The Real Lesson in the Tantrum

The other day my son was screaming about how unfair it was that he didn’t get a toy at the store like his older brother did.  The four of us were in the car and his intense scream was piercing our ears and putting us all on edge, especially because we physically could not distance ourselves.  It was unfair that one kid got a toy and the other didn’t, on the surface and to a 4-year old, but we had our reason for not getting him one. We tried to tell him to quiet down and take a breath…and explain to this little guy why he didn’t get anything but he went on crying.  He was unable to listen to his reasonable, calm, doting parents who were just trying to help.
But four-year-olds don’t have the cognitive reasoning skills that adults do.  Fairness is a huge part of their lives because morality develops from a more concrete (black and white) thinking to more a more abstract way (many shades of gray) of understanding the world.  When an injustice has happened, especially involving coveted objects such as toys, they react.  Instead of trying to use adult reasoning on our child, we decided to try a different approach.  We let him scream.  We let him own the intensity of the moment: his his fists were clenched, his jaw was tight, and his throat was probably burning.  Instead of trying to reason with him and instead of trying to silence him we just let him go on like we would have if he were a toddler throwing a tantrum (this basically was a slightly more advanced version of that, was it not?).

Love me for who I am,not who you want me to be.png

Both a little skeptical but having no other good options,  we let him go on.  We held a safe space for him to let out his feelings by staying near him (this was easy because we were in the car), acknowledging his big feelings without judgement, and staying silent so as not to inject our agenda into his emotional process that really just needed to be felt.  The staying silent part is CRITICAL because that is where the safety is really created.  Without punishment, threat, coercion, or judgement we let him feel his anger to get through the anger.  And you know what? By holding this emotional container for my son, the screaming stopped almost immediately and didn’t say another word about it…ever.
Us parents are so well intentioned to have our kids see the other side of a story and it feels harmless to interject our life experience to the matter at hand, but in fact it can be a very selfish attempt to get them quiet.  Silencing our kids pain is detrimental to them. Our kids need to feel anger, sadness, and discomfort and learn to travel through those emotions so that they can learn to move beyond those emotions.
What if we instead approached our children’s “bad” feelings with a gentle curiosity to help them explore these feelings?  What if we don’t even see this feelings as “bad” anymore but just as they are: sadness, anger, discomfort without the label of “bad” (and therefore miserable) and instead welcomed the range of emotions as tools of learning and growth?  Imagine the courage we could show our kids by letting them feel the full spectrum of human experience and knowing that they are OK during those feelings and that we are OK with them during those feelings.  Imagine the intense safety we adults would feel if we could experience all emotions without judgement?
We want our children no matter their age to feel their emotions, all of their emotions, not just the ones we “like” or are comfortable with.  Squelching our child’s feelings would have given him the underlying message that 1. we cannot tolerate his big feelings 2. big feelings are bad he should ignore and/or repress them and 3. our love is conditional to his “good” behavior.  Certainly none of these are messages we want our children to learn, even if it means short-term compliance to behavior we like.
So the next time your child is expressing their big emotions stay close, stay curious, and stay silent and surly keep your arms ready for when they collapse towards you for a great big hug full of warmth, connection, and safety.
Contact Emily for a free parent coaching consultation to see if she can help your family become a safe haven for peace and connectivity.
(c) 2017 Nurture: Family Education and Guidance

 

10 Thoughts on Bringing Mindfulness Into Your Home

The other night my 6 year-old son was having trouble sleeping.  I got up to his bedroom and he just couldn’t calm himself down.  “Honey, do you want to try some mindfulness?” I asked and waited for him to laugh and say no-way.  But he didn’t.  I had taught him some basic skills (mindfulness of breath) a few weeks earlier and practiced a few times and as soon as I asked, he knew it was just what he needed.  We did a short practice–listening to our singing bowl 3 times and then noticing our breaths go in like we are smelling a flower and our like we are blowing out a candle.  When he calmed down, I simply said “I am going to ring the bell one more time and then I am going to leave the room”.  Then I did.  As I was leaving his room he said “Mom, turn my music on” and then he cut himself off “….no, no, never-mind” and he literally rolled over and went to sleep.

I am not perfect (by far!) and my kids are not saints (also by far!) but this mindfulness stuff is really working for our family.  For one, it has made me more patient and present with my kids and able to modulate my strong emotions better.  For my kids, they have started to really notice their own emotional states more and become more aware of their needs within those high’s and low’s which is an amazing life skill.

