Our son was in a bad mood this morning. He stomped around and wrecked the front room throwing everything around until it was a complete tip. We sent him into the garden to get some fresh air, but he started digging up the plants and switching on the hose.
I was getting mad, telling him to stop making such a mess. His response was to get madder, and angry tears stared running down his cheeks.
Then I suddenly realised that Alex and I were both sitting at the table with our heads in our laptops. Our poor son was feeling frustrated, lonely and sad at not being able to get out the house and be his usual busy self.
He wanted us to follow through with our promise to help him do the puzzle, play with his cars, water the garden etc. Instead we’d been fobbing him off with an excuse or delay tactic.
He was desperate to expend some pent-up energy, to run, jump and climb like he’d usually do on a Saturday morning.
And when we didn’t listen or respond to his requests, he was doing the next best thing to help him deal with these emotions, which was to get angry and cry.
Benefits of crying
But just like laughing, crying is not only a natural body function, it is a valid expression of emotion. In fact, tears are our “body’s release valve for, sadness, grief, anxiety and frustration” says American Psychiatrist Dr. Judith Orloff.
Emotional crying is thought to have specific health benefits, in that it releases stress hormones from the body that are suspended in our salty tears. In this way crying feels cleansing and is a way to purge pent up emotions so that they don’t lodge in the body over time developing into physical symptoms. British Psychiatrist Henry Maudsley, who lent his name to the South London Hospital, stated that “sorrows which find no vent in tears may soon make other organs weep”.
Health benefits of crying
A study at a medical centre in Minnesota, found that chemicals like cortisol build up in our body during times of stress and are shed in our tears when we cry. If we suppress the emotion and hold back the tears, the unreleased stress can manifest into health complaints and chronic illnesses.
Research shows that children who can cry to release stress are less likely to be violent and aggressive or become depressed later. After all, crying makes your feel better even if the problem persists, and the calming effect of crying outlasts the negative effects, which could explain why people remember crying as being beneficial.
Finally, crying (hopefully) elicits a comforting response, therefore stimulating bonding. Crying in a caring persons arms, not only reduces the need for another outlet, it cements a relationship by helping to build trust, so that your child always feels they can come to you with a problem.
In this difficult time, it’s okay to cry (even like I did in Tesco’s). In fact, it’s important that we do to relieve any pent-up frustration.
However, if you were brought up in a household where you were continually told to ‘man up’ or ‘stop crying’ then it may feel very uncomfortable to listen to your child cry.
But feelings are never wrong, even if they’re difficult to handle.
So, if you find your child more emotional than usual, it’s really not surprising. Listen to their worries, try and answer their questions (more on that here), and most importantly, give them a big cuddle to reassure them.
We all need to be heard right now.
After we’d realised our son just wanted some attention, Alex got up and helped him plant some seeds a friend in the community had give us. Since then we’ve made soap, done four jigsaw puzzles, made homemade cough syrup, had some rough and tumble and read a million books. I think it’s almost time for a movie and a well-deserved glass of wine!
Are you finding you or your children are more emotional right now? I certainly am. Have you found a way to help deal with this? I’d love to hear about it.
Together we can get through this. Stay well.