It’s OK To Cry
Crying is an important and essential part of expressing your feelings.
It is detrimental to your child, therefore, to make them feel like it’s not normal or natural to cry. Furthermore, children are looking for empathy and understanding. If we want our children to learn how to regulate their emotions, and to trust us with their problems and feelings, then we cannot be dismissive of them when they try to do this.
I think most parents struggle with allowing their kids to cry in public. Afraid of outside judgement, they shush their little ones from crying to avoid a scene. However, this just teaches our children to quiet their emotions and keep them bottled up inside. Instead, we as parents should try to empathize with our children with whatever it is they are upset about (even if it may seem trivial to us). Instead, we should say things like, “It’s OK to be upset – I understand how you feel – tell me about it – I’m listening to you – I’m here for you.”
This brings to mind a relevant quote:
“Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.” -Catherine M. Wallace
Here is a list of what we should try NOT to do when our child cries:
- Distraction. This diminishes their feelings and makes it less likely for them to confide in you in the future.
- Punishment. This is not part of respectful parenting. We should never punish, threaten, shame, blame or judge a child for their feelings.
- No Buts. When empathizing with your child, there is no need to add ‘but.’ For example, “I know you’re upset that you can’t have another lollipop, but you still cannot have one.” It almost invalidates your empathy.
- Ask too many questions. When your child is full of overwhelming feelings, they don’t have the ability to provide answers to lots of questions. So empathize first, ask questions later.
- Say ‘It’s OK.’ I am definitely guilty of doing this, saying ‘it’s OK, you’re fine’ when my child is crying. However, they do not feel fine. So even though I mean well, it can minimize their feelings. So instead, a simple ‘It’s OK to cry’ is a better option.
- Have a time limit. We shouldn’t think of empathy as a technique to stop the crying. This is not the goal. It is to help your child feel heard, understood, validated, and supported. This may take a while. So please, be patient.
Sometimes, when your child is crying, all they need from you is a good hug. Whether they are really crying because they are hungry (or hangry), tired, upset or just vowing for your attention, a hug shows them you are there for them when they need you the most.
So next time your child is struggling with an overwhelming feeling, think about this article and try to calm them with empathy, understanding, and a hug. Because feelings, in both children & adults, aren’t something to be avoided or glossed over, but rather opportunities for connection.
*Disclaimer: I am not claiming to be an expert on this subject. I am just a mom, writing about my own experiences.