Truth be told, very young kids are the experts on mindfulness.  They are the masters of living without judgement or attachment but exposure to culture and unconsciousness teaches kids to care more about doing and achieving than being attuned and grateful of  the present moment.  Adults in their life may want to teach them a different way: the way of mindful awareness. Being on this path with your child, and in alliance with them on their journey through the highs and lows of life, will be a divinely gratifying and nourishing to you as their parent and greatest teacher.  But it is important to go on this journey with intention but also of awareness of these basic tenants so that the pendulum does not end up swinging back into more frustration, anger, or control for you or your child.

1. Start with parent.  The first step to bringing mindfulness into your home is to ask yourself what motivates your interest?  If your authentic answer is to change your child, it will not work.  Mindfulness is a way of paying attention, non-judgmentally, to the current moment and if your child does not want to do that it will not work.   Instead of forcing it on them, invite them to participate with you and be ok with them not being ready to learn it at this point in their life.

 2. Learn basic techniques.  It is important for adults to have a basic understanding of mindfulness before you start sharing it with your child or you are setting yourself up for failure and frustration.  Learn about how to have a mindful body, how to listen mindfully, how to bring your focus back to your breath, and how to integrate heartfeltness into your moment-to-moment interactions.

3. Choose a time of day to insert mindfulness.  Think about your daily routine.  Is there a time of day when behavior is generally good and your kids are ready to listen?  If your answer is like most parents, that may be hard to identify.  Try talking them in the car when everyone is contained.  But again, be mindful of your agenda, and willing to drop it if they are not interested.

4. Give them ownership of their practice and let children lead mindfulness.  Allow them to ring a special bell to practice listening,  cueing you to focus on your breath, or leading you through a body scan.

5. Don’t use it as a consequence.  Being aware of your present moment and your breath is not a punishment–it is the sweetest gift you could give a child.  Don’t allow it to be associated with anything bad or your child will resent it.  That being said, if you want to use it as an intervention for behavior, make sure a practice is established.

6.  Be consistent.  You can not do a mindfulness activity and expect it to be suddenly integrated into your child’s brain.  Like all learning, practice it regularly to strengthen the neural pathways in your child’s brain so that it becomes more and more natural for him to use it.

7.  Institute short moments of awareness many times throughout the day for yourself and invite them to participate.   Simply asking them to “notice how you are feeling” is a good starting point.

8.  Integrate simple rituals. Taking some deep breaths before starting a meal or putting your fork down between bites during a meal is a good way to fold mindfulness into your regular life.   

9.  Let them teach you what they know.  Listen with attunement and presence–exactly how you would want them to listen to you if you were explaining something new to them.  Ask questions and look for answers, together, if your child stumbles over their explanation.

10.  There is no one-sized fits all approach to mindfulness.  Kids of different temperaments, ages, and abilities will need different approaches to learning mindfulness.  Some kids might be interested in learning about the brain, others maybe interested in learning during a peaceful hike, and yet others in totally different ways.  There are so many directions to try.   

We will be sharing more mindfulness resources in the coming weeks so please follow us on FB/IG @NurtureFamilyEducation

© 2017, Nurture: Family Education and Guidance, nurturefamilyeducation.com

Archaeology of Parenting: Unearthing Yourself

Your essence is the most authentic, honest, real version of you.  Over years of development it often gets built over with other’s stories of who you are (or who they want/need you to be)–good or bad–but not essential truths of who you are on the most elemental level.  Eroding those stories we were told were your identity is a difficult but essential part of raising one’s own conscious awareness.

You don’t want to look ‘there’.  Maybe you tell yourself it doesn’t matter.  It’s in the past.  Let’s just forget it.  Or maybe you were told to ‘accept it and move on’ or ‘life is painful’ or ‘life is unfair’.  Sure you heard those words as a child, but who was telling you? Why were you asked to put your essential questions aside and let others articulate truth for you?

Your parents greatest flaw was their own unconsciousness.  Their own unawareness of their raw vulnerabilities and how that affected them.  Hurt them.  How they felt betrayed. Scared.  Alone.  They chose to candy coat those events–make them seem like sad but OK parts of who they are.  But they are not.  There are stories in them.  Unarticulated truths of existence that could lead them to their own divinity.  And get you closer to yours.  Proof of a life that means so much more than what it seems like on the surface.  How could one not be affected by the horrific truths that have been woven into the story lines they were a part of? How could that generational trauma not affect you?

With that bundle of perfection that you coddle with the warmest love, your are scraped into acknowledging your rawest essence–beyond your culture and your parents unconsciousness– and forced to look in the mirror and see–really see–who is looking back.  When we acknowledge our true being and remove the false layers of who we were told we were or who we “should” become, then we honor our unique way of being, and as a parent traversing the spiritual journey of raising humans.

So you’re an adult now, a ‘grown up’.  It doesn’t always feel that way.  When you find yourself lashing out at a child you know there is more–has to be more–from where those automatic stories you tell yourself are coming from.  How do you figure out where?

