A New Direction For My Blog

directionsign

Dear Blog Readers,

Now my book Tears Heal is out in the world, I’m thinking about my next projects. My mission is to share the knowledge about the healing power of tears with as many parents as I possibly can. Every day I see parents struggling with their parenting because they lack information about this simple, life-changing fact. And it seems that the world would be a much more peaceful place if children are raised compassionately without rewards, consequences and punishment.

The message is getting out there, and now there are a few other messages I’d like to share.

One of the other projects I have in mind is to share the knowledge about the healing power of tears with adults, not just parents, so they have tools to heal and recover from their childhood. The tool of listening partnerships is powerful and I hope one day it will be available for everyone, and intertwined in our lives. So many adults are struggling because they aren’t sure what to do with their feelings. Perhaps they don’t feel ‘broken’ enough for therapy, but they are still dealing with difficulties and insecurities relating to childhood experiences.

These past few weeks I’ve been travelling in the UK. When we set off on our journey my daughter picked up a stencil for drawing letters. I’d seen it in a charity shop a few years back, and I’d bought it after becoming interested in unschooling and homeschooling. Now she’s five she’s started writing shopping lists with her dad, and drawing the letters that she can do, and then, stencilling the ones she can’t. I just had a big lunch with extended family to celebrate my book coming out and my daughter wrote out all the place cards herself. It has been a real joy to watch her try to figure out reading and writing for herself, and watching her self-motivation has reaffirmed to me just how broken our school system is.

A few years back I read a book called Learning All The Time by John Holt in which he explains how children naturally learn to read much more quickly when they teach themselves rather than be taught by teachers. His observations really shocked me, but they make sense when we look at the history of schooling. Part of the aim of schools were actually to ‘dumb people down’ so they would be compliant workers for factories. They were not designed with the intention of nurturing children’s innate intelligence and creativity.

The people involved in the education system are working so hard and are so passionate. I know many wonderful and caring teachers (in fact I’m married to one 😉 !) but the system itself is broken.

I’ve begun interviewing parents of adult ‘unschoolers’ and watching my daughter development, and it’s really clear to me now, that school is completely unnecessary for children’s education, even if it does provide parents with free childcare, and a much-needed break!

And yet another passion of mine, is something I’m just learning about; natural health. After watching the documentary The Truth About Cancer, I’m really questioning everything I thought I knew about the healthcare system.

Everything I write seems to come from the same place. A passion for spreading knowledge that is somehow hidden in society. So now I’ve shared ‘Parenting’s Best Kept Secret’ I hope as time goes on I’ll share a few more secrets with you too.

I feel like I’ve written a lot about Hand in Hand Parenting, and I will probably continue to write more. But lets face it, there’s only so many posts about crying and giggles I can share with you all! And I never quite know which blog post will pop into my mind wanting to be written. I can feel my horizons expanding and this blog may evolve to include posts about my next writing projects.

If you’ve enjoyed reading my blog, and have any thoughts, I’d love to read your comments! And I hope you’ll continue on the journey with me, and enjoy my new posts.

Permission To Be An Imperfect Parent

mother_with_child

I was beating myself up about my parenting. My daughter and I weren’t laughing anymore. We weren’t doing special time. I was feeling terrible about myself and how much I was ‘failing.’

Then I stopped myself. Hold it I thought. Okay, I did learn some really good parenting tools from Hand in Hand Parenting. But was there a rule somewhere that said I had to use them every day, all the time? And if I literally couldn’t use them was it a failing in myself?

Of course not. I know the brain science behind our parenting, that we can be the parents we want to be, only when our own childhood story isn’t getting in the way. and when we are feeling calm and stress-free.

My sister got diagnosed with Leukemia last month. Since then each day my mind is dealing with overwhelming grief, confusion, and fear, on top of all the everyday parenting stuff. The moment I stopped laughing with my daughter was the moment I found out about my sister. It had nothing to do with me being an inadequate parent, but to do with what I was going through.

