The foundation for conscious parenting is a secure relationship with yourself, with your own True Self.
If you are parenting through a stormy time-- any stormy time at any age--the first step is to connect with your True Self, remembering your own inner wisdom.
It's a practice so unassuming that it's easy to miss. There's no need to 'go big,' just settle in. I'm going to describe it, and it will sound (if it's new to you) too simple. But please, trust me and try.
Begin now, by simply noticing your experience. Sit in a way that is both comfortable and alert, and feel how that feels. Can you feel your weight resting on the chair? Okay, stay with it and feel it for a bit. Let yourself get very still, noticing your feet and letting them rest, then moving through your legs, hips, belly, chest, shoulders and arms, hands and fingers, then up to your neck, and face including your jaw, cheeks, eyes, and brow., noticing each part of your body and letting it be still.
As you get still, you may start feeling your breath moving. If not, notice it on purpose. Get curious about it, feeling the breath coming and going right at the tip of your nose. Can you notice the sensation that tells you you're breathing? Feel it without changing anything.
Maybe after you stay with it for a moment, your attention wanders off to something more interesting or flashy. That is not a problem, it's normal. When you notice, be a little curious about it. Notice where your attention went--a thought about dinner? A cramp in your leg? A feeling about something happening with your child? Once you see it, come back to the breath in your nose. Don't control it, just observe it, feel it, even maybe enjoy it.
Do this for a while. Maybe 2 minutes if it's new for you, 15 or 20 minutes if you can. Don't try to get anywhere special, don't try to be perfect, don't worry about the way it is. Just do it.
This is the workout that builds your relationship to the True Self, the inner awareness, so it gets strong and healthy. It is essential.
Will you try it with me every day for a week? Over time, this practice will transform not only your relationship with yourself, but also your relationship with your family.
Today, in honor of the Autumn Equinox and all that is going on in our world, I am sharing an excerpt from the new Soul Source Autumn Equinox newsletter. The focus is on spiritual tools that can help us to remember and stay true to our Selves even in the midst of difficult times.
Just Breathe" by Julie Bayer Salzman and Josh Salzman (Wavecrest Films)
STOP AND BREATHE
When life gets intense, pull your awareness inward and anchor there. Simply breathe and be aware that you are breathing. Put a hand on your chest or belly and feel the breath move you. Remind yourself gently, "Breathing in, I am aware of this moment. Breathing out, I am open to this moment as it is." Gently step back from the dramatic thoughts and emotions that may be happening. Don't DO anything for a bit, just be.
Suchitra Davenport's Guided Full Moon Meditations and Soul Infusion Mediation
A Body Scan Meditation
Guided Mindfulness Practices from Gloria Shepard
A Nap or Rest
I used to want to hurry my kids pretty often. As they would dawdle walking from the car into our front door, as they pored over a drawing in a picture book before we could turn the page, as they told me a story, I was rushing to get to the next thing that had to get done.
But when I was a kid, I don't remember hurrying. I don't remember my mom rushing us to get to the next thing. Mostly what I remember is the feeling of one thing just flowing into the next. Hours spent in the pool or the woods. Getting off the bus and walking up the long driveway after school, with no plans or pressure more urgent than a snack. At a friend's house, we might spend hours outside on the swingset or just mess around in the basement playing a made up game.
This week I was walking and heard a mom tell her child "Hurry up!" I wondered what it would be like to grow up in a hurry, what it's like for kids today. Because kids are hurried. They have to get to daycare, to school, to the grocery store with us. Many have classes and lessons, tutors and 'events.' They have scheduled playdates. Even when they aren't signed up for extra things, kids now are actually doing more homework than I did and spend much more scheduled time in child care than was common in my generation.
If you are raising children right now, do you find yourself hurrying them? Do you ever wonder, what would it be like if we weren't in a hurry? Imagine with me the way your days would go if you never had to say "Hurry up."
Imagine slowing down to the pace of a child. Would you spend more time cuddling in the morning? Holding hands as you walked from place to place? Would breakfast be different? Getting to the car? Cooking dinner? Homework time (if your child does homework)? Imagine bath time. Story time. Bedtime. All of it feeling spacious and open.