In the  solitude of the breath.

What artifacts do you need to unearth from your past to analyze, understand, and refile in your emotional database with a story that actually makes sense?  That gets to the heart of the matter?

On the breath.

What nuggets of truths can you uncover when you scuff off the layers of pretend and posing?  Will you be able to confront the pain of your family’s skeletons?

Breathe.

The truth is when you get closer the buried treasure might seem like bomb.  It may scare you and make you wonder who you are and why are you here?  How did you get layered into this mess.  It will make you question the stories–you may now call them lies–that you once owned as truth.  But be brave.

Inhale.

It may take time–maybe even a lifetime–of digging, sifting, and triangulating the data points to where they line up and make sense.  You may have to reach out to other willing family members (aunts and uncles) to unearth the real story of what happened to your parents.  You may not find anything for a long while.  

Steady now. 

Until you do.

Let go on the exhale.

The truth is the only way and making meaning of that is all you can do.

Keep breathing.

And you may realize all you have is emptiness. Nothingness.  This is not bad.  This is the starting point to rebuild a new civilization based in consciousness.  Reality.  Essence.  Pure joy.  With the emptiness there is wholeness.  The ability to be.  Anything.  Your choice.

 

Conscious Parenting Series coming up soon! Details on “Upcoming Events“.

Free Introduction to Conscious Parenting Webinar THIS WEDNESDAY 5/3 at 8-9:30pm EST.  All are invited!! Register at: https://app.webinarjam.net/register/39213/1f49240fc9

Confronting Independence

A large part of becoming awakened and growing up as our children need us to has to do with letting go of our attachment to, need of, and dependency on our own parents….By binding ourselves to our own parents for approval, permission, a sense of belonging, and love, we keep ourselves small and childlike.  This symbiosis of selves ultimately leaves little room for each to grow and thrive.  It then gets projected onto our children, enslaving them to our parental fold beyond what’s healthy”

-Dr. Shefali Tsabary “The Awakened Family”

When you birth a child, you birth two new people.  Your baby and you.  You are never the same, never disconnected to this life that came of you.  It even feels like you could never be independent from that soul–the one in front of you and the one within you. But you were once a new life in front of doting parents, and so were they.  What age is it time to let them be free again (are we ever?) and who decides?

Everyone grows up with some level of attachment to our parents–in some cultures and some families, that attachment is stronger than others.  Initial attachment is our emotional bond to our parents that gives them the desire to take care of our primary needs (eating, sleeping, safety) and eventually becomes the “engine of subsequent social, emotional, and cognitive development.” The confusing reality of this is that in order to be able to have a healthy attachment to your child-which has multitudes of short term and long term health benefits to you both, one must be able to honestly assess their own emotional bond to their parents.  One must ask, how did my parents do at keeping me safe, seen, secure and soothed?  

Many of us do not want to assess our attachment to our parents in any sort of negative light because we were told to “honor thy mother and father.”  But honor does not mean cover up, sideline, or perverse the truth.  Honor means telling the truth (sometimes to ourselves, first) about them, and their journey through life–because, whether they understood this or not, they were your first iteration of the universe’s expression of wholeness.  If that iteration had a facade of wholeness and perfection, or at least a good-enough version, we may still trust them to be the truth in our lives.  And if not your life, than in the life of your child.  So many of us turn to our parents in our own parenthood looking for answers, truths, affirmation of how we are doing.  Someone to say ‘you are ok. You are doing a good job.”  Mostly that is okay, until you allow that fine line of affirmation to be blurred into an outright acceptance of truth and you end up trusting your parents more than you trust yourself.  It is not a parent’s job to set your boundaries in an adult child’s way of being with their child, that is your job.  It is a hard part, maybe the hardest, of growing up.  Letting go.

You let them in as much as you need or want them there, but honestly assess whether you are giving them this power over your parenting because you need them or because you want them.  Confronting your own independence takes maturity, trust, consciousness and vulnerability.  Maturity to acknowledge that you are a grown up (even if you don’t always feel that way when you feel like you got lured into an argument with a child).  Trust to allow this process of unfolding your children to happen naturally with the good and bad.  Consciousness to awaken out of your blind acceptance of enculturation–of your parents and yourself.  And finally, vulnerability to admit you may have been wrong and will be wrong in the future.  

Setting parents free is different than kicking them out; it is a gift to you- and to them- and a way of stating that “you did a good job here but your job here is done, I’ll take full responsibility for my development from here.” It is a mature way of accepting your own adulthood and relieving them from any unintended damage they may have unconsciously done while raising you.  It is freeing both of you from dependence, codependence, and enmeshment and gives you the chance to have a mature adult relationship, as intimate as your boundaries allow, with your parents.

