Today’s “Ask the Doctor and the Dad” question has been a long time coming:
Is it okay for parents to cry in front of their kids? And does it make a difference whether it’s a mom or dad doing the crying? I usually manage to keep my emotions in check, but not this week.
– A Dad From Cleveland
Thanks for the heartfelt question, Dad From Cleveland.
The idea that parents – especially dads – shouldn’t show their emotions to their children is a pretty antiquated thought in this day and age. But the fact that you’re still feeling the need to keep your feelings “in check” shows just how powerful those old social constructs were.
The good news is, things are much different today than they were 50-plus years ago. Sure, kids are still exposed to gender stereotypes all the time – like the idea that boys need to act strong and play with trucks, while girls need to act sweet and play with dolls. But our society is becoming more open and accepting to kids that don’t fit those molds every day.
As parents, we have a huge opportunity to help our children realize it’s okay for anyone to express their emotions. Kids learn how to express themselves by watching how we talk about emotions and the examples we set in dealing with our own emotions.
So what happens if a father defies the convention that real men don’t cry, and breaks down and bawls right in front of his kids?
Research shows that it’ll probably be good for them!
According to a Virginia Tech study, parents who openly show emotion have kids who are better able to understand, regulate and express their own emotions. The researchers found that for both boys and girls, having the opportunity to observe parents being comfortable expressing emotions and receiving parental support in dealing with emotions was related to better social outcomes, including fewer instances of behavior problems and aggression and better ability to get along with teachers and peers.
So don’t feel bad if a stubbed toe, romantic movie or miraculous history-making victory that allows your city to celebrate its first sports championship in more than five decades brings a tear to your eye…
…our family feels pretty great about it!