"Don't cry!" How to deal with children’s tears?

05 may 2022
When kids cry, they express negative emotions in the only way available so far. It seems that children’s tears are unpleasant only for parents… at such moments it is natural to say something like: "Don't cry, everything is okay!". But believe us — the child enjoys crying even less. Tears only help them cope with strong feelings: not only when they are upset, but also when faced with something new, confusing, unexpected or difficult. Our task as adults is to calmly overcome such situations and help children do the same.

The main strategy here is to allow the child to recognize their feelings and show that they shouldn’t be afraid of them or repress them. We do not recommend ignoring the kid’s tears, even if they are annoying and sometimes seem unreasonable. The manifestation of such emotions is important for the child’s mental and emotional health, and the coldness and rejection of an adult can cause serious resentment for the rest of their future life. Here are some of our tips, based on the Montessori method and our own experience, to help you deal with children’s tears.

1. Be there.
Sit on the floor with your child so that you are at the same level. Don’t talk or touch them right away. Just be together — often the physical presence gives a sense of security, helping to stop the tears. Minimize all external stimuli. Look the kid in the eyes, give them time; do not rush, and do not try to end the crying ahead of time by distracting the child with something or hugging them. This way you run the risk of causing overstimulation, and the kid will not hear you due to violent emotions. Just watch them with calmness.

2. Physical contact.
Soon you will see that the child is tired and the tears have dried up a little. At this time, it is important to show that you are ready to comfort them by opening your arms or patting your knees. Stroke, take their hand, gently hug, smile. You can also sing a soothing song. Children use a lot of energy to cry, and often they need a hug after the emotional outburst has passed. But be careful — sometimes the kid may still be offended by you and not want you to touch them. Respect these desires.

3. Recognize that the child is upset.
When your kid decides to settle down or snuggle up to you, it’s time to talk about what happened. Do not try to deny the fact of resentment with phrases like "It's okay". Instead, notice why the child was crying: "You got angry when I told you to put your toys away." It is important that you name what the kid is feeling so that they understand what happened. Name the emotion and let it be. Help your child to formulate what they feel and speak out. For example: "I see that you are upset and I want to help you, but I can’t understand you when you cry. You don’t have to scream for me to hear you. I’m ready to listen to you."

4. Listen carefully and empathize.
Listen respectfully when your child talks about something upsetting them. Wait for them to speak, don’t ask too many questions, and stay with them until they’re done. Don’t interrupt. Repeat what they told you so that the kid knows that they were heard. For example: "Now I understand why you are upset. You didn’t finish the game, and I interrupted you when you wanted to continue. It’s really unpleasant, I understand." Apologize if you feel that you truly hurt the child. Simple sympathy works wonders and helps to completely forget about tears.

Childhood is filled with strong emotions. Remember, crying is normal and nothing to be ashamed of. Our task is not to control the behavior and emotions of children. It’s about helping them and being there to make them feel safe, letting out the pent-up feelings. Only in this way can they grow up to be conscious and happy adults. Keep calm, use these tips, and gradually you will be able to overcome children’s tears in a friendly way.