Sometimes, we as parents get so caught up in the business of being parents, that we forget that everyone in the family is human. We all make mistakes, we are all learning, and not one of us is perfect.
I met with a client, Lindsay and her Mom Lisa, today. Mom gave me a very detailed list of the behaviours she has witnessed from Lindsay, when I met with Lindsay, she gave me a play by play of everything that transpired. I got 2 different versions of the same events. The only common link between the 2 stories was the direction of blame. Both mom & daughter pointed to Lindsay as the instigator.
Lindsay has a very mature level of accountability. She is able to tell me the exact moment she loses control and even why she chooses to stay in an escalated state for extended periods of time.
As parents we tend to have expectations for our children, sometimes we explain those expectations and sometimes, usually without realizing it, we are dangling invisible carrots and chastising our children when they fail to find the carrot.
5 Tips for Positive Parenting:
Listen to your children – they don’t always want to hear your responses. Sometimes, they just need a sounding board, a safe place to get things off their chest.
Get involved in their lives – meet them at their level. They are kids, not adults. Have fun, play games, get dirty, explore, climb, read, dig, paddle, catch, kick – be a kid.
Define House Rules – have an open discussion about the expectations of the home. Try not to dictate the rules, allow them to have a say. If they feel included in this process, they are more likely to abide.
Define consequences – Kids need to know where the lines are and what happens when they are crossed. Again, if they are involved in this process, they are more likely to respect the rules. Remember – Natural consequences – the punishment must fit the crime.
Model appropriate behaviours – If “don’t come home drunk” is a house rule, it is for you too. If you expect accountability from them – you better find some of your own.
If Lisa could slow down enough to see that she too played a part in Lindsay’s behaviours, perhaps she could begin to find a way to calm the emotions before they spiral out of control.
When our children are spiraling, maintain composure. This is not the time to meet them at their level. Model the behaviours you wish to see. Soften your voice, slow your breath, and patiently wait for the emotions to drain off. Acknowledge any feelings they express with a simple nod. Demonstrate remorse and accountability for your acts. Remember, every story has 2 sides; both you and your child are going to view the same event differently. Try to see their side of it.
You got this! Slow down, breathe, check yourself and move forward.
**Names were changed to maintain confidentiality.
Leave me a note in the comments, if you found this helpful or want more information.
As of today, I have been a parent for 26 years. Most of those were good, actually all the years were good, but we sure did have some rough moments. Let me take some time to review a few of our struggles now that time has put them into perspective.
Croup – there is not a parent in the world who wants to deal with this one. Your tiny little baby is so sick. Leaving her in a croup tent for a week, just about killed me!!!
Asthma – probably should have seen this one coming. Other than a few misguided supply staff at school this wasn’t a big one. Just the odd trip to emerg for a quick treatment and we were good again.
Rockin John – your imaginary friend. Not sure where he came from, but he lived under the stairs and you loved hanging out with him.
Sister – you were skilled at tormenting your sister. I’m not sure how many times I had to rescue her from the clothes dryer….come to think of it…I should have seen this one coming too – I vaguely remember lifting the lid to the toilet at 3 am and having a very pissed off cat jump out at me…..
Pulmonary Embolism – this was the worst. I was never so scared. But you were a trooper, took it all in stride…
High School – had I known, I probably would have sent you to an all girls school….
Driving – you were so happy when you bought your car, you were never home. You were everyone’s chauffeur….until you weren’t…
Car Accident – “you hit a mailbox, took out 7 trees, jumped a fence and did a barrel roll in your car and lived to tell the tale…” Please don’t do this one again….
Concussion Collection – the next few years were interesting….I’m glad you are finally receiving recognition for the symptoms. Try collecting stamps…
Boyfriends – some were abusive, some were just idiots and a couple of them were really nice guys. I kinda like the one you have now, he’s my fav so far…
College – I am so proud of you for choosing a career path that suits your nature and desire to work with people!!!
