Updated: May 7
One of the areas of my life that I am possibly the most passionate about is Wellbeing. Wellbeing is a big old area to cover, so in today's blog, I'm focusing on family wellbeing. I absolutely love working with adults, but it's rare that I am actually working with a person's adult personality or characteristics. More often than not, we are working on the limitations, beliefs and conditioning that we each encounter in childhood instead! You see the experiences you have in the first 7 (ish) years of life, literally help to form the way your brain responds to life as an adult.
When it comes to limitations and beliefs that aren't preferable, it is usually no one's fault, but rather that small humans are sponges at that age, and will absorb the most information from parents and primary caregivers such as siblings, immediate family, school, peers. I know a lot of parents are worried about how the experiences we are all having right now regarding Covid-19 will impact on their children and I get it. Especially doing the work I do but I need you to know that it genuinely doesn't really matter about the exact experiences we encounter. Its more to do with how these experiences are dealt with.
Occasionally I've worked with clients whose experiences are really not what any child should have to go through. Abuse and neglect are real things that have a huge impact on how those people view the world. But most often, Parents like you, do their very best in each moment with what they themselves have available to them and I can assure you, if you are trying to work out how to make this experience less painful for your children, you are one of those parents doing the best with what you have.
Being a parent and being a child.
My eldest son and I were discussing this the other day. I am not the same parent I was when he was a baby. He has experienced a completely different version of me, in comparison to his youngest brother. Although all 4 of my children have the same mother, they have each experienced me differently and we could go as far as to say that they've each had a different mother. We are all learning and growing at all times. Who I was at 20, when I had my first child, is not who I was at 30 when I had my last child and this is really important to recognise. As your child grows and develops, so do you. Life doesn't stop happening to you when you become a parent- You continue to learn and grow just as you did before, only now you have extra responsibility. I love Maya Angelou and I especially love this quote when thinking about parenting.
We sometimes joke that my eldest son was the prototype. (We have twisted humour in our family!) As a woman, I had never been a mother, I had no idea what it would entail emotionally, physically, spiritually, mentally. I did my best until I knew better and then I did better. As I had my second child, although she was completely individual and different from her brother, I knew a little more about the kind of parent I wanted to be and I did better. Cue the 3rd child and everything went out the window as he was born with medical issues and suddenly I was in the position of needing to do my best in very different ways for him, while still doing my best for the other two. By the time Mr 4th child came along, I realised I basically have no idea what I'm doing and all I can do is know better, do better.
Do I get it right every time? Hell no!
Having 4 children doesn't make me any more experienced as someone with one child. Case in point, my eldest son. As he is the eldest, everything we navigate together is explored for the first time ever as a parent. Those experiences paving the way for my understanding and experience to grow down line to my other children.
One thing I have always done as a parent is ensuring my children know that I own my learning, my mistakes, my errors and I own taking action towards doing better with the information I then have available. It's something I continue to do now. I've been on every course you can think of, to know better and do better as a parent and I continue my studies not only to continue learning but to help others too. I do this to know better and do better as a parent, but more importantly as a human.
As a human.
Too often the label of parent prevents us from accepting that it's okay to not know everything. It's okay to make mistakes. It's okay to fail. It's okay to be struggling. We expect these things of a child as they are growing and learning, yet fail to note we are that child too. When you choose to see we are each human, you suddenly let go of that need to be a perfect *insert word here*
Your children are watching you it's true, but they are watching you so you can help them learn how to navigate being human. How many of you think that your children are fine because you ensure you don't argue or have disagreements in front of them? How many of you think your children as fine, because you ensure you don't let them see when you are tired, sad, stressed, finding life a struggle? We as a society have been taught to hide from our children, instead of live with them.
Your children know.
A child that can witness a disagreement and see how it can be worked through and compromise made- is a child that is building information to help them to do the same in life. A child that can witness mum or dad feeling sad, stressed, tired, frustrated etc and that parent explains why and how they are working through that- is a child that grows up understanding emotional intelligence and feeling connected to themselves. Your child will pick up on your mood, emotion, worry or fear regardless of the fake expressions you put on your face because we are social, energetic beings.
The electromagnetic fields around our body express our state, and children are specifically designed to pick up on a parent or immediate caregivers energy regardless of the words they speak. So a child who feels you are anxious, asks you but is told that mum is fine when she's not, is a child who learns that they cannot trust their own intuition and senses.
There is a balance to this of course. I'm not suggesting you share absolutely every worry with your child and its totally a good idea to shield them from inappropriate situations, but in the current experience we are in, children need loving, honest and open communication from the people they are looking to for how to work through this.
They need a parent who can model what they are experiencing in the world and how they are choosing to react or respond to it.
They don't need a parent who knows all the answers or who deals with this perfectly, who pretends all is fine and nothing is a struggle. Because actually, when you parent honestly, you raise humans that know how to human pretty well.
One of the exercises I use with my clients and in group work is a simple question:
'How are you feeling today?'
What's fascinating is how many parents feel uncomfortable answering this honestly in front of their children. There is often the energy of feeling exposed, feeling a need to be upbeat, to smile through it. In time though, parents quickly realise that when they can be honest with their feelings, their child can be too. It leads to beautiful discussions between children and parents about how they can help each other. How they can express those feelings, with ideas to help bring better balance into the home.
Some of the families I've worked with have children are as young as 4 and yet, their intuition and behaviour is always a beautiful mirror. You're feeling tired, overwhelmed and stressed. You are therefore trying to get stuff done, stick on a smile, be the organised perfect parent. Suddenly your child is very clingy, demanding, hectic. Often they are simply mirroring the behaviours that your emotions project. When you learn to recognise your feelings, talk about them honestly and appropriately, as a family you can often think of ways that you can all do this day better.
Emotional intelligence is one of the most important things you can model to your small humans right now. In uncertain times they need to know
There is no such thing as perfect.
That bending is the best way not to break.
That open, honest and loving communication is what helps.
That lying is usually lying to yourself and can hurt others.
That expecting too much of yourself in unrealistic ways can be really detrimental.
That saying no is a really important concept.
That self-care is extremely important.
That emotions come and go when you let them flow.
Know your own emotions and be honest about them, then model these to your small humans. It can do wonderful things.
Where in your life could you be a little more honest with yourself and your children?
Where in your parenting could you practice what you preach?
Where in your life could you walk your talk better?
Because we do the best we can until we know better and once we know better, we do better.