Your child is having an experience, and it’s different than your experience.
It seems like such an obvious statement and yet it is actually a really important concept that most of us have some trouble with, including me, as you’ll read about in this week’s blog post. We sometimes believe that we’re looking at our child’s experience or what it must be like for our child, but it’s clouded over with stories of our own childhoods and what things were like for us. The kicker is that we often don’t see it, especially when we’re having a conflict of some kind. (The same is true with our partners, by the way…)
A couple of years ago, I went through an intensive training for Child-Parent Psychotherapy. It was an 18-month training and one of the most powerful ideas that came out of all that professional training was that parents need their own experience to be seen, heard and understood. And once they have that experience of being seen and heard about their own story, they will have the space and the experience to do it for their kids. And when the child feels like the parent gets what it is like for them, everything can shift.
You can read more about my own experience with understanding this idea in a deeper way in What’s Your Child’s Experience? below.
Also this week, we have a guest podcast with Lianne March. Lianne shares a tool she developed to help her kids when she was going to be out of town for a few days. You can read it or listen to it. I’d love to hear if you try it in your family and what your experience and your child’s experience of it is!
If you need additional support understanding your child’s experience or even having someone really listen to yours, I’m available for one-on-one sessions via Skype, Zoom or phone and am happy to support you in finding your own way back to connection in those spaces that don’t feel so good.
What’s Your Child’s Experience?
Several years ago, I was struggling with my 11-year-old son’s transition to school in the morning. I just wanted him to get up and go to school! He loved his school and I really couldn’t understand what the problem was with getting there on time. He was so slow in the morning and it was eating up my morning work time just trying to get him to school. (There were advantages and disadvantages of having a flexible schedule for both my work and his school.)
Robin Grille, an author and child psychologist from Melbourne, Australia, led an exercise for Parenting as a Hero’s Journey that helped me to see things differently.
The meditation was all about connecting with ourselves in present time, and then ourselves as children, to really understand, in a new light, a conflict that we were experiencing with our child in present time. I used my frustration with my son in the morning as the focus of my own exploration.
Through the guided meditation, I was able to understand what it was like for me to have trouble getting him out the door in the morning, and where in my body I was feeling my distress. Robin asked each of us to connect with what this situation was like, for us, when we were children. I really focused on that transition out of the house in the morning.
Ooofff. When I was a child, getting out the door for me was always SO hard. I was often dealing with nausea and anxiety, and the pressure to hurry up always made it worse for me. It was very difficult for me and I dealt with it a lot, even as an adult.
Lianne March joins the podcast to share a tool she made up on the fly that ended up being helpful for her kids while she was away for a few days, and she wanted to share it with other parents in case it’s helpful.
Rebecca Thompson Hitt, MS, MFT