I’ve written before about how life crises can get in the way of our parenting, and how we can go about mending those broken connections, and it’s time to take my own advice.

You might not be on the brink of divorce or with a close family member seriously ill, but the past can often effect us just as intensely as the present.

It starts with a little self-compassion. Whether the broken connection with your child occurred because of something happening in the present, or because you are dealing with hurt feelings from your own past, it’s not your fault.

You might already know that consciously, as I did, but sometimes it’s a good idea to check what those whispering voices in your head are telling you. Because as Peggy O’Mara says, ”the way we talk to children, becomes their inner voice.” Because we were punished and shamed as children we tend to punish and shame ourselves when we are not parenting the way we want to be.

Give yourself permission to be an imperfect parent for a while. And forgive yourself for all those times that you made mistakes. Take the focus away from how you are parenting, and put it completely on yourself. Give yourself permission to let the kids eat ice cream for dinner or watch TV. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Tell those voices in your head, that you are taking some time for yourself because it will be for everyone’s benefit in the long run.  Then get some listening time. (for more info about listening time check out my article hereAnd each time you feel bad, inadequate, or like you’ve failed, make sure you schedule more listening time until you recover the energy you need to be the parent you want to be.

It takes time. In the meantime congratulate yourself on your small achievements. So you might not spend an hour doing special time with your child, but how about 5 minutes? And you might not giggle and play all day, but maybe you get through a day without shouting. As your energy and attention span return you can then start focusing on connecting with your children again, and you’ll find some tips for this in the links below.

We shouldn’t need to have permission to be an imperfect parent, but if you feel like you need it, take this blog post as your permission slip, for whatever reason you find it hard, whether it’s a current life crisis, or childhood hurts that are still healing. You have permission to be beautifully imperfect, you are doing your best.

Further Reading 

Healing Broken Connections Blog Post  

Special Time When Your Heart Is Breaking From Hand in Hand Parenting Instructor Roma Norriss.

The Healing Broken Connections chapter of my book,Tears Heal

img_1922

A Mum Track Mind
3 Little Buttons

Why Having A Good Cry Makes Parenting Easier

sadwoman

Did you have a good cry today? Did your child? Perhaps they ended up having a meltdown because they wanted pizza for dinner and you made pasta. Or perhaps they wanted to wear their red socks, and they were in the wash.

Your child might of had a tantrum before bed because they didn’t want to clean their teeth. Eventually they snuggled up in bed, and fell asleep, leaving you feeling stressed, and exhausted.

How was your day? Did you have moments of joyful connection with your child? Did you have moments when you felt frustrated, or said things you regretted? Chances are what you need is to have a good cry.

Our children naturally seek to release stress and tension through crying and tantrums, and they naturally expect us to be their listeners. It’s not always easy, and part of the problem is we are the ones to have to hold it together. At the end of the day we probably need to have a good cry too.

Yesterday I spent the whole day with family and friends, I was talking and laughing, and having wonderful conversations. And yet at the end of that lovely day, I was feeling sad, upset feelings were rising to the surface, and I was struggling to feel connected to my daughter. I knew I needed to have a different kind of conversation. One in which I could find my tears. So I called my listening partner. I barely spoke to her, I just simply cried for a few minutes, and afterwards I felt completely transformed, ready to engage with my daughter again, and no longer weighed down by heavy feelings.

For those of you new to my blog and Hand in Hand Parenting, a listening partnership is where two parents make an agreement with each other to spend time talking and listening together about how parenting is going. When you follow specific listening guidelines you can create a safe space so each person can find the feelings that don’t come up in normal conversation. You can have a good cry.

Your toddler or young child may naturally seek moments every day to release stress and tension that builds up in our busy lives. We often think of their meltdowns as the problem, but what is actually the problem is not that our child is crying but that we are not. Imagine how different parenting could be if you got to have a good cry every day just like your child!

