When your child is crying and won’t or can’t tell you what is wrong, it is very frustrating. Meltdowns can be difficult for even the most experienced parents to handle. When it happens, your automatic reaction might be to tell your child to stop crying. Unfortunately, that rarely works so you might want to consider these factors.
Crying is a natural reaction for kids when they are over-stimulated, over tired, or physically hurt. Figuring out which it is and meeting their needs can help you get to the root of the problem. The next time you are faced with an outburst, take a deep breath and ask yourself these 4 simple questions before reacting.
Is it something physical?
Perhaps your child refuses to put on his shoes and bursts into tears when you stand firm. Is this a battle of wills or could it be that they are dealing with physical pain they may not be able to express? The frustration of not being able to articulate what is going on, can trigger an epic meltdown.
Take a look at their physical condition. Could it be a toothache? According to Lane Family Dental, “Your tooth may not bother you at all until that moment you bite into a decadent slice of chocolate cake. The shock from coming in contact with sugar is a pretty sure sign that your tooth has a cavity.”
Or could it be a headache? Mayo Clinic states that headaches in children can be difficult to diagnose, but they may cry and hold their head to indicate pain. Lastly, it may be the most common physical reason of them all: your child may just need a nap.
Is your child feeling stressed?
This one is more common among older children. You may wonder what could cause a child to be stressed. Actually, any situation that is new to a child can cause their body to release the stress hormone, cortisol.
Dealing with after school activities where a certain level of performance is expected, can add stress to an already-full school day. Tears could also result from a frustrating classroom situation. It could even be something they have heard that they don’t know how to handle. Consider that their tears may not really be about having to clean their room or do a chore. In reality that outburst may be an expression of accumulated stress.
Is your child hungry?
It happens to everyone. So much so that a new term has cropped up to describe it; Hungry + angry = “hangry.” Hangry describes how attitudes go south when our bodies are lacking fuel. Even if your child ate a good lunch, by the time they get home from school, they could be famished. If they don’t have a healthy snack, they could be heading for an emotional outburst. So, while you do not want to use food as a bribe to stop their tears, their hunger is likely what is causing them to be so cranky.
Give them a hug and go to the kitchen and fix both of you a healthy snack. Turn it into an activity so that the association becomes one of doing something together, versus using food for emotional relief.
Is Your Child Overstimulated?
Have you ever wondered why so many meltdowns happen when shopping, on vacation or in the aisles of grocery stores? Chances are high that it’s the environment that is over stimulating your child. Places that are noisy, have crowds of people and multiple things to see can be overwhelming for kids.
With so much for a little brain to process, kids turn to the one thing they know will bring relief. Their tears will bring mommy or daddy running to fix everything. Consider a quick exit from the store or environment to get your child to a calmer place instead of demanding or pleading with them to stop crying.
Lastly, if you are always telling your child to stop crying, it could convey a message to them that negative emotions should stay bottled up. This can lead to difficulties with opening up in later years and stunted emotional growth. Studies tell us that our tears serve a good purpose. Tears and crying can reduce the body’s stress hormone and bring calm back to our physical state.
So, instead of feeling harried when your child breaks down in tears, realize that the tears are one way your child is communicating with you. That crying is their body’s way of calming down.
This is a collaborative guest post. The views and ideals expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Mommy Ramblings.