Have you ever had one of those days where your child just seems to be feeling grumpy and starts crying over every little thing? Small every day things that don’t seem traumatic or upsetting. Sometimes my fifteen month old will cry over things that normally don’t bother her, like having her nappy changed, teeth cleaned or clothes pulled over her head.
Here’s what I learnt from Hand in Hand Parenting. That children, often use little things to set off crying about bigger fears and upsets. So we might think our child is making a fuss about being strapped into their buggy, when in actual fact, this small event triggers upset about something else. It might remind them of a long traumatic birth, or may just trigger the release of stress from overstimulation or tiredness.
Crying is our natural healing mechanism. Crying allows us to recover from any stress and upset that we have experienced. When we experience something stressful our body gets ready for fight or flight, by producing stress hormones like cortisol and adrenalin. When we are safe again, we can release these stress hormones through tears.
As a culture the healthy expression of emotion through crying is not widely understood or accepted. Most of us were not able to freely express our feelings, and so crying triggers strong emotions in us. We often feel compelled to stop our children from crying, even when we have no idea what’s wrong!
Here’s what you can do next time your child is having a bad day. When your child starts to cry simply listen. Don’t try and fix the situation, by rushing to shove the clothes on, or change the nappy in lightning quick time. Don’t go into an all singing all dancing routine to keep the tears at bay. Simply slow down, and listen. Give your child a hug and stay close. Use gentle reassuring words to let your child know they are safe now. Move carefully toward the thing that needs to be done, the nappy that needs changing or the teeth that need cleaning, but don’t force your child to do anything, until they have finished crying.
Listen all the way through and something interesting happens. When your child finishes crying they will return to their natural good self. They won’t mind having their nappy changed or cleaning their teeth. They will be happy to co-operate with you when fear and upset aren’t clouding their mind. When we give our children the safety to cry bad days can actually just be ‘bad’ moments. When we listen all the way through, our children can release their sadness, and return to their natural joyful selves.
To find out more about how crying helps children to heal go to Hand in Hand Parenting