Not from our culture and not from our parents will we learn to parent.  We will learn only when we are willing to accept ourselves as unfolding on a perfect timeline for our evolution and that of our children.

Conscious Parenting series will be starting again soon! Details at: “Upcoming Events.”

Read More about Attachment here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/attachment

PS. I love you Mom and Dad–now more than ever.

Practicing Mindfulness With Your Kids-Breath

*If you haven’t yet added your name to our mailing list, do so now for a FREE PDF of “10 Techniques to Bring Mindfulness into Your Home”.

So we parents are convinced that we want more time and space in our lives.  To do this, we have chosen to integrate a mindfulness practice in our lives.  This may be a formal meditation, or this may be through different techniques to slow down and focus on our breath more frequently.  Either way, this eventually leads parents to experience great relief, optimism, and desire to share this journey with their children.  Kids can reap the benefits of mindfulness and it can help them self-regulate and learn to concentrate their attention.  Before you embark on bringing this journey to your children be aware of your intentions and do not push these activities.  I repeat: do NOT push these activities on your children.  If they resist, no matter how well-intentioned you may be, drop it.  The best way to encourage your child to slow down, listen to their body, and breathe is to authentically role model this behavior through your own practice.  Children will naturally drawn to mindfulness when they are interested and forcing them will be counterproductive.

That being said, below are several resources I recommend to share a mindfulness journey with your children starting with focusing on their breath.  (Future posts will focus on mindfulness of body, emotions, heart, and more–so sign up for our mailing list!)

1. Hoberman Sphere:  Use this fun toy to visually show how images.jpgbreath expands and contracts and the appropriate speed to do so to calm down.  My child liked playing with this toy more than using it to monitor his breath, so I took my own advice and abandoned (for now) us using it together.  Instead, I used it alone and found it very helpful in staying focused on the cadence of my breath and sustaining attention on my breath.

2.  Noticing Breath: Have your child get a special stuffed animal lay down.  Put it on your belly and have them notice what it does when you breathe (go up and down).  Now put it on your head or legs and have them notice what it does when you breathe (nothing).  Have them lay down.  Have them try moving it slowly up and down 5 times.  Ask them how they feel when they take 5 deep breaths.

3. Breathing Technique: Have your child inhale like they are smelling a flower and exhale like they are blowing out a candle.  I did this with my kids at a family yoga class we recently attended.  It is a relatable visual for the kids which will help them understand the 2 main parts of their breath more clearly (inhale and exhale).  If you have another tangible object for them to inhale and another to exhale (like a balloon), use it! It will make the “lesson” more fun and memorable.

4. “Calm” App.  We carry our phones with us wherever we go, so this app is nice because it is practically always at an arms lengths aways! This program has some neat features which kids (and grownups) will enjoy using including: a visual breath tracker telling you when to breathe in and when to breathe out.  It also has a “sleep story” feature where you can listen to a calming story before bed.  The app can record the frequency of your meditations which is helpful.  I personally don’t love having an app be a part of my mindfulness routine, but if it works for you, go for it!

5. The Boy Who Searched for Silence by Andrew Newman: I got this book at Dr. Shefali’s Tsabary’s Evolve conference last year.  She gave a beautiful endorsement of this book.  This book is a beautiful tale of boy who is looking for silence and the amazing feeling he experience he has when he finds it.  My son is inexplicably drawn to this story and I am fascinated that he keeps picking it for bedtime.  Instead of asking him, I am just riding the wave and enjoying the process…I hope you do too.  This book gets 5 stars from us.

 

 

Again, a note of caution about getting so excited about your mindfulness journey that you force it on your children.  You can expose them to what you are learning, but they will reject it if it gets pushed on them.  The breath is their most sacred home that they will find peace in–whenever they choose to go on that journey.  Don’t taint it with your expectations, judgements, and intentions.

What other mindfulness of breath tools do you recommend?

@2017 Nurture: Family Education & Guidance, nurturefamilyeducation.com

Upcoming Events (Please join me!):

Introduction to Conscious Parenting

In this introductory talk, you will learn about the basics of Conscious Parenting including what is/isn’t, the difference between traditional and conscious parenting, how mindfulness fits in, what are ways to speak to your child that facilitate connection vs. disconnection.  This course is the foundational course in the Conscious Parenting Series and is based on the work of Dr. Shefali Tsabary and Dr. Dan Siegel. Participants will leave with actionable information and a new perspective on the hardest job they’ll ever love.  Cost: Free

Thursday 3/16:  10am-11:30am at Louis S. Wolk Rochester JCC (1200 Edgewood Ave, Rochester, NY 14618).   Free babysitting available.  (click link above to register)

Thursday 3/23:  7pm-8:30pm at East Avenue Chiropractic (1641 East Avenue, Rochester 14610) (click here to register on Facebook, or email emily@nurturefamilyeducation.com)

Helping Little Kids Through Big Emotions

“It’s just ice cream! We’ll get you another! Stop crying!”

