Why we should allow our kids to cry. Sounds a little cruel, right?
But I promise you it isn’t.
Crying is our body's way of communicating with us; it aids in releasing and clearing stress-induced hormones like cortisol out of our body.
It also releases oxytocin which helps in calming the body down.
Why we should allow ours kids to cry
So why then is it difficult to hear our little ones cry?
For many reasons I think, especially in infancy and toddlerhood, crying serves as a huge part of their communication with their adults.
It's their body's way of alerting us that something just isn't right or a need is unmet; be it sickness, hunger, sleep etc.
But what do we do with those tears when they are not related to food, sleep, sickness or separation anxiety?
We have been taught to distract and suppress them and it makes sense then that our own nervous system is freaked out by crying because as kids we were not taught how to feel and process sadness or anger, just how to put them away.
We are always encouraged to have lots of room for happiness, joy, excitement, peace, but what about our room and capacity for other emotions like sadness and anger?
Emotions that are just as big as the others and that come up in everyday life?
I used to (still do sometimes) get overwhelmed by my daughters' tears, and sometimes I would go into this self-critical mode where I blamed myself and felt I wasn't meeting a need or that she was unhappy and that I must be responsible for it.
And while some of the time this may be true, sometimes our kids feel sad and need to cry and in that moment need us as their guardians to create and be that safe space for them to feel these big emotions, like sadness and anger or frustration.
So it's not enough to distract them with a toy or a game, because sometimes those feelings pop back up even bigger because they're still pent up and haven't been released.
Now when my daughter is sad and crying, and it's not the main needs that are missing, I just hold her while she cries and I use phrases like:
- ‘ I see how sad you are, this is hard’
- ‘I'm here with you and it will pass’
- ‘Mummy feels very sad too when.....’
- ‘I'm here and you are safe’.
Naturally as humans, and more so as parents, we tend to rush to our kids or distract them when they're sad because WE KNOW what that sadness feels like, and we don’t want them to feel that and to have to deal with it.
But we aren't helping them by distracting them. How we help them is by modeling and guiding them on how to process these big feelings - just as we would with happiness and excitement.