26 years and we’re both still alive. I have never been more proud of you (I know I say that every year, but honestly you amaze me time and time again!!!)
Here’s the point of my story, parenting, in the moment, is difficult, confusing, heartbreaking and gut-wrenching; but when you look back on all of it, the pain, the suffering and the heart ache melt into love, pride, admiration and the realization that all those tiny moments, were just pieces of a greater puzzle that is creating the most beautiful memories.
Hang in there parents, it will all be worth it.
If your family is struggling to adjust to or accept some of life’s hurdles, I can help you all get “Back On Track“.
Loads of Love
What is the most outrageous thing your child ever did? Leave a comment below.
I am a big believer in Journaling. It allows you to tell your story, keep in it in a safe place and review it later if needed. When you put your thoughts down on paper, you no longer have to carry that around with you. You can keep it tucked away safely in a drawer; it’s still yours, it’s just no longer heavy baggage that you carry with you everywhere you go. Reviewing your journal at a later date is also beneficial. Re-reading some of your earlier entries allows you to evaluate your state of mind then and now, take a moment to assess your point of growth.
At some point someone suggested to you that you journal your thoughts and feelings, but has anyone told you how to do this so it actually yields positive results as opposed to just retelling a story?
Go to the Dollar Store and purchase a cheap note book or here is a link to purchase one on Amazon. Your journal doesn’t have to be pretty, leather-bound and have a lock & key. Keep it simple!
Set up your journal: see below to tips to set up Effective Journaling
Make time everyday to write in your journal.
Morning Journal entries are usually for goals; things you want to achieve that day.
Evening Journal allows you to reflect on the day and assess any points of growth.
Weekly review of your journal – at the end of each week, set aside some time to review your journal entries; look for patterns in thoughts and behaviours.
Give Credit where credit is due – reward yourself for a successful week (even if you had a bad one, find the good parts and celebrate those!!)
Effective Journaling – Setting up your Journal
It’s important to tell your story, but it’s equally important to fully assess that story as well. Your journal entry should include the emotions you felt, the lessons you learned and the successes that pulled you through. Here’s what I mean by that:
Tell your story. write it out, all of it. Every last detail. Don’t breeze through it, get it all out.
How I felt. Once your story is all there, review it. Add in feeling words (I have included a list here for you). Include all emotions that you expressed both during the event and while writing it.
Lessons Learned. I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason, there are constant lessons in life. Take a moment and think about what you learned both in living the event and telling it.
I survived. So far, you have a 100% success rate at surviving life’s ordeals. Acknowledge that this event did not kill you. You lived to tell the tale. “I survived because I am….” or “I survived because….” or “I survived and I will….”
Use these 4 heading in your journal entries. Make it clear which part is the story, the feelings, the lessons and the reasons you survived. This will make your weekly reviews much simpler.
Ok, now that you have the tools to Journal Effectively, why are you still sitting here….off to the dollar store with you….grab a journal, set it up and CHANGE YOUR LIFE!!
Keep me posted on how this works for you. I’d love your feedback!!
Trying to navigate a system that is broken is difficult. Trying to navigate that same system while under stress is nearly impossible. How do you explain the behaviours you’re witnessing effectively enough to get someone’s attention?
I know the struggle. I had to navigate a very broken system with my daughter. The avenues, the disregard, the disappointment only added to the overwhelming stress I was under. I was desperately seeking a solution to the self-harm, lack of motivation, emotional outbursts and the non-existent self-esteem my daughter was exhibiting.
I fought for almost 10 years to keep my child this side of the grass. Everyday, was a struggle for me. The more I struggled, the more she struggled. It seemed like there was no end insight.
I would stay awake at night to check on her; was she still here, was she still alive, was she bleeding silently, was she crying herself to sleep again, did I have all the meds locked up, all the knives stored properly? In the morning, completely exhausted from another sleepless night, I would try everything to see a glimpse of a smile, but usually failed.
