Crying is the way that babies have to ask for help when they still do not know how to speak, a call that must always be heeded since it has been studied that not doing so has negative consequences for their development. As they grow and although they can tell us in their own words “I’m cold” , “I’m hungry” (something they couldn’t as babies), children basically cry for two things. One, because they have hurt themselves , and two, issues related to emotions: because they have made him feel bad, because he misses mom or dad, because he doesn’t know how to handle a situation that overwhelms him…
Adults have a habit (bad habit) of telling children “nothing’s wrong” when they cry . It is unconscious. It is the first thing that comes out to comfort them without taking into account the message that we are transmitting with those three words. We are denying their emotions without giving importance to what they want to tell us with their tears. Let’s stop saying “nothing happens” or “nothing happened” because even if it was nothing serious, it does happen.
Yes, it happens: validate their emotions
We already know that most of the time it is not serious and nothing happens, but the important thing is the information that our children receive from us. If we want to teach them to properly manage their emotions, we have to start by being understanding with them, listening to them and being empathic with their moods. Check out more interesting articles on our site.
If your child has been hurt or something has happened that has caused him to cry and he has come to you for comfort, the worst response you can give him is “it’s okay.” It is contradictory that we give him containment and at the same time deny his feelings for him.
It’s like saying “You cut your finger, I know it hurts, honey, but nothing happened” . How did it not happen? “Have I sliced my finger, it hurts like hell and on top of that they tell me that nothing has happened here?” . It’s confusing for them.
The consequences of “nothing happens”
We say them without thinking, because of course we care what happens to our children, but put yourself in their place for a moment. What can a young child think and feel when we say “it’s okay”? Children understand everything in the literal sense, they do not understand abstract concepts and that behind our words there is actually an intention to calm them down. They get the message that we ignore their pain, their sadness, their frustration or their anger .
And what will happen?
- They will be confused.
- They will feel that their emotions do not count, that you ignore their feelings.
- They will feel that you do not understand them .
- We give them a bad example : the way we communicate with our children leaves a mark on their personality and as they grow up it also influences the way they relate to other people.
- Eventually, they will stop telling you their stuff.
Positive phrases you can say in return
Instead, when he comes to you for comfort, connect with your child, look him in the eye and empathize with what he feels. When you are about to pronounce the helpful “nothing happens”, try to change it to positive phrases according to each situation, such as:
- If he cries because he fell off the bike, cut himself or hit himself: “I know you’ve hurt yourself and it hurts a lot, we’re going to clean the wound and heal it with hugs and kisses.”
- If he cries because a friend has said or done something to him that he did not like: “I understand that you feel bad about what your friend has done to you, try to talk to him to solve it.”
- If he cries because he does not want to go to the dentist: “I understand that you do not want to go to the dentist, it is not pleasant, but it is necessary to remove that tooth that is causing you pain.”
If in these situations we tell them “nothing is wrong”, the anguish is even greater, because the wound does hurt, he does feel bad about what his friend has done to him and he is afraid to go to the dentist. As parents we are here to understand them, not to deny what happens to them.
let it out
As parents, we don’t like our children to cry; It is logical. We wish they never did, but crying is good and necessary many times. As happens to us adults, crying helps them to let off steam and if it is on the shoulder of mom or dad, they feel contained and accompanied. That is what it is all about: not to avoid suffering, but to support and accompany them when they need us .
That’s why instead of telling them “it’s okay” , the best thing we can do next time is to tell them, “cry as much as you need, let it go, that mom/dad is here to accompany you” .