To find out more about listening partnerships you can read more about them in my introductory post here, or in my book Tears Heal: How to listen to our children

Tears Heal2016

3 Little Buttons

When you want a break from parenting, this is what you might really need.

tiredmum

Last week I was spending time in the UK with friends and family. In effect I was solo parenting as my husband was still working back in Switzerland. Except I wasn’t. I spent almost every waking minute in the company of other adults, and often children. There were people to play with my daughter while I took a shower, or brush her hair while I got dressed. There were other children to play with so that I could sit and have a chat without interruption.

Living abroad means our holidays are often spent like this, catching up with friends and family. And unlike day to day life it really is like having a village; having people to share cooking and childcare.

As I travelled from one house to another I reflected on how easy it was to parent with other people around. And how happy I felt to be spending concentrated time with my daughter, along with the support of others.

Since my daughter recently started Kindergarten I’ve enjoyed my free time so that I can be completely alone, and blog and write. But during this week with other people I felt a much deeper happiness that seemed to come from being constantly connected to my daughter and with other people. My drive to be ambitious and finish another blog post or the chapter of my next book faded into the background, as play and laughter and togetherness were all that mattered.

The way we live in modern times our sense of tribe may be temporary. We have a lovely girls night out and then return to our nuclear family, or we have holidays with extended family and then go back to parenting alone.

There are lots of childcare options for when we need a break, or time to ourselves and some of those may even be free. But as I heard one mum say, we don’t just need someone to take over the parenting responsibilities for us, we also need people to support us to be the parents.

What this week taught me is that I love being a parent. I want to be with my daughter as much as I can, and often what I’m missing is not extra time for myself but emotional and practical support to make my job easier.

With Hand in Hand Parenting, we can’t cook your dinner and put your kids to bed,  but we can offer you emotional support. Listening time can refill your cup when you feel like you need to run away from your family! I can remember in the early stages of parenting where I’d feel like I needed a long break. Then I’d have ten minutes of listening time, and feel completely renewed and ready to enjoy parenting again.

The foundation of Hand in Hand Parenting is listening to each other and building a village that supports parents just as much as children. As more and more parents discover this transformative way of parenting, we can rebuild the sense of having a village around us.

For more information about listening time check out my blog post here, or my book Tears Heal: How to listen to our children. Or join the Hand In Hand Parent support group on facebook to find a listening partner and build your village today! 

img_1840-1

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

The Pramshed

The Art Of Reconnecting With Our Children And Ourselves

HoldHands.jpg

A few weeks ago I had some devastating news; my sister was diagnosed with Leukemia. I rushed off to the UK to visit her, and came back to my slightly angry and disconnected daughter. Over the next two weeks, I did my best to try to reconnect in between the morning separation of Kindergarten. I was feeling sad about my sister a lot of the time and I wasn’t exactly at my most playful and energised despite lots of listening time.

I was due to go to a Hand in Hand Parenting retreat for instructors in Hungary. This is where instructors from all over Europe, the middle East and Africa come together to do listening time together and talk about the work we are doing with parents in our region. I wasn’t looking forward to being separated from my daughter again, but I knew deep down that it was important for my own wellbeing to go there.

At the retreat I got to cry, a lot, and be completely supported with love and attention. In between our group listening time sessions I got to talk and laugh with some of the people I feel closest to the world, as well as many wonderful instructors and trainees that I was just meeting for the first time.

When I arrived back home after the retreat I noticed that reconnecting with my daughter felt completely effortless. I was immediately much more playful with her. Doing special time together felt like pure joy. The thoughts I often have like, ‘’When is this going to end?’’ and ‘I wish I had some time to myself!’’ were much more muted.

My daughter sensed that I was more more emotionally available, and in the evening she started ‘acting up’ in a happy playful way. When I cleaned her teeth, she grabbed her plastic cup, and ran away spitting into it, instead of into the sink. It was much easier for me to respond completely playfully to this ‘misbehaviour,’ to help her get back on track, rather than becoming serious.

