Does your child’s dad ever cry in front of them? If you can count the number of times he has on one hand, then you might need to raise this with him. Here’s why …
Told not to cry
“Don’t be a crybaby!” became the familiar refrain of many a lad’s childhood. And so, they grew into men who didn’t cry (well, not that we know of).
Many of us would struggle to recall our own fathers ever shedding a tear when we were growing up.
Fast-forward to now and our partners may not cry openly either (I know mine doesn’t). For a lot of men, this is a case of monkey see, monkey do. And the monkey didn’t see it.
This is problematic because the thing about not feeling like you can have an emotional release through crying is that some men tend to bottle things up instead.
Some men learn to process big emotions by becoming shut off from what they are feeling.
And some men ‘cry’ in other unhealthy ways – such as drinking when they are sad, or getting angry and abusive when they feel overwhelmed.
Clearly none of this is healthy and its definitely not helping our kids either.
Crying is a release
I don’t know about you, but I always feel better after having a good weep. Sometimes this is an explosion of tears when I feel overwhelmed or frustrated. At other times it’s just a natural spill of tears because the emotion needs a conduit.
After the tears are released, and I’ve responded to the feeling behind them, I am in a better emotional place. Crying is cathartic.
Kids need to know it’s OK to cry
And let’s face it, little kids cry a lot. But then somewhere along the way, they learn not to.
Part of this is simply the process of growing up — you learn as you get older that wailing over your banana snapping in half is a bit silly. Part of it is socialisation — you learn that tears and distress may be laughed at or frowned upon.
(Like when you are jeered at for crying at school because even though you are six, you still have separation anxiety at drop off.)
So you learn to suck it up and not be vulnerable. Especially if you are male.
Don’t suck it up
We can do much better than this. We need to teach our kids, boys especially, that it’s OK to cry. That it’s healthy, that grown-ups do it too.
That said, if they don’t see their dad or father figure in their life crying, how will they learn this? Will the gender stereotype that boys are not allowed to cry and even toxic masculinity live on?And if it does live on, are we putting our little boys at risk of becoming emotionally out of touch men? Those are certainly risks if we continue to discourage shows of emotion.
So dads, please cry in front of your family. You may have forgotten that you can, but if you ever feel a tear building, let it out and don’t hide your face from your kids.
Your son especially, needs to see he’s allowed to and that it shows strength. You are his biggest male role model.