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Dutchess_III's avatar

Did you ever cry in front of your children?

Asked by Dutchess_III (41910points) February 9th, 2015

I didn’t. I needed to keep up the appearance of being strong for them.

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37 Answers

hominid's avatar

Sure, I have. I think it’s important for kids to see a full range of emotions and that it’s ok to cry. When I have, it’s been an opportunity to talk with my kids about sadness, and how it’s ok to be sad. I reassure them that it’s ok. I can’t imagine what’s strong about pretending to have limited emotional range around children. I want my kids to be able to express themselves, and feel free to do so.

Eragon4535's avatar

Yes I believe that that allows them to understand that it is okay to cry. As a kid I was constantly picked on and scolded by my parents for crying. So from personal experience I say that most parents need to be more open to emotions

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

Yes. Sometimes life has made me cry. That’s reality. At some point horrible things will happen to us all and we may cry. All fine.

I remember my brother telling my son when he was a little boy ‘men don’t cry’ and I was furious with him. If my son is hurt I want him to be able to feel able to express that emotion. We can’t always be strong and neither should we try.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, the things that made me cry were money worries and the fact that my marriage was on the skids. I wasn’t going to involve them in that.
Not much else made me cry, really. When we had to put our dog down, that was very sad.

ucme's avatar

I can only remember the one time, when our dog Penny died suddenly at such a young age, I cried rivers of tears for the longest time, we all did.
That was an experience that got us through the grief, shared sorrow helps enormously.

hominid's avatar

@Dutchess_III: “Well, the things that made me cry were money worries and the fact that my marriage was on the skids. I wasn’t going to involve them in that.”

You don’t have to involve them with the details. It’s not their job to help you or make you feel better. It’s your job to show them that even adults get frustrated, upset, angry, and sad – and that it’s all ok. If they’re very young, just assure them that it has nothing to do with them, there is nothing to worry about, and that people get upset and cry. Then, they see that you have cried and it’s all ok. They can see it action.

@Earthbound_Misfit: “I remember my brother telling my son when he was a little boy ‘men don’t cry’ and I was furious with him.”

Yep. I also feel that it is especially important for my boys to see that men cry and express a full range of emotions.

jca's avatar

Yes. When the cat was sick and when another cat died, and from a few movies (animal movies are tear jerkers for me). Once or twice I got very mad at something (not something she did) and I cried, too, out of frustration.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@hominid How do you think a little kid would feel seeing his mom crying and she won’t tell him why? His imagination could just run wild.

hominid's avatar

@Dutchess_III: “How do you think a little kid would feel seeing his mom crying and she won’t tell him why? His imagination could just run wild.”

I think I’m going to bail on this thread. I apologize for jumping in. I don’t have the energy for this. (Did you really just ask me that?)

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

@Dutchess_III, if you’re going through a marriage breakdown, it’s pretty certain the kids are aware of it. They aren’t oblivious to their surroundings. You don’t have to go into excruciating detail but you could certainly say mummy and daddy are cross with each other at the moment and that makes me sad. Just like when you and your best friend xxx are cross and it makes you sad. There are ways of communicating that don’t stress them.

Life isn’t all roses. Pets die. Marriages break down. We don’t always have enough money. We can’t keep our kids in cottonwool. Sometimes things will happen that result in us crying or feeling sad or hurt. Part of our role is to be role models for how we hope they’ll behave. I don’t want my children feeling they must suppress their emotions. I don’t want them blubbering at the slightest thing, but when life is horrible, I hope they know it’s okay to feel sad and know they can show those feelings to others.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@hominid, yeah I asked you that. Have you ever seen someone you love crying and ask them what is wrong and they won’t tell you? You’re just left wondering and worried. Are they sick? Are they dying?

@Earthbound_Misfit The kids were aware of it. I didn’t suggest they weren’t.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yes, they are grown and they know it’s OK to cry!

Dutchess_III's avatar

I need to explain something. When my kids were little I was the only thing between them and the streets, and it wasn’t much. I didn’t want them to worry that I couldn’t handle it. There were times I didn’t think I could handle it, and that’s when I cried.
Being poor was hard enough on them. I didn’t want them to worry about grown up stuff they could do absolutely nothing about. I wanted as much of their childhood to be carefree as possible.

