What TO Say

Last week, our son came home off the school bus completely distraught over something that was said on the bus. It took some time to him calm down. While it doesn’t matter who or what was said, the truth is he had real feelings, real worries and a few tears.

As parents, we have all had those moments where we have said, “Just stop crying!” to avoid public humiliation or to eliminate our own personal stress.

The “Happiness Is Here” blog author writes, “Every time you dismiss or minimize 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!”

The truth is we shouldn’t be afraid to see our children cry in public or be worried that other people might be looking at us. We need to acknowledge our children’s fears and tears. The Happiness Is Here blog gives us 10 phrases we can say instead of, “Stop crying!”

• It’s OK to be sad.

• This is really hard for you.

• I am here for you.

• Tell me about it.

• I hear you.

• I bet that was really scary/disappointing/upsetting/sad.

• I will help you work it out.

• I am listening.

• I see that you need some space. I want to be here for you. Let me know when you are ready to talk about it.

• It doesn’t feel fair.

Catherine M. Wallace said, “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.”

In a world where mental health is huge concern, I can’t help but think we can change behaviors one small step at a time. Let’s show a little more empathy and understanding, starting today.


Carrie Kube is a director for Iowa River Valley Early Childhood Area Board. All thoughts and opinions expressed are that of the author and not the board and/or its community partners.