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Crying in childhood

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Crying is an emotional response to a distressing experience or situation. Children cry for many reasons, and the degree of their distress depends on their developmental levels and previous experiences. Children cry in response to pain, fear, sadness, frustration, confusion, anger, and inability to express their feelings.

Crying is a normal response to distressing situations that a child is unable to resolve. When the child's coping skills are exhausted, crying is automatic and instinctual.

A growing child eventually learns to express feelings of frustration, anger, or confusion without crying. Parents may find it necessary to establish guidelines to help the child develop appropriate behaviors.

Praise the child's ability to delay or withhold crying until an appropriate time and place. Teach alternative behaviors to distressing situations. Encourage the child to "use their words" to explain what is upsetting them.

As a child develops additional coping and problem-solving skills, crying will become less frequent. As they mature, boys tend to cry less than girls. Many believe these are learned behaviors.

Updated: 5/16/2012

Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.


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