A couple of years ago they told me that they were teased in school because they didn’t have top of the line, name brand clothes and shoes. They were clean clothes, they were nice and neat but not top of the line.
I said, “Why didn’t you tell me?”
They said, “Because we knew there was nothing you could do.”

So, we protected each other as best we could.

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III I find it perfectly logical not to cry about money in front of your children.

I don’t have kids, but I was a kid and my parents rarely cried in front of me. I saw my mom cry when watching a sad movie, but that didn’t really seem like crying from her own sadness. I remember her tearing up when a peer of mine was killed in a car accident.

I saw my dad tear up over his father’s death.

I assume they both cried more than I knew, but I don’t think either of them cry a lot.

Whether they cried or not had nothing to do with whether I felt I could cry. I was a kid.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

In contrast, my mother died when I was very young. My father and my brothers were very stoic. They suppressed their emotions. While they may not have intended for their behaviour to affect me, it did. I felt I couldn’t ask questions about my mother. I instinctively realised they were in pain about her loss and that my bringing that topic up could cause them more pain. It felt like a ‘no go’ zone. So I didn’t talk about her either. I took my cues from their behaviour.

I think their behaviour was very wrong and quite misguided. My brothers undoubtedly followed my father’s example and he put on a brave face and avoided showing how devastated he must have been. However, we needed to grieve. I need to know about my mother and she was not discussed. Years later when my older sister talked to me about my mother and I was angry with my father for not allowing her into my life. I had locked her out because I didn’t feel able to allow my grief out. I took it up with him and he was stunned about the effect his inability to express his emotions had had one me and my relationship with my mother.

I can totally understand your need to present a strong front to your children @Dutchess_III, but as parents I think we need to be cautious that by presenting ourselves as strong and stoic we don’t implicitely suggest to our children that they must behave in the same way. I have also been through a separation and divorce and my children and I did and still do talk about that experience. I didn’t go around wailing constantly, but they knew I was hurt and coping with an emotional upheaval. It was painful for them too. We were honest about the pain that experience brought and worked our way through it together. Sometimes that involved tears.

JLeslie's avatar

@Earthbound_Misfit You might be interested in the documentary The Dead Mother’s Club. I’ve only seen a clip from it. Famous American actresses talk about how the death of their mother when they were so young affected their lives.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I think I’ve seen it. Did it include Jane Fonda? If it’s that one I caught about half of it. I think losing a parent has a profound emotional impact on children, as does divorce and separation. I look at my brother and his relationships with women and I’m sure my mother’s death when he was a teenager, and his inability to engage with his feelings during that time, has played a big part in how he interacts with women now.

JLeslie's avatar

Yes, Jane Fonda was one of the actresses I remember.

I think losing a parent when so young has to have a huge affect. My FIL list his mom when he was a young teen and my MIL lost her dad when she was a teen. I think it was one of the things that they connected on when they were dating. They met in their teens.

anniereborn's avatar

I don’t have children, but I have parents. I remember very well my father crying. He was an alcoholic and when he felt helpless he openly wept. That very much affected me, but it was all part of his disorders.
My mother and I sometimes cried together about certain things. That made me feel closer to her, and not so alone in my feelings.

longgone's avatar

Crying in front of people one wants to protect is hard. I completely understand the desire to shield children from worries and fears. The thing is….it doesn’t work. They already know.

I think it’s important to cry in front of kids. Children are expected to come to their parents when they feel sad, worried or threatened. We know young people learn by imitating their parents’ behaviour – this applies, here. If parents don’t share their sadness, children assume that showing weakness is characteristic of childhood. They will start to repress their feelings to appear strong, because that’s what the grown-ups do.

As a sidenote, I think a crying parent only alarms children if it’s a rare thing to see, in their family. My mother regularly cried in front of us. This didn’t alarm me. I knew she’d be feeling better in time, because I had seen that happen before. The one time I saw my dad cry, on the other hand, I definitely felt alarmed.

livelaughlove21's avatar

I don’t have kids, but I have parents. I didn’t see my dad cry until I was an adult, and it freaked me out a bit. He was always so macho and tough that it was a shocking sight to see him break down. He’s human after all. I saw my mom cry growing up. I don’t remember any time in particular, but she’s a bit of a cryer anyway. I never thought of her as weak for crying; she’s weak for other reasons.

