How Listening Partnerships Can Help You Make Parenting Decisions

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Have you ever read a parenting article and thought that the advice sounded great, in an ideal world where you had the emotional strength and energy to be the parent you want to be?

Hand in Hand Parenting is different to almost any other parenting approach because we don’t just offer you parenting advice on how to deal with behaviour struggles, we help you to build your own strong foundation of support, so that you actually have the patience and energy to put everything you have learnt into practise. We do this through the tool of listening partnerships where parents take it in turns to talk and listen about how parenting is going and release the feelings that make it hard.

As well as giving you the tools to deal with your child’s behavioural challenges, listening partnerships also serve a wider purpose. They can help you work through your thoughts and feelings about anything you are going through in your life. In fact they are the ideal tool to help you create the life of your dreams!

Ever since my daughter was young, I’ve been using listening partnerships to talk about a few big issues in my life. One is, my thoughts and feelings about the education system, and how I would love to homeschool my daughter. This is difficult where I live in Switzerland, because the country is divided up into ‘cantons’ where each one has a different homeschooling law. There are also other factors to consider like earning a living, having time to myself, and making sure everyone in the family is happy, fulfilled, has enough social connection and isn’t over-stressed.

As well as the school decision, there’s also the fact that I’ve been living abroad for the last 12 years of my life, and would really like to go back to my home country; England. But for many practical reasons this move isn’t possible right now.

I have talked about both of these issues over many listening partnerships for literally years. I have cried about how much I miss my home and would like to be nearer family and old friends. I have cried about my own struggles at school, being bullied, and feeling like school got in the way of my own freedom and creativity. I have cried about my dissatisfaction with a system that doesn’t understand that children can learn reading, writing and maths as naturally as they learn to speak.

The principles of Hand in Hand Parenting are very simple, and are the same for adults and children. When we are full of emotion we can’t think clearly, and make rational decisions. The part of the brain responsible for these – the pre-frontal cortex, doesn’t function well when we are under emotional stress. Once we have released these emotions, through talking, laughing, crying with a listener, our rational mind clicks into gear again, and we can figure out what to do.

This weekend my rational mind finally did just that. While distracted in a German class yesterday morning, I suddenly figured out what we needed to do as a family. I developed a plan in my mind and felt suddenly at peace with our situation. I had this feeling that I had finally done it, and come to acceptance with where we are now, and how things could be in the future.

It wasn’t that it was a perfect dream plan that would magic everything exactly how I wanted it immediately. But it was a practical plan, that I knew would work in time, and would appeal to everyone; my husband who needed to know we’d be financially secure and stable, my daughter whose enjoying her local Kindergarten, but also loves the freedom of the school holidays, and me.

I talked with my daughter and husband and asked them if we could have a family meeting at the dinner table. I wrote out a plan that would help us plan for the future and not take unnecessary risks. Everybody liked the idea!

As a side note, I learnt about the idea of family meetings through Patty Wipfler, the founder of Hand in Hand Parenting who recommends including even the youngest members of our family in talking about the issues that effect our family. Positive Parenting Connection’s Ariadne Brill has written a really useful article about them here, Family Meetings: Make them work for your family 

If you have a big family decision to make you may find yourself going back and forth between choices and being unable to sense what is the right thing to do. This is often because emotions are getting in the way of rational thinking.

It can seem pointless to spend time dwelling on your emotions when it seems like you just need to find a solution and everything will be okay. However when emotions are getting in the way of your thinking, then it’s a sign they need some attention.

We can also avoid our emotions if we feel trapped, miserable and helpless to change our lives. Often these feelings relate to our past experiences when we have been trapped in situations that we really were unable to change. Tracing these feelings back to their roots in our own childhood can help them release them so these old feelings don’t have to cloud our present day thinking.

Once these past feelings have been released we might see solutions that we just couldn’t envisage before because we were so overwhelmed. It can take time. But it is a tried and tested method of finding clarity in your life.

What big parenting challenge are you facing? What would you like to change about your life? Start a listening partnership and you can begin to figure it out today!

