keeping calm, structure and routine and using simple, clear language helped you deal with the ‘hostile ‘environment you perceived around you.  

 As a young boy, you worked hard on understanding your own and other people feelings. Do you remember the feelings book we made together to teach you the words you needed to recognise and share your different feelings? This helped you and I become first-rate feelings detectives!

Having the words to describe your feelings helped you when you were a teenager. You told me about how you struggle with ‘face and voice tricks’. Your words for describing how you misinterpret people’s gestures, facial expressions, and tone of voice – often thinking they are angry at you or teasing you when they are not.

As a young man, you have become better and better at talking through your worries with me and using your self-talk strategies to help silence the negative thoughts and feelings in your mind whirring round like a stuck record.

Being able to help you develop and grow emotionally has been the most demanding yet rewarding part of being your mum. It has made me look at my own feelings and emotions. I had to understand what feelings mean to me before I could explain them to you.

As a family, we learnt how best to help you understand what you were experiencing. We have been your greatest cheerleaders, encouraging you to try new foods, even a Brussel sprout! Giving you the confidence to try new activities and experiences such as riding your bike, learning to ski and even taking a flight on your own.

Tom tried these things!

Every time you try new things, learn from tough situations and bounce back from disappointments it is an emotional growth spurt for us all.

Thank you, Tom, for helping us grow together.

All my love 

Mum ❤