There are many reasons why children cry. Excluding injuries, I think hunger, exhaustion, and frustration rank at the top. Then there's all those other times where tears seem illogical or exaggerated based on the situation, yet there they are.
I was reading this article about how society deals with children who cry. The general consensus is that crying is bad and if it can't be avoided, we should do what we can to make it stop as soon as possible. This is not a healthy way to deal with the issue of crying though.
When a toddler is crying and yelling mine because his little cousin who came over for a visit starts playing with his toys, the mother's first response is usually to scold, encourage her son to share, and then distract with some other toy. This is a "wrong" response because the boy is being encouraged to bottle up his feelings and he's also being told his feelings don't matter.
Instead, the mother should vocalize her son's feelings for him. You are upset because Billy is playing with your toys. You do not like to share your toys. This validates what the boy is feeling and gives words to his feelings. It may not make him stop crying faster and he still has to share, but it's okay to cry. Someone's touching his stuff and that's stressful. I absolutely hate it when people touch my stuff without asking, so I can see where this little boy's coming from.
A little girl starts crying because her mom is leaving for work. The father's first response is to make it seem like it's not a big deal and may say things like, Oh don't worry, Mommy will be back later. And then offer a distraction like a special treat or her favourite toy. This is a "wrong" response too. The father is trivializing his daughter's feelings.
Instead, the father should vocalize her feelings for her. You are sad because Mommy is leaving and you are going to miss her when she's gone. Again, this just puts into words what she's thinking and validates what she's feeling. It's okay to miss a person when they leave and it's not silly at all.
Personally speaking, I've missed a person so much I've cried and if someone had said to me, It's okay Chelsea, you'll see them again soon, I probably would have dropped an F-bomb because we both know that's not the point. Children also know that's not the point.
We can all agree it's okay to cry and it's a perfectly healthy way to express yourself, yet we're always trying to get kids to stop crying when really, they probably should just cry and release those endorphines. As adults, we can control our emotions much easier than children, (usually.) We fight back tears so we can cry in private, embarrassed to let others see us in such a state because then we'd feel stupid. That's what we were taught to do. If our generation of parents had vocalized our feelings for us instead of trying to shut us up all the time, I bet we'd all be more open with our emotions today.
It's hard to change the way you think and speak, but I really liked that article and I want to adopt this sort of speech to replace the things I currently say to my daughter and the daycare kids when they cry.