I’ve been on a few Hand in Hand Parenting retreats, and I always come back feeling amazing. It often feels to me that this heightened ability to connect is how we should all naturally feel as parents.

Except we don’t. Parenting is challenging and exhausting. We may have fleeting moments of joy with our children that all too often get buried beneath the stress of our to-do list. When we have present day difficulties, we feel our past hurts even stronger.

When we practise Hand in Hand Parenting we are trying to give our children what we didn’t receive as children. We want to give them unconditional attention, and listen to their feelings. It’s not easy giving what we never received ourselves.

But having real in-person listening time allows us to catch up on the listening we didn’t receive when we were young. I really like yoga and meditation, and lots of other nurturing activities, but I also think that listening time is so essential, because it gives us exactly what we are trying to give our children; a safe space to laugh and cry, and the deep sense of connection they need to thrive.

I know that the good feeling of the retreat is going to wear off, but I’m determined to hold onto it for as long as I can. I also I know I need extra support to be able to keep giving to my daughter while being there for my sister too.

In times of personal crisis, it’s great to have as much listening time as we can. We don’t have to get lost in our grief, we can use the warm attention of a listener to help guide us safely through our feelings. We can rise above our grief, and exhaustion, so it doesn’t colour our relationship with our children.

Life can bring many events that threaten the deep sense of connection between us and our children. The first step to reconnecting with them is to reconnect with ourselves. We need to take time away from our children to grieve for our own hurts, so that we can grow as parents.

If we don’t have the kind of support that we need to be the parents we want to be, then we can find it, although this may seem challenging at first. When we needed support as children we instinctively tried to signal to our parents through off-track behaviour, or tears and tantrums. But we were rarely met with the warm attention we needed. We may have been ‘shhhed,’ told to stop, shouted at, or distracted from our pain. Nobody understood that our behaviour was really like a secret code for how we were feeling.

This happened so many times that most of us gave up reaching out. It can make it hard to do so as adults.

The sense of wellbeing I’ve got from this retreat makes me think what would be possible, if all of us really made it our intention to reach out to each other, to rebuild a tribe of parents, with togetherness and support. It could start as simply as sharing some Hand in Hand articles or books with a friend, or asking someone you know if they’d like to try listening time. If we all work together, we can help each other to be the parents we want to be.

If you can get yourself to an in-person class, do it! Part of the reason we struggle to be there to give our children the connection and attention they need is because we aren’t getting this for ourselves. We can connect with each other on facebook or skype but there is nothing better than real-life human connections for helping us to be there and present for our children.

If you’re in Switzerland I’ll be launching my book Tears Heal
in Basel. Come along to the launch party, invite a friend, and find out about my local workshops beginning in November.

If you want to reach out for support right now, you can join the Hand in Hand Parents support group on yahoo, or facebook, where you can find listening partners, and ask parenting questions, so you never ever have to feel like you are doing this alone. And you could even train to be a Hand in Hand Parenting instructor, so you can have this wonderful support for yourself and go onto support others.

How To Stop ‘Doing’ Parenting And Simply Be A Parent

IMG_2096.JPG

Last week my daughter started Kindergarten, and I had written out a 3 page to-do list. I had planned out my schedule of all the things I was going to do, from learning German, to cleaning my house, making dinner every day and writing 3 more books. However I was so nervous about this new beginning I hadn’t got very far on my list.

This morning after dropping my daughter off, I finally felt like I could relax. This was the 7th day she had gone to Kindergarten, happy and excited. I finally trusted that she was safe there, and enjoying herself. And I went onto my balcony and curled up with Listen, the book about Hand in Hand Parenting by Patty Wipfler and Tosha Schore.  And I wondered why I was feeling guilty.

My head was full of shoulds. I should tidy up the house before my daughter’s birthday party this weekend. I should prepare everything before we go out to the parent’s evening tonight. But instead I was reading this wonderful book, listening to the wind rustling in the trees, and looking at the sunshine. I felt guilty, but then I became aware of my body. I noticed how nervous and tense my muscles were. I remembered how last week, I’d relied on caffeine to get through the day and manage the strong emotions that I had about my daughter starting Kindergarten, even though it makes me feel even more nervous and edgy.

