Ever since we were little, we were taught that crying is a shameful thing and that it is something we should stop doing from a certain age up. And yet, as children, more or less often we would still end up with unstoppable tears rolling down our cheeks, chin trembling and nose stuffed.

All in spite of our attempts to control our emotions. Moreover, we still find ourselves in this situation even as adults, proof that the passing of time has only taught us how to cry less, because we are in better control of our emotions.

If in certain situations, such as physical pain, losing someone dear or our pet or being afraid of something, crying is completely justified and accepted by our parents and the society in general, in others tears are simply not admitted.

For example, a little girl who wants to eat a cookie that she has dropped on the ground will start crying hysterically, an apparently disproportionate reaction to the event that caused it. The parent’s reaction, without much pondering, will probably be: “Why are you crying over such a small thing? Calm down, we will buy another cookie!”

Or worse, when a three or four year old starts crying in public, his parents feel ashamed and try to calm them down by telling them things such as: “Look at that little boy, he just sits there quietly, can’t you do the same?” or “How can you cry over this? You’re all grown up! What will all these nice people around us think?” or “Stop crying, or this man over there will get angry”. 

All these reactions from adults only make children cry worse and become even more upset. And for good reason! Let’s imagine that it’s us in their shoes. We will understand that, from their point of view, such a reaction only means that they are being misunderstood by their parents or that their parents aren’t even trying to understand, on the contrary, they are trying to suppress their emotions or even scare them.

When in fact, trying to calm a child down by using tactics like the ones above has instead a negative effect on long term: it makes the child feel ashamed of his emotions and feelings, it induces the idea that crying is a sign of weakness and that, if it happens, you must hide it, thus making them hide their emotions from their parents in order to avoid being criticized.

And we definitely don’t want any of these negative effects in our children’s lives.

What should we do then?

First, we must understand why sometimes children have disproportionately intense emotional reactions to the events that caused them. It’s simple: usually, these reactions happen after tension has been piling up for a while, hand in hand with exhaustion, and come as an explosion that is meant to help children discharge their emotions. This crying is a form of release from accumulated stress.

Secondly, us, as parents, should be there for them, offer them affection but without trying to undermine, through the things we say to them, the importance of the event that caused the emotional reaction.

We must avoid blocking their feelings, instead choosing to reflect their emotions and thoughts.

After the crying is over, with or without an associated conversation, the child will be back to his merry mood, completely forgetting about the reason that made him cry.

And that is because he has regained his emotional balance.

How do you react when your child cries from a seemingly insignificant cause?