On Being a Mindful Parent

How can you provide a framework for your children to develop into confident, solid individuals who can build meaningful lives?

Let's take a look at the trajectory of a life. A child comes into this world seeking safety, seeking love, seeking connection and responsiveness. What matters beneath it all is that the child knows he is seen, heard, responded to and reassured with safety. This way he can begin to trust that he is safe in the world around him.  

Based on the attachment theory (based off the work of John Bowbly and Mary Ainsworth) there are four S's of secure attachment:

1)FEELING SEEN  by your primary caregivers/parents and loved ones.

2)BEING SOOTHED  by primary caregivers/parents and loved ones.

3)SENSE OF SAFETY Knowing that you are safe with your primary caregivers/parents, and when you feel fearful, the rupture is repaired within a short period of time.

4)SECURITY that you can rely and depend on you caregiver/parents.

Based on my training in attachment theory, secure attachment is necessary in each individual relationship. The child needs to build security with each parent or loved one, individually.

In order for parents to provide the "Four S's"  they need to be fully present.

Here's what you can do. One of the most important qualities parents can offer their child is helping them develop and nurture  resilience. As much as we'd like to protect our children from harm or struggle, we know that that's impossible, yet resilience is what will help them face adversity with courage and flexibility.

What we now know, based on attachment research, is that the most effective way to help a child develop resilience is their parent's presence. It may not seem like rocket science, yet research shows that having parents around, being engaged and present optimizes their children's well-being and overall health.

Here's the secret about presence. It isn't just something that you do. It's a way that you are. The way that you show up up with yourself with others, and the world is essentially how you parent your children. We all have experiences from our past, good ones, not-so-good-ones, confusing ones, empowering ones and life changing ones. Parenting requires us to have made sense of our own childhood experiences so that it doesn't come in the way of connecting to our children.

HOW DO YOU MAKE SENSE OF YOUR LIFE AS A PARENT?

It's important to take some time to reflect on your own childhood experiences, and understand how they shaped you in becoming who you are. If your mother wasn't affectionate, did you get the message that you're "too much" "too needy" or need to have low expectations as not to overwhelmed others? That may play itself out when your child might portray similar needs, and it's up to you to learn how to manage them effectively so you daughter does get adequate responsiveness within healthy realm.   

SOME PSYCHO-EDUCATION ABOUT MEMORY:

As stated above, experiences are embedded in your memory, in your brain and in your body. There are two kinds of memories, implicit and explicit. Implicit memory refers to memories that express themselves in body sensations, emotions, behavioral patterns and perceptual images. Explicit memory, though, is stored as facts in an autobiographical kind of way. Here's an example: If as a young child you tried to speak up in class to share something and were shut down by the teacher, you may carry a sense of shame (implicit emotional memory) when seeking to speak up and may subsequently shut yourself down (behavioral implication of emotional memory). You may even blend the feeling of speaking up with danger because of that experience.

Regarding explicit memory, you may remember that your father struggled with rage issues or that your mom was frequently overwhelmed. Oftentimes, there are blockages that prevent accessing explicit memories and you may not remember much of your childhood or adolescent years.

There are many different ways we adapt to painful experiences in our childhood, that may be threatened with parenting.

Here are some ways people adapt to painful experiences:

1)Disconnecting from others, if you had rely on someone unpredictable, that's simply terrifying to stay connected to others. 

2) Intellectualizing experiences, getting "stuck in your head", so that you don't have to tune in to your emotions which may come in the way of your ability to engage as the rational, even-keeled person you'd like to be. 

3) Stay completely unaware of any emotions as emotions may feel scary to experience, especially if your caregiver was emotional, needy, overwhelmed or angry, sending you the message that emotions are dangerous and are better not expressed.

Back to parenting, this information is important because children can be demanding. Children require endless amounts of patience and understanding. If being fully, authentically present were easy, we'd all be riding the easy street of parenthood.

I'd like you to take some time to notice what might get kicked up inside of you next time you notice your patience is getting tested. Notice if there is something that is yours, not your child's, that may need some compassionate reflection and care.  

In my clinical practice we work on helping parents identify what is really going on beneath the struggle in their day-to-day life and specifically, in their struggle to show up as the parents they'd like to be. I encourage exploring your own earlier life to release and heal past stuck points from you implicit memory and replace unhelpful defenses with adaptive, supportive ways of being that allow full presence.

It's important to keep in mind that those old ways of dealing were what you needed at the time, yet it's imperative to keep "upgrading" your system to fit exactly where you're at right now in your life.

YOU HAVE BEEN GIFTED THE OPPORTUNITY..

To not just learn how to parent your own child, but also to heal inner parts of yourself that you're only getting to know through this specific experience of parenthood.

The deepest desire we have is to offer our children the best life possible.  We want our children build lives of meaning, depth, humility, wisdom and courage. We  want them to experience moments of sweetness and connection that can be cherished and enjoyed.

Take some time to think of one or two character traits that you have "inherited" from your family, the kind of traits that are "good". Understanding, compassion, curiosity, wisdom, commitment, or the like. And now I’d like you to notice if there is a trait that's been bugging you for a while, it can be something all of your immediate and extended family struggle with or it may just be unique to you and your personality formation.

The first step to change anything is awareness.

Become aware of what it is, when it comes up and how you can gently support yourself in those moments. If the nagging or discomfort won't go away, it may be helpful to reach out for treatment to help resolve the underlying issue.

THE OVERARCHING GOAL IS TO PROVIDE YOUR CHILDREN THE PLATFORM WHERE THEY CAN DEVELOP AND NURTURE RESILIENCE.

Working on  being mindful and present will prove to be impactful in your life, the lives of your loved ones and your families. Presence opens the doorway to love and gentle kindness. Being connected to those around you allows you to pick up on cues to understanding the communication beneath them, creating connection, understanding and care. This way you will be promoting and building secure attachments for your children.

The effort takes time and energy, and often requires even deeper work, yet the rewards are priceless and keep expanding on to generations to come .

Blessing!