In our session today we discussed our experiences observing ourselves with curiosity and not judgement, as we tried to set and hold boundaries. We reflected specifically on where we struggled, and then asked ourselves what was going on inside of us, that made the process such a challenge.
I want more from my child that she is willing to give. While we are learning that we can't look to our children to meet our own emotional needs, sometimes it is so hard! Memories of how much they needed us, of sleepless nights with coughs and fevers, perfectly packed lunches, and agonizing over schools and friends, all done with this expectation that that we were putting energy into building a relationship that would somehow payoff bringing us comfort and connection, As they grow, and especially in cases with teens that struggle, we find instead of reciprocity we get angry words and slammed doors. This week we surfaced patterns from our family of origin and reflected on how this made our emotional response not about the behavior of our struggling teen, but something deeper, that could cut us to the core. Some of us felt not seen or heard as children, and so when our own teens gave us the cold shoulder, we relived the sadness and anger from our past, injecting the present relationship with our kid with an emotional charge from the parts of us that haven't healed.
What do I make this to mean about me? This was a key question this week. My child is anxious, depressed and won't get out of bed to go to school. What do I make this to mean about me? That I'm not a good parent...after all, what kind of parent has a kid that misses more school than they attend? We discussed how important this question was, as so much of our pain, and our inability to deal with the situation for what it really is, is related to the feelings of unworthiness, inadequacy, sadness and fear that are provoked by core beliefs we need to challenge, about ourselves, our kids, and the world in general. For example, if we could fix things, and be the peace maker and rescuer of the family, this allowed us to feel worthy and loved. So we saw ourselves carrying out this pattern with our kids, rescuing and fixing, until we couldn't, leaving us feeling like unworthy mothers. As such, we often harbor a level of resentment towards our kids that have little to do with their actions, and a lot to do with what inside us is unhealed.
Attuning to our kids and recognizing what they really need. We talked about the need to be aware of how enforcing our boundaries, such as school attendance, can affect kids overall mental health. We have to recognize what might be underlying a teen's problematic behavior, such an anxiety, shame etc. and make sure that whatever we do to hold a limit is not adding to the already heavy burden a young person may be carrying.
Allowing for life's own timeline. We need to recognize that our timelines as worried parents, and the timelines that life holds for our child may be very different. Sometimes we need to step back, out of the way, and recognize that we need to be a curious bystander rather than a protagonist in our child's journey.
Acceptance vs. resignation. Resignation contains a sense of defeat, that things ought to be different than how they are. Acceptance is a belief that there is at work a benign knowing greater than that of our broken systems and incomplete understanding, and that is holding our children close.
Emotions as messengers. We can look to our emotions, our fear, anger, sadness, loneliness, etc. as indicators of what we really need in order to heal.
Your anger? It’s telling you where you feel powerless. Your anxiety? It’s telling you that something in your life is off balance. Your fear? It’s telling you what you care about. Your apathy? It’s telling you where you’re overextended and burnt out. Your feelings aren’t random, they are messengers. And if you want to get anywhere, you need to be able to let them speak to you, and tell you what you really need. - Briana West
Self-care, for real. We asked ourselves what we were doing for to take care of ourselves while dealing with struggling kids. Walks, exercise, time with friends, meditation groups and therapy were all mentioned as ways that we found solace and inspiration. Yet often these efforts at self-care functioned as a distraction, for what we are unwilling to feel, which at times seemed unbearable. We discussed how critical it is for us to shift from distracting and numbing to sitting with our emotions, allowing them and acknowledging them. The process of taking 30 seconds to observe the waves of feeling as they crescendo and gradually dissipate is a core part of releasing and healing.
Shifting the vision of your child - if you have a photo of your child when she was small, take it out. Envision the essence of your child during this stage, her innate goodness, joy, desire to be loved, curiosity, playfulness, All the things about her that you loved, and that made her your child, Imagine now your child as she currently is, maybe with dark clothes, subdued and distant. Allow yourself to see the same exquisite essence within her. Know that it is still there, behind the fear, the anger, and the sadness, Look for this when you connect with her. Never forget this is her authentic self, that needs you to see her.
Feeling our emotions- Take time, each day if you can, to sit quietly without distraction. Do an emotional scan of your body and notice where sadness, anger, fear, disappointment, might be showing up. Notice where there are areas of heaviness, of constriction, of discomfort. If you feel numb, just name the feelings, whatever they are, that you might me struggling with. Just allow them to be there, without judging, without trying to depress or push away. Notice how they rise and fall like waves. Bring expansion and breath. You've done your work for today.
Journal prompts: Notice when you feel triggered, or any uncomfortable emotion. What is the belief about yourself, about the world, that is underneath? Where might this have come from? Notice too what emotions you often try and bury or distraction yourself from. What might you be unwilling to feel?
Healing is the patter of unlearning and relearning, it's returning to what you've always been underneath the condition...pure consciousness" - Nicole La Pera