Parenting has come a long way since the days of “children should be seen and not heard”. A lot is now known about how the frameworks and coping strategies that children are provided with when they are young can impact the rest of their lives.
However, a lot of parents are time poor. Stressed, frustrated and with a million things to do – it can be easy to lose patience and let rip with a “STOP CRYING!” in the moment. Or even later, in a more quiet time, when it’s difficult to understand WHY a child is crying.
Imagine having an emotional reaction to something. A feeling of overwhelm, exhaustion or disappointment. Then imagine being told to STOP having your reaction. The potential consequences of asking a crying child to simply stop what they’re doing can result in the oppression and silencing of real and valid emotions. Imagine the implications of this tendency should they continue to repress how they really feel in their adult relationships.
It’s important to address a crying child in a supportive, engaging way that helps them process complex emotions.
Here are ten other things you can say instead.
1. It’s OK to be sad
It’s alright that your child is crying. Crying is the release of frustrations or tension. It’s a natural response to a triggering event. Emotions are valid and allowed to be expressed.
2. This is really hard for you
Cast your mind back to when you were going through something really tough and someone else wrote it off as not being of any consequence. That would have felt belittling and like the other person didn’t take you seriously.
Acknowledging that your child has experienced a difficulty can be really validating and meaningful.
3. I’m here with you
You don’t need to instantly solve every problem. Being supportive but letting your child process events in their own way will go a long way towards promoting and fostering a sense of resilience.
4. Tell me about it
Sometimes your crying child just needs to be heard. Stop and listen to their version of events – let them get it all out and process their emotions through conversation.
5. I hear you
Validate your crying child by saying that yes, you understand that they are hurting. We all want to be heard.
6. That was really scary or sad or awful
Sometimes things in life go wrong. It’s okay to acknowledge that it’s not all sunshine and puppies. If they got a fright, or hurt, or upset – it’s okay to say that! You can’t gloss over every negative and pretend nothing ever goes wrong, that’s just not realistic.
7. I will help you work it out
Strategise and process together as a team.
8. I’m listening
Your presence is often presents enough. Allowing someone who is upset to actually let out everything they are dealing with is incredibly cathartic for them and will strengthen the bond between you.
9. I can tell that you need space. I’ll stay close by so you can come to me when you’re ready
Sometimes we all need a good cry (or a scream into the pillow). Let your crying child have their space and allow them to be in control of when they come back to you for a cuddle.
10. That didn’t feel fair, did it?
Life isn’t fair. It’s okay to be disappointed or angry or feel let down. Let your child process those very human responses in the way that they want to.
Do not fear the crying child
Crying is a release of emotions and completely natural. Rather than saying “STOP CRYING”, use the opportunity to encourage connection. The kindness and empathy you show today will be felt for years to come.
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