You can find a listening partner in the Hand in Hand Parents support group and read more about them in my book Tears Heal: How to listen to our children

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The 7-Day Listening Partnership Challenge

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Today’s post is something a little different. A chance for you to dive deeper into Hand in Hand Parenting, and get more support than you ever imagined possible! And this experiment is going to be completely free. 

Here’s why I’m doing it. 

A few months ago I found out that I had to donate stem cells for my sister who has leukaemia. The medical procedure to do so was ‘extremely safe’ according to the NHS website, but nevertheless I felt overwhelmed with fear. The idea of being connected up to a machine for 4 hours with two needles in my arms seemed pretty terrifying!

So I immediately messaged my fellow Hand in Hand instructors. I asked who would like to be part of a whatsapp group of people I could reach out to when I needed listening time. I got over 15 people who said they’d love to support me.

Over the next two months whenever I felt scared, upset, or whenever I just had a spare moment I would reach out and ask for listening time. Because the group was so large there was almost always someone available. With my regular partners as well I ended up getting listening time most days. It was pretty amazing to have that level of support, to know that even though I was going through tough times I was never alone, there would always be someone there to listen to me, and help me move through fear, and sadness to find my courage.

It took something really big to reach out in this way. But actually we are all going through something really big everyday. We’re all juggling the challenges of parenting, and trying to keep our cool, and it’s not easy.

When we were children, we didn’t have someone there to listen to our feelings, so as adults now it can be hard to reach out for support. I want to make it a bit easier by setting up a challenge where you all get to experience the support of daily listening time and notice the change it makes in your parenting.

My challenge will take place in the last week of January. It’s a chance for you to reach out and connect with other Hand in Hand Parents and get daily listening time for 7 days straight. Who knows, maybe you’ll continue even after that!

Here’s what you need to join.

1. Make sure you’ve read either Tears Heal or Listen by Monday 23rd of January, so you are familiar with Hand in Hand Parenting, and how listening partnerships work.

2. Be ready to commit to listening time of at least 10 minutes each way for 7 days. (subject to the availability of the other participants who join)

3.  Send me a message via facebook with your email address and I will add you to my secret ‘Listening Partnership Challenge’ Facebook group.

4. On the group you’ll find the link to a doodle poll where you can add your availability.

5. You can then connect with fellow parents who are available at the time you need, and hopefully set up 7 listening times with participants around the world.

6. I’ll post daily topics on the facebook group, that you can discuss in your listening time, or simply follow where your mind goes. You can post about how it’s all going, and if your schedule changes you can look for listening partners.

This is a bit of an experiment, but if you’re open to making new connections, and seeing where this leads, then please sign up! And please share with any friends who might be interested.

If you’re completely new to the idea of listening time then you can read my introductory post here

The Lost Art Of Listening To Tears

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I’m sure we’ve all had the experience where we’re talking to someone and they’re just going on and on. We can’t seem to get a word in, and if we do manage, then the other person looks edgy and impatient, waiting for us to finish so they can start talking again. We really want to talk too, but eventually fall back into stoney silence. We can’t see the point of communicating with someone who doesn’t know how to listen.

Or perhaps we have a good friend who is confiding in us about their problems, but seems stuck in a loop, and can’t seem to get out of the anger, or frustration, or whatever it is that’s bothering them. We want to help, and we listen as best we can, but maybe they come back to us again, with more to vent, and we feel drained and exhausted, struggling to help them find a solution.

We have our own problems too, but can’t always find a good listener. Friends offer advice that we don’t want to take. We might wonder is our partner even really listening? The time to talk, and be really heard can be scarce in our busy lives.

In our attempts to communicate, whether consciously or unconsciously I think we are all searching for a kind of deep listening; to be fully heard by another human being. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Thich Nhat Hanh describes what he calls ‘deep listening,’ and how it has a healing effect. He describes the process of someone listening to help the person to vent their feelings. even if they’re not thinking straight or speaking with anger or bitterness, the point is not to interrupt and offer advice but simply to listen to help the person relieve their suffering. Ultimately Thich Nhat Hanh believes that this kind of listening, can heal the hurts that cause conflict, violence and war.