I don’t see any reason to avoid crying in front of children in order to seem strong. I think it’s important for our kids to know that it’s okay to have emotions and express them. Kids don’t need to know about marital or financial problems, of course, or see you cry all the time, but if there’s a reason to cry, I don’t think it’s going to do any harm if they see you do it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I cried when there was a common reason. One day, while the kids were in school, I took my 16 year old Snuffy Dog to the vet to have her put down. I sobbed all the way back to work. Spent 10 minutes in the parking lot crying, trying to compose my self to go back in the building.
After school got out, and the kids got home and I told the kids I had tears standing in my eyes, but I didn’t sob hysterically in front of them, even though I felt like it.

When I lost one particular job, unexpectedly, as a bank teller, I left work and drove to the pool to get the kids because I was going to go to my Mom’s, in another town about 30 minutes away. When their names went out over the intercom they came hustling up to me in alarm, asked what was up.
I said, “I lost my job.” I wasn’t crying, but I was quietly upset. My middle daughter, who was about 13 at the time, without hesitation, stepped up and put her arms around me and held me for a moment. I relaxed for a moment in her embrace, then stood up, held my head up high and said, “We’re going to grammas!” The drive was there very silent.

To this day my daughter’s compassion is endless.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@livelaughlove21 The problem comes in when, if you’re crying, and they want to know why, and the reason is financial or marital problems that you can’t tell them about, it’s best not to let them see you cry so you’re not faced with a situation where you can’t tell them why you’re crying.

longgone's avatar

^ I think you can phrase pretty much everything in a way that’s both honest and “suitable” for children. If I had money problems, I’d say so, and the same goes for marital issues. Both are actually very interesting topics for children. They can learn a ton from the answers to their follow-up questions:

“Why can’t you just get money from the bank?”
“Does that mean we can’t buy anything to eat?”
“Are you angry because dad didn’t tell you where he was going?”
“Is mum sad because she can’t find a new job?”

Those are important questions, and every answer helps the child understand the world. Once you understand something, it’s not half as scary as before.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Oh, they knew. When it got really bad I would announce, “Ok, we’re in lock down.” That meant no free money for anything. I’d be scraping the barrel to make rent and utilities. Allowances ($2.00 a week for each kid because they did most of the basic house work after school, before I got home from work) would end and they’d be working for $0. They knew. Food was never a problem though. Hundreds and hundreds in food stamps.

So, in response to “Are you angry because dad didn’t tell you where he was going?”
I would say “Yes.”
Do you think it would end there? Would it be followed up with “Where do you think he went?
“To his girlfriend’s”
I mean, we have to be honest, right?

livelaughlove21's avatar

@Dutchess_III I guess I’m not much of a crier, or I haven’t had bad enough marital/financial issues that would cause me to cry. When I cry, it’s usually over something like a sad movie, and then I’m usually simultaneously laughing at myself. If I’m crying over something more real, I’d rather be alone anyway, but it has little to do with wanting to appear tough.

I’m not an emotional person, to be honest, and I admittedly have problems responding to others being emotional. That’s my own issue, though, so I didn’t take that into consideration when I typed my original response.

In general, kids seeing you cry isn’t going to harm them, and not allowing them to see to cry because you want to seem “strong” is unnecessary. Human beings sometimes cry – there’s no reason to try to hide that fact. How one handles a child’s question as to why they’re crying is up to them.

longgone's avatar

@Dutchess_III
“Where do you think he went?“
“To his girlfriend’s.”

If that’s the truth, why shouldn’t a child be told?

