Afrikan Parenting: Addressing the Lack of Emotional Support

Ideally to have children, you have to have a house, a good paying job, a good car, enough money- basically to be financially stable. This may seem like, “Of course it is a “good” thing to think about before having children” but are there more factors to successfully raising children that we rarely pay much attention to?

There are certain things deeply embedded in our “culture” (or us), so normalized yet so damaging to our growth and that of future generations. Parenting is one of them. Thanks to popular Afrikan media, it is no secret that Afrikan parents have “strange” ways of showing affection to their children. Afrikan children, (and I am tempted to say the Black community at large but no), have gotten so used to this detachment that we make jokes about them. Comedies, films and so forth make money off the fact that Afrikans across the continent can identify with the experience of lacking emotional support from parents. Maybe these are ways for them to cop- because if they did not make “fun” of these things, they may end up more affected than they already are.

A few days ago, on Afrikan twitter we saw this as Afrikans created a platform to be in solidarity with those that hurt from this.

South African, Khaya Dlanga tweeted asking, “What have you always wanted to [say] to any of your parents but have never said?

Afrikans across the continent joined the conversation mostly indicating their disappointment, their TRAUMA, hurt and pain and the fact that all they wish was to be understood and accepted. Again, most of them were directed towards fathers, which is not shocking considering they exuberate the most power in heterosexual marriages [if both parents alive].

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At some point I feel like we are selfish beings. We have a deep desire to reproduce, to pro-create, to have people carry our ancestry and legacies and pass on our bloodline at any cost. It is selfish for us to want children when we know so well (or not) we are not emotionally and mentally ready to give them what they need. However, this is difficult to understand because this lack of emotional support is so normalized in our culture that it is not seen as a problem. The outcomes- emotional distress, trauma, depression- are all hardly ever recognized as serious mental issues.

Living in a highly capitalist world, it is no surprise that we -as a society- have engaged in the social construction where the lack of emotional support can be replaced solely with financial support. Very rarely do you find a parent that sees the fact that providing your child with tuition, food, shelter, clothing etc. may not be enough. Being a parent has become largely associated with financial provision- ignoring all else. Providing a “transactional love” is the norm. You find so many financially stable families, broken with children suffering from trauma and other emotional pains yet we continue to perpetuate this parenting system. It is taught from generation to generation thus creating generations of emotionally unavailable, emotionally deprived and depressed persons. If as a child, you feel dissatisfied when you got all the financial support, you are labelled as UNGRATEFUL, their trauma is constantly INVALIDATED and are continuously made to feel like “it could be worse”. It is really time to understand that this is nothing to tolerate. It is dangerous and again damaging.

What is so wrong with showing emotion towards our children? Do we not understand the important and central role expressing love to our children does to their growth? How can we be so selfish to tell children to be grateful for “parents” who continuously cause them emotional, mental and physical pain? How can you tell children to be grateful for “parents” who they feel do not even know them? Why are we so quick to tell these people to be grateful without understanding what exactly may be holding them back?

There are various other power systems that aid to reproduce this harmful parenting. The patriarchal nature of families and the gender expectations set by society. The fact that emotion (love, specifically) is gendered and considered feminine thus “un-masculine” influences how the family functions. Secondly, globally, we have just decided that children deserve no agency- this lack of agency makes them moving, breathing objects and property. This is how we treat children. Lastly, the stereotypes and perspectives of mental health in Afrikan communities affect how we address trauma or if we even do. Or what we define as trauma and what we validate as causes of trauma and depression.

Being a parent is not simply giving birth. There is so much more and if you are not ready to invest 100% emotionally into your children- financially ready or not- maybe you should not have children. Spare them the pain. BUT THEN AGAIN, I’M NOT A PARENT. SO LET ME END HERE!

For those of us who cannot relate to this- if you have parents that were there for you, motivated and encouraged you to be everything and anything you wanted to be- taught you how beautiful it is to have a loving relationship and how possible it is to exist outside the box, parents who were never shy or reluctant to showing you love- recognize this privilege.

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