In our everyday conversation we don’t always listen like this, we tend to interrupt to tell our own stories, or to offer advice. Conversations tend to meander on a random path, with two people navigating, and with no particular destination in mind.

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Once upon a time we did know how to really listen. In many indigenous cultures there was a tradition of deeply listening to others, so that one person could follow their own train of thought without interruption. There was also an understanding of the powerful healing effects that this kind of listening can have.

Native American’s have healing circles, where a talking stick is passed around, so only those holding the stick are allowed to speak. Australian aborigines, have a concept of ‘dadirri,’ a kind of meditative listening that can help people to heal from trauma, by talking about the past in a safe space.

These traditions suggest, that we don’t so much need to learn how to listen, but unlearn all of the habits we’ve developed from our modern culture of rushing around, and not having the time to fully listen or be heard.

More than anything parents need this kind of listening. We are doing one of the most challenging jobs in the world, divided up into our nuclear families, with one or two adults responsible for all the work that we need to do to keep our household running smoothly. We rarely have the support of others that a more tribal society would offer.

Luckily as parents there are some modern days tools we can use to recover this ‘lost art’ of listening. Patty Wipfler was a busy overwhelmed mum when she met a younger acquaintance, who asked her what being a parent was like. Patty burst into tears. She explained that although she had always loved children, parenting was so much more exhausting and stressful than she thought it would be. She confessed that she was starting to lose her temper, being aggressive towards her children in a similar way to how she had been treated as a child. As Patty talked, and cried, the woman just listened.

Afterwards Patty went home, and found that she felt completely different. She had much more energy, and renewed patience to be with her children again. Later Patty went back to the woman and asked what she had done. The woman explained about the simple method of listening she had used, and how it can help us to release our feelings.

Crying is a healing process, that allows us to release stress and upset. Dr. William Frey, a biologist, compared the tears we shed from chopping onions with those shed for emotional reasons and found that emotional tears contained cortisol, the stress hormone, so that when we cry, we are literally releasing stress from our bodies.

Research has found that clients in therapy make better progress when they cry during their sessions. This is what many of us know intuitively about having a ‘good cry,’ that it clears our minds and makes life seem a little brighter, so that we can figure things out and find a solution to our challenges.

Patty Wipfler’s organisation Hand in Hand parenting is designed to help parents be the parents they want to be. The cornerstone of her ‘Parenting By Connection’ approach is the concept of listening partnerships, where two parents take turns with talking and listening with each other. Each parent learns listening techniques that allow them to uncover their natural ability to listen, and help their partner find and release their feelings.

The turns are timed so it is equal. We don’t have the feeling of being taken advantage of and we get to be listened to as well. We can get out of that vicious cycle of feeling drained by listening to others and desperately needing to talk ourselves. We don’t need to cry to get the benefits, as just talking gives us the chance to vent.

When I first started listening partnerships, I was amazed at the power of simply creating a safe space to really talk. If I was exhausted and felt like I desperately need a break from parenting I would find that 10 minutes of listening time would give me the energy to go bouncing back into the room, ready to play with my daughter again. I even gave up caffeine, because simply letting go of the emotional baggage of the day, was enough to fill me with a natural buzz.

The benefits don’t just come from being listened to. When we listen with focused attention, the effects on the brain are similar to meditation. Listening actually lowers the blood pressure, and we are able to become more tolerant of people’s emotional outbursts, knowing that just allowing them a listening ear to vent and get it out, can heal the hurt behind it.

This can have a transformative effect on the way we parent. When our children behave in off-track ways, or have emotional upsets, it becomes much easier to take a listening approach rather than becoming triggered when we have enough listening time ourselves.

One day I was on the train with my daughter when she asked if I would count with her until we reach our station. We had been doing this a lot, but on this particular day I had a bad throat and cough. When I told her I couldn’t count because I needed to rest my voice she told me, ‘’I don’t like you, you’re not my mummy anymore!’’ A few minutes later the moment had blown over but as we got off the train I was wondering where this grumpy, hurt girl had sprung from.

