How to Help When Your Child Cries

child crying

Reading time: 4 minutes

Suitable for: Families of primary-age children

When your child cries, it’s a natural response to feeling hurt or experiencing a powerful emotion. But what do you do if your child seems to cry all the time?

Some children are naturally more sensitive than others and feel things more deeply. They may cry more than other children. But there are simple ways you can support them and understand the reason behind why they are crying. 

Why your child cries

For new-born babies, crying is the only way to get the attention of their caregiver. They cry because they’re hungry, wet, tired, or in need of affection. 

Younger children continue to cry for physical needs, like a tooth coming through, but also because they lack the communication skills necessary to express difficult emotions like frustration, jealousy, embarrassment, and feeling left out. 

As children grow up, they cry less frequently because they develop the language skills to better express their emotions, and learn resilience and problem-solving skills they can use to feel less frustrated. 

Finding out why your child cries

There is usually a reason why your child is crying. It could be a physical or emotional need that they’re struggling to deal with.

If your child cries a lot, look for patterns to find any particular triggers. Sometimes a simple change to your normal routine can make a big difference. 

Think about when and where they often cry:

  • Just before meal times: Children struggle to cope with emotions when they’re hungry. Try shifting meal times or adding a healthy snack to avoid them getting too hungry before a meal.
  • Before bedtime: If your child could be getting overtired before bed, try shifting bedtime a little earlier and adding a calming, screen-free bedtime routine.
  • After sleeping poorly: A bad night’s sleep is annoying, but if your child is routinely sleeping poorly, look at when they go to bed and reduce screen time in the hour before bedtime.
  • Generally not eating well: Most children go through fussy patches, but look at your child’s diet if they don’t seem to eat much food.
  • In a particular place: Children are often overwhelmed in busy, noisy environments like the supermarket. You could adjust the times you visit so it’s quieter and they’re not hungry or tired. 

Children often cry more when there are big changes in their life, like moving to a new home, changing school, going through puberty, a new sibling, or other changes in your family circumstances.

Toddler child crying while parent cuddles them

Over time, they usually adjust to these changes. However, if you’re worried your child is increasingly withdrawn or depressed, it’s important to reach out for help from your GP.

How to help your crying child

If your child cries a lot and you know they aren’t hurt or ill, there are things you can do to help. Younger children in particular, sometimes just get cranky!

1: Get fresh air

Try changing the scenery. Get outside for a walk, distract them, play a game, and have fun to take their mind off why they are crying. 

2: Help them solve their own problem

If your child is crying because they feel frustrated or have a minor problem, you may feel tempted to swoop in and fix it for them.

Instead, let them develop their confidence and problem-solving skills. You might offer them comfort but encourage them to find their own solution rather than doing it for them.

3: Show empathy

Help your child understand how they’re feeling by naming the emotion.

You might say, “You’re feeling upset because you feel left out of the game.” Labelling emotions helps them learn how to express their feelings.

4: Spot the warning signs

There are normally warning signs that your child is getting upset, or you’ll recognise particular triggers or situations they are likely to struggle with.

Take action before they feel overwhelmed. Show them how to use deep slow breathing or counting out loud to twenty to calm down.

It’s useful to practise these calming strategies when your child is feeling happy so they are ready when they need them. 

How do you respond to crying?

If it feels like your child cries all the time, you may find it frustrating or annoying. It can be embarrassing if other people notice or comment. But when your child is crying, it’s best to stay calm.

Don’t shout or get angry as this just makes them cry for longer and teaches them that crying is a bad thing to do.

Instead, use a calm voice. You might say, “I would cry too if I fell over,” and give them some comfort. Tell them it’s okay to cry.

Remember your own wellbeing needs

If your child cries a lot, it can be draining for you. Give yourself a break. If your child is safe and not physically hurt, walk away for a few minutes if you’re feeling angry or overwhelmed.

Look at our online Mental Health Awareness course, or Dealing With Stressful Situations course, if you’d like further support.

Where next?

Our webinars and parenting classes give you the support you need to understand and manage your child’s challenging behaviour.

We’ll look at what the behaviour tells you, with lots of practical strategies you can use at home. Browse our upcoming events.

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