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The Basics: Why is Your Child Crying?

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The Basics: Why is Your Child Crying?

Jun 20, 2022

New parents may be surprised at just how often their baby cries. It is their main form of communication after all. Hungry, bored, in need of a diaper change, they will cry for many reasons - and often. Pediatrician Cindy Gellner, MD, goes over the basics of crying for parents. From newborn to teenager, learn how to understand your child’s crying and how best to respond with advice from an expert.

Episode Transcript

Today, I'll discuss some questions I get about crying children.

So let's start with babies. Babies cry a lot. Babies cry because they have no other way to communicate. Babies cry when they want a clean diaper, they cry when they're hungry, they cry when they're tired, they cry when they're in pain, they cry when they're over stimulated and want to be left alone, they cry when they're scared. Basically, again, they cry a lot.

Babies from 2 weeks to 3 to 4 months cry even more sometimes because they are in the period of purple crying. They can cry and cry for what seems like no reason at all, and it's actually a normal developmental stage.

Then, on to toddlers, they cry mostly because they're trying to figure out their emotions. It seems like they are very stubborn and negative. And you can tell because their favorite word is "no," but they're learning how to get what they want. They're learning that if they're told no and they cry, sometimes they'll get what they want. Sometimes they won't. And it's almost as if they start training you as parents to give in to their cries to keep them quiet. Yes, toddlers are sneaky that way.

This is where trying to reason with a toddler is like trying to reason with a pet rock. You can talk to them, but they're hardheaded and often don't listen. Trust me, you'll get through that phase. Just be patient and do everything consistently. And eventually, they'll come through.

School-age kids cry too. Often, again, because their feelings are hurt or their bodies are hurt. These are legitimate tears. School-age kids cry for a reason. And often, they can tell you why. And this is good because they are learning the communication skills they didn't have as toddlers. As a parent, you know you can help them through whatever is causing their hurt.

Teenagers, well, often they'll either cry all the time or they'll hold their emotions in and never cry. Teenagers are harder to decode, but if you keep the lines of communication open with your teen, then when they do show emotion, you'll be able to start having more in-depth and maybe even adult conversations with them and try to help navigate them and navigate what is bothering them as they struggle through the teenage years and become those young adults we all want them to become.

Every age and stage has their own reasons for crying. If you have concerns about your child's crying, go ahead and ask your pediatrician. Chances are we've heard your concern before and are usually able to help.