I was constantly researching her symptoms, behaviours and scanning check-lists. I needed to know what I was dealing with so I could find the help we needed. I joined groups, read forums & blogs. Over the course of those 10 years, we saw about 30 different professionals. Every time, it was the same old thing – “…she is not bad enough to meet our criteria for services. Please keep us in mind should things get worse.”
Worse??? How the hell could it possibly get worse? Worse is the thing I’m trying to avoid!! We need help now!!! Why are we waiting for this to escalate?
Well, as predicted, things got worse, a lot worse. I received a call in the middle of the night from the ER. My daughter had been admitted following a very serious suicide attempt. They weren’t sure she’d recover. This, right here, was the moment I was working so hard to avoid. I don’t remember driving to the hospital, or even walking in. I don’t remember if I spoke to a Doctor. I only remember, and will never forget, seeing my daughter, lying there in the bed. Both wrists were taped up and she was connected to every device possible. I made my way through the tangled mess of cords & tubes and I hugged her. I clung on to her, and I prayed. And I cried. A Doctor came to see me and told me that her toxscreen showed extremely elevated levels of various barbiturates – antidepressants. The prognosis was bleak. He wanted me to go home, sleep and he would call if anything changed. I stayed. I held a 1-woman vigil at her bedside. I wasn’t leaving until she did.
Twelve hours after being admitted, she woke up. She was coherent. She knew who I was, where she was and had a rough idea of why she was there. She was a miracle. The entire medical team was floored. They were preparing for the worst case, and she proved them wrong!!
Here’s where the story gets more frustrating. I had been told repeatedly to wait until she got worse before she qualified for services. We arrived, it had gotten worse, but to my amazement – she still didn’t quantify for services. The criteria for admittance into the psychiatric facility is – Threat to harm self or others. We just survived a gravely serious suicide attempt. When they came to screen her for admittance, they asked if she felt the urge to harm herself, and her answer was no, not right now.
I was not taking NO for an answer this time!!
You see, in my quest for knowledge, I had gone back to school. I was now a Certified Addictions Counselor and I could speak the language. This time, I stood my ground. I fought for admittance and they finally agreed. She was admitted on a 5 day psych-hold. Now I cold breathe. Now our journey will change directions. We will find an exit off the Highway to Hell and begin to explore new options. The staff at the Psych Facility were shocked to see her file. She was on 80mg of Prozak, and they stopped this immediately.
We were now enrolled in a weekly counseling program, free from medications and on a healthy, but still bumpy road to recovery. I say bumpy, but because change does not happen over night.
Our road to recovery has proven to be amazing for both of us. My daughter has learned some very helpful coping skills, she has created awareness of possible anxiety attacks & how to prevent them. We have learned to communicate more effectively and created hand-signals & buzz words to alert each other of possible attacks. I have learned, that despite how I felt, I was not the only Mom struggling through this. I have also geared my career to supporting Moms on this journey. The feeling of isolation & judgement was enough to stop me in my tracks some days. I’m not sure where I found the strength to continue fighting, but I am so glad It did!!
My greatest lesson through this journey was how I was enabling my daughter & her mental health. I truly thought I was protecting her from herself. It was not my job to save her, it was my job to teach her how to save herself! Today, I am the missing piece of that broken system. I am constantly adding to my quest for knowledge & am also a Certified Life Coach. I combined my knowledge, experience & expertise to develop a program to support parents on this terrifying journey.
You have tried everything to help your child. Nothing has worked. Call me. I know I can help, because I’ve been there!!
Much love to you on your journey. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Twenty-five – thirty years ago, the world was a different place. The internet was in it’s infancy, cellphones were massive & usually installed in your car and satellite dishes were just making their way into homes (or backyards). Kids played outside with their friends and were involved in after-school programs, community groups and sports teams. At home, there were chores to help out around the house. In high school, you had a part-time job with the responsibility of getting there unsupervised. School projects were researched in the library using a very heavy set of Encyclopedia’s and pictures cut out of magazines (cut & paste had a much different definition). If there was a question to be answered, you had to go find an adult. Back in the 80’s or 90’s, life was a little simpler and the world just a little smaller. Our basic needs were met through interpersonal relationships that do not exist today.