“Your hair is a disaster, stop screaming and let me brush it.  Now!”

“Are you seriously crying over Legos?  You have so many!  Stop throwing them, or else!”

“No, for the 10th time, you are not getting that toy with behavior like that.”

All parents are faced, at some point, with children who are seemingly not able to control their emotions and are acting in socially and culturally inappropriate ways.  One expects young toddlers to do this, but as kids grow older, say 3-6 years old, we hope that they are able to start recognizing their feelings more objectively (instead of just feeling those feelings) and respond more maturely.  This can be very frustrating when a parent doesn’t know how to help their child deal with their big emotions–usually negative.  When children do not understand their feelings they are unable to problem-solve the issue at hand and help themselves out of emotions that might not be serving them.

Self-regulation is the processes that allows people to appropriately respond to their environment.  It goes hand-in-hand with mindfulness which is the ability to recognize a present-moment thought or feeling without judgment because both are about insight and awareness of oneself.  It is important for people to have the ability to notice what emotions one is feeling and how intensely one is having those emotions so that they can respond appropriately instead of a quick and thoughtless reaction.  Self-regulation is important for people all ages and learning it begins at birth.  To teach self-regulation, parents must model appropriate self-regulation, give their child hints and cues on how to appropriate self-regulate, and give their children practice by gradually withdrawing their support.  Babies regulate by “co-regulating” or attuning to their caregiver and the process evolves as the child becomes more independent, develops more self-awareness, and develops a vocabulary.  It is a slow process that develops over many, many years.

An important first step is to get your child to start recognizing the physical sensations of their emotions.  Without awareness of how the emotion presents in your child’s body it seems more overwhelming and helpless than it actually is.  To start this in your home, parents should attune themselves to their own physical sensations of big emotions and start noticing their child’s.  Take cautions not to judge physical reactions, but just notice them.  Find a safe and quiet time to debrief with you child after a big emotional outburst when they (and especially you) are calm and in an accepting state of mind.  Talking to a child in the midst of a tantrum will not be productive because their brain is unable to receive and process complex information in that heightened state.  In the middle of a tantrum parents should first keep their child safe from himself or harming others and then respond lovingly and empathetically to their physical sensations (ex. “I see that you are sad because your ice cream fell.  I would be sad about that too.  Can I give you a hug?” or “I know you are frustrated that your brother keeps taking your Legos.  It is annoying when people just take things without asking.  Can I sit with you while you calm down and then we can figure out a solution”.)

Next, help your child label their emotions (aka. “name it to tame it”).  Start this by reading stories to your children about kids who have similar big emotions.  You can also hang up an age appropriate feelings chart in some common area of the home.  An age appropriate feelings chart for little kids, who are more concrete thinkers, is one with pictures of actual human faces and only exhibiting 10-12 different emotions, or else it will be too overwhelming to use. Many adults will appreciate having an adult version too so that they can get back to identifying the nuanced feelings throughout the day, becoming more attuned with their own emotional landscape, and role-modeling naming the feelings.

After recognizing and naming the emotions, it is important to help your child calm down.  When your child is experiencing a big emotion, a part of their brain called the amygdala takes over and tells them to fight, flight, or freeze.  This has an important function in helping people respond quickly to danger but children need to learn to control this impulse and take a moment to choose a better response.  Helping your child to learn how to relax can be done in a variety of ways, some examples include: taking them away from the chaotic space to somewhere quiet and private, talking to them in a softer voice, getting at or below their eye level, slowing your breathing, listening to music, and many mindfulness practices geared towards children.

Finally, by helping the child to focus on something good–the sunshine, a cookie, a parent coming home soon,  not with the intention of distracting the child but rather to remind them of something positive is a great way to diffuse attention away from the big emotion and onto something happy.

Coaching your child through these tough times will be difficult but children need their parents to be the calm, unconditional leader to help them mature through their developmentally normal emotional outbursts.

Resources to learn more:

The Whole Brain Child by Dr. Daniel Siegel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson

Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by Dr. John Gottman

Printable Feelings Chart for Little (2-5) and Bigger Kids (6-11):

 

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Great for little kids (2-5 y.o.) because it uses real human faces to show emotions which is more concrete for little learners.

To further this lesson with your children: have them look through magazines and cut out pictures of faces and then label them with the correct emotion.

Emotions-Basic-5-from-Emotional-Intelligence-2.0-715x424.jpg
Once kids are able to read a more advanced chart without pictures is appropriate. This one is great because it allows users to identify and accurately label the intensity of the feeling.