Then I remembered the day before her friend Sally had come to play, and when my daughter wasn’t doing what Sally wanted she said, ‘’I don’t like you, you’re not my friend anymore!’’ At the time I hadn’t thought much of it, and a few minutes later they had been playing happily again, but it suddenly struck me, that this moment had upset my daughter and caused lasting hurt. So I said to her, ‘’You know when Sally says she doesn’t like you and you’re not her friend anymore, you know she still loves you.’’ I looked at my daughter’s face, and saw how sad she looked. We were in a busy train station, but I knelt down to her level, and looked at her, she immediately started to cry.

‘’You know she still loves you, and she’ll always love you.’’ She cried some more. I told her again, ‘’she doesn’t mean it. She just feels hurt and sad sometimes, and she can’t always cry.’’ I listened to my daughter cry, and I talked to her as well. I just kept kneeling down, rather than continuing to walk, so I could give her my full attention.

I knew that in moments like this, although she was crying, it was helping her to heal, there was nothing wrong in the present. I was just listening to her as she let go of her sadness, and reassuring her that deep down everything was okay.

She hugged me tight, as if to say thank you for listening. After that conversation she skipped through the train station with much more bounce in her step.

This is how we can listen to our children. In a process Hand in Hand parenting calls Staylistening, we can stay and be in the moment with them, knowing that our job isn’t to stop the tears, but create a safe space in which they can full feel.

It really struck me how deeply she had been hurt by a small offhand comment made by another hurt girl. Throughout life, all these tiny moments must gather up inside of people, and become immense anger or grief.

We can take a listening approach to our child’s behavioural difficulties, seeing every off-track moment as a sign that our child doesn’t feel good and needs to be listened to. It’s the ultimate unconditional love, that we accept our children, and deal lovingly with aggression, or other challenges. As we do so we break the cycle of passing hurt onto others. We are parenting towards a more peaceful world.

To learn more about the lost heart of listening check out my book Tears Heal 

This article was originally published in the autumn 2016 Issue of Juno Magazine

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Why Santa Claus Could Be Making Your Parenting Harder

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At this time of year life can get a little crazy. With stockings to fill and Christmas cards to write the attention we give our children can start to waver. And as we look down at our to-do list in horror we may find ourselves resorting to desperate measures to try and keep our child’s behaviour on track.

‘’Be good, or Santa Claus won’t come,’’ it can be tempting to say as your 3 year old runs off with the Christmas tree decorations, or starts whining because they don’t want to go to the supermarket. It can be as much to keep ourselves sane for a moment, than to teach our children about good behaviour. And why wouldn’t you say such things, you might ask. After all isn’t December the month where we can enjoy this handy trick to demand good behaviour out of our children?

This may be a bombshell to some of you, but Santa Claus could actually be making your parenting harder. Those threats, the bribes, the elf on the shelf staring down and watching your child’s every act, are not the ticket to a peaceful Christmas. They may actually be contributing to more whining, more meltdowns, more sibling squabbles, and generally a sense of unease. Here’s why.

It comes down to how your child’s brain works. Your child’s limbic system (the emotional part of the brain) is like a radar constantly scanning her environment to see who she can connect to. When she feels well connected to an adult around her, then the pre-frontal cortex (the part of the brain responsible for rational, reasonable behaviour) can function well. Then she can think well and behave well.

If your child feels disconnected, or if upset feelings are getting in the way of her feeling a warm connection with you even when you are right there with her, then her brain goes a bit haywire. The limbic system senses an emotional emergency, as it’s lost that deep sense of connection to another adult. Then the pre-frontal cortex can’t function well, so they can’t think through what is rational, reasonable behaviour for that moment.

This is when we start seeing misbehaviour. They may start whining or moaning, or doing all of the things they know deep down they shouldn’t do such as hitting a sibling, or refusing to do simple tasks like put on their shoes and coat.

This is when it can be tempting to use threats and bribes, and tell your child that Santa only comes to good children. It may appear to work in the short term as you child hurriedly dresses to go out the door with a terrified look on their face at the thought of not having Christmas presents.

