These 5 Conscious Parenting Practices Will Transform Your Relationships
Apply these 5 conscious parenting practices and transform your connection with your children—and all of your relationships
As we enter the fifth week of lockdown and social quarantine, our apartment has turned into a jungle of train tracks, lego buildings, and caves made out of cushions and blankets. While our family of four has been together 24/7 over the past weeks, we have been juggling the needs of our little ones (aged 3 and 5) and ourselves, two self-employed freelancers who (try to) continue their projects while working from home. Therefore, Gwyneth Paltrow’s summary of the two basic emotional states of families in lockdown is spot on:
„Get me the fuck out of here“ versus „I will miss this!”
Anyhow, could there be any better time to deepen the emotional connections we have with our children? Let’s revisit our approach towards parenting and use this particular moment in time to get out of this better than before and become more in tune to the ones we love most.
The following 5 conscious parenting practices will help you raise not only the level of connectedness with your child but will lay the ground for them to become sovereign beings who feel loved just the way they are.
The approach was inspired by clinical psychologist Dr. Shefali Tsabary, whose work has been praised and spread by Oprah Winfrey and his HH the Dalai Lama.
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
#1 Deconstruct your patterns
We are living patterns — not lives. Unless we awaken, we are bound to repeat patterns. We have no choice, but to. When we understand how our past influences our present, we will be able to identify these patterns in how we interact with our children. Understanding the patterns we have inherited is the first step to unlearn. And only when we unlearn the patterns, we will have the ultimate freedom to choose.
Therefore, we need to revisit the first relationships in our life. What did your parents teach you about success, happiness, joy and love? How did they process pain? What kind of message did you get around life in general?
Exercise 1: Dig into the past and excavate your earliest memories in your childhood that involve the caregivers with the greatest impact on your upbringing.
Grab your journal and take a moment to reflect:
What were his / her three greatest strengths? Find three adjectives.
What were his / her three weaknesses? Find three adjectives.
How were feelings processed and dealt with at home? Were they allowed to be expressed, or were they suppressed?
Rate the levels of connectedness, closeness and honesty with your caregivers on a scale from one to 10.
Reflect your findings and how they shape the way you parent your kids. Does any of this call your attention when it comes to your own parenting style? Only when we as a parent become more aware we can stop unconsciously passing on emotional baggage to our children.
„We are living patterns — not lives.“
DR. SHEFALI TSABARY
#2 Stop making up movies how life should be
Ask yourself in the first place: Why did I want to become a parent? This question alone will tell you a lot about your own ‘agenda’ when it comes to parenting.
The moment we have expectations of our children, they smell it. They know we want something from them. And they begin to withdraw from us.
Expectations kill connection.
Our own needs fuel a number of reflexive emotional habits—the psychological process called ‘projection’. Projection is when we put our feelings and thoughts onto others. It is always based on our own history. As a child, I always loved to dance and express myself in artistic ways. My desire to join the local Rugby’s team cheerleaders as a young teenage girl, try out a giant gym wheel, or attend the model casting I was invited to—did not quite, let’s say, resonate with my parents and I was not encouraged to further explore what I liked. They had their own labels for the kind of activities that I felt attracted to. When I become a mother myself, the first activity I signed my then three-year-old up was, ‘creative dancing’. And, guess what, he hated it.
This sounds hilarious, but undetected projection causes conflict between us and our children, and can lead to severe suffering on both sides. Our children know what they feel and understand who they are. Our—mostly unconscious—expectations kill connection, because we expect reality to change and thereby create a conditional kind of love. Most of our expectations for our children are conditioned by cultural archetypes. Let’s learn how to release or re-align expectations.
Exercise 2: Release your child from your movie agenda
#1 Identify your expectations: How do you believe a situation should be, or, how your child should feel like, act and behave? The more we stay attached to the should, the more we suffer.
#2 Reevaluate your expectations: Allow and embrace life as it shows up. Most of our fears are geared to the potential threat in the future. Living in the present, and accepting the present moment as-is, engenders courage.
#3 Make a choice: Meet your children where they are. Empathize with them and try to see the world through their eyes. Now you can decide: What is really important right now?
Photo by Juan Encalada on Unsplash
#3 Practice judgement detox
We are notorically judging ways of being, actions, situations—in dual ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, ‘kind’ or ‘nasty. The level to which we are able to accept our children—and anybody else—actually mirrows the level of acceptance we have for ourselves.
Be kind and compassionate with yourself. Whenever we enter a state of compassion, we expand from within. Because as we accept ourselves more, we begin to understand all states of our kids and accept them for who they are.
Exercise 3: Imagine that you released the duty to judge your children. What kind of parent would you be? Move from the mind to the heart.
“Somewhere beyond right and wrong, there is a garden. I will meet you there.”
Photo by Jessica Rockowitz on Unsplash
#4 ‘Tune in’ to your child
To consciously connect with your children, first connect with yourself. Conscious atunement to the present moment is a window of opportunity to shift our patterns. It’s about allowing and accepting life as it shows up. Tuning into on our children’s essence. We give our full presence to how things truly are.
Exercise 4: The conscious pause
This is a very meaningful step: Learn and practice how to connect without any projections or secret agendas. Just simply ‘be’. Train ourselves to observe and listen and give space, to watch and listen from a deeper level, with all of your senses.
The current lockdown situation provides us with a surplus of moments to connect like that. During lockdown, escape from the city as often as we can and spend hours in nature. It lifts me up to see the shades of the colors of my kids’ eyes light up whenever we arrive at the shore of the river or at the lake since they enjoy water so much. I love when they start running as soon as they spot their favorite climbing tree. During these weeks, new songs have appeared on the family playlist we would listen to together on our car rides, and sometimes dance together in the mornings. I guess they will be our “Corona songs” forever reminding us of these unusual times and precious moments together.
#5 Build up resilience
Most of us consciously and subconsciously expect our children to be happy and successful. Actually, this desire messes things up for our children and is the root that causes so much stress in parenthood. We put weight on the shoulders of our children. What is happiness for one person is unhappiness for another. But: A life without pain is an illusion. Pain is inevitable. And all of life is worthy. Allow your kids to experience pain—and to realize that they are capable of handling it.
This is how we grow resilience: allow them to learn to handle pain. This requires us to stop controlling and micromanaging.
Actually, anxiety and pain huge portal to transformation and growth. Rather than projecting our fears onto our children, let’s learn how to connect with them deeply and guide them to see their inner sense of empowerment and worth.
Exercise 5: Reflect on your innate reaction when your children face a „problem“.
Do you feel the need to jump in and fix everything for them?
Do you allow them to experience failure without your own projection?
Do you trust them to be capable to find their own solution to the situation?
What is your own relationship with pain? What is your relationship with happiness?
If you recall the first exercise, you will see, that the only thing that matters from our childhood is whether we felt seen, heard and validated by our caregivers. Conscious parenting is all about becoming a parent that is present. About moving away from control towards connection. About letting go of fear-based paradigms and moving towards a sense of love and abundance.
Therefore, if you change the word “parent” into “leader” in the text above, you might also get some valuable leadership advice how to handle yourself and others in times of transformation and profound disruption.
Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash
PS: Sorry for typos and inconsistencies—this article was written under Covid-19 quarantine modalities with two kids under six running berserk.
„Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but nor from you, and though they are with you yet they belong not to you. You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.“