What if we each choose one thing and slow down to a child's pace. It could be small, like walking upstairs to get ready for bedtime with them. Let's choose this one thing and dedicate ourselves to operating at child speed with no rushing. Let's try savoring it, allowing it to be exactly what it is, like a mindfulness practice.
When teens are securely connected. . .
They talk with you!
They are pretty cooperative.
They can be vulnerable with you sometimes.
They can be kind to you.
If your teen seems defiant, rude, withdrawn, passive, distant, anxious, or disrespectful, it's a good idea to build connection!
We CAN strengthen connection! Here are some things to try:
Smile and be warm. When you see your teen, offer a smile and friendly words, every single time. Even if they're late for curfew or just overslept. Greet them! Ideally, don't say anything until they look at you. Definitely establish friendly communication before you make any suggestions. "Hey sweetie, I'm so glad you are home safe," comes before a lecture about curfew. Imagine how you want your partner, boss, or your own parent to talk with you and use that as a template.
Listen. I want to believe that I'm a good listener, but when my kids are going through rough or even just interesting times, I am so eager to talk! I want to tell them what I know, offer shortcuts, make their life easier, save them from themselves and bad experiences. I have learned (through hard experience) that doing those things actually blocks my ability to hear them. It communicates a lack of trust, a focus on me rather than them, and fear. So instead, I try to listen without judgment.
When your teen wants to talk, listen without interrupting, explaining, teaching, or advising. Show a genuine interest but don't take over. Keep your mouth shut most of the time. Even if they ask for advice, listen more than you talk, invite them to discover their own understanding by asking open-ended questions, and mirror what they are telling you.
Don't overfocus on them. Another mistake I make is to overdo it, asking too many questions. I am learning to follow their lead. Listen endlessly when they're talking. Accept it completely when they're quiet. Don't use the 'can opener' method of parenting, trying to force them to open up! When they're not interested in talking, it's time for us to be interested in our own lives.
Be patient. Connection takes time. Small moments of connection are great, don't try to force anything.
Lately I've been writing about some of the ways we can parent so that our kids feel securely attached and connected with us and the world. This isn't something we talk about much for teenagers, and although it looks different (of course!) at this age, it is just as important as it was when they are babies.
As teens develop, they aren't meant to become independent of us, but interdependent with us (and others). We are their base. Some spend a lot of time at our base, others don't spend much, but all securely attached kids rely on that base as a place where that they are safe to be just themselves.
Without secure attachment, teens seek their primary sense of belonging and acceptance from peers. But peers, even if they're wonderful, can't give unconditional acceptance. At this age, the peer group is conditional, expecting each person to conform to social norms. Whether teens are conforming to norms like getting perfect grades or sending naked selfies, those norms can be painful and destructive.
Our loving connection, while it doesn't ensure smooth and conflict-free teen years, does protect our teens. With a secure connection at home, they can talk to us about the pressures, confusions, and struggles without fear of being judged, punished, or (worst of all) rejected by us.
If you, like me, are a parent of teens, take some time to reflect on your connection. Can you, do you, accept them even when you don't like their choices? Do they know that you can listen to them without judging? Do you love them without pressuring them to conform to your beliefs?
Tomorrow, more about how to strengthen connection during the teen years!
Babies, toddlers, children, kids, teens--they all need the same thing that we need.
To feel loved.
To feel seen.
To be understood.
To know that they're accepted, even thought they are imperfect.
They are excruciatingly sensitive.
They feel our worries, hopes, judgments, and agendas, even if they don't talk about it.
They want us to be proud of them, not for what they do but for who they are.
They see themselves through our eyes.
It hurts them when we are critical or too busy.
They love it when we meet them where they are.
They need us.
When you are with your child today, imagine that they are 10 times more vulnerable than you think. Get in touch with your love. Let them see it, feel it, relax into it. Don't make them earn it.
My life and work are guided by the these core understandings: that all beings (including me!) are capable of transformation and joy, that healthy parenting matters profoundly, and that simple practices can support each of us.