Tears can be an opportunity for connection between a parent and child. Your child gives you a sign that the tears are an effort to connect when he or she “peeks out” and looks for you. If you see your child peek out for you after a good cry, he or she may want and need connection with you.

You might observe your child peek out, make eye contact with you, and then go right back to crying. This sequence may mean your child feels reassured and safe expressing strong emotions, knowing that he or she has a loving, relaxed, and trusted adult near. If just seeing you close by isn’t enough to eventually calm his or her emotions, you may need to talk to your child in a soothing voice and snuggle a bit closer as you look into his or her eyes. No need to rush to stop the crying. Emotional release is a process.

If you think your child is faking a good cry, it may be that your child has learned that tears get a strong reaction, but it can also mean your child has a reserve of real tears that have been pent up inside. Some children don’t feel safe enough or connected enough to express their strong emotions. It can seem like children are fake crying when actually they are going through a “test run” to see how their real tears will be received. If children are “shushed” when they are crying, they never get to finish expressing their tearful feelings. When they are stopped midway through their crying, they either have to start all over again or quit trying to express strong feelings.

If children have a storehouse full of emotions, playtime and extra time spent being close will help them feel more free to express themselves.