Whenever I feel sad, I don't hide my tears from my kids – I cry in front of them

My little girl, Immy, placed her chubby little hand on mine and gave me a little pat. ‘Are you OK, Mammy?’ she asked, her bright blue eyes full of concern.

‘Yeah, I’m fine, sweetheart,’ I gulped through my tears. ‘Mammy just got some sad news from a friend and is a bit upset. I’ll be OK in a minute.’

She gave a nod, then climbed up onto my knee and as we cuddled in together, my sobs slowed to a stop.

Now, I don’t know what the parenting books say about crying in front of children, but I never hold back my tears in front of my two, Theo, now five, and Immy, three.

I want them to know that big girls (and big boys) do cry and that it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

I’ve always been a crier. I can shed tears over the slightest thing – films, the news, a friend telling a sad story. My mam is exactly the same. Our bladders are too close to our eyeballs, as my grandad used to say.

My dad would often come in from his evening art class and shake his head at the two of us blubbering.

‘Have you been watching Ghost again?’ he’d ask incredulously. It was true – no matter how many times we watched Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore continue their love story after his death, it got us every time… We eventually had to ban Beaches for the same reason.

But the thing is, I always felt better after a good cry. I found having it cathartic and a way to release all the emotions I was feeling and move on from them.

So when I had Theo and Immy, I never considered not crying in front of them. While some parents might want their children to think the world is full of smiles and sunshine, I want mine to know that it is OK to feel sad sometimes and to express that sadness.

We concentrate so much on being happy, that we forget that happiness is just one emotion out of dozens us humans are meant to feel.

Yes, of course there are times it can be important to ‘be positive’ and ‘look on the bright side of life’, but equally, I think it’s important not to give every cloud a silver lining, and sometimes to see the glass as half-empty. 

Because by allowing ourselves to feel sad – or indeed, any other emotion that we deem to be ‘negative’ – and by doing whatever it is that helps us process that (whether that is cry, shout, write down our emotions, spend time alone), we learn to deal with those feelings effectively and be well-rounded, resilient adults.

So not only do I cry in front of my children, I let them cry in front of me – however hard that might be. As a mum, it’s instinctive to want to ‘shush’ your baby’s tears and make everything alright as quickly as possible.

That was certainly the case when Theo started school. He was super excited for the first week or so, then he realised this was it. He was going every day. And he found the transition tough.

‘I don’t want to go in tomorrow,’ he sobbed.

My heart ached to see him so sad, I immediately wanted to wipe his tears away and reassure him, ‘You’ll soon get used to it, everything will be alright.’

But instead, I put my arm around him and let him cry, before gently asking him why he didn’t want to go in.

‘I don’t know the other children or where I’m supposed to sit on the carpet,’ he explained shakily.

I wasn’t surprised he was so intimidated. There were 60 of them in his year and although they were going to be separated in two separate classes eventually, for the first half-term, the teachers had explained they were going to let all of the children mix together.

Theo knew three other boys from his nursery, but that wasn’t a lot in a room filled with that many other people. I’d have hated it too.

But as his tears gradually calmed down, I asked him what he’d enjoyed doing that day and his face lit up as he talked about the potion he had made outside and the train track he and a friend had built.

I suggested that, on the way in the next morning, we ask the teacher to remind him where to sit and he nodded eagerly.

By the time he went to sleep, having let out his emotions, he was smiling again.

It’s a bit like that scene from the Pixar movie, Inside Out, when Bing Bong, the main character and Riley’s imaginary friend, is upset. Joy, the ‘positive’ emotion, tries distracting him and when Sadness, the ‘negative’ emotion, sits down with him and talks to him about how he is feeling, Joy chastises her, worrying that Sadness is only making Bing Bong feel worse.

But, by acknowledging his upset, Sadness allows Bing Bong to cry and express his emotions – and after a second or two, he says, ‘I feel better now’ and literally picks himself back up.

I think, sometimes, we could all benefit from that example. Taking the time to have a good cry when we need one, and feeling better afterwards.

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