Here are a few ways to avoid “mood matching” when your little one is having a tough time:
Give your good mood roots.
Take care of yourself so your joy reaches beyond the amount of sleep you got, an insensitive comment someone made, or whether or not your partner shoveled the driveway. Your demeanor is stable enough not to depend on the cleanliness of your bathroom or the weather. Know what makes you happy and be fiercely deliberate about pursuing it. Fill your spirit with the things you love, whether it’s bluegrass music, blueberry muffins, or Sunday football.
Use mindfulness to observe what “comes up for you” as your child is having a hard time. Notice any sensations in your gut, heart, or body. Take deep breaths, take a bathroom break, or step outside for a few minutes to focus back on peace. Know what calms you, whether it’s some Grateful Dead music, a chat with a friend, fresh air, or a cup of hot tea, and be ready to use it.
Remind yourself that development brings friction.
As children mature, there is a natural friction while they assert themselves. They often get emotional as they realize they can’t do everything, be everything, or get everything. They don’t comply when they are super-busy touting their independence, separateness, and grown-upedness as if shouting it from a rooftop with a megaphone.
Visualize a rock.
Picture yourself a bright boulder so heavy an excavator couldn’t scoop it up. As you deal with challenges, adventures, and difficulties (like a stuffed animal in the toilet or a spilled gallon of milk, for example), you’re unchanging. You’re the rock that picks up the sun’s rays and reflects them toward everyone else.
-Copyright Erin Leyba, LCSW, PhD