crying child with critical onlookers

My students are always in a state of transition. I guess we all are on some level. My grade 6’s in particular, at some point over the course of the year, struggle with expressing frustration in public; particularly crying.

Up until middle school, according to my Junior and Primary colleagues, crying is par for the course. In my school’s situation, (grade 6-8), the grade 6’s still cry in class when they run out of words. Afterwards, they often worry that they shouldn’t be crying anymore.

Crying is normal, natural and can be both emotionally and physically cathartic. Unfortunately, the flip side is that anything we do publicly is subject to judgement. Social judgement is not always equitable either. Girls still tend to have more leeway. Context also has a large impact – there is a difference in ‘social response’ to someone crying over a death of a loved one, or serious physical pain (gender gap here though) and someone crying because another person pushed their buttons and the crying is a frustration response.

I don’t believe there is an all encompassing rule here. There are a few things for kids to consider, and as I have said in previous posts, thinking it through in advance, rather than the heat of the moment is what I recommend…

feeling - thinking

Below are some of the factors we talk about in the group, to help decide where each individual’s comfort zone is. It is different for everyone.

  • How I am likely to feel after?
  • How does the context change this? (think of different likely and previously experienced scenarios)
  • Do I trust the people around me, given the context (think about the friendship pyramid)? (hot link)
  • Is there time and space (permission) to get privacy first, if I want it?
  • Can my stress buddy help me if they see that I need it?

It may seem crazy to plan something like a cry in advance, but given the fact that for our kids, the rules around such things do start to really shift at this age, it is worth a conversation. As I write this, lurking in the back of mind is that gender inequity. I try to teach my kids how to keep themselves physically and emotionally safe, but is there room to challenge social norms here? I would like to think that we could evolve into a society where we would all feel equally able to express painful emotions without fear of social judgement, particularly based on something like gender. In having them link crying with safety, am I enabling toxic masculinity on some level? I don’t know. It is certainly a conversation worth having, and one I intend to bring into the next session with my kids.