Dr William Sears on crying

Dr William Sears, the American paediatrician who coined the term “attachment parenting”, recognises the healing properties of tears and the importance of offering our children a supportive presence when they cry …

“Ever have an occasion when your baby or child is crying and nothing works to stop her? Take heart! It’s not your fault she is crying; nor is it your urgent responsibility to stop the cry. In fact, research has shown that crying is an important part of the recovery process – a physiologic aid to releasing stored stress. Tears produced to wash away irritants in the eye and those secreted as an emotional outlet have different chemical compositions. Emotional tears contain breakdown products not found in irritant tears, namely stress hormones, which increase during painful experiences. These fascinating findings indicate there may be a physiologic basis for the expression ‘have a good cry.’ Grief and hurt may be released through tears. Why be so quick to get babies and children to hold back their tears? Frantic hushing and admonitions like “Stop crying,” or “Big boys don’t cry,” train children to stifle pent-up emotions that, by a good cry, could be carried down the river of tears. Lucky is the child who feels the freedom to cry without rebuke. Wise is the parent who gives a supportive presence. There is a big difference between allowing your baby to cry (without panic on your part!) and leaving her to cry alone and uncomforted. Give your child the message, “It’s okay to cry; I’m here to help you.”

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