I need some help figuring out what is a normal amount of crying. I am raising my two stepkids (6yo boy, 9yo girl) and they cry constantly. They fight each other a lot, so they cry when they get hurt, when they get tattled on, and whenever they don't get their way. They each break down about 4-6 times a day. I have a baby and a toddler who almost never cry, so I can't figure out why the older kids cry so much. Is it normal or should I be looking deeper for some sort of emotional problems? Any insight is appreciated. Thanks!
How Often Do School-Aged Children Cry?
I am not sure I can help with this but I will share our situation at the moment.
Our oldest is 11, and is homeschooled and always has been. She crys about once a month. This months topic was a birthday party for a neighbors baby... some other children she plays with got invited as they has baby siblings as well and the families know one another. Our daughter felt badly and though the family saw her outside playing and invited her over, she declined as she thought it would be rude of her to intrude and came home and after I noticed she was not her normal self and asked why, she let her upset spill out. She said she knew it was silly to be upset but that she has two friends moving in the next month and is having a hard time with it. She will be ok, though I am sure there will be more tears than normal the next few months.
Our 5 year old on the other hand cries about 2-3 times a week, often when being put into time out because he did something to his little sister or like today, took a wipe board marker to the carpet. While we don't spank, we do use time outs and sometimes I think they are simply to give us as parents a moment to gather our own thoughts and emotions so we don't flip out.
Our 3.5 year old daughter has daily melt downs... she may however be on the spectrum or a very sensitive child. We adore her but goodness high needs is an understatement some days. Baby is a year old and hardly cries at all, a very splendidly happy baby!
Wish I had advice for you!
My 6.5 goes through more emotional times where she might cry 2-3x a day, but usually she cries about some upset every couple of days or so. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that a 6yo boy cries multiple times a day, but I would think it a bit unusual for a 9yo girl. My best friend's ds is almost 9 and he cries maybe once every couple of weeks or so (usually when he's overtired and doesn't get his way).
How long have they been with you? What do you know about their life with their mother before they came to live with you? What other stresses might they be dealing with? There must be some clue. Does DH have some answers?
(Just as an aside, my DD had a terrible period between 4 and 5. "Age appropriate" everyone would say. Turned out to be a wheat allergy. Really. Crying and mood swings, all day; low energy. She was a mess until we gave up wheat entirely. Like night and day. I'm not suggesting that this is probable in your case, but it was so remarkable I had to mention it.)
Thanks, everyone. Thay have been with me for 3 years (since their mom died), and I keep thinking they will outgrow it, but that doesn't seem likely at this point. It is nice to hear what other children are doing, so I have something to compare it to. I have lots of experience with infants and toddlers, but not so much with older kids. Maybe they are still reacting to their mother's death??
I think losing your mom would be a huge impact and certainly would lead to some level of emotional instability - how could it not? And what do you think should be handled differently? The situations you describe kind of seem like times kids might cry - maybe the focus isn't the act of crying but why they're getting into conflict so frequently. Siblings Without Rivalry is GREAT - it helped a lot in warding off aggression in my son toward his baby sister. And I don't really get why this situation would be difficult to figure out - people cry because they're upset, the kids are upset. I highly doubt both kids would have congruent emotional problems, well beyond losing their mother. Figure out the root and I'm guessing they'll cry less.
Is it crying or is it whining on steroids?
My just turned 7 year old cries 1-3 times a day. Our just turned 10 year old rarely cries, but then he's a pretty self controlled kid and has never cried very much. In fact, he was just really mad at me. He stomped off to his room, slammed his door twice (for good measure) and stayed in his room for 3-5 minutes to calm down. His sister would have been screaming the whole time and taken 15-25 minutes to calm down.
1. How's their sleep? My kids both cry a lot more when they're tired, and your step kids are at a 'prime' age to not be getting enough sleep. Protein snacks and minimal sugar/artificial coloring makes a difference.
2. Considerable sibling rivalry is often a bid for attention from the parents (after all, who has to step in?). If the children's cup of attention is full, there's often less whining, crying and arguing. My favorite books on the matter are: Playful Parenting (only one of the books is about sibling issues, but it's really effective) and "Mom, Jason's Breathing on Me!" Are the kids getting enough attention from their parents, especially from dad? Given that their mom died, they probably have extra need for attention from dad. One-on-one attention would be best. Ideally, one-on-one time with both of you, but if you can only manage one, then I'd select dad. (Given that you've got 4 children, it's going to be hard to do this, but the time investment will probably spare you considerable time and stress dealing with the bickering and crying.)
3. Have they had grief counseling? Do they have a place to 'check in' about the death of their mother, even if they've had counseling? From what I understand (and my understanding is only academic, not personal), kids will may need to process the death of their parent as they go through different stages of development. Your step daughter is also nearing puberty (somewhere in next 3-4 years), which means that she might be starting to get some hormonal surges that are going to affect her mood.
I have 11yo who cries a few times a week. She gets heartbroken over certain things she feels especially compassionate about, or cries over hurt feelings sometimes. Her twin brother--approximately never. Our 8yo, maybe a couple of times per month.
(My kids however bicker/pester/tease each other fairly steadily.)
My DSD last cried maybe 8 months ago. She is the world's most easy-going child, and really, there's little in her world to cry over. She's naturally a rules-follower, so we never have to correct her behavior (literally, never), she has no siblings, so there's no one to fight WITH, and amazingly, Mean Girl drama has not yet started for her and her friends. She is a rising 3rd grader, and a pleasure to have around- she even controls herself when dead tired. I would be 100% certain she was ill if she cried.
I, on the other hand, was an every day, multiple times a day crier as a child, probably past the age of normal. One thing I have in common with your stepkids is that my father passed away when I was 6. The world just seemed black, and against me for quite a few years. I don't have a better way to describe it than that, but I remember being very unhappy all the time, no matter what was going on. Are they in counseling?
My ds never cried unless he was hurt until he started school at age 4. So my first thought is a school aged child who is crying everyday is stressed and/or not getting enough sleep. Emotions are easier to handle when well rested so trying to make sure they were getting enough sleep would be my first course of action.
That's a tough situation and being in a blended family may amplify their feelings. I also agree that personality has something to do with it. Also, multiple kids has something to do with it (because it's normal to pick on each other). My dd is 9, finishing up 3rd grade and is an easy-going, only child. I think I maybe have seen her cry twice in the last year. Once was an injury and once was when she did something that really upset me and she was crying because she upset ME. When she was small she (and I'm truly being honest about this) not even once had a temper tantrum. She was a very intense and high-needs baby, but since then, rarely ever cried. I think she is probably a bit of an oddity on the other end of the crying spectrum. Most fall somewhere between your step kids and my dd, I would imagine.
I definitely think that is outside of the range of normal, and also think there is a good chance they are still reacting to losing their mom. I doubt that this is about sibling rivalry. They probably don't realize it themselves, but it sounds like the crying is more of a reaction to the stress and loss that they feel. They're probably emotionally so on edge that a seemingly trivial argument with a sibling that wouldn't greatly upset another kid ends with them crying. I cannot really imagine a greater loss for a child. Is there a way you can look into some therapy for them?