When I started The Consciously Parenting Project in 2007, I knew that I had some information that most parents didn’t have that could help create more connection in families. We had been through several years filled with challenges including loss of a baby, really difficult behaviors from young son (and myself, if I’m going to be honest), another pregnancy and birth, and lots of changes for all of us. As things began to shift, I knew I needed to share the information I had learned and help other families find their way. I connected with a strong mission and purpose to make things accessible to families around the world who were looking for the information and support.
I didn’t realize that I was setting out on a journey to learn just as much from my clients as I was going to be sharing with them. I’ve formed relationships with families around the globe and have been so blessed to be in their lives and learn from them. I’m going to share some of the things I’ve learned that have been most impactful for me over the past 13 years.
1. If someone is open to looking at things from a different perspective, change will happen. We’re doing things differently here and operating from a different paradigm. Over and over again, I’ve had families come to me because something isn’t working and they’re ready to explore a new lens to understand what’s happening. And change happens. Sometimes the changes are subtle. Sometimes things look completely different in a short time once a parent has some different information. But change is possible!
2. We all have stories that show up from our past. Just because it isn’t happening anymore doesn’t mean that we’re not influenced and impacted by things that happened in the past. Because things are stored in implicit somatic memory (it’s our unconscious body memory), even things that happened before we remember can impact us and our children. These things from the past come up when we least expect it, especially in our most intimate relationships, i.e. with partners and our kids. When we befriend our story and learn to be gentle with ourselves, we start rewriting the story of our family, too.
3. The world over, we’re dealing with very similar challenges. It might look different for a family in India vs a family in Ecuador, Australia, South Africa, Brazil, or the United States, but we have more in common than we are different. There’s something really amazing and unifying about that. We all were born. We all have a story about family. We all care about our family members. We want things to feel good. We all have extended families and the ups and downs that go with that. We’re all trying to learn how to understand our own stories in a new way. And when we slow down and listen, really listen, we can see how similar we really are. Week after week, I spent time with people from different continents and I am always amazed at the depth and breadth of the stories and how much weactually have in common!
4. Who knew that LISTENING was one of the most important parenting tools?! Most of us didn’t have parents and caregivers who really, really listened to us. Either we were shut down or we had someone try to solve our problem for us, so we do the same for our kids. When we can slow ourselves down and really try to hear what someone else is saying, it changes things profoundly.
5. In order to listen well to others, we need to experience being deeply listened to ourselves. We need to feel in our bones what it is like when someone listens without trying to fix it. Then and only then can we start to do it for our kids or our partner. This is why we have Healing Story Circles to experience this kind of non-judgmental listening.
6. We need space for our feelings and our kids need room for theirs. That doesn’t mean when they’re upset that we let them do whatever they want. But we all need room to express what we’re feeling and we need to learn how to do that without hurting ourselves or anyone else.
7. Adults and children need boundaries. Yes, even adults. When I am holding healing story circles and adults later tell me how much it means to them that they know what to expect or that I’ll say something to them if they’re talking too much or are not reflecting, it makes them feel safe. Our kids need that, too, to feel in their bones that we’ve got them and they know what to expect, that we’ll say something to them if something needs attention. Notice that I didn’t say punishment…
8. Anything that happens in a family needs to be named. We think we’re so smart and that kids can’t tell when something is happening. But they are MORE perceptive about energy than we realize. They may not know what is happening, but they can feel that something is happening. When it isn’t named, they make up a story about it and it usually has something to do with them. If there’s tension in the home because parents aren’t getting along, it needs to be stated with the children. When it isn’t named, kids often decide it was something they did or are doing that is really the problem, even if it has nothing to do with them at all.
9. Not everyone is ready for this kind of deep work. And that’s ok. If you’re here and you’re ready to do this work right now, recognize that this is something special. I’ve had people who have come to see me and weren’t ready. Some of those same people have come back later when they were ready and done great work. Others discover that this isn’t for them and that’s ok, too. Everyone needs to discover what is right for them at this point in time and that’s part of the journey.
10. We are whole people and way more than just our brains. Our brains are incredibly important to the way we function, there is no doubt. And I’m only scratching the surface of what I know and understand there, even after more than 2 decades of study. However, we are living, breathing humans with a body, a nervous system, and with a full range of feelings, connection needs, and patterns from our early life. We need to be, not just do. And when we can look at our needs as a whole person and work to meet those needs, we’re much happier and healthier.
11. We need to slow down way more than we realize. Our brains and our nervous systems weren’t meant for this pace of life. When we all came to a screeching halt back in March due to a global pandemic, we slowed down to a pace that might have been uncomfortable and unfamiliar. And yet, slow is actually our biological expectation. Even slowing down and noticing that you’re clicking your seatbelt before you start the car or naming that you’re buckling young children into their car seat is a good place to start.
12. We need to move our bodies more. At the same time that we’re moving too fast for our nervous systems and our brains (which is a big part of why there is so much anxiety right now), we are not moving our bodies nearly enough. Our bodies need movement to stay healthy. Our children need movement to develop properly and to support their healthy brain and nervous system when there is a lot of stress. I didn’t realize the importance when I first began learning about healthy humans.
13. There’s nothing more important than the relationship. When I first started The Consciously Parenting Project 13 years ago, this was the phrase that really summed up what I was seeing in my work with my own family and with the families who I had contact with through La Leche League and Attachment Parenting International, the two groups I was leading for parents prior to that. And 13 years later, I can see clearly that it is still the most important thing that we need to remember. When we have our relationships working well, life feels good. When our relationships aren’t working, it feels awful. And when we put our focus on healing our relationships and putting our daily energy there, healing happens. If we stay focused on someone else’s behavior or how they’re wrong rather than bringing curiosity to the table, we miss the opportunities to connect and to understand and that’s where the magic happens!
Thank you for being on this journey with me, whether you’ve been here with me for 13 years or more or if you’re just finding me. These ideas are radical and are changing the world one family at a time. I’ve seen it over and over again in the 25+ years I’ve been working with families.
I’m wondering how this work has impacted you? What changes have you seen in your family applying these ideas? What other things have you learned through your time with The Consciously Parenting Project? Please comment below or email me to share. I’ll be compiling your thoughts in next week’s newsletter and will share on my blog. I look forward to hearing what’s been most meaningful for you and your family!