Feelings Chart for Adults who want to improve their Emotional Intelligence (EQ):

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How many of these words do you use to describe your day-to-day emotional world?  How would being more specific with your emotions help you interact better with your children, spouse, co-workers, or other close relationships?

(c) 2017, Nurture: Family Education and Guidance, nurturefamilyeducation.com

Conscious Grandparenting: An Interview

We recently had the opportunity to talk to Goldie Shawel, a grandmother who came into the conscious parenting movement a few years ago as a grandmother.  We were intrigued to find out that conscious parenting is not just for parents of young children.  As Goldie explained, it made perfect sense.  A parents job is never really over and how you approach those moments of connection, even with your adult children, really makes a difference.

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Goldie Shawel (aka. Nana) and Dr. Shefali Tsabary at the Evolve Conference on Conscious Parenting in October, 2016.

Nurture: Tell me a little bit about yourself…

Goldie Shawel: I was born in Cleveland, Ohio to parents who were Holocaust survivors.   My parents had five children.  I had a challenging childhood–my parents couldn’t process what they had been through and had no peace.  Sadly, it robbed them of much of their lives.  Financially we were fine, but emotionally they were never available to me the way I needed them.

Not understanding the effect of my parents experience on their parenting ability and style, I created a similar life for my 5 kids.  I was always physically present with them but wasn’t able to connect with their essence they way they, and I,  deserved.

Now all my kids are married and now I have 12 amazing grandchildren who call me Nana.

N: How did you hear of Conscious Parenting?

GS: I heard Dr. Shefali Tsabary on Oprah one day and thought “Ok, I messed up” and turned off the TV.  A little while later I saw her again and something struck a chord and I was mesmerized.  After that, I began seeking out Dr. Shefali and saw her work again on Facebook.  She used to do a program called “Conscious Card Tuesdays” which was just posting a thought to her audience and taking questions from people.  I engaged Dr. Shefali in discussion and went from there.  As a grandparent, some of my parenting issues are the same as the newer parents, but I also have some unique issues like being an in-law to 5 adult children and grandparent to 12 unique individuals.

One of the most important teachings that I have learned about Conscious Parenting is that it’s not just about parenting.  It’s about relationship building.

N: Is being a grandparent disqualifying for changing your parenting style?  Is it too late?

GS: I have children from ages 27-37.  I don’t think it is ever too late.  Children, of any age, are a mirror.

 

Dr. Shefali’s latest book on Conscious Parenting.

 

When I wanted to share the conscious parenting teachings with my children, I didn’t want to be too pushy or overzealous–especially with my children’s spouses.  Dr. Shefali suggested that I buy my kids her books so they could read and process her teachings and speak up if they were interested in learning more.

N: How has it affected your relationships with your children?

GS: I am closer with all of my children as a result of sharing these teachings with them.

N: Has it affected your relationships with your grandchildren and the way you approach being a grandparent?

GS: Yes.  I used to be grandma that shells out money and brings gifts.  Now I do not that do that.  We pick out gift together but our relationship is more about being with each other than giving or receiving stuff.

N: How do you resolve the feelings of guilt or remorse for lost time for not being more conscious earlier?  

GS: I had a lot of guilt and sadness for not being with my mother more on an emotional and connected level but with Dr. Shefali’s help I realized that there is no good in beating myself up.  I had the same feeling about my time with my own kids.  I head to learn to accept the way it had been and appreciate that, albeit later than I wish, I had found growth and am at peace with that.  When you know better you do better.

N: What is something you wish more grandparents knew?

GS: Time spent with your children or grandchildren is the gift.  Simply being and doing with the child is the gift.  Allow yourself to be quiet with them and observe them.  Resist the temptation to do, do, do.

N: How do you approach being a Conscious Parent with your children in law?

GS: I heave learned to tread carefully and take cues.  At first I was extremely excited about this movement that had allowed me to find peace with my life and my children and I wanted to push Conscious Parenting on them.  I now know that you just can’t.  They have to be ready and open to it.

N: Do you have any thoughts on what is like to be a Jewish parent and a Conscious Parent?

GS: As a Jewish mom, it is easy to find myself overly enmeshed with my children.  I used to find myself shaming and blaming my children and have learned now to just accept them for who they are.  I have to stop myself from telling my adult children what to do.  I can make suggestions but I have to realize that those are just that, suggestions.  Also, part of the Jewish culture has encouraged parents to be a martyr and constantly give, give, give.  I have learned to relinquish this part of my upbringing and am focusing on taking care of myself first.  I can’t be emotionally available to my children and grandchildren if I haven’t taken time to rejuvenate and recharge my own batteries.

