Why It’s Okay to CrySeptember 10, 2015
By Sandra Braceful-Quarles
Waaaah! Waaaah! Waaaah!
That sound is expected, welcomed, and provides the first form of communication from the moment your child enters the world. Infants cry to signal a need: hunger, feeling uncomfortable, tired, frightened, etc. Parents are eager to comfort and console, listening to the sounds, tone, and inflection of the cries, which help you learn what your child needs or the message trying to be conveyed.
As children grow and develop language skills, the expectation to use words, appropriate behavior, and problem solving skills increases. The U.S. National Library of Medicine defines crying as “an emotional response to a distressing experience or situation.” Helping your child confirm, discuss, and overcome a crying experience lays the foundation for how he or she will cope and resolve issues as an adult.
Confirm and Validate
If your child is crying, there is likely an issue. Be careful not to say, “Don’t be sad,” or “Don’t be scared.” Those statements send the message that it’s not okay to cry. Instead, say, “I see you are crying. Is everything okay?”
You can also use comforting words in a tone that confirms you recognize there is an issue that your child needs to discuss. This initial validation provides the comfort that a child will need when developing problem-solving skills. Your child may need a hug or a period to just cry until he or she is able to say what is wrong.
The next step is moving from tears to words. Getting your child to say or articulate his or her feelings is important for many reasons.
- You learn the reason for the crying and can begin to address how your child can handle or cope with his or her feelings.
- You are teaching your child how to talk through the emotions. As your child’s guide and teacher, you can show him or her another way to address the feeling.
- If you’re not talking about the problem, then it could affect how your child deals with his or her feelings. Discussion is meant to help your child work through issues.
Resolve and Overcome
It will take a lot of practice for your child to begin resolving issues on his or her own. Every time you have a discussion, reinforce your child’s problem-solving skills. Your discussions can then gradually shift to the child doing the talking.
There may be times when the same feeling or issue will arise and you can say, “How did we handle that last time?” Ask for ideas or suggestions to resolve the problem to help your child think about how to feel good again.
This is not an overnight process. As your child develops, your reinforcement will help him or her master these issues alone.
Crying is what humans do naturally. It is the first sign that all is well when we are born. As children mature and develop into adults, the expectation is to work through their feelings. Crying is the beginning of that stage as your child learns to understand, accept, and manage his or her emotions. Of course, it’s okay to cry.
The YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher books and program include valuable strategies and information on how to help you talk with your child through each stage of development. You can purchase the books on Amazon.
Sandra Braceful-Quarles is an educator, community liaison, and tutor working in the south suburbs of Chicago. As an active member of her worship community, she is passionate about giving back and volunteering to help others. She and her husband have three children and two grandchildren.