Most kids are sensitive souls, as are many adults.  Raise your hand if you heard this growing up (or maybe continue to hear it as an adult)…

“Stop crying… (or I’ll give you something to cry about)”

I get it. Parenting is a 24/7 job. You’re tired. You get annoyed. But, little phrases like this teach our children that their feelings are invalid. And guess what? We grow into adults and carry that with us.

Don’t forget that your kids are learning to process emotions. As a parent, it’s your job to listen, help them, and most of all not pass judgement or brush them off. Don’t tell them that they’re “too sensitive” or “being ridiculous”.  Just like you are the author of your feelings, they are the authors of theirs. A child should never feel ashamed of how they feel.

Crying is healthy. You may think it doesn’t solve anything, but internally, mentally, it helps us a lot. Crying releases stress and improves your mood. That release allows you to think and process more clearly. Unfortunately, when we don’t allow ourselves to cry, it actually heightens the emotional response and eventually that feeling will boil up again and may actually feel worse than if you had dealt with it in the first place.

I’m of the mind that you don’t have to understand why someone is the way they are, but you can respect it. Constantly denying yourself healthy emotional response may also lead to anxiety and depression, so that’s something to be aware of when you’re responding to your children.

Flash forward to the Teen Years. Maybe you have a teen that refuses to talk to you about anything. Well, how did you handle their emotions as children? Speaking from experience, I was that emotionally shut off teen. I heard “You can talk to us about anything” so many times and any time I tried, I was more often than not, shut down. It all goes back to “you’re too sensitive”, “you’re ridiculous”, “there is no reason for you to be crying”… Invalidation through adolescence makes emotionally shut off adults. (I’m not saying this is the case for all teens that don’t want to talk to you. It’s a weird time for them, but often, their emotional responses have to do with how they’ve been responded to in the past.)

Are you a terrible person/parent for throwing out a “stop crying”? No. But, I think we’ve forgotten how the weight of our words affect others. The simplest phrases can act as paper cuts on the soul. Emotional scars take a long time to heal. So, be conscience of how you respond to the emotions of others. Everyone’s feelings are valid, especially ones that belong to tiny humans.

My tips for raising an emotionally intelligent child are:
1. Let them know they’re allowed to feel a certain way
2. Ask them questions about their feelings (this allows them to learn how to process them)
3. Show them how to be sensitive to others
4. Explain why they or someone might feel the way they feel

Remember: Emotions don’t know logic. We must learn how to process them from a young age. Trying to fix ourselves as adults is not easy or cheap.