Are you a conscious grandparent? Tell us about your experience below.

At Nurture: Family Education and Guidance, we offer private coaching, facilitated small groups, and larger seminars to teach parents and other educators the art and science of living consciously.  Contact us at (585) 420-8838 or at nurtureconsciousness@gmail.com to learn more.

(c) 2016. Nurture: Family Education and Guidance

Introduction to Mindfulness for Parents and Other Educators

Breathe in to the count of 5.  Breathe out to the count of 5.  Relax your body.  How does that feel? That took about 10 seconds. Do you feel a little more calm? A bit more in the moment? A little more aware? That is what mindfulness is all about.

A lot of people are talking about mindfulness these days. This Q & A will help explain some questions surrounding this ancient tradition and its modern uses in your home or classroom.

Q: What is Mindfulness?

A: Mindfulness is cultivating a non-judgemental awareness and acceptance of the present moment.  One can be mindful at any time in any location.  It involves 3 main skills working in conjunction with each other: sensory awareness, mental clarity, and equanimity.  (Equanimity is mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.)  

mindfulness-300x225.gifQ: Why do parents and other types of educators need mindfulness?

A: Parents and educators can use mindfulness to help them become less reactive and more responsive to the needs of the kids they work with.   If you ever have found yourself saying (or being told!) to “calm down and pay attention”?   Mindfulness can be helpful in teaching how to calm down and how to pay attention.

Q:  My kid is learning mindfulness at school.  Isn’t that good enough?

A: That is great that your school is open to mindfulness and it will surely be a skill they can use for the rest of their lives.  If you really want to integrate more calm into your life though, it is not just about “fixing” your kid.  Any sort of change you want to see in your family or class, begins with you, the leader, making a committment to learn a different way of being.  Simply showing up with calm energy you want them to exude can actually change their brain chemistry.

Q: You can change brain chemistry with mindfulness?

A: Yes! The pre-frontal cortex is literally strengthened when you pay attention to your feelings and reactions such that you can begin to create space between those and give a more thoughtful response when being challenged instead of an automatic reaction.  Further, when someone has a response to a stimuli, the people around that person can also experience similar firing of neurons if they can anticipate what comes next.  This concept is called mirror neurons.  For example, your child just has a joyful lick of ice cream; their neurons are fired and dopamine (the happy chemical in the brain) is released.  You are watching their joy and delight and feel a similar feeling of dopamine release in your body without ever having touched the ice cream.  That is the powerful effect of mirror neurons.  The same thing happens with all different sorts of emotions, even calmness.

Q:  What is the difference between mindfulness and meditation?

A:  Meditation is setting specific time aside for mindfulness.  Meditation is usually in a silent seated position.  The word “meditation” has some religious connotations (from Buddhism–like zen and karma).  Mindfulness can be a religious or a secular pursuit and can be done anywhere, at anytime.  One can be mindful of everything: how they move, what they think, what they are eating, or how they are feeling or acting.

Q: I am so busy and this is just one more thing.  Is this really valuable?

A:  Well, we can’t ascribe the value it will be to your life but if you are so busy, this could very well be the skill you need the most.  Mindfulness will allow you to show up to each activity you are a part of with presence, awareness, and openness so that you are able to attune to your (or your child’s) actual needs and don’t feel as overwhelmed with everything you have to do.

Q: How can I learn to be a more mindful parent or educator?

A:  An amazing resource is called: “Getting Started with Mindfulness”.  We also recommend you find a community of people to practice with so you can hold each other accountable as you grow and flex this new muscle.

 

We offer seminars, smaller facilitated groups, and individual coaching.  Contact us to learn more at emily@nurturefamilyeducation.com or leave your information below.

 

(c) 2016. Nurture: Family Education and Guidance

Helping Your Child Through Bold Anger: Crisis Management 101

“When we are our angriest, we are our stupidest.”

As a school counselor one of the trainings I went through was called Therapeutic Crisis Intervention.  It is a way of understanding crisis as an Unknown-2.jpegopportunity to connect and teach new behavior and I have found it is also helpful in parenting and raising children.   The Chinese define crisis as danger + opportunity.   This is a helpful way of looking at a potentially “hot” situation because it instills hope that their will be something positive to come of the difficult behavior.

The goal of any intervention is for the child to come away empowered and better able to self-regulate and solve problems without adult help.  What one does not want to happen is for a power struggle to ensue.  Power struggles will only encourage the kid to view their parents as people who should not be trusted, kept at an arm’s length, and not really caring about their autonomy (ability to govern ones-self).

The 5 phases of the Stress Model of Crisis are: the baseline state, the triggering phase, the escalating phase, an outburst (violence, screaming), and recovery.

