Letting My Kids “Cry It Out”

When my oldest was teetering on the brink of being able to sleep through the night but still wanting to be nursed to sleep, I shamelessly catered to the high maintenance demands of
my tiny human. Convincing myself that they only stayed this tiny for so long or wanting to get a few more hits that intoxicating baby smell, she was well past the point of being able to “cry it out.”

I eventually caved to the “Ferber method” at about eight months with her because I knew she would be happier and I would be less stressed if everyone got the amount of sleep they needed. It was painful, but not impossibly so – after about three nights of screaming when I put her to sleep, she was self-soothing and sleeping through the night.

Fast forward about seven years, and the concept of “crying it out” is still very much practiced in my household. When my oldest was about four, I found her crying alone in her room and rushed to see what was wrong. Was she hurt? Did she need help? Was something wrong? Nope. She “just wanted to cry.” 

So I let her cry, for as long as she needed and when she was done she resumed playing and singing and being her typical happy-go-lucky self the rest of the day.

It dawned on me then, that the concept of “crying it out” does not need to be reserved for infant sleep routines. We can carry it throughout our lives for when we just need a good cry.

Why? Because tears are healing. 

Biochemist and “tear expert” Dr. William Frey at the Ramsey Medical Center in Minneapolis dissected the composition of what he called “emotional tears” and found they contain stress hormones and other toxins that we release from our body through crying. Additional studies also suggest that crying stimulates the production of endorphins, those “feel-good” hormones.” This is typically why we usually feel better after a good cry. 

When it comes to parenting, I see crying more than a normal response to physical pain, but also to disappointment, frustration, and anger. Shoot, I’m one of those that cries when I’m extremely happy, or relieved or because I’m laughing too hard.

Often in our society, we find ourselves pushing through whatever emotional pain we are in, in an effort to look like we are in control – this being the case for men than women. Crying is more often than not viewed as a weakness, than for the strength it is. In my opinion, someone who is not afraid to let themselves tap into their most vulnerable and emotional selves has a greater sense of self-awareness and confidence. They know who they are and what they need, and they aren’t afraid to show it by a few little tears.

So I will continue to let my girls “cry it out” throughout this parenthood adventure. Some tears will be easier to soothe than others, but ultimately I hope to have two little ladies who understand themselves and their emotions deeper and more honestly as a result.

So go ahead. Cry it out. You’ll feel better soon.


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