In the movie “Broadcast News,” Holly Hunter sat at her desk every afternoon to have a two-minute, shoulder-heaving cry. Then she was refreshed, renewed and ready to return to work as executive producer of an evening news show. Lucky for her, she could retreat to the privacy of her office where nobody interrupted her to incredulously ask why she was crying or to try to cheer her up. Crying made her feel better. It was a good thing.

It’s a good thing for children to have a good cry when they need one.

However, some people mistakenly believe that a crying child would feel better if they could just stop crying, and the quicker, the better. But children cry to alleviate some kind of stress. Maybe they feel frustrated or sad. Maybe the child is picking up on their parent’s tension, which these days, would be understandable. When a child is not allowed to cry fully, until they’re all done, some of their stress will remain and may come out later in the form of irritability or aggression or defiant behavior.

Crying can help a child to feel better.

Research shows that when an adult accepts a child’s crying, the upset ends more quickly than when an adult denies or tries to distract the child from their upset, as in, “It’s okay. You don’t need to cry” or, “Here, look at this toy!” When adults use these kinds of tactics, it actually takes longer for the child to calm. If an adult fails to accept, or even acknowledge, what a child is feeling, the message they send is, “I don’t accept the feelings you’re having. I want you to feel something different,” which can be extrapolated to mean, “I don’t accept you.”

Acceptance is not always easy, especially when you may be feeling upset and overwhelmed yourself.

It’s an ongoing practice to accept your child’s big feelings, whether of fear, frustration, sadness, overwhelm, anxiety or anything else. But in those moments when you can respond from a place of acceptance, you will likely feel closer to your child. Riding the wave of your child’s upset all the way to shore can be a balm, for both of you.

I like to think of acceptance as a yielding to the feeling, a softening, a moving toward and together with your child. It’s altogether different from denying or distracting your child from their feeling, which resembles a hardening and resistance that places you in opposition to your child.

If your child’s upset triggers you and you feel yourself trying to squelch or stop it, pausing to take a few slow, deep breaths may help you to calm. When you’re ready, talking to your child may release your tension. “I’m sorry you’re so upset. Let’s sit here together until you feel better.”

Pema Chodron’s words seem particularly apt, “The only way out… is through.”