Crying might be good for your child

Crying might be good for your childAs a mum, I know the feeling that is evoked when your child becomes frustrated, annoyed, angry or upset and begins to cry. I also know that it often spurs me to intervene and to make everything ok. I want to be able to fix it and to stop any distress as soon as possible, I mean who wants their child to be upset? However, as a Clinical Psychologist I ask myself; Is this always best? Crying might be good for your child. 

A lot of parents I see in my work have a tendency to try and stop their children experiencing negative emotions.

  • There are the ‘I don’t like cry-ers’; “Stop that crying or you’ll miss out on dessert”
  • There are the ‘everything is ok-ers’: “You didn’t bump your head that hard – you’re OK”
  • And there are the ‘don’t play rough-ers’: “Honey, that’s too rough, stop banging those trucks together so hard… play nicely”

These comments in isolation seem fairly harmless, but if your child only gets the message from you that negative feelings are ‘bad’, ‘not allowed’, ‘unhealthy’, ‘wrong’ and ‘need to be changed’ then how will they ever learn to cope with distress? Children need to have permission to be sad. When parents stop the negative feelings, they are inadvertently not giving their children the opportunity to learn that distress is a normal part of life and to discover their own ways for coping with sadness. Here are some tips on dealing with your child’s distress:

  1. Notice with your child that they are upset/sad/angry/frustrated. Labeling the emotion is often helpful so your child can build a vocabulary to explain how they feel.
  2. Be in the moment and let them experience the emotion. Don’t be so quick to change to a positive emotion immediately. This shows your child that being sad is not a bad thing (albeit it may be an uncomfortable feeling).
  3. Help your child to come up with a plan on what they want to do from here. Your input will be different for children at varying developmental levels. For example a 12 year old may only need a little bit of prompting and you might say “What do you think would help now?” whereas a 4 year old might need more direction with how they can feel better and you could say something like “would a hug from mum help?”.

Overall, it is important for children to learn to tolerate distress so they can cope with the world around them. For that to happen parents need to become more comfortable with helping their children identify, experience and process their sadness.


PS. I am offering FREE Bulk Billed positions for our Children’s Social Skills Groups and Anxiety Management Groups in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs when you like GroupWorx Psychology’s Facebook page. Click Here

Stefanie Schwartz

Stefanie Schwartz is a Child & Adolescent Clinical Psychologist and founder of GroupWorx Psychology. She has previously worked intensively with young people focusing on individual, family and group therapy and founded GroupWorx Psychology, a private Clinical Psychology service in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs offering group therapy and free online advice for children and young people.For more information on services available click the website link below.

Stefanie is passionate about youth mental health, particularly anxiety, depression and eating disorders and has a wealth of experience from her work in private practice, government clinics and the world-renowned eating disorders clinic; The Centre For Clinical Interventions. Stefanie is married and mum to 15 month old son Asher.

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