Today, with the internet at our finger tips and cable TV, our children have access to information 24/7. Not all the information is helpful or accurate. Today, we have an extreme influx of Teens diagnosed with Depression & Anxiety. Today, we also have a government that feels they are being helpful by making prescriptions free to those under 25 (but we’ll talk about that in a later post).
I recently read an article by Johann Hari “Is everything you think you know about depression wrong?“** Hari talks about his search for answers regarding his own clinical diagnosis and comes across some very interesting points to ponder. The outcome is a new thought process surrounding depression & anxiety – yes there are biological components in some cases that may require medications combined with therapy to over-come, however; there are key factors to how we live today that directly contribute to these diagnosis.
So, let’s compare 1980 to 2018.
In the 80’s, kids played outside. Their friends were physically connected, by streets, school, teams, relations.
Face to face relationships teach us a multitude of skills:
Physically connecting with people also serves our basic psychological needs of belonging, acceptance and value. We, as humans need to belong to a group. We were not designed to be solitary and thus we live in colonies or families and communities. We need to feel as though we are a valued member of the group; our thoughts, feelings and opinions matter.
It is believed that some diagnosed cases of depression or anxiety are rooted in denying basic psychological needs and thus we have the influx that we are seeing today. There is also growing research that tells us that technology has the same effect on the brain as heroine or cocaine. Creating a strong, debilitating addiction.
If you are depressed and anxious, you are not a machine with malfunctioning parts. You are a human being with unmet needs. The only real way out of our epidemic of despair, is for all of us, together, to begin to meet those human needs – a deep connection, to the things that really matter in life. ~ Johann Hari
If you have a Teen that is struggling, take a look at the broader picture. Are their basic needs being met? Do they have the skills they need to succeed? Do they belong to a group? Do they feel valued?
When one member of the family struggles, the entire family struggles. I have found that the best way to create stability in the family is to look at the family as a whole. Raising children today is difficult, I know that. We are rather quick to point the blame to external forces rather than admit that perhaps we are less than perfect. There are no perfect parents, but I will tell you, the best ones are the parents who are willing to take a look at themselves to find solutions for their children. It’s not about what you’re doing wrong, it’s about finding processes that fit your family, and the needs of every individual in your family.
Getting your family back on track may not be a long, complicated process. We may be able to find solutions and implement processes that will see dramatic results in as little as 6 weeks. Together we will explore the processes that work for your family, and through simple conversation, a few fun & engaging games, we will begin to implement strategies that ensure basic needs are met. We will expand your awareness and allow you to visualize your family’s unlimited possibilities.
…….this relationship first started; full of curiosity, excitement, joy?
……The hopes & dreams that flooded your heart when you first held your child in your arms?
…….You & your partner watched your child achieve all those first milestones; sitting up, holding a bottle, first steps, first tooth, first day of school?
Where did that excitement go? That feeling of desperately wanting to hang on to a moment and cherish it forever? Never wanting it to end. The feeling excitement when you spoke to your best friend about this new adventure, new person, new milestone? Let’s get that back!! 🙂
…..you are multitasking meals, work emails, homework, sports, laundry and quickly scanning a blog. Are you able to offer your full attention to any of them, do you have the time?
Every member of your family is in a different room, on the internet chatting with friends, responding to emails, checking quotes, playing games, watching videos, and everyone has 1 thing in common. Do you want to know what that is…..
Let’s back up….