I thought of all the play I’d done every evening, all of the special times, and all of the tantrums my daughter’s had as she processes learning a new language, and being in a new environment every single day. I realised that being the parent of a school child is no less intense than being the parent of a child you are with all the time, because that child brings all their feelings home to you in concentrated form!

And I realised that the most important thing right then was to stop ‘doing’ parenting and simply ‘be’ a parent. I know that if I rush around the place that’s when I’m more likely to get stressed and shout. I knew that resting my body for an hour or so, would mean I’d be in much better shape to connect with my daughter when she got home. And so I took a guilt free rest, knowing it was the best thing I could do for my family.

In this world of doing, fuelled by the demands that our busy modern, capitalist society puts on us, we need to make a conscious choice to return to being, without guilt or apologies. You are doing a wonderful job, putting your heart and soul into caring for your little ones, and you deserve a rest!

3 Little Buttons

The Invisible River Of Feelings Underneath Our Lives

sadness2

Holy the mysterious rivers of tears under the streets! – Allen Ginsberg

Imagine the scene: your toddler throws their food onto the floor. You feel enraged, and want to shout. Or you might actually shout, particularly if you feel like they’re old enough to know better. What’s going on here? Parenting can be frustrating and exhausting, and when your child does things that almost seem to deliberately make your life harder it can leave you at breaking point.

The most important thing to know is that it’s not just about the food. Yes it’s a hassle to clean it up, and it’s a waste, and you might be worried about your toddlers’ eating habits, whether they’re getting enough vitamins, and if they are ever going to learn right from wrong. But it’s actually about much, much more.

When we are stressed the emotional part of the brain – the limbic system, senses a kind of emotional emergency, and the pre-frontal cortex- the part of the brain responsible for reasoning, and logical thinking can’t function as well. When this happens, implicit (unconscious) memories from our childhood get activated and often because we can’t think clearly we often tend to respond in automatic ways, often mirroring the way we were treated when we were children. That’s why we tend to lose our temper and act in ways we sometimes regret.

When we are having a hard time in the present, it’s often because these implicit memories start bubbling up to the surface, often without us being consciously aware of what’s going on. Even if you don’t act on these memories, if you don’t shout or hit your child, then they are still there in the background, whispering away, and making it hard to stay calm and relaxed.

When you look at a toddler, you’ll probably notice how much they are in the moment, and full of joy at the simple things in life. And if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know all about the healing power of tears, and how we can listen to our children’s upsets, play and connect with them, so in difficult times they can keep returning to their natural state of joy.

But what happened to us? When we were growing up most parents had no idea that we need to express our emotions, to release our feelings to recover our sense of joy. And so we gathered a lot of hurts which we carry with us to this day. It’s as if as well as the present moment, we also have this invisible river of feelings that flows beneath our lives, that we may not even be aware of much of the time. This is one of the reasons why parenting feels so hard.

When life gets tricky. When we get angry, or anxious or depressed, it’s like this river is calling us home, reminding us of who we were as children, and how we got hurt.

It’s not too late to return to our own joy. Think of your child and how much connection, and attention they need, of how they need an infinite amount of love, and listening, to feel good. Hand in Hand Parenting is an approach about listening to our children, but it’s also about joining together as a community of parents, to listen to each other, so that we can heal from our own hurt and pain. We call this listening partnerships, and you can find out more about them here.

Imagine next time your toddler tries to throw food on the floor, and you can react with lighthearted playfulness instead of frustration and exhaustion. It is really possible, when we begin to listen to that invisible river of feelings beneath our life.

To find out more about how our past effects our present day parenting and what we can do about it check-out my book Tears Heal: How To Listen To Our Children

Tears Heal2016

Diary of an imperfect mum

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com