A few days ago, A2 was feeling really, really down. Like, “joking” about suicide kind of down. Her birth family was haranguing her for things that aren’t her fault, her former best friend was spreading mean rumors, and her boyfriend can’t come up for her birthday next week. All in all, it was a bad day to be A2.
I asked her if there was anything I could do to help, and she just shook her head. She said, “I don’t know what else to do. I’ve done all my coping skills but nothing is helping.” It was then I got the devious idea to try one of my more…controversial parenting techniques. After all, if nothing you’ve done is helping, try something new.
And that was how A2 and I found ourselves outside in the backyard at 10pm, throwing rocks and screaming obscenities.
We made sure to keep the volume down to just below “neighbors calling the cops” level, but that did not at all hinder our creativity. I’m pretty sure sailors would have blushed. I mainly supplied A2 with rocks to smash on the ground and a few prompts, and she let loose. She cursed at her birth mom, at her grandparents, at her uncle, at her friends, and at the men who raped her. She cursed and smashed rocks until she was standing there, out of rocks and out of people who had steamrolled her life.
After that, I gave her a big hug, told her I loved her, prayed with her, and sent her to bed. Obviously a single night of unhinged madness doesn’t fix anything, but if nothing else, she slept better and didn’t have a single nightmare (which is huge for her!).
I’ve seen studies that say that cursing can actually reduce physical pain and increase endurance in athletes. I’m no athlete so I wouldn’t know about that, but I do know that cursing has a sort of power to it. The explosiveness and general social taboo make it something that most people use mainly as a release in extreme circumstances. By channelling that power, the kiddos that I care for can sometimes find something close to catharsis.
Plenty of social workers (and my mom, who reads this blog. Hi mom!) would look askance at encouraging a teenager to curse loudly outside after bedtime. But I remember being a depressed 16 year old, and I know what it’s like to feel like you have no resources. Platitudes, traditional coping skills, and sometimes even prayer don’t help the way you wish they would. If, as A2 said, “nothing is helping”, then you find something different.
Like cursing loudly until you feel better.