Creating more calmness and balance is not only more possible every day, it’s also the single greatest teacher of how to raise happy and empowered children. Below is the essence of the what, why and how.
Every kid, like every adult, exists somewhere on the spectrum between being serene and agitated. Their place in this spectrum is mostly dependent on their perceptions: of themselves, of relationships to others, of life. It also relies on their capacity to process fear, discomfort and stress. This can fluctuate by the month, day, hour and minute.
What makes most people calm or agitated is basically the same. The nervous system is responding to these perceptions, thoughts and feelings, and this response send us in either direction.
We are not our children, but we are one of the greatest influences they have to learn how to respond to stimuli. The level of skill we have in working with our own reactions and responses to stress is the level at which we can teach them in their personal journey towards finding calm, balance, and ease. Even our willingness to work on our own responses affects them.
Imagine asking this question of yourself when you connect with your child:
“What, right now, is in the way of ME being more gentle or patient?
…or loving, receptive, present, calm or even curious?”
This question is like a finger pointing towards the cause that triggers or overwhelms you. It then becomes an opportunity to acknowledge and work with this with greater personal responsibility, simply just by considering the answer. It becomes an opportunity to shift a pattern.
When the waters of our hearts and minds are calm, we relate to life from a more present, joyful and peaceful place. We gain an expanded capacity to connect with others, and to recover from the undesirable events that will inevitably arise.
And so do children.
So what if you drop (or perhaps throw) a stone of your own unresolved tension into their fragile and tiny pool of self-regulation?
It doesn’t make you a bad parent. It makes you a human parent – but let’s see such slip-ups as an invitation to bring more consciousness into the equation, so emotional intelligence can evolve in us far beyond what we inherited from our own parents.
Their life depends on us having a balanced, present and aware state of being. Because of this, they are wired to subconsciously and automatically track our degree of calm or agitation all the time. That means that because they will react off of us that the work begins with us.
Before the age of 9 or so, most children regulate their nervous systems off of the nervous systems of their parents. In addition, children’s nervous systems, of course, have far few buffers than those of more life-hardened adults. So in its rawest state as an evolutionary tool used to optimize survival, their system is profoundly sensitive. Its got the volume turned way up.
It makes sense that stressors therefore have a greater impact on them than on us. They lack the capacity to differentiate what to take in, what to block or deflect, and how to process certain uncomfortable energies.
This means that they absorb almost everything directly. Their ability to regulate their nervous system and feel stable, present, and calm is easily knocked off balance.
Your child’s reactions are not always directly caused by you, but the way your child reacts does often relate to how you show up in the moment with them.
How skilled are you at regulating your own nervous system, so that you can teach or guide your children to regulate their own when they get worked up?
To create calmness in your family, you need to track two things:
First, track and address your own inner world.
Directly work with any thoughts or feelings that get in the way of you being more present, calm, loving, supportive, or patient.
It’s natural to get triggered. Most people simply don’t take responsibility for their triggers and reactions because they tend to assign blame externally to some degree. They don’t work to resolve their reactions, and this feeds the cycle. Think about it. It makes sense, considering most of our parents were not great role models for this. This is why it’s so impactful on our children when we step up to that level of personal responsibility and conscious parenting.
It takes practice, but you can begin to recognize that most of the chatter in your mind is not helpful, and even unwise, even if it seems enlightened in the moment. You can begin to build a new relationship with your mind. Instead of the conditioned banter that continually loops around and around,
dismiss that loop and replace it with the deeper and simpler intelligence of your awareness. Simply pausing often yields better results that lead you to that deeper place.
Along the same lines, you can being to practice being present with what your body is feeling. Tune into the sensations that arise. Emotions are physically felt in the body because your nervous system is activated. Simply by breathing into different places in your body, for 5 to 20 breaths, helps you metabolize all that undigested emotional energy. The breathing trains you to let go of your attachment to your mind, over and over and over.
In my private practice, I teach this to adults all the way down to 7 year olds. Everyone can get this rather quickly. Getting support in learning how to do this is perhaps one of the better uses of your time that you’ll ever commit to. When you get it, you learn the language of how to become more integrated in the moments when stress is high. You not only become a better parent, you become a better guide for your children. Which leads to the second part.
Second, start tracking the mental and emotional inner world of your children.
Once you’ve figured out tracking yourself, your mind, and your feelings, you can support them in processing whatever stressors are present for them. For example, you can help them if they are stuck in limiting or fear-based thinking, or if they are carrying emotional energy they don’t know how to process, with techniques like taking space, breathing, talking about it, being held, etc.
We can all have one spotlight shining inward, tracking ourselves so we can be present with what needs tending to, and another spotlight shining outward, tracking them, honoring their process, meeting them in it, and supporting them in ways they are more receptive to. Over time, we can become mindful of what both the inner and outer spotlights are illuminating simultaneously.
As any observant parent can attest to, most kids and close families are sensitive enough to pick up on energies from each other. Especially those they attempt to hide from each other. Their fears, anxieties, insecurities, anger, shame, sadness, etc. can be felt, often unconsciously, in each other’s nervous systems. In a family, this acts like a wave that leaves each member more agitated and thrown off balance.
The beauty in this is that it pressures us to finally do this work to learn how to process our own feelings.
The work you do letting go of negative mind-chatter and breathing into the feelings your body is trying to process makes you more relaxed, calm, and happy. The opportunity this creates for your children is threefold:
-You’ll be more calming in their company.
-You’ll increase your skills to sooth and calm them.
-Perhaps most importantly, you’ll be a qualified teacher and role model for them in handling the classic human condition of having stressful thoughts and feelings, and getting stuck in agitating mind-chatter.
Children are always giving you the medicine you need in order to realize, interact with and eventually heal all of your unhealed parts.
In this lies the sacred call for you to work on yourself so that you can be more balanced and present in every way. You’ll personally weave a new wave of conscious, emotionally responsible parenting deep into the story of your own lineage, passed down from your children to their children, and so on.