Inside this post: Parenting tips to comfort an upset child
Being a child is hard work, and finding ways to comfort an upset child can be a difficult task.
The world around a child is so large and confusing.
While it seems like “little things” are making our children cry, it is not a little thing to them.
Kids do not have the mental capacity to understand the scale of a problem, which is why sometimes when you give a toddler a blue cup instead of the red one, all Hell breaks loose.
As great as it is to have some tools in your back pocket for preventing tantrums and sadness, we as parents still need tools to help us calm our crying children down.
This parenting thing should have come with a manual!
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About Crying Babies And Children
When children are tired, hungry, sick, uncomfortable and overtired, they cry, Sometimes they cry due to alack of attention and affection.
Older children and toddlers cry due to frustration, anger sadness, and other uncomfortable and unknown emotions.
While it could be difficult to determine the cause of your child’s discomfort, especially if they aren’t talking yet, you can first make sure they haven’t hurt themselves and are not sick.
If your child is crying for another reason, some comforting phrases can do the trick.
Why The Phrase “Don’t Cry” Fails To Soothe A Crying Child
Have you ever had your partner/spouse tell you to “calm down” when you’re in an angry rage?
Doesn’t that just add some fuel to the already raging fire inside of you? It does for me!
The very same effect happens on children when we use the phrase “Don’t Cry” when trying to soothe a child.
When children cry, they are letting out emotions.
These emotions need to be processed and understood by our little growing humans.
It is very important for our kids to feel all the feelings that they have so that they learn how to handle them properly, especially when the scale of these problems increases in teenage years.
Sometimes children cry because they simply forget to use their words. Young children who are just learning to speak, often just need some help to say the problem out loud.
Sometimes, the problem is that they don’t remember or know how to tell you.
Saying words like “Don’t Cry” will not help your child tell you the problem if they have forgotten how to say what they want to say.
When you tell your child that they need to stop crying, you are immediately pushing their feels aside and disregarding their need to process their emotions.
2 very big things happen when comforting a crying child
When you use “stopping” phrases such as “Don’t Cry” you are telling your child that their emotions don’t really matter and they need to shut down and “Be Ok”
As much as we want our children to just stop crying to prevent our Mommy hearts from hurting… it is not the right way to handle the situation.
Little people have big feelings, and those feelings are important…All.The.Feelings.
From Crying to Happiness to Extreme Crankiness.
These feelings need to happen and they need to be processed. As sad as it is to hear our little ones be sad, we have to let them feel those feelings.
If you can acknowledge the feeling and be empathetic, you can teach your child how to process these feelings in a more positive way.
Does Not Provide The Teachable Moment
It is our job as parents to provide support and guidance to our children, and that includes the tough moments when you may not know what to say.
Saying phrases such as “Stop Crying” will not provide that moment of empathy and understanding that children need from their parents.
They need to process those feelings and learn from them too.
Perhaps there is a lesson in handling that situation to prevent hurt feelings from happening in the future, or the lesson lies in “this is life” and things happen, but we still need to process this properly.
These teachable moments are important to create strong connections that create strong bonds between children and parents.
When you say phrases such as “Don’t Cry” you are missing out on some good relationship-building moments.
Why I Will Always Comfort My Child When They Are Crying (No Matter The Age)
When my own children are having a hard time and start crying, my initial instinct is to provide comfort.
Of course, if there is a distinct tantrum at the shop over smarties that I refused to purchase, I have other ways of dealing with those, read about how I handle tantrums here.
But if my child is genuinely sad about something, I will always be there for comfort and reassurance.
I definitely do not intend on raising selfish, entitled brats, and providing them with comfort when they are crying might make you say those are my intentions. I can assure you they are not.
I truly believe that comforting them in tough moments is important to their emotional and psychological development.
Comforting Phrases To Calm Down Your Crying Child
- I’m Listening
- I Can Tell This Is Hard For You
- It Is Ok To Be Sad
- Let’s Work This Out Together
- If You Want To Be Alone, That Is Ok. I’ll Be Right Here When you’re Ready To Talk
- That was A Scary Situation! Are You Ok?
- I Hear You
- It Doesn’t Seem Fair
- Can You Tell Me About It?
- I’m Here For You
- I Love You, You Are Safe
- Can You Help Me Understand Why You Are Crying?
- *Silence While Hugging Child*
Phrase: I’m Listening
Why it works: You are connecting with your child by being present in the situation and providing an ear.
Sometimes children just need to talk about it, they may not need further guidance.
Saying “I’m Listening,” tells them that your ears are open and ready for them to tell you their issue.
