The holidays are a special time to feel connected to our families.
Dr. Liz Hale shares how we can make sure our home is a special place for Christmas.
CONSCIOUS, CONNECTING PARENTING:PARENT-ING IS A PARENT PROCESS
I’m grateful for the families in my practice who show me every day that parenting is a profound journey. More healing and growth can potentially take place in the parent-child dyad than in any other relationship.
The parenting process is more for parents than children.
Children are mirrors.
Children have a way of stirring up the pain of our past we haven’t even acknowledged yet. It’s our old pain that causes us to overreact strongly and irrationally to a child’s behavior or mistake.
No matter the age of your child, the principles of present parenting apply. It’s never too late or too early to assess your parenting practices. Even if the children in your home for the holidays are adults, it’s never too late to examine how your past interfered with your ability to effectively parent. Own your mistakes and deepen the connection with your children whatever their age. It’s never too late to investigate the past.
There’s a book called “The Awakened Family,” by Dr. Shefali Tsabary. This is a great holiday gift to give yourselves or the families you love.
Raise Yourself Not Your Child
The parenting process is a wake-up call. Raise yourself up from the ashes of your past.
Parents often see their children as projects to fix or manage. They enter a room a child is in and immediately judge their child’s hair, cleanliness, shoes, or some other thing. Kiddos can be sitting quietly, busy with their work, and we adults’ barge into their space and begin micromanaging and directing them. In our eyes we are being caring; but in a child’s eyes they are being imposed upon and intruded on. Our insatiable need to direct, encourage, improve, and manage them ruins wonderful moments of potential closeness.
A father I once worked with brought in his 4 beautiful teenage daughters and they were all struggling with their dad. He had this tendency to be overpowering, dominant and very determined to make a difference in their lives but for his sake not theirs. His oldest daughter was a talented vocalist and after every public performance, her father would be back stage and would rate her; “that was a B-minus; a C;” etc.
His own childhood needs of being repeatedly unheard and invalidated caused him to manipulate his daughters to meet his present need to feel empowered and honored. Once he recognized how his past childhood contaminated his present adulthood their family dynamics began to change from forced to fulfilling for all of them.
Avoid Predicting the Future
When a child brings home a failing grade we suddenly manifest there horrific visions of them being unemployable, living under the viaduct. Our knee-jerk reaction is to fear that there is no way they’ll ever succeed in life if they bring home a poor grade.
Sometimes new parents will try and predict their child’s interest in sports or the arts. A couple I worked with brought in their brand new baby to our therapy session. We talked while their son slept. I noticed this precious little guy had “Future NFL Player” across his little shirt and that precipitated a conversation. The father said, “Yep. He’s going to be a linebacker like me and his grandpa. He’ll be a third-generation NFL player. He’ll be well-known for that. Football is in his blood.”
But, what if football isn’t in his blood?
Live in the Here and Now
When it comes to living in the here and now, young children are gurus. Perhaps it’s their lack of language, especially in the first few years of life that allows them to immerse themselves completely in reality. Their ability to be in this moment now, detached from “what was” and “what might be” and their fearful “what if’s,” is a sharp reminder to us of how to engage life in the time zone we currently find ourselves.
When we can embrace the present moment as mightily and fully as possible, we don’t feel a need to project into the future. Stripped of our need to create the future version of our child, we can bask in their presence right now. Imagine how a child feels knowing that their parent sees them as “just right” instead of lacking in some way.
Your Child is Both Gifted AND Ordinary
Children don’t possess just one quality. They are fluidity capable of many expressions including giftedness and ordinariness. Yes, your child is unique and should be treated as special by you but in the world your child needs to treated just like the others. Many parents are indignant when their child doesn’t receive the red carpet treatment but I always remind them, “Your child is fine being ordinary. It’s your own sense of lack that needs them to be labeled extraordinary. They don’t have this need – your ego does.”
See Partnering in Parenting
What I mean by this is: help children feel they are on the same team as you, their partner, not their boss. So instead of saying, “You must do x, y and z,” you say, “I see you. I hear you. I want to help you. Can you help me help you?”
How many times do we bombard kiddos with questions as soon as they hop in the car or come through the door after a long day of school? When they give you the brush of a one-word response, you take it personally and feel rejected by them. After a few hours and some exhaustion, the smallest thing your child might say can enflame that percolating hurt leaving both of you wondering how you got to this boiling point so quickly.
What if instead of asking them endless questions and setting up yourself and your child for failure, you simply reached out, took their backpack from their weary shoulders and gave them a backrub? If instead of seeking something from them, you became the giver, the comforter, the loving container? That would change the dynamic instantly.
The ultimate awakened statement: “Can I change something about me to meet your needs? How can I be better for you?”