Remember that feeling the first day you left your tinny toddler at the day care? Going back to work was something you dreaded for months. You have to work, but this tiny little creature full of poop & snot somehow brings you so much joy and again, we have a feeling we don’t want to let go of. We have bills to pay, college to save for and all the toys, sports, clothes that comes with being a parent. Kids aren’t cheap. And somewhere down the line, we lost that feeling of excitement. Somewhere, bills, tantrums and deadlines sucked the excitement out of parenting.
You were so full of joy, it spilled out of you and the whole world knew how happy you were, but now there is barely enough joy to fill your big toe. The rest of you is filled with stress, frustration, anxiety, worry and expectations. Now you have teenagers and life is no fun anymore.
I Want YOU To Get Excited About Your Life & Your Family!!!
Are you getting everything you possibly can out of LIFE, or is LIFE getting everything it can out of you?
We all have a “To Do” List and most of us have a “Bucket List”. Which one is more important for you? What’s on your partner’s wish list? Do your kids have wish lists? Start a conversation!!
Be the change you wish to see in the world.
Be the change you wish to see in your FAMILY!
I have faith in you!! Mom to Mom, I know how hard it is to see members of your family struggling. I understand how incredible hard it is to reach out and ask for the help you need. There is so much judgement, and we are expected to know how to keep it all together. I am a Mom and I, too, had a child who struggled. I spent hours searching the internet for help. Any piece of wisdom I could grab, and use to make my family better. From that struggle, I gathered loads of the most useful pieces of information and compiled them together to create a plan to unify my family and all of us help you create a plan, strategies that will actually work!!!
I know you have the drive, determination & motivation to create positive change in your family and that all of this is fueled by the LOVE you have for each of them. Get started today.
Reach out with any questions, I’d love to help you stir up some excitement!!!
I do this because I don’t want your family to go through what my family went through. I do this because I want to help you avoid the hard lessons I had to learn. I do this because I don’t want you to sit in an emergency room listening to the doctor tell you how close your child came to successfully committing suicide. I do this because I have learned that if dysfunctions in the family are caught early enough, they can have successful outcomes.
As a Result of my Family Dysfunction
I have spent the last 10 years working with children with extreme behaviours. Every one of these kids reported family life that was riddled with strife; divorce, abuse, addiction, trauma, death, or general lack of structure. Each of these kids began to act out for 2 reasons:
Negative attention was the only attention – they felt they didn’t exist unless they gave their parents something to scream about. Positive behaviours were expected – good grades, obey house rules. They felt they were not acknowledged for the good things, but they were for all the bad, and the bad always got worse.
Trauma / abuse within the family – every family have a history. There is some sort of trauma in the closet. My family was abuse, divorce, life-threatening illness, un-intentional neglect and a lack of coping skills for all of us. The kids I worked with reported similar issues.
The Coles-Notes version of my family story
I had 2 beautiful little girls and an sociopathic husband. As my awareness of his disorder grew, so did my strength. I eventually asked him to leave and we divorced (no…it wasn’t that simple). This was both a relief and a point of insecurity for the girls and I. Shortly after this, my oldest daughter was rushed to emerg with a pulmonary embolism. This is a life threatening blood clot in her lungs. She was 14. My entire world flipped upside down. I spent every waking moment trying to balance her care and protecting my little one from the devastating news. Somehow, we saw the light at the end of this tunnel and she recovered. I knew I hadn’t recovered, but as a single mom, there just wasn’t time for me to break down, so I pushed on.
In the next four years, I remarried. This time to an incredible, kind, caring man. We had support, but my trauma was still very evident (to everyone but me). Then the same daughter who was deathly ill, was involved in a single vehicle roll-over that most people wouldn’t have survived. Again, I threw myself into caring for her. Again trying to balance a healthy child with a sick one. Little did I know, my healthy child wasn’t so healthy. She had begun to self harm, hid in her room and withdrew very deeply into herself. And this is where my learning began.
Life has a funny way of teaching us things we don’t want to learn. In order to help my child with her mental health, I had to help me with mine. I had to show her that it was possible. Children watch us like little hawks. She needed to see me growing, learning, dealing, coping and this began her journey of growth.
