A good cry is beneficial to all. It relieves stress, reduces anxiety, and can even be exhilarating at times. For a number of causes, babies, toddlers, and young children scream. And, although it may be aggravating, it serves a function.
We all share four main and universal emotions (including our toddlers!). “Anger, happiness, sorrow, and fear are all emotions that can be expressed by crying,” says Donna Housman, EdD, clinical psychologist and founder of the Boston-based Housman Institute.
Housman claims that we weep more often out of grief, but it’s not unusual for adults or children to cry out of any of these emotions.
However, if your child seems to be crying for no apparent reason or is inconsolable, it’s worth thinking about why they’re crying so you can come up with a fair and successful solution.
Why is my kid crying?
Before we get into why your child is crying, it’s important to note that crying has been a primary mode of communication since birth. To put it another way, crying is normal.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) considers 2 to 3 hours of crying per day in the first three months of life to be natural.
Children find other ways to express their desires and emotions as they grow older, but crying is still an important way for them to get affection and connect with their caregivers.
Children cry for a variety of reasons, according to Dr. Ashanti Woods, a pediatrician at Baltimore’s Mercy Medical Center. This is particularly true because crying is their first means of communication. When they get older, their cries become more descriptive or emotional responses to what they’re experiencing.
Find these age-appropriate explanations from Woods to help you figure out why your child is crying.
- Toddler (1–3 years): At this age, emotions and tantrums are common, and they’re usually brought on by being tired, upset, humiliated, or confused.
- Preschool (4–5 years): Injuries or hurt feelings are often to blame.
- School-aged children (5+ years): In this age group, physical injury or the loss of something special are common causes of weeping.
With that in mind, here are seven possible explanations for your child’s crying.
If your child is fussing as mealtime approaches, the first thing to remember is whether or not he or she is hungry. According to experts at Seattle Children’s Hospital, this is the most common cause of crying in infants.
Keep in mind that your child’s mealtime schedule and needs will change as he or she develops. There’s nothing wrong with a baby or kid needing to be fed early or eating more when they get older, so be flexible with feeding times and quantities.
They are in pain or are in a bad mood.
Pain and discomfort that you can’t see are often the causes of your child’s crying. In young children, stomachaches, gas, hair tourniquets, and earaches are only a few examples to remember.
If your child is older, he or she would most likely tell you if anything is bothering them. However, it might be beneficial to spend some time asking them a series of questions to see if they can pinpoint exactly what’s wrong. This will assist you in ruling out any internal issues that you are unable to see.
Being too hot or too cold may also cause discomfort. Examine what they’re wearing, compare it to the temperature, and make any necessary adjustments.
Kids of all ages will end up in a puddle of tears if they are too tired, whether it’s a midday meltdown or a pre-bedtime tantrum. In reality, sleep deprivation ranks second behind hunger as the leading cause of baby crying.
That is why infants and toddlers, in particular, need a consistent sleep and nap schedule. If they’re too young to express their need for sleep with words, you’ll have to look for physical signs of exhaustion.
It’s probably time to get some rest if your child is breaking eye contact, rubbing their eyes, losing interest in activities, yawning, or irritable. Crying is a late sign that they are exhausted.
While older children are capable of informing you if they are tired, this does not always imply that they will. Some nursery and school-aged children also need naps, so you can see crying during the day if they need sleep.
They’ve had too much stimulation.
For children of all ages, overstimulation is a cause. Too much noise, visual effects, or people may trigger crying in infants and preschoolers. Before your child starts crying, you may catch them looking around or trying to hide behind your leg or in a corner.
A packed schedule, being on the go too much, and even a full school day can trigger a crying spell in school-aged children. This can result in anger, annoyance, and exhaustion.
They’re irritated or nervous.
Depending on the situation, stress and anger will take on various forms.
– your child needs something you won’t give them, such as your phone, or they’re upset because their toy isn’t working properly. Maybe things are tense in your house because of changes or problems, and they’re picking up on it.
Regardless of the source, children have a hard time controlling their emotions. Take a look at what they were doing before they began crying. That can provide insight into why they are depressed or frustrated.
They need care.
Often children often need our attention and are unable or unwilling to ask for it. If you’ve ruled out any other possibilities for why they’re crying, such as hunger, exhaustion, overstimulation, or anger, it’s time to consider whether they just need some time with you.
Just be aware of the cause for your tears and try to solve the problem before they start. If your child uses crying to get your attention too much, it can become a difficult cycle to break.
They’re worried about being apart.
Separation anxiety can strike at any age, but Dr. Becky Dixon, a pediatrician at Riley Children’s Health in Indianapolis, says it’s more common between the ages of 12 and 20 months.
How can you get your kid to stop crying?
Understanding why you’re crying is always a good place to start. “Trying to fix the reason — if you can figure out what it is and if you think it needs to be addressed,” Woods says, “is always an effective way to stop the crying, which is the intention of many parents.”
You will help your child recognise, grasp, and control the emotion behind the tears once you know what’s causing them. However, before you can do that, you must first assess your own emotional state.
Make sure you’re calm
If you’re getting hot under the collar, take a step back, take a deep breath, and compose yourself before approaching your kid, particularly if the crying is getting to you.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests leaving your baby in a safe spot, such as their crib, without covers or other things for 10 to 15 minutes while they cry. Check on your baby if they are still crying after this brief break, but do not pick them up until you are calm.
And if your children are older, taking a time-out for both you and them by sending them to their room or going outside for a moment when they’re in a quiet place in the house is perfectly acceptable.
Pay attention to your words
Once you’ve checked your emotional temperature, the next move is to stop making broad generalizations or passing judgment on their behavior. Saying things like “just babies weep” or “stop crying” will not help them relax, and could even make things worse.
“I can see this is difficult for you,” and “I can hear you weeping, but I don’t know what you need,” are two other phrases to use. “Could you explain it to me?”
Help your child learn
Housman claims that by assisting your child, regardless of age, in identifying, understanding, and managing their emotions, you are assisting them in developing the four underlying components of emotional intelligence.
Emotional identification, language, comprehension, and control are foundational to lifelong learning, mental well-being, and performance, according to Housman.
Accept that you can’t fix everything
Even if you know your child well, there will be times when you don’t understand why they’re crying, particularly with younger children. When this happens, Woods says that changing the landscape (going from indoors to outdoors) or singing a song will help distract your young child.
There will be days when you won’t be able to address the reason they’re crying. Allowing older children to work through their tears and providing cuddles or quiet encouragement may be sufficient.
Crying is a normal part of growing up. It’s important to figure out why your child is upset and then teach them how to handle their emotions appropriately.
When they grow older, helping them recognize the causes will make them feel more in control of their feelings, whether it’s hunger, tension, overstimulation, or just need a hug from you.
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