Phrase: I Can Tell This Is Hard For You
Why it works: You are providing a sympathetic feeling toward your child and are opening lines of communication to start a conversation.
A simple saying that you can tell this is a difficult situation, can open up their heart and let everything spill out.
This is a great time to really create those strong connections and help your child figure out how to deal with their emotions.
Phrase: It’s Ok To Be Sad
Why it works: You are noticing their sadness and you are reassuring that it is ok to feel the feelings.
Sometimes there is nothing you can do but be sad, especially if the situation involves the death of a loved pet, a good friend, or a family member.
Phrase: Let’s Work This Out Together
Why it works: You are being there for your child and showing your eagerness to solve the problem.
Sometimes children just need some guidance in the right direction, and here you are providing that guidance to them.
Phrase: If You Want To Be Alone, That Is Ok. I’ll Be Right Here When you’re Ready To Talk
Why it works: You are giving your child the space that they are asking for and really need in that moment of sadness, but you are also saying that you are not far away when they are ready to talk.
Sometimes children don’t know that they need to talk about their feelings to process them, but just knowing that you are right there if they need you can help them open up about their situation.
Phrase: That Was A Scary Situation, Are You Ok?
Why it works: You understand that the child went through something and you are opening the lines of communication by asking if they are ok.
Sometimes a simple question such as “Are You Ok” can lead to a much bigger conversation..and sometimes it won’t. It all depends on the child and your relationship.
Phrase: I Hear You
Why it works: This simple phrase tell your child that you are there for support if they need it.
Saying these simple words gives them reassurance that you are empathetic and sympathetic to the situation and you wish there was something you could do to help.
Phrase: It Doesn’t Seem Fair
Why it works: Sometimes life is not fair, and children won’t be able to understand their situations.
If there is nothing you can do about the situation, you can be sympathetic to their feelings and let them know that you understand that this was not a fair situation.
Being there for them will help them process this unfair moment.
Phrase: Can You Tell Me About It?
Why it works: Showing you care is all you need to start those conversations and a great conversation starter is simply “ Can You Tell Me About It”.
Something so simple can open up lines of communication in everyday situations.
Phrase: I’m Here For You
Why it works: Just as “I Hear You” tell your child that you are there for support, “I’m Here For You” reaffirms that feeling.
Telling your child that you are here is just as important as actually being there.
Phrase: I Love You, You Are Safe
Why it works: This is a very simple way to tell your child that they are in a safe space.
Even if they know your home is a safe haven and you are a wonderful parent who is always there for them…just hearing those words of reassurance of safety can help a child cope with their sadness.
Phrase: Can You Help Me Understand Why You Are Crying?
Why it works: Even if your child is young and has a difficult time relaying their reason for sadness, it is never too early to start those conversations of feeling.
Having your child being able to say why they are feeling the way they are, will help them process feeling better, and help you understand their feelings better as well so you can provide proper guidance in dealing with the situation.
Phrase: *Silence While Hugging Child*
Why it works: Sometimes you don’t need any words to connect with your child.
A good hug with some silence says a lot to children about their relationship with you.
With a silent hug, you are creating a whole environment of love, sympathy, and comfort. And honestly, sometimes a simple, good hug is all they really need.
Children cannot just stop crying on demand. It is as impossible as “Calming Down” when our spouses tell us to do so.
It has the opposite effect and can often make children more upset, change their sadness into anger or help them shut down their feelings altogether and they never learn to process things properly.
Young children do not have the ability to process situations, they are not emotionally developed for this which is why they need parental guidance.
Sometimes as an adult, I need help processing situations! Don’t you ever call a friend to talk about something and go through your feelings? I sure do…
Your child needs that too, and you are their “Person” for this.
I hope these tools of communication will help you through moments of sadness and help you create those strong parental bonds that last forever.
Resource Recommended For Struggling Parents
If you are tired of nagging and yelling, then this family connections guidebook is a must-read. This book even comes in paperback, Kindle, audiobook and CD and even Library binding.
I hold the paperback copy on my nightstand, it’s super powerful and easy to understand.
Popular parenting blogger Rebecca Eanes believes that parenting advice should be about more than just getting kids to behave. Struggling to maintain a meaningful connection with her two little ones and frustrated by the lack of emotionally aware books for parents, she began to share her own insights with readers online. Her following has grown into a thriving community–hundreds of thousands strong.
References: McGlaughlin, A., & Grayson, A. (2001). Crying in the first year of infancy: Patterns and prevalence. Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, 19, 47-59. doi: 10.1080/02646830020032300.