As parents and teachers, sometimes we hold or comfort a child who cries.  The holy moment of an expression of sadness, grief, or futility is a moment of adaptation.  Wet and salty acceptance.

Big Emotions

While big emotions are often difficult and sometimes even socially inappropriate, children cannot be expected to behave like adults.  The work of maturing is taking those big emotions and learning to temper them.  Sometimes the challenge leaves children feeling defeated.  But, in order for them to have healthy emotional development AND optimal capacity to adapt in our age of acceleration, we must create an invitation generous enough to handle all of their big emotions.

Big emotions are to be expected.  Their purpose is to shield the child’s heart.  But, a shielded heart isn’t adaptable, a soft heart is.  When we soften into all that is futile, we emerge changed, inspired, and motivated to try again.

A child’s tears are the access point to adaptation.  So, we can’t be afraid of the tears or always work to avoid, deny, or resist the tears.  They must flow.

Soft Heart

Let them cry.

Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

Let them cry about the friend’s birthday party they won’t attend, the toys they don’t have, their conflicts with others, the homework that is frustrating, or the dark mornings.  The experience for a child of the many hundreds of frustrations during any particular day may look ‘unhinged’ by 7pm.
Sometimes you might even be the agent of futility.  You might be saying “no” to the smartphone or “no” to the sleepover or “no” to the special event.  You might be setting a limit for your child’s benefit.
Mom or Dad, you are a superhero!  Hold those values, boundaries, and limits.  It is sacred work.

Find Their Tears

Your children will learn to adapt.  Eventually, they will soften in the loss or challenge.  They will find their tears.  They will embody the difficulties, constant changes, and losses.
When they cry, be the angel of comfort.  I find the most effective way is to pull my little girl into my lap and cuddle her.  I give her a ‘thousand kisses.’ An embrace is a place of rest, containment, and invitation.  The invitation is to embody my frustration and alarm safely, allowing the futility to transform.
Matthew Sanford describes,

There’s a reason why, when my son who’s six  is crying, he needs a hug.  It’s not just that he needs my love  He needs a boundary around his experience.  He needs to know that the pain is contained and can be housed and it won’t be limiting his whole being.  He gets a hug and he drops into his body….I believe our human survival over time is going to depend on getting much more subtly aware of our bodies.

Children need us to compensate and to show compassionate care.  Tears are welcome.  Invite them.  Tears are the embodied experience of adaptation.  Let them cry.

For the sake of the children,


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