By Melissa Ford
Have you heard the old adage; “You are only as happy as your saddest child"? We’ve all been there, watching our child feeling hurt when excluded from a group of friends or heartache over a love relationship or disappointment over a poor test score or . . .
At times, it can be hard to witness your child’s unhappiness whether s/he's a newborn crying, a toddler tantruming or a young adult struggling to be independent. As a parent, you want so much to take away your son’s or daughter’s discomfort, but you can’t . . . just like your child can’t wave a magic wand and fix your personal unhappiness.
When I work with groups of parents I like to ask, “How many of you have kids that get unhappy?” Usually the crowd laughs and then everyone raises their hands. That’s right! Everyone has a child, if not today then tomorrow or next week, who will feel sad, bad, angry, embarrassed, unhappy. Over time, the problem isn’t just that your child is unhappy, it’s that you think you can’t feel good (or shouldn’t). But, you can knowing this best kept secret:
Feeling happy (okay, good, kind, calm) is the most loving, caring and useful response you can choose especially when your child is unhappy.
Counterintuitive? Yes. Incredibly loving? Absolutely. Effective? Definitely. Being comfortable provides you with all kinds of powers: clarity, creativity, consistency and compassion. Your thinking is never muddled by fear, anger or worry. You know there is always a solution to every problem and of course, a wonderful learning experience to be had. You’re steady and dependable in trying times and happy people exude warmth and kindness.
It works like this: The happier you feel - the more kind and caring and accepting you become. Try it! The next time your daughter comes home with a poor test score or a problem with a friend - choose to feel calm and loving. Notice what changes. Are you kinder, present and more caring rather than fearful, distracted or angry? Do you listen rather than try to fix? How do you support her in ways that are more beneficial? How does your daughter respond differently?
Instead of tethering your happiness to your child’s emotional choices, remember: A loving, kind attitude is the perfect balm for your child’s troubled spirit allowing you to feel good and your daughter to feel safe, loved and cared for especially when she’s unhappy.