There is a lot of confusion and contradictions swirling in today’s society about whether or not to let our children cry. A few decades ago, even experts said that infants have to learn to soothe themselves and adapt to daily routines, that is why parents should not respond to their crying. Today we have already known that with this approach the only thing they will learn for a lifetime is that they cannot trust and lean on anyone (emotionally). This is where relationship difficulties are rooted in most of our lives. That is why it is essentially important to be emotionally available for our children. Always.
“I’m here for you not to be here” – When we might throw out the baby with the bathwater
Falling into the other extreme is easier than we think and the confusion begins here. We misunderstand what it means to be emotionally available for our children in their difficult times. And the reason behind that is the approach to negative feelings perceived and taught by our society and culture.
Most of us have grown up learning that we must avoid crying, grief, pain in all circumstances. We inherited the belief that all negative emotions stand in the way of happiness, success and wholeness. Whether we suffer from them or others, we feel the urgent need to end them immediately. We try to soothe/console them with words, touch, advice, distraction, motivation but we rarely accept the present moment as it is. Of course, it is not nice seeing others sad, in pain but why is it so tough for us? I know the question could be outrageous but let’s think: How much is distraction and the need to console instinctive or learned (inherited through the practice of generations)?
Generational dead end – The real message of “No need to cry!”
We have been trying to avoid, hold back or end feelings and emotions that are considered negative. Even the outside world confirms that it’s not okay to feel this way. When our child is fussy, whining, sad, angry or crying, our most common reactions say that they shouldn’t feel this way: “Don’t be sad!”, “Look at its bright side!”, “No need to cry for this!”…All of these come with a good intention though. This is what we learned.
Nonetheless these responses somehow make children feel rejected with their emotions. Because it says that the feelings which intensified in them are not right. Therefore later on, children can stress about the rise of the emotions and the fear of not handling them well. Or even about letting others see how they feel which means they’re not covering it well. By the end, kids can also experience total failure by not just letting others notice their emotional state but also make others believe they have to tolerate or do something about it. As you can see, these only make negative emotions even more intense which leads to losing control over them. The truth is, we never learned how to handle these feelings effectively.
But what if we didn’t have to refuse them? Would they still get so much intensified?
A feeling comes and goes
Children need to get to know their own feelings and learn how to live with them. In this they lean on us. Kids watch, trust and learn from us. A truly happy human being is not always joyful but can still appreciate sorrow and grief. All feelings have their own reason and meaning. All emotions come and go. Children do not need to be protected from feelings that are considered negative. What they need is to be taught how to recognize and accept them. One that never fails, never learns something new. Every difficulty in life gives an opportunity to grow. No need to run from them. The better we are running away, the more they will persecute us. The more we are accepting them, the easier they leave us.
It’s okay to cry – “I’m here with you”
Nothing else is needed. Just to be there with your child in the moment. They need neither your advice nor your console. Only your acceptance so they can accept too. Because feelings and emotions are important. Living the moment together helps children best to recognize and accept the swirling emotions in themselves and through that who they are. For us not doing more however is hard for the first time, since this is what we’ve been practicing from childhood. Still, the most important thing for them is our understanding presence. This is how their tension releases the fastest, giving the way to feelings for leaving. Children’s relationships with us and with themselves will deepen and strengthen. This is how they will become independent, balanced, stable and truly happy adults.
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