My Journey Has Lead Me to You.
As every member of my family embarked on a journey of self-discovery (we all had skeletons), it became clear that we were not the only ones struggling. I turned my career to support children of abuse and neglect. I loved working with these children as I was able to witness amazing feats of determination, strength and resilience. But each one of my clients had the same secret wish – they wished their entire family could support their growth and celebrate their potential.
So, I am here to help you to help your children. I understand that life happens. I understand that we, as parents don’t always have the time to take a step back and deal with our skeletons. As much as we try to avoid it, our “stuff” usually becomes our kids “stuff”. I also understand that as a parent, it is really hard to determine when, or how, or even where to seek support. I have made it very simple and hopefully non-invasive. On the left hand side of this post, you will see available free downloads. Start here and reach out when you are ready. There is hope, let’s try to catch it early.
I receive calls all the time about way-ward teens and a family in distress from parents at their wits-end, trying to figure how to control this child who refuses to go to school, get a job or is involved in the wrong crowd. The most common phrase I hear is: “I did not raise him/her to be like this“. The majority of these parents want me to work with the child to motivate them, set them straight or fix the problem. I’m good, but I’m not that good. YOU are that good!! You can motivate them, you can set them straight, you can fix them. I can help you do that, if you will allow me explain a little further.
The Heart Attack
Think of someone you know who has suffered a heart attack. The immediate response is not to shame the heart for stepping out of line. We do not ask the kidneys or the liver to pick up the slack. We certainly don’t kick the heart out until it changes it’s behaviour and try to go on with out it. We don’t blame some external force for the heart attack.
To effectively treat a heart attack, we examine all aspects of the body, internal functions & external forces to create a well-rounded plan to prevent further episodes. We look for ways to reduce both internal & external stressors. We improve our diet, our physical exercise and work to reduce the toxins going into the body. We find ways to reduce our stress at work & at home. A heart attack is a symptom of a much larger problem – lifestyle. To prevent another episode, we change our life-style.
The same can be said for how we address challenges within the family.
The Evolution of Parents
As a family grows, it develops processes for every situation. These processes are rooted in our own childhoods. Most of what we do as parents was taught to us by our parents. Whether you feel it worked, or it didn’t, this is what you know. Some parents (like me) choose to parent the opposite from what we were taught. In times of stress, we hear our parent’s words fall out of our mouths. For some of us, this is a pivotal moment. “I have become my mother/father. ”
Every generation of parents has new struggles. Our Grandparents raised our parents through the 50’s & 60″s. The hippie movement was not something our Grandparents new how to deal with. Our grandparents came from a generation of a stiff up lip. Feelings were not validated, it was all about the presentation.
Our parents were fighting to express their emotions & loosen the restrictions & expectations. As our parents grew older, they blended their parents with their own generation and we ended up with parents who want their children to be free, but still expect a level of socially acceptable behaviour (meaning we still are expected to put on the stiff upper lip and deal with it).
Now we are parents, and we want to abolish the stiff upper lip, express emotions and genuinely connect with our kids, but someone thought we should do this through the internet. What the @#$% do we do now?
You have a child who is not acting in line with the values you tried to teach him/her. You have tried everything. You have exhausted all possible resources. Your family now looks like this:
Mom is stressed beyond her limits, she’s not sleeping, struggling to find the energy to function at work. She is consumed with worry for her child and out of desperation she focuses all her attention on the one who is struggling. Mom, you are the nurturer. You feel like a failure because you can’t find a way to help your child.
Dad is also stressed, but it comes out in anger or distance. Dad has firm lines on acceptable behaviour. Dad is tormented by the effect this one child is having on his wife, his family. Dad, you are the hunter, the gatherer, the protector. You can’t see a way to protect this child, so you protect the rest of the family from this child.