But here’s what happens later. That sense of disconnection or those upset feelings your child was experiencing are still inside of them and will come out later. They’ll be a time when you child gets so overwhelmed by them that they won’t be able to hold them in any more no matter what you’ve threatened them with previously. Then will come a meltdown, or a full on sibling brawl that will be a combination all of the built up tension from each of the other little moments in which there have been threats or bribes.

Threats and bribes (of any kind, not just about Santa) are what I like to call the credit card system of parenting. Instant results. Instant success. But the downside is that overtime the cost you are paying is much higher. Your child is feeling bad for longer and as their emotional thermostat starts to rise it’s only going to be so long before a storm erupts.

Your child is good. Their inner nature is to be loving, and co-operative. They want to be good. It’s just that sometimes their hurt feelings get in the way. When we tell a child to ‘be good’ or shame them for their behaviour, we can add extra layers of hurt. We give children the wrong impression that our children are responsible for controlling their impulses and emotions. Actually brain science tell us that children can’t.

What we need to do as parents is actually to step in, and be there to help children with their behaviour and the emotions behind it. We need to reconnect with them. It can seem like a lot of work, compared to the quick fix of the Santa threats, but this is investment parenting, as opposed to the credit style kind. When we invest in connecting with our children, it’s us that get paid back in the future. We will have less meltdown, less sibling right, less non-co-operation when we start to think about investment rather than quick fixes.

So in the run up to Christmas here’s five simple things you can do when your child’s behaviour is going off-track and you’re feeling tempted to reach from some Christmas bribery.

1. Shift The Mood With Special Time – When your child is getting whiney and moany, add in some connection before the storm gets worse. Set a timer for 10 minutes and tell your child they can do anything they want together with you. As you play shower them with warm connection, lots of closeness and eye contact. As they soak up a warm sense of connection with you, they’ll be able to get their thinking back on track.

2. Try Some Giggles – When you are dealing with a child who is not co-operating try giggles. If you need to get out the door in the hurry, try dressing your toddler’s doll instead of them and then acting all confused by your mistake. Or try putting your child’s coat on instead of your own. This is what I call Giggle Parenting, a sure-fire way to laugh away disconnection. After a few giggles your child will feel better connected and more likely to co-operate with you. It’s scientifically proven!

3. Set Limits Quickly – When your child is acting off-track, and you sense they are getting whiney and moany, don’t wait for them to attack a sibling with a wooden block before you step in. Your children’s whines and moans are a sign that they need you to diffuse the situation. Stay close, and be ready to move in to set limits so that no-one gets hurt.

4. Stay With Your Child Through The Storms – At some point storms are going to happen. Your child is going to have a meltdown about something small and insignificant, just when you really need to have five minutes peace to wrap some presents. The most helpful thing you can do is be with your child. Stay close, offer warmth and empathy. And most importantly, don’t try to distract your child from their emotions, even if they seem about something small and petty. Crying is your child’s natural healing process, for letting go of all their upset feelings that have been getting in the way of feeling connected to you.

5. Get someone to listen to you – With Hand in Hand Parenting, we make sure parents get the emotional support they need to listen deeply to their children. As you make the shift away from threats and bribes you may find it brings up a lot of feelings in you, and that it’s hard to find the patience at first. That’s why we have a listening partnership scheme where parents can exchange time talking and listening so that they can de-stress and release tension too.

As your kids demand expensive presents, their behaviour is actually a call to you, calling for connection. This is what your child want more than anything this Christmas. Santa Claus, can’t compete with your ability to shower your children with love and connection. So lets make this Christmas about presence rather than presents.

These 5 tips are based on the 5 Hand in Hand Parenting tools. For more info about how to put these tools into practise check out my book Tears Heal: How to listen to our children

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A Hand in Hand Parenting Approach To Screen Detox

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With Hand in Hand Parenting we’re not a one-size fits all approach. We don’t recommend you breastfeed or bottle feed, or co-sleep or put your children in their own bedroom, or homeschool or send your kids to school. We know that with these big decisions, it comes down to you being the best judge of what is right for your family.

