When my family’s thirteen-year-old retriever mix Sadie died this September, I was struck by the dual nature of my own grief. On the one hand, I mourned my loving, neurotic girl who had been with my husband and me since before we had children. On the other hand, I was also quite worried about my children’s reactions to her death. Sadie had simply always been around. As we looked back at family pictures, there was Sadie snuggled up next to my newborns, trotted out alongside the kids on their first day of school photos and dressed up as a Halloween pumpkin along with the kids in their costumes. My children had never known a life without our family dog.
Many of us have the intention to parent mindfully, but our lives are busy and we get swept along with the tide of action and doing. Meditation helps remind a parent to slow down, to notice the world around her, as well as to notice what is going on in her own mind, heart, and body. Perhaps meditation’s finest gift though is the ability to learn about yourself—what agitates you, inspires you, soothes you? You can then take these lessons into your daily life, helping to enrich your relationships in the process. My intent with this article is to give parents some simple ways to introduce a meditation practice into their daily lives.
Another factor in a strong, healthy parent-child relationship is attachment. Attachment is the ability for a parent to help ensure that a child feels safe, secure, and protected. A child is able to use the parent as a secure base from which they are comfortable exploring the larger world, knowing that he can come back to the parent as he needs her.
Think for a moment about how many times a day do you notice what your child is doing “right”? Now think about how many times a day you notice what they are doing “wrong”? If you are like many parents, the negatives we notice far outweigh the positives. Why do we do this? Because we love our children. We know it is our job to teach them the skills they need to succeed in life, and we feel intense pressure not to miss a teaching moment. So, we remind and coax, we correct them and bribe them, we do whatever we can to make sure the lesson gets through. While this seems like the right thing to do, we need to be careful where we direct our attention.
A Tale of Two New Moms
I’ve been thinking recently about two types of moms I encounter in my work as a parent educator and parent coach. The first is well-aware that she has been lucky in life. She has been raised by loving, supportive (though, of course, imperfect) parents who continue to support her as she herself becomes a parent. When she becomes a mom though she is still shocked by how hard it is and how challenging the needs of her newborn can feel.
It’s true! Our kids aren’t the only ones who have tantrums. It may sound funny to say so, but of course parents will sometimes lose control and express their anger in ways they regret. No matter how hard we try and keep it together, staying calm and avoiding anger, we are human and we will make mistakes.
Picture this holiday moment: you’re getting in the car to attend a long-awaited holiday event when things quickly go south. One child is writhing in her car seat, refusing to be buckled in. The other child is whining loudly about her itchy dress. Suddenly, the magic and wonder of the season is eclipsed by the very real challenges of parenting young children.
As a parent educator, I rarely use the word should. Matter of fact, I cringe at the idea of giving parents one more SHOULD; almost as much as many parents cringe at the idea of talking to their kids about death. After a spate of violence and random death in Seattle, I realized how few parents discuss the topic of death with their children before they are forced to. This is where the SHOULD comes in. We should because it will help our children and ourselves move through the pain of loss just a little bit easier. For those of us who have lost loved ones, even the tiniest bit easier is worth it.
Imagine this. You are about to leave for work and your partner says, “I cannot believe you left your towel on the floor again! I am so angry and frustrated with you, go sit in your room and think about it until I tell you that you can come out.” What would you be thinking, feeling and deciding about your partner and your relationship?
We just finished our first full week of the school year, and like many families, the transition has not been smooth. No matter how much we stick to routines during the summer, keep early bedtimes, and discuss and plan for the new year, we often find ourselves hanging on for the wild ride that ensues during these early weeks. By Friday night, I felt as if I deserved a medal for just surviving, and flipping my lid just a wee bit less than I might have.