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By: Tammy Sassoon, M.s.ed

Oftentimes I watch well-meaning parents trying to persuade their child out of their negative expression of emotions to no avail. What is a healthy role that parents can play to support their children when they are upset?

Before we even discuss how we can be supportive let us realize that it’s really okay for our children to be upset. While it might pain us to watch them feeling unhappy since we love them so much, it’s actually very healthy for all human beings to feel down and to express disappointment at times. We want to model and teach our children that our true nature is resilient, and that moods are transitory. A low mood is a result of taking one’s thoughts or feelings too seriously.

For example, a child might have a thought that he or she isn’t as valuable as his or her peers. While that is certainly not true, if a child believes that thought, he or she will feel down when a peer says something unkind to her. The problem was not the thought that she is invaluable, but rather that she believed the thought. We want to teach children to recognize that unhelpful, unreliable, and untrue thoughts can enter people’s minds throughout the day. A simple awareness that it’s just a thought can make a world of a difference in the child’s moods.

When my children are feeling down, and carrying on about this or that, I point out in a very sensitive and confident way that he or she is having unhelpful thoughts at the moment. I give a calm smile, and tell them that all thoughts pass. What won’t change is their calm and happy nature. They understand. On a lighter note, several months ago when I was raising my voice at my children in a way that wasn’t the kindest, my seven-year-old came over to me and said, “Mommy, remember… thoughts come, thoughts go.” He was so right. In the moment of my irritation I remember thinking that I had so much to take care of that day, and if it didn’t get done, it’s terrible. The problem was NOT that I had this thought. The problem was that I was engaging with it as if it were absolute reality. When my seven-year-old pointed out to me that I was taking my thoughts very seriously I was able to take a step back, and wait for them to pass. Within minutes, I got back to my true self: strong, happy, secure, resilient, and confident.

So next time your children are experiencing a low mood, do not go over to them and try to talk them out of it. That will make them think that they should take their moods very seriously. Rather, let them know that you are there for them if they need anything, and as long as they are not hurting anyone, you do not need to do anything. Simply pray, without being frazzled, and that is one of the greatest gifts you can model for your child.

Submit a question to Tammy

If you are a frustrated mom or dad looking for answers to a specific problem at home, or want to improve your parenting skills in a certain area, please send an email toeditor@communitym.com.Tammy will suggest new and effective parenting strategies that actually work!

Tammy Sassoon, M.S.Ed, is a Parenting Coach, Behavioral Therapist, and Principal at Orot Sarah. She gives live workshops as well as "train by phone" telecourses to teachers, principals, therapists, and parents. She can be contacted through her website at tammysassoon.com or by phone at (347) 679-5466.