When a child is in a baseline state they are functioning normally.  When a child is triggered you may want to ask yourself:

1. Why did this happen today, and not yesterday?

2. Is this typical behavior for my child?

3. Is my child expressing a need? 

4. Is this developmentally typical? 

5. Does this behavior reflect an implicit or explicit way of being in our family during a crisis?

(sidenote: these questions are very helpful if you are trying to understand why YOU, as a parent/care-taker, were triggered by a situation.  In addition to these questions you should ask yourself: what happened in my childhood that may have contributed to these feelings.)

If your child’s behavior has escalated it is important to not escalate with them.  It is a luring trap to be weary of because it is so easy to drawn into a power struggle, succumb to your triggers as a parent, act immaturely (yell, threaten), and say/do things to your children that your parents said/did to you that you swore you would never repeat.  So how do you not escalate with them?  Ideas could include: empathize with the fact that they have these big of feelings, take a moment to get perspective on the situation, take a deep breath, walk away, or ask for help.

Now, if a child’s behavior has escalated and is now in the outburst phase some thoughts to consider: is this child’s behavior a threat (to himself or others or property)?  Have other interventions been tried (change environment, talking to kid)?  Physical restraint is NEVER a first choice option but if your kid is acting in a way that could pose serious harm, intervention is warranted.  Carefully and gently restrain child and tell them “I am not going to hurt you, but you may not hurt me.  When you are calm I will let go.  Lets take a deep breath together.”  It is imperative that parents know that physical restraints must never be used as  (a) punishments, (b) consequences, or (c) for demonstrating “who is in charge”.  Not ever.  Also, restraints must be stopped as soon as your child is no longer a risk of harm to self or others.

Once the child has calmed down take them to a quiet place away from distractions.  Face them, get on their eye level or below, and listen.  Speak calmly and respectfully and make sure they understand.  Ask you child to think about outcomes of his behavior and brainstorm other behaviors and their outcomes.  Don’t make it personal, make it factual.  Give you child some time and space to think and do not pressure them to say the “right” thing, remind yourself that they are in fact learning and that is a process of testing out right and wrong ideas.  That being said, do correct them if they give suggestions that would not be appropriate.  End the conversation with a hug or other gesture of love and affection to remind them that you love them despite them having behaviors that you may not love. 

A universal goal of most parents is to create trusting and caring relationships with their children. Showing kids exactly how to treat people, and how they should expect to be treated by people, even during difficult times is a critical skill.  With a little knowhow, parents can feel confident to help their kids even through the boldest of emotions.

Giving Trust the Conscious Parenting Way

Tonight my husband and I genuinely shocked our 5-year-old son (and ourselves).  He announced he was done eating mid-meal because he was ready for dessert.   He hadn’t touched a bit of his brisket –which he loves — but was excited to eat Nana’s double chocolate layer cake which had been staring him square in the eyes since we arrived yesterday.  We were in the middle of  a proclamation about how he had to eat 4 bites more if he wanted to eat dessert.  This has been the typical pattern for us–ordering x bites more to get x reward–and truly we thought this was out of love and concern.  My kid would have whined, stuffed himself by our conditions to eat more than his body wanted and been unconsciously reminded that he is not trusted to make decisions about his body. Conscious-parenting-fail.

“Conscious Parenting means you spot the gap between the lesson you intend to teach and the lesson your kids are learning. Then you adjust your technique and improve messaging”

Instead, we tried a different approach tonight and adjusted our message: “you are going to get dessert whether or not you eat more dinner, but you do need to be reminded of couple things before you make that decision.  First, besides from dessert, this is the last food you will have until breakfast tomorrow.  We will not entertain whining or begging later if you tell us you are hungry.  And two, you are getting one small serving of dessert so don’t depend on that to fill you up significantly.”

We are desperate for him to learn how to be aware of his body’s hunger (and emotional) signals–so why would we not get be him the chance to practice just that?  Why would we interject our worries about his fullness with a really quite random number of bites?  To satiate his hunger or our fear?  Well we’re human and parenting is a muscle.  Conscious parenting takes intention and practice until it becomes automatic because of the neural pathways (muscle memory) that gets created in the brain.  The fate of the firstborn is that he is our guinea pig–we are learning to step back from our egos’ fears and allow him to unfold with the gift of allowing him practice to learn new skills and that means sometimes learning the hard consequences. It also means that we have to try out new approaches in our parenting and adjust as necessary.

With our egos aside, he ate some more bites of pepper. A couple bites of challah. And then a small piece of cake. He left the table with his dignity intact and with an affirmation of trust from the people who love him most.  It will be a good new year.

1. For more read: http://itsnotaboutnutrition.com/2016/09/20/improve-messaging/