7 year old has not outgrown tears - received September 12, 2007
Q. My oldest son will be turning 8 next month and cries over everything. He has been like this since he was a toddler and I thought it would be something he would grow out of but it doesn’t seem like it’s ever going to get better. It’s creating a lot of stress in our family and I need advice on how to handle it better. Is it possible that he might have some underlying psychological issue that we need to talk to a counselor about? He lives in a nurturing family environment and his other younger brothers do not act like this. Please help!
A.Hi, thanks for your question.
Please also see my post on Tears & Tantrums
When I read your question I was reminded of my sister talking about my niece. My niece was generally a happy child but she had a tendency to cry over the smallest things, often things that didn’t make sense to anyone around her.
For example, on a long trip the family typically would stop about 1/2 way to the destination, this was a favorite treat for the kids. My niece had fallen asleep in the car and when they reached the fast food stop my sister woke her up to tell her they had arrived. My niece promptly burst into tears – totally baffling her parents.
Tears are the body’s natural stress relief and some people are just better at it than others. I used to be good at it when I was a child – I was the one always in tears but my parents soon ‘cured’ me of that! I could tell you how to do that they way my parents did but I don’t really recommend teaching your children to bury their emotions. I’m more in favor of teaching them other ways to express them when possible.
If your son is generally happy and easy going except for the emotional meltdowns I wouldn’t be terribly worried about it. It’s probably not something you need to have checked out but since I’m not a doctor or a therapist, that is just my gut feeling and it certainly doesn’t hurt to go ahead and rule out any underlying conditions. (how’s that for a wishy washy answer?)
On the other hand, if he’s of a dark and gloomy nature and has temper outbursts as well as the crying I would definitely suggest you have him checked by his doctor.
Based on just the fact that he cries a lot and that you consider yourselves to be a nurturing family, I would focus on minimizing the stress this is causing your family.
How does he feel about the crying? Is it bothersome to him, maybe just in certain situations – like at school or with his friends?
If there are times that he wishes he wouldn’t cry then you can work with him on developing coping strategies such as learning to recognize his body’s signals when things are getting too much for him – if he sees it coming, perhaps he can use some self calming techniques to prevent the tears… a quiet moment to pull himself together, a self dialogue to point himself at the more positive things or the positive side of what’s going on. Perhaps a journal and of course, learning to “use his words”. This is a great skill for all ages and stages of development. To learn how to express your feelings verbally is an excellent skill that will be beneficial throughout his life.
Work on accepting that he is an emotional child and finding ways to minimize the stress on the family. That can happen in various ways but it will involve working together as a family, including your son. For example, find out from him what he needs from you, perhaps a hug, perhaps a mention that you feel bad that he’s sad… maybe he needs to vent…. whatever – at his age it will probably take some brain storming with you offering most of the ideas but encourage him to present ideas of his own – none are too silly to mention but can be too silly to seriously consider.
Then if say you find that when he’s crying he would like a hug you could suggest that he come for his hug and then if he’s still feeling like crying that he have a special quiet place to go and calm himself. It’s fine to cry but not at the expense of others in the family getting stressed out.
There are some great books by Aletha Solter, The Aware Baby, Tears and Tantrums, Helping Young Children Flourish. Solter is a Swiss/American developmental psychologist, who is recognized internationally as an expert on attachment, trauma, and non-punitive discipline.
I hope I’ve been able to offer some helpful suggestions. Please feel free to leave a comment.