Dutchess_III's avatar

When my oldest was 20 she made the horrible decision to move her and her son, who was 4, to Washington State. It ripped us all up. She was just 16 when she had him and needless to say, he was more like my son than my grandson. He spent 80% of the time with us (his mom had moved out about a year after he was born.) He was the other two kids precious little brother.
So, at the airport, seeing them off, my middle daughter and I were putting our stuff on the thing that runs it through a scanner. As we stood up to go through security she suddenly froze, and in a heart broken voice she said, “I can’t do this.”
I said, “Neither can I,” and I grabbed her arm, held my head up high, shut my brain down, and walked her though security.
I don’t remember any tears. Just a dead silence on the way home. I cried later. I’m sure the other two did too. I cried because my heart had been ripped out.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@longgone Why, in God’s name, would I want my six year old to know that her father had a girlfriend?

longgone's avatar

@Dutchess_III We’ve already established that “protection” is not a valid reason for withholding answers, because children usually figure out that something is wrong. Often, they know a lot more than their parents think. What, then, would a good reason look like?

The only good reason I can think of is the parent’s privacy. Parents are people, too, and they don’t always want to discuss their feelings. Is that the case here?

Dutchess_III's avatar

How about, “I’m crying because your father raped me last night.” .... ?

I think it’s best not to cry in front of the kids so you don’t have questions from them when they can’t handle the answers.

I never put my ex down in front of the kids. It wasn’t until they were grown that I slowly let the abuse and the assholery he put me though slowly slip out. By that time, as adults with relationship and life experience, they knew their dad well enough that it didn’t surprise them.

jca's avatar

I don’t think it’s necessary to tell a child some detail like “daddy went to see his girlfriend.” I think “daddy is doing things that are upsetting to mommy” should be enough. It’s not good for children to worry about issues beyond their control. Yes, children need to know that the world is not all roses but on the other hand, they do need to enjoy childhood as much as possible and to concentrate on school work and not worrying about mommy and daddy’s drama.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Exactly @jca. Exactly. And when you cry in front of them, or anyone, you really owe them an explanation. However, even saying “Daddy is doing things that upset me,” is so vague and it leaves it up to the kid’s imagination to come up with exactly what dad could be doing that is so bad. Ergo, don’t cry in front of them unless it a shared grief, like the loss of a pet or something.

canidmajor's avatar

Yes, I cried in front of my children
If I cried in front of my young children and they asked “why?” I would usually tell them something simple and age appropriate “Mommy’s just a little sad.” “Why?” “Somebody hurt my feelings”. That usually took care of it. A distraction with a game or an activity then took their minds off it. As they got older, the answers stayed pretty much the same, just couched in more sophisticated terms. I didn’t cry much, and I saw no need to tell them details that would upset them. They could always tell if I was upset, to have hidden that effectively I would have had to leave the room/house/area altogether. Not usually a viable option.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I was able to save my tears for a later time. They might know I was not happy about something, but I didn’t cry in front of them.

longgone's avatar

@Dutchess_III
‘How about, “I’m crying because your father raped me last night.” .... ?’

I think you’ll admit that this is a very extreme example, one I am unlikely to be confronted with. I hope so, at least.

The fact that there are things I would not like to explain doesn’t mean that this is what’s best for the children. If my child’s father had raped me, that’s something which would definitely need to be addressed with the kid. Preferably with a professional – I, at least, wouldn’t feel competent to deal with this on my own.

Because young children can’t rely on language as strongly as adults do, they pick up minute details. You know this, I’m sure.

If my kid’s father has raped me, I might be leaning away from him at the breakfast table, flinching at his touch, smiling a strained smile. Yes, I believe my child needs answers, definitely.

If you keep asking, you may, eventually, find a topic I wouldn’t be comfortable telling a child about. What would that prove, though? I said,

I think you can phrase pretty much everything in a way that’s both honest and “suitable” for children.

I was referring to all the examples that had been mentioned, because for all of those examples, I’d have an answer for my kid. If I had been abducted by a slimy alien who made me crawl inside a sleeping bag made of a giraffe’s intestines, I may not be willing to discuss this immediately.

Though I’m sure the story would delight most children.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, maybe it’s just because I don’t cry much at all. When I do, it’s too deep and passionate and it would scare the crap out of them. We’re talking face down on a bed, soaking it with tears, grabbing the bed spread and trying to rip it in half (unsuccessfully) from unbearable grief. We’re talking on-my-knees, on the floor sobbing.

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