Why Kids Wail

Why Kids Wail

Stress can build up in a child’s life, especially during the holidays. Could wailing actually help?

I was volunteering in a preschool room last week when a reluctant three-year old was dropped off. She’d fallen asleep in the car, and the next thing she knew she was ushered into her classroom, and Mommy was saying goodbye.

I got down beside the child and put my arm around her waist. As Mommy backed toward the door, the little girl started crying and leaned into my shoulder. Leaning in, instead of pulling away, told me she was ready to handle the separation, so I waved Mommy on.

I sat on the floor with the wailing child in my lap for the next five minutes or so, fending off helpful teachers who kept trying to distract her from her sadness with toys.

Instead, I said what I saw to the child:

“Boy, that was a big burst! You got a lot of sadness out that time. And there’s another one. You’re so sad! Letting those feelings out will help you feel better…”

And it did. When the wailing was all done, so was she. Nothing had been held back or stuffed down to revisit later. When the class went out in the hall about an hour later, she saw Mommy and just waved, then danced her way back to the classroom. Her grin was positively gleeful and free.

When your kids need to wail this season, find a place where it is OK with you. Allowing them to fully express their sadness, disappointment or frustration really does clear the way for joy.

1 Comment

  1. This is a great article…Reflecting back what you see and hear with children, without sending any sort of response, allows them to feel accepted. Genuine acceptance = Love. We hope more parents and teachers become aware of Active Listening to the emotions behind their children’s behaviors…:)

    Best Regards,
    Selena Cruz George, Program Manager

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