Helping Kids with Big Feelings

As a parent, you deal with a LOT of feelings on a daily basis. And sometimes, it can all get to be just a little bit much! When you’ve had what seems like hours of multiple people crying at you, the temptation to make it stop is high!

We’ve all said it, or at least thought it. ‘Stop crying! Just stop!’

Or maybe you heard it as a child?

“Don’t be silly”

“Shh, everyone is looking at you”

“Stop that noise, right now!”

“Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about!”

But what if I told you that every time you dismiss or minimise your child’s feelings, you actually make your job harder. You very rarely succeed at making them stop anyway, and it’s more likely that they will need more support from you in the future rather than less. If you don’t hear the message they are trying to send you, the messenger just gets louder and louder until you do. Children are looking for empathy and understanding. If they don’t get it, they’ll keep trying.

Crying is ok. It’s a very healthy and necessary way for children to express their feelings, and we don’t need to make them stop. By telling them to ‘stop crying’ we send the message that their feelings are not important, not valid, silly, and annoying. If we want our children to learn how to regulate their emotions, and to trust us with their problems and feelings, then we cannot be dismissive of them when they try to do this!

Crying is always appropriate. Whatever your child is upset about is valid. It might seem trivial to you, but a child does not have an adult perspective on the world. Oftentimes people struggle most with allowing children to express their feelings in public, thinking that it is not an appropriate setting and worrying about other’s reactions or judgement. But let’s not teach them they need to quiet their feelings for others. They will eventually learn our unspoken social rules. One day they will know how to deal with their feelings and express them at times that adults consider ‘appropriate’, but the way we support the development of emotional regulation is by empathy and understanding, not silencing.

“Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.” Catherine M. Wallace

So if you shouldn’t dismiss your child’s feelings, what should you do instead? Check out my next newsfeed for 10 Things to Say Instead of ‘Stop Crying’. Adapted from Happiness is Here blog.