What we do have is amazing tools to help you figure out your decisions, (listening time), and then putting those decisions into action with lots of listening along the way through, special time, playlistening, setting limits, and staylistening.

Screentime can be a particularly difficult thing to make decisions about. I know I’ve often felt confused and overwhelmed about all the different ways to handle it, from complete abstinence to letting children have the freedom to set their own limits. Neither side of the spectrum has ever felt completely right for me, and so I jump around in the middle, setting limits depending on what the current situation seems to need.

I’ll add links to the various ways I’ve used the Hand in Hand tools to navigate the screentime challenge, but now I’m here to write about using Hand in Hand Parenting to have a screen detox for your family.

This is something that I’ve decided to do only recently. My daughter’s in Kindergarten now, and it had become a habit to come home and want to veg out in front of the TV. Due to a family crises I was feeling particularly disconnected myself, and it suddenly crept up on me just how much screentime we were having.

Although I set limits on screentime using the Hand in Hand approach my daughter does have screentime every day. I had resigned myself to the fact that screens are part of our lives, but now I was having second thoughts. With the daily separation of Kindergarten we need more time to reconnect and screens were getting in the way.

I found myself missing the days when my daughter was under 2 and hadn’t yet discovered TV, and mourning the fact that I couldn’t go back to them.

And then it hit me. I was the parent. If it felt right to go back to the screenfree days, then I could! Maybe not permanently, but perhaps for a day or week, or month, or whatever I decided was best for my family.

And so I introduced the idea of having a ‘together day’ where we would both get off our screens and simply be together for the whole day. Our first together day was spent, cooking and laughing together, and lots of listening to ”I’m bored.”

It was setting limits on my own screentime, that made me feel brave enough to try the detox. I knew how good it felt for me to have an afternoon and evening off the screen, so I knew it was a good thing for me to step in, be the parent, and set a limit. I’ve also been to Hand in Hand Parenting retreats recently which really gave me that deep feeling of being connected to people – rather than screens. I realised I could do that for my daughter, I could give her a daylong retreat where she could tell me how much she wanted screen, and release her emotional backpack by crying, and then show me how off-track she felt by throwing things on the floor, and laughing as I playfully set limits.

My daughter told me throughout the day that she ‘hated together days’ and I began to see that this was a ‘broken cookie’. All those upset feelings were bubbling up without the distraction of the screen, and she was projecting them onto needing the screen.

At dinnertime she helped me pour out rice to cook and some ended up going on the kitchen table. We ended up having a rice fight where my daughter was grabbing handfuls of rice, and trying to run out of the kitchen with it. At this point she said, ”I love together days!” This was the validation I needed that this was the right path for us to take.

The other great thing about the day, is that I didn’t want to be a hypocrite and I didn’t check my phone all afternoon except for a few essential messages. It felt so liberating!

I still haven’t figured it all out. I know TV is an inspiration for my daughter. She likes to make her own videos to send to family and friends, and she recently videoed herself singing a Kindergarten song to help her learn it. I think it would be pretty authoriarian of me to ban something that she will need to use for adult life, and can be a source of knowledge and a tool for creativity.

I’ve read a lot about unschooling, and allowing my daughter to set limits on her own TV use has worked to some extent. There’s been many times when she’s voluntarily stopped watching and gone to do something else. There’s so much to be learnt from unschooling about respecting our children, and allowing them to direct their own learning. But what I found when I was not setting many limits on TV is that we did have less time to laugh, to play and connect, to allow feelings to bubble up and be healed.

I’m happy I’ve named the concept of ‘together days’ to my daughter, and I’m planning to bring them into our life whenever it seemed necessary to reconnect. And part of me does feel like doing something radical like banning screens on weekdays, or banning them completely! I know I’m going to need a lot of listening time to sort through my thoughts and come to a decision that feels right. Although I’m writing this blog to share what I’ve learnt so far, I definitely don’t have all the answers!

