Why It's OK To Cry In Front of Your Children

Written by Eve Bandusena | Parents Avenue’s Editorial Assistant

Image Source: Unsplash
As parents, there’s an obligation to be emotionally strong pillars for our children and therefore relegating our negative emotions through a backdoor. That’s where we fall apart, most often unseen and unheard. Although this gives our children the impression that we’re strong, resilient and we’re capable of solving anything that life throws at us, is it appropriate to show our children that we can be vulnerable too?

Psychologists have stated that crying in front of our children is perfectly healthy to do. This is because the development of emotional intelligence in children is important for them to recognize their emotions, be aware of where they come from and how to deal with them. These are essential skills in life that they need to be fully functional adults.

Without wasting any more time, let’s explore the importance of being vulnerable in front of our children.
 
 Importance of Crying in Front of Our Children

 

  • Normalize crying as a healthy outlet

When we feel vulnerable and let our children see us cry, we’re giving them to chance to experience and explore these difficult emotions from their own standpoint. From our cue as parents, they’ll understand that crying is a natural process that doesn’t need to be hidden, judged, or ashamed about. Additionally, this will also help children self-regulate their emotions after facing a challenging situation.

  • Learn emotional resilience through difficulties

 Life can seem like organized chaos at times. Many events can trigger negative emotions such as losing a job, separating from a spouse, dealing with the death of a loved one, the lists goes on and on. When we cry in front of our children, we’re teaching them that they can bounce back after a fall, argument, tantrum and move on with their lives just as they have before.

  • Teach kids to control their emotions and actions

 While we can’t control what happens to us, we can control how we react to it by controlling our emotions and actions. For example, it’s perfectly normal for a child to feel sad as an emotional response to not being invited to a sleepover but it’s not okay to hit or yell at their friend that didn’t invite them, or, it’s perfectly normal to feel bad if their parents don’t get you a toy you want but it’s not okay to beat or shout at your parents.

  • Negative emotions don’t last forever

Although crying is mainly attributed to negative emotions, letting our children see us cry and then pick ourselves up again shows them that these negative emotions are temporary and will not last forever. It’s helpful to tell them that even though tears hurt, it’s okay and it will all be over soon. Showing our vulnerability to our children also indicated to children that crying is merely a process and it’s not permanent.

Image Source: joyofurbaneducation.org

Keeping It Healthy 
 
While crying in front of our children has several benefits, it’s crucial to understand that there are boundaries between us and our children that need to be drawn to ensure our children reaps the advantages and not be negatively impacted it. Below are several tips as featured on Huffington Post addressing this topic.
 
  • Keep it age appropriate
When explaining to kids why you were crying, it’s important to only give information that’s developmentally appropriate and won’t make them worried or afraid of losing their stability and safety.
 
“Sometimes the nature of the context of why the parent is crying may not be appropriate to explain, or the details might be more than a child can handle,” Tammy Lewis Wilborn explained, a professional counselor. Still, it’s important to offer some sort of context to help kids understand that it’s not their fault.
 
So, while parents don’t have to say ‘the house is about to enter foreclosure,’ they may want to say something like, ‘I know you’ve seen Daddy cry a lot. I’m just having a tough time, but it’s going to be OK.’”
 
  • Extend the emotional discussion to both boy and girls
“Humans need to be given permission to experience and honor their emotional experiences,” said Jillian Roberts, child psychologist, noting that many different families and cultures communicate messages of shame around expressing emotions. This kind of negative messaging particularly affects young men.
 
“This is very damaging because it communicates to them that the only emotion they are allowed to experience and show is anger,” she explained. “We need to encourage parents of young boys to pay particular attention to the emotional experiences of their boys and that young boys know it is OK for them to experience and discuss the full range of emotions we have as human beings.”
 
  • Avoid doing it too often
While it can be healthy for kids to see their parents cry sometimes, it’s possible to take it to an unhealthy extent. If kids see their caregivers crying too frequently or excessively, it may send the message that something is seriously wrong.
 
“Children may feel guilty when they see their parents crying because they want to do something about it, but they don’t know what to do because they’re kids,” Wilborn noted. “They may feel helpless, wondering, ‘What can I do? How do I make this stop?’ And then there’s fear. ‘What does this mean? What’s going to happen to my parents? What’s going to happen to me?’”
 
  • Be Mindful of Intensity
Roberts believes the intensity ― more than the frequency ― of a parent’s emotional experience should be a way to gauge whether it’s a good idea to let their child see them crying.
 
“If you tear up at sad commercials daily, this is perfectly OK and normal. This shows your children your authenticity, and you are typically in control of your emotions in these circumstances,” she explained. “If you are hyperventilating or displaying other signs of an extremely emotional response in which you would typically excuse yourself from the public view, you should excuse yourself from your children. Extreme, out-of-control emotional responses like these can feel scary for children.”
Image Source: Canva

 

What To Say To Your Child When You’re Crying

As you are crying, it’s important to open a dialogue with them. These are a few things that you can say to keep an honest and healthy conversation between your children and you.
 
  • Explain to them what and why is this happening
It’s essential to explain to your child on a level which they can understand why you’re crying and what is happening as this is a major part of the process. Don’t forget to mention that nothing will sabotage or impair their family.
 
  • Reassure them that everything okay
It’s important for parents to let them know that although they’re going through a rough patch, everything will be okay and that mom and dad will keep them safe.
 
  • It’s not your child’s responsibility
Be sure to communicate to your child that it’s not their responsibility to comfort you and parents should also not expect their child to soften their blows. Children are children and it isn’t their job to be assigned to this role.
 
  • Cut out some details
If you’re upset over an argument with your partner, you don’t have to impart every single detail to your children as they might not understand. Just remember the tips listed above and tell them they’re not the reason you’re feeling sad.
 
 Disclaimer: This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases. At Parents Avenue, we strongly recommend all our readers to seek medical advise from your local hospital or clinic. Thank you. 
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