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Do you let your kids see you cry?

Categories: Guilt Inducers


Last night, watching the U.S. election returns, it was hard not to let a few tears slip as I tapped into the incredible emotions playing out all over the country. My mind went back to when I was a kid, in a similar situation, and it hit me that I never saw my parents cry.

Is that weird? Unusual? I’m betting it isn’t. Sure, my parents grew up, as many did, as part of the Stoic Generation, but I think there’s something bigger going on: parents are afraid to look vulnerable in front of their kids. Is this you?

I think it’s pretty common, actually. Parents are supposed to be the boss. Parents are supposed to be strong. Parents are supposed to look like they know what they’re doing. And collapsing in a puddle of tears just isn’t part of that.

What are you losing by staying strong in front of your kids? Realness. We all cry. Sometimes it’s in response to frustration, or grief, or just being heart-touched in a moment. All of these are real responses that we all feel at times, and it helps kids by knowing that their own natural responses in times of stress are welcome.

But it’s hard. Even though I know it’s good for my kids to see my emotions, I still have a hard time being totally vulnerable in front of them. It seems wrong somehow. Weak. Giving them the wrong idea. I want them to feel safe and secure in their world and know they have a parent who can take care of important stuff in their lives.

I could make up a chart of The Appropriate Times To Cry:

  • Watching Hallmark commercials: check
  • Election returns: check
  • Someone dies: definite check
  • Dropped a large pot on my toe: check (also maybe swearing, but that’s another post)

The problem with the chart is that it doesn’t cover every possible situation. Nothing can. I’m back to looking to find a balance in my approach, which, hello, sort of seems to be the all-encompassing cop-out. And then it also sort of makes sense. We can’t always know how we’re going to react in a situation, nor can we know the ultimate effect our reaction might have on our kids.

We can only do the best we can.

What about you? How do you feel about crying in front of your kids?

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7 comments so far...

  • Karen,
    Hi. Love your post. In theory I don’t believe in crying in front of my kids because as you point out, that’s what I saw growing up. Last night I cried like a baby for an hour. Lol. Yes, in front of the kdis. I actuallly responded to one of my kids who was asking for help on something by saying, “I can’t help you right now. I need to cry.” Imagine. I have good reason to cry - about 6 weeks ago I took the kdis and moved into a new house. Ex and I are on good terms, still, it’s very hard to be a single mom, run my own business…well, you get the picture.So, even with good reason I feel a tad guilty… I think it is probably good for kids to see we are human after all so perhaps they don’t have to try and be so super human when they grow up.

    karendaniels  |  November 5th, 2008 at 2:29 pm

  • I love this post. I have a really hard time being vulnerable in front of anyone and I know that I definitely put on a good mood show for my daughter, regardless of how I feel.

    There was one time, a while back, where she saw me cry and get very upset. She was 3 at the time and it really freaked her out. I felt guilty for a long time and am still not certain about the degree to which I want her to see me cry. Like you, I want her to see me in a genuine, honest way — to understand that things aren’t always rosy. But I see how she is affected by how I feel and I am not sure.

    The times I remember my mom or dad crying — very few — are stuck in my mind forever. I am not sure that’s a good thing.

    Great post.

    Nataly  |  November 5th, 2008 at 2:34 pm

  • I absolutely do and will cry in front of my child. I am a parent, but I am also a human being with a full range of emotions. I’m not some robot that is devoid of emotion. I want my daughter to learn that all of her emotions are acceptable. Even more than that, I want her to learn to understand and react appropriately to her emotions. How will she learn how to behave when she is angry, sad, hurt, scared, etc if she doesn’t see me behave appropriately with my emotions?

    Something that I like to do with my daughter that I think is especially valuable is “think-aloud.” I learned this as a teacher. As I am doing something or reacting to something, I speak the process out loud so that she can (hopefully) understand both what I am doing and why.

    Robyn  |  November 5th, 2008 at 2:45 pm

  • I’m okay with crying in front of my kids, unless it’s a totally debilitating sob-fest. I also try not to ever let them see me cry because of them. And they do make me cry, I just try to keep that private. Funny thing is, they are both always telling me that they’ve never seen me cry, when really they have many times. (they are 6 and 8, both girls)

    Kim  |  November 5th, 2008 at 4:25 pm

  • interesting post! it never occurred to me to hide crying from my son. i am not overly emotional but i cry at sappy stuff and very emotional happy stuff.

    i do have to say when i burned my finger on the oven (stupid oven mit malfunction!) and was crying because OMG it hurt so bad and honestly I was trying not to cry, i just melted into a puddle when my son said ‘i kiss it mama - it’s all better!’ and he was so sweet and compassionate. yesh, makes me teary just thinking about it!

    funny, I just realized my husband had said ‘don’t cry in front of him!’ and I remember thinking ‘why??’ I guess I am a big believer in just being me around my family and if that means I cry then I cry. But really it’s pretty rare lol

    Kate  |  November 5th, 2008 at 6:31 pm

  • Yes! I cry in front of my kids. Most recently, I cried tears of joy when Obama was elected president.

    rb  |  November 5th, 2008 at 10:37 pm

  • [...] I had kids, everything changed. Like crying, the swearing I did was a part of me that I wasn’t sure I wanted to share with my kids. [...]

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