From here onwards I can’t tell what our family policy on screens will be but this one of the things about Hand in Hand Parenting is you don’t need to be consistent. You can go with the flow of your family life, changing the rules to suit the circumstances. Because there’s one thing that’s always guiding your decisions; your love for your child and your commitment to building a strong connection with them.

6 Step To Having A Screen Detox With Your Child 

  1. Have some listening time. Prepare in advance by talking to your listening partner about your feelings about having the detox. What fears, and worries come up for you? Let out all your feelings about screens and how they impact your life and your child. See the further resources section for more info on listening time.
  2. Set some limits on your own screentime. Try out limiting your own screentime. For example check your emails 2-3 times a day only, or don’t have screentime first thing in the morning or after 7pm at night. Repeat step 1 if it’s hard!
  3. Tell your child what you plan to do. Let your child know in advance that you plan to have a break from screens, and although it will be hard, they’ll be lots of time for fun and connection.
  4. Listen, listen, listen! – Schedule some special time with your child/children, and be prepared to get through the detox with lots of staylistening and playlistening. You might find my 5 Ways To Encourage Independent Play article helpful. If it’s really hard then try not to give in to the pleas for the screen. If your children have been used to having a lot of screen, it’s probably not a sign that they are feeling deprived but more that they have been using screentime to avoid their feelings, and what you are seeing is all these unheard feelings bubbling up.
  5. Have more listening time to process everything. Talk to your listening partner about how it all went, and how you want to approach screens in the future. Do you want to stick with your current family policy, or change it?
  6. Don’t be afraid to change the plan. So you’re exhausted and need to cook dinner and just can’t listen anymore. Or the detox is going great, and you think your child needs more time to process their feelings? Don’t be afraid to change and adapt, using your best thinking for what suits your child’s needs, and yours!

If you try to out this detox plan, I’d love to hear how it goes!

Further Resources 

If you’re new to the concept of listening partnerships check out my introductory post here.

Here are a few of my previous articles on screentime.

What To Do When Your Child Just Wants To Watch TV 

Why Setting Limits On Screentime Starts With You 

Screentime Special Time

Are you looking for more in-depth help with screentime, or any other parenting challenge? Contact me to schedule a free 30 min introductory consultation, and find out how Hand in Hand Parenting can help. 

Could Being Listened To Improve Your Health?

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My grandmother lived till she was 93. This was kind of surprising considering she smoked almost her entire life. Her diet was reasonably healthy, but she never denied herself treats, or nightcaps to help her sleep. She didn’t ingest green smoothies, or superfoods on a daily basis. So what was it that was keeping her alive?

As I grew older I began to realise; it was her positive attitude and love of live. She was always happy and full of joy. She lost her beloved husband in her early fifties, but she didn’t collapse into grief and negativity. She got drunk and stayed up till 2am with a fellow teacher from the school she worked at. Then she learnt to drive to give herself more freedom. She retired and travelled, exploring art and culture in Europe. She was passionate about politics and making the world a better place. She continued her education by taking courses in Psychology and literature. She embraced life, even as she got older and her physical world was smaller, her mind was very much alive.

Research links our negative thoughts and feelings to poor health. In fact stress is the cause of over 60% of illnesses. It’s possible that happiness could even add ten years to your life.

It can seem as if some people are born happy, and breeze through life’s twists and turns with a positive attitude. While others suffer from low mood and negative thought even when their life is relatively smooth. Genes do play a part when it comes to happiness, as do childhood experiences. It’s been found that children who experience ‘adverse childhood experiences’ are more likely to have health problems when they are older. (see research here.)

However we don’t have to be at the mercy of our genes, or our childhood experiences. There’s still a lot we can do to reduce stress levels, improve our happiness and our health.

Listening time is a powerful tool to help us to do so. If you read my blog regularly you’ll know all about this life-changing tool. If not, here’s a brief summary of how it works. Two people come together to talk and listen about how their lives are going. As each person talks, they may naturally be led to laugh, and cry as they release stress and tension. As I’ve written about in my book Tears Heal crying is a healing process, and there are stress hormones contained in tears. When we cry we are literally releasing stress from our bodies. Laughter too has health benefits including boosting our immune system and releasing feel-good endorphins.

