As a parent, there are times when it can be painfully difficult to watch your child cry. It can upset you in many ways. You may feel embarrassed in public or exhausted at home.  You may even go into an extremely stressed state feeling helpless and unable to guide your child. Good news; Crying is normal, necessary, and healthy for your preschooler. This week we will discuss how you can help your child and why it’s important to let your child work through the tears.
First let’s remember you can’t control other people, but you can control how you react to them. That statement is as true of an angry person you meet on the street as it is of your child! Just like adults, your child may cry for a variety of reasons and in a variety of ways. Today we will focus on those out of control times, when something your child doesn’t want to happen has happened and your child is beyond mild crying. It might be at bedtime, at school drop-off, as you are leaving your child with a sitter, or when a favorite toy is missing. As a parent your lower brain kicks in and says, “My child is in need. I need to fix this!” Even if your logical side says, “It’s okay we’ve seen this before.” It can be hard to stay calm, especially if you’re exhausted, and often hard to know what to do.
In most cases these bouts with crying really are an important developmental stage. Each child is different, and if it feels really out of control do get advise from professionals you trust, but generally speaking the lesson for parents is to stay calm and see this as an important process and not a failure on your part.
Why is your child upset? Your child may be exhausted, sad, and unable to have what he or she wants right at this moment. Your child might only be able to deal with that one huge feeling at the moment. All the ideas you have and thoughts on how to help need to wait. Talking at your child while he or she is in the mist of these big feelings doesn’t help, because they can’t hear you when they are overwhelmed. A little time has to pass for your child to cry it out and get back to a state where he or she can hear you.
In most cases, your child needs two things. First your child will need a little time to just cry. Instead of trying to stop the crying you (or the adult caring for your child) can just let them know they are not alone and it’s okay to cry. You can do this by simply sitting with your child and rubbing his or her back. Not all children want to be touched in this state so it’s very individual. Basically you want to stay calm and give them a sign that you are there.
Second, when your child is ready, you can some questions. At school a teacher might ask, “Would you like to paint or read a book?” A baby sitter might ask, “Would you like to make a picture for Mom?” A parent might ask, “Is there another toy you could play with now?” Or you may just wait for your child to join you. It will depend on the specific situation.
Over time Children learn how to handle these big feelings and learn that there will be a solution – hopefully one they can be a part of, once they have calmed down. Like all life skills (and this is an important one) it takes practice. Will there be times when you are traveling or have to leave home and you can’t just sit and wait? Absolutely and you will do what you need to do, while still respecting the big emotions your child is experiencing – that’s a life lesson too. This is not about pandering to a spoiled child. This is about understanding and respecting what is happening as your child learns to deal with strong emotions.
An article on the subject…
This is a good general article about preschoolers development, big emotions are #3 on the list…