Mental Health Motherhood

Practicing Sympathy for my Highly Sensitive Child

It can be so difficult to be patient and sympathetic to my highly sensitive child.  I notice my patience level hits rock bottom when I am super pregnant, tired, sore, or having a difficult day in general. I find myself having yelling matches with my six year old when he is in a sour mood about how upset he is he didn’t have more candy in his birthday piñata, or he has to clean up the food mess he made at dinner, or takes forever to process and execute a task he needs to perform (for example, “we are here, let’s take our seat belt off”).

Gottman Institute shares how kids need us to connect with them through sympathy and not empathy. The perfect example happened today when I decided to have a mother son date. I asked him if I could take his picture. He would not smile and put his hands out- instead he was whining and frowning (he usually loves pictures, it’s one of our favorite activities together). An empathetic response would have been, “hey, you’re fine, just smile- you love pictures”. Instead I listened and asked him what was wrong. He responded that his eyes hurt because when he looked up the sun was in his eyes and they hurt. I wanted to scream out, “JUST SMILE, YOU CAN DO IT FOR TWO SECONDS, YOU GOT THIS, C’MON!!!”

But instead I sympathized and said, ” Oh no, I hate when that happens, will you be ok or do you not want to do it?” He thought about it, and decided he did want to take the picture. Surprise, surprise.

When I am able to stay in charge of my emotions and put on what I like to call my ‘therapy cap’ on and see the situation as his needing my help instead of doing it to annoy me as his mom, the outcome is always better.  

As you can see, the picture turned out great! 

So, that’s one win for today. Ha! This past weekend I had a few fails (hence the day planned purposefully with just him to make up for the terrible weekend). Y’all I threatened to get rid of everybody’s birthday next year for his ungrateful statements about how terrible his birthday was (and I love birthdays). I have to use a lot of reframing and gratitude/mindful techniques with him when he gets in one of his moods. He does not easily get ‘distracted’ from his sour mood or shift activities easily- as most kids might. I have to remember to not take what he says personally. I have to teach him how to deal with the big emotions he is experiencing and external stimulation that he simply can not block out.  

The good news is that today marks 9 days until I am no longer pregnant. Then I get to meet the newest baby sister or ‘Sparkly Crystal’ as ‘M’ has dubbed her name to be. No more blood draws, or prodding, strict diets, worries if my body will reject her at the last minute, or painful debilitating sciatica pain. I will be free of my issues to get back to my usual patient, loving, and happier momma self.

For now, I accept grace for myself, give grace to my ducklings (knowing that we are expecting more of them right now), and start fresh each morning.