Allow them to be sad or mad
When your baby gets older, you can encourage her to label her feelings and express them verbally. Even before she can talk, you can show her pictures of faces and ask her which one is feeling the same way she is. Young children will pick up very quickly on “affect” words such as “happy” or “angry.” When they can put words to their emotions, they gain a whole new capacity to recognize and regulate their feelings.
However, Masia-Warner warns, you shouldn’t overreact to your child’s negative feelings. “It’s normal for kids to become oversensitive or clingy or nervous at times because of something in their environment, but it’s not unhappiness.”
You’ll find this is especially important as your child grows. When your child pouts in a corner during a birthday party, your natural reaction may be to push her to join in the fun. But it’s important to allow her to be unhappy. Hallowell is concerned that “some parents worry any time their children suffer a little rejection, they don’t get invited to the birthday party, or they cry because they didn’t get what they wanted.”
Children need to know that it’s okay to be unhappy sometimes — it’s simply part of life. And if we try to squelch any unhappiness, we may be sending the message that it’s wrong to feel sad. We need to let them experience their feelings, including sadness.
Be a role model
According to Dora Wang, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and mother of 3-year-old Zoe, research shows that you can pass on your temperament to your children — not necessarily through your genes — but through your own behavior and childrearing style.
For better or worse, children pick up on their parents’ moods. Even young babies imitate their parents’ emotional style, which actually activates specific neural pathways. In other words, when you smile, your baby smiles and his brain becomes “wired” for smiling. Similarly, if you have a colicky baby who cries for hours, the best thing you can do is to stay calm, because babies pick up on their caregivers’ stress.
With a new baby, it’s normal to feel tired and overwhelmed, but if you find yourself constantly stressed out or depressed, it’s important to seek help. “Parents who tend to be depressed are often not good at being consistent with their discipline and providing structure, or at providing consistent praise and having fun with their children. All of this can contribute to emotional problems,” says Masia-Warner.
Teach them to do meaningful things
Even as early as 10 months, you can teach your child the satisfaction of give and take. If you give her a bite of banana, let her do the same byyou a piece. Show her how happy her gesture of generosity made you feel. If you brush her hair, give her a chance to brush yours. These small moments can nourish a sensibility toward sharing and caring for others. As your baby grows into a toddler, simple household chores, such as putting her dirty clothes in the hamper or setting the table, can help a young child feel that she’s making a contribution.
The BabyCenter Seven: Ways to turn your child’s frown upside down
What do you do when your child’s in a slump? We asked BabyCenter parents, who shared their favorite tried-and-true tips to chase away the blues and bring a smile to their child’s face.
|The power of praise
Whenever Chloe gets stuck in a crying jag, I try to find something to praise her for. It can be any little move she makes toward calming herself, like going to get herself a tissue or taking a deep breath. She can’t help smiling when I do this. Then the meltdown is over and she’s able to move on with her day. — Kate, mother of Chloe, San Francisco
|Get your ya-yas out
I have a very physical, “spirited” child. It took me forever to realize that whenever Ben was really grumpy or frustrated, what he needed most was to get outside and play or simply run around the house for a few minutes. Even if I’m busy and trying to get ready for dinner, I stop and announce to Ben that it’s time for him to “get his ya-yas out.” Now he even uses that term when he’s feeling out of sorts. Getting his ya-yas out always cheers him up. — Colleen, mother of Ben, Atlanta, Georgia
|Take a good mood car wash
One day when my daughter was in a funk, I got the idea of putting her through a car wash that would wash her bad mood away. I have her push an invisible button to enter the “good mood car wash,” and then I twirl her around, tickle her, and make silly sounds. She’s falling over laughing by the time we’re done. — Sheila, mother of Charlotte, Westport, Connecticut
|Stop and listen
When my older son, age 8, is feeling upset, sometimes he just needs me to listen to him. With kids, we’re often in a rush to try to find an answer to their problems or a cure to whatever is bothering them. But I think it’s often more helpful to stop everything and be in the moment and simply ask him what’s wrong. If he’s not ready to talk about it right then, I give him individual attention, play with him, and make sure I’m just there for him. — Elisse, mother of Noah and Aidan, Berkeley, California
|Foster a social butterfly
My two sons always seem happier when they’re surrounded by a group of family and friends. Some of the times I’ve seen them happiest are at large family gatherings, when they’ve had a chance to interact with a lot of people they know and love. For that reason, we include our sons as often as possible in social outings. I also like that it teaches my sons about the joy and skills of interacting with many different kinds of people. — Jim, father of Chris and Alec, San Francisco
|Make a pizza
I use the same trick as the dad in William Steig’s book Pete’s a Pizza. When my daughter’s grumpy, I say, “Okay, time to make you into a pizza.” I pick her up and knead the dough and toss her in the air, which is really just tickling and gentle roughhousing. Then I sprinkle her with make-believe cheese, tomato sauce, and pepperoni — another good chance for tickling! Then I plop her in a pretend oven (the couch) and presto, her bad mood is over! — Fred, father of Hazel, Burlington, Vermont
|Let the air out
When we’re driving in the car and my daughter is feeling upset, we roll the windows down all the way, even if it’s freezing out and snowing, and then we blow all the “bad” air out of our bodies. She always feels better afterward and so do I! — Chandler, mother of Lily, Monterey, Massachusetts
taken from babycenter.com