The other siblings are watching all of this with a very attentive eye. They see Mom crying, they see Dad’s blood pressure go up. They see and feel the family disintegrating. They react to the situation in different ways:
The Pleaser – takes care of Mom and the other siblings. He/she tries to ease the stress in the family. Steps in during times of conflict to try to minimize the situation.
The Scapegoat – this child is blamed for the faults of others. The result is anger and self-defeating behaviours. (usually the child I am called to fix).
The Hero– The golden child. Works hard at school, get good grades, helps out around the house. Truly believes that if she/he is perfect enough, the family problems will go away.
The Lost Child – quiet, withdrawn, depressed & anxious. Chooses to be alone. Takes the blame for the issues in the family. (this may also be the child you want me to work with)
Working with the Family
Your family is a living, breathing entity that is connected on a very deep emotional level. Your family is a body. Each member of your family is a vital organ that is required to sustain life. One child – the heart – has an episode. You have seen it coming for a long time. It didn’t just happen. But now that it has, what do you do?
Just like treating a heart attack, we assess the family, the body. We look at all the processes you have in place to nurture this family. We look at some of the processes you brought in from previous generations. We build on what works, we tweak what isn’t working. We re-engage as a family with meaningful, purposeful, effective communication. We take ownership for our own mistakes and learn to not project them on others. We create a safe place where honesty is valued, nurtured and appreciated, no matter how much it hurts. Every member of the family will have a specific set of strengths and we will enhance those strengths to not only create a vibrant future for that member, but create peace & harmony within the family.
The end result will be a family that once again is connected on a very deep emotional level. A family who encourages individual talents, strengths and relies on that to enhance the family and each other. The child who was struggling will find balance in the new processes. The behaviours will cease and every member of the family will flourish.
You are already half way there. Reading this post (this really long post), suggests that you can relate to this information. You are not a terrible parent. In fact you’re just the opposite!! You are able to see an issue. You are searching for a resolution. You know that it is possible to return your family to the fun, loving, energetic, slightly crazy unit it once was. You have the power, the drive, the motivation and the love to help your family. You can see the unlimited possibilities on the horizon. You realize that now is the time. Today is the day. You see the natural talents in your family and it is your dream for everyone to live the best life possible.
I can and will work with your child that is struggling. The more effective approach is to work with the family. When you are ready, please find more information on my coaching packages.
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THE DAY MY CHILD LOST HER JOY
In an especially chaotic rush out the door to go on a family vacation, I sat in the passenger seat fuming. Mad because I didn’t have time to put the dishes in the dishwasher. Mad because we were late getting on the road. Mad because the garage door was acting up. I’m talking trivial, insignificant, minor inconveniences here, but that was the state of a distracted woman who could no longer see the blessings, only the inconveniences, of her life.
Before we were about to pull out of the driveway, my husband looked at me as if someone he loved very much had died. In a barely audible whisper he said, “You’re never happy anymore.”
I wanted to defend.
I wanted to excuse.
I wanted to deny.
But I couldn’t.
Because I knew he was right.
Where had that happy woman gone? The one who smiled at people she passed on the street just because. The one whose friends often spoke of her positive outlook on life. The one who felt happy simply because she heard her favorite song or had a pack of strawberry Twizzlers in her purse. The one who could laugh off mistakes because mistakes happen, and they are certainly not the end of the world.
Where had she gone?
And that’s when I glanced to the backseat to see if my children, then ages six and three, had heard my husband’s words. Staring back at me was my older daughter picking her lip with worry the size of a small boulder weighing down her small shoulders.
As she pinched that tiny piece of fragile skin on her upper lip with wide eyes, I could practically read her mind:
But there was more. I could practically hear how a young child would interpret her mother’s unhappiness.
Mom’s mad at me.
Mom’s tired because of me.
Mom’s stressed because of something I did.
That’s when an even more powerful question hit me.