So could being listened to improve our health? Research show that having a healthy social life benefits our health, and that social isolation can cause premature death. (see links here). The research suggests that it’s really the quality of the relationship that leads to the benefits. When we share listening time we are really experiencing a high quality of relationship with each other. We share our greatest joys and deepest sorrows with someone who is fully focused on listening to us. Listening time is designed to help us release our feelings so the giggle and tear factor is a lot higher than your average, everyday conversation.

I remember going to a parenting retreat with a cold that I just couldn’t seem to shift. After 2 days of being listened to my symptoms had completely disappeared. I’ve also noticed that when my daughter’s feeling  well, getting the giggles flowing, or listening to her upsets really improves her physical state. Whenever I’m feeling unwell, I always make sure to message my listening partner and set up some listening time. It always helps me feel better both emotionally and physically.

To find out more about listening time check out my book Tears Heal

Tears Heal_no foreward

 

The Art Of Listening : Tip 1 – ‘oops!’

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This is the first of a new series of posts I’ll be sharing of tips on the art of listening. And this time it’s not about listening to our children, but listening to each other.

There’s one thing that makes Hand in Hand Parenting different to almost every other parenting approach out there, and it’s that we have a tool that is specifically designed to support parents, and it’s called listening time.

We use listening time because one of the reasons parenting is so hard is because of our own emotions. Listening time offers us a safe space to release our emotions so they don’t get in the way of us being the parent we want to be.

Before utilising these tips you’ll need to learn the basics of how listening time works, if you don’t know already. You can read my intro here, and if the idea appeals to you can learn more by reading Listen: By Patty Wipfler and Tosha Schore, or my book Tears Heal. Hand in Hand Parenting also has a online self study course Building A Listening Partnership so you can really dive deep into all the skills you need to listen. You can also join the Hand in Hand Parent support group on facebook to find a listening partner.

Once you’ve got a regular listening partnership going you’ll be ready for some tips to hone your skills.

Here’s my first tip. I call it ‘oops!’ 

Say your partner is talking about something they feel embarrassed or ashamed about. Perhaps they shouted at their child, or said something to a friend that was misconstrued as being rude or insensitive. You’ll notice as they talk that they feel stuck in those uncomfortable feelings, and as the listener you can shine a light on their inner goodness and offer them a way out.  You know that they are doing their best as a friend/parent, and that they didn’t mean to hurt or offend anyone.

One way to do this, is to give them the direction to make light of their mistake. You can model for them a light, playful tone as you say ”oops! I just shouted at my child again,” and encourage them to repeat the sentence. Often even just the thought of saying those words may have them laughing away their shame and embarrassment.

Often that sense of shame and guilt that they have done something wrong comes from early childhood experiences. When we made mistakes as children parents would often punish us, and lecture us, and make us feel ashamed or guilty. There was little understanding that we made mistakes, when we were disconnected or were experiencing upset feelings. We carry this parental voice inside our minds so when we make mistakes as adults we end up beating ourselves up about them, instead of compassionately forgiving ourselves.

As a listener you can offer the compassion your partner needs to remember that they are good and release any feelings they have to the contrary. You can use the ‘oops’ direction as long as the laughter flows. You might also want to ask your partner if they’d like to talk about earlier experiences when they felt a similar kind of shame or embarrassment.

As you try out this direction, and the others I’ll be sharing in future posts, it’s important to remember not to use them automatically like a reflex, but to try to use your intuition, about what works and doesn’t work for your listening partner. You might find that for one person saying ‘oops’ will help them laugh away their troubles in fits of hysterics, but another person may be more on the edge of tears and not in the mood for laughter. Try it and if it doesn’t help your partner release their feelings, just keep listening, and allowing them to let their own natural healing process unfold.

I hope this post helps you develop your listening skills. And if you’d like to read more in this series just sign up to follow my blog at the top right hand corner of my blog. You might also like to check out my article, 10 Tips For Being A Good Listener. And if you’ve got any questions or comments about listening feel free to leave them below!