I stared at the pretty, distressed wood sign hanging among several others in a trendy boutique. “Live strong. Have faith. Never stop smiling.” I cocked my head to one side like my puppy often did. Why does this feel wrong somehow? As I walked down the street to the next shop, I thought, I want to be a strong mom, but if that means that I am always smiling, then shoot—I’m failing for sure.
But before I beat myself up more, I realized why the sign’s message felt off. It fed into the message that showing sadness is bad or weak. Especially as mothers, we wonder if we need to maintain a smile to keep our families happy. It can leave us wondering, “Should your child see you cry?” In truth, there are times when being “strong” might look like a tear instead of a smile. Here are 3 times your kids need to see you cry.
1. When You Are Grieving a Loss
Perhaps you lost a job you loved, a family pet had to be put down, or even a loved one passed away. Sometimes moms think they have to keep it together for the sake of the family. But when kids see you cry in this situation, they grasp how much you cared. They also learn that loss and death are a natural part of life, and so is the grief that accompanies it. We can express that grief and come out on the other side of it. That’s not scary or unstable—it’s healthy. Should your child see you cry when you’re grieving? Yes. That’s often where healing begins.
2. When You Are Moved by Injustice
Maybe you are brought to tears by a story of racial injustice on the news. Or maybe you are sad about the way your older child is treating your younger one, and you just can’t take it anymore. No matter what kind of injustice it is, we may find ourselves deeply moved to the point of tears when we see something that is truly and morally not right. Crying in front of your kids on behalf of injustice often speaks louder than words. Once you have their attention (and the tears tend to attract that), you get to explain what you believe is wrong in this situation and why. You can share your compassion for others and your desire to make things right.
3. When You Are “Happy Crying”
I often cry at the end of a Hallmark movie, I admit it. My youngest daughter will ask me, “Mom, are you happy crying or sad crying?” And so happy crying is a thing at our house. And why not? Tears can come from an overflow of happy emotion, not just sadness. We can be genuinely touched by something wonderful, like a wrong made right, a sacrificial act, or a very special gift! And again, it gets our kids’ attention. They want to know why—and you get to tell them all about the beautiful thing that pulled at your heartstrings. How better to share with them what you love and what matters most in your life?
It’s good for moms, too!
Crying is good for us. We are human, after all, and need to be able to express all human emotion. If parents waited to cry until they were alone, it might never happen. Go ahead, Mom. Let it out. Now, there is some truth to the saying “all things in moderation.” If you are crying frequently or feeling “down” seems to be the norm, you may need to see a professional to figure out what’s at the root of it. Sometimes we all need a little help moving through sadness and finding the light again.
How has crying communicated something important to your children?