Where had my happy little girl gone? The one who woke up with the most gorgeous bedhead and good morning smile. The one who beamed at the words “sprinkler,” “cotton candy,” and “pet store.” The one who laughed so hard tears came to her eyes. The one who licked beaters with sheer pleasure and danced happily to any song with a beat.
Where had she gone?
Because my happiness was based on external measures—on tasks being completed, plans running accordingly, goals being met, hairs being in place—I was continually disappointed … upset … impatient … and stressed. In the process of making my own life miserable, I’d funneled my unhappiness straight into my daughter’s once joyful heart and spirit. Her pain was a direct reflection of the expression I wore on my face.
I desperately wanted to bring a smile back to my daughter’s face. I knew I must bring it back to my own. I began praying for small steps I could take to become a more positive, present, and peace-filled person. On brightly colored sticky notes, I posted daily goals and positive mantras that came to me during morning prayer time. Especially prominent on my mirrors and cabinets were these two go-to phrases: “Only Love Today” and “See Flowers Not Weeds.”
I used the phrase Only Love Today to silence my inner bully. Whenever a critical thought would come to my mind or my mouth, I’d cut it off with Only Love Today. I used See Flowers Not Weeds as a pathway to gratitude, to see what was good in situations and people.
As Only Love Today and See Flowers Not Weeds became a daily practice, I felt a profound transformation occurring in my heart and home. No longer were my goals exclusively items that could be measured or checked off—they consisted of immeasurable items like listening, laughing, dreaming, playing, connecting, and loving. With a more meaningful daily goal, I was able to see the blessings in my imperfect self and in my imperfect life. My eager-to-please, helpful older child looked different too. I saw her for who she was, not an annoyance or a bother, but a loving child with clever thoughts and ideas. For once, I could see all the things she was capable of doing—not perfectly, but good enough for today. The tightness in my face relaxed and the smiles came more easily for both of us.
One morning, I looked out the kitchen window to see her making a little garden right there in the middle of the yard. I watched as she tended to her miniature plot. Her joyful smile made me take pause. Clearly, she was at peace tending to her garden. I took a picture and sent it to my parents. Nothing could have prepared me for the response I received. My parents wrote:
“Thank for this precious picture of our beautiful granddaughter. Over the last two years, we have seen a tremendous change in her. We no longer see a scared look in her eyes; she is less fearful about you being upset or impatient with her. She is much happier and more relaxed. She is thriving and growing into a content, creative, and nurturing person. We know for a fact the changes we see in her coincide with the changes we have also seen in you.”
I covered my mouth to muffle the sobs.
When I was struggling to breathe beneath the weight of perfection, distraction, and self-induced pressure, my child was too.
My daughter had absorbed my tension.
She had absorbed my frustration.
She had absorbed my anxiety.
She had absorbed my unhappiness.
And as my negative emotions were being filtered down to her, they impacted her ability to grow, thrive, and blossom.
If I didn’t know it before, I know it now:
Our children are our garden. They absorb our stress, just as they absorb our peace. They absorb our negativity just as they absorb our joy. And we have the power to control what they absorb, but first, we must tend to ourselves.
It might sound like this:
Dear one, you have feelings. They are worth listening to and acknowledging.
You have limits. They are necessary to keep in place as a means of valuing your time and honoring your health.
You have dreams. You are worthy of time to pursue what makes your heart come alive.
You have needs. You deserve affection, rest, sustenance, and grace.
Perhaps you forgot that it is necessary to look after YOU. It’s okay. I forget too. But we still have today. Thank God, we still have today.Today let’s tend to ourselves as we do our loved ones. Perhaps we can make it a habit. We’ll never know how much we can grow and flourish until we take time to tend to what is most precious.
***Negative behaviours in your children are often a direct result of your own emotions. Emotions your children feel, cannot understand, but simply react to. If you’d like to reduce the effects of your emotions on your children, please contact me for a FREE Consultation.
This post was written by Molly Kathleen. Thank you Molly for articulating this in a way that I couldn’t. This is powerful, raw, and direct.
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