Care for yourself to care for your child
Planning the curriculum for my preparation for parenting course is requiring all of my passion & skill! It is definitely putting me in that flow place which exists on the edge of my comfort zone. The intensity of the responsibility of wanting to prepare people to be good parents within a culturescape which sadly doesn’t adequately support it – see last week’s post for some theories on why!
My initial thought was that the course would have a self care component & a practical component which deals with the job of parenting. The deeper I get into the material the more I realise these things don’t really come apart in a way which yields satisfactory results. As a parent YOU are your child’s primary resource. When you are feeling well; joyous, energised, well supported parenting becomes an inspired sort of improv jam between you & your child. It’s a bit like when you’re feeling your best social self at a party & conversations flow easily, as opposed to those days when you feel anxious, self conscious, out of sorts & conversations become stilted & awkward.
Self regulation as a key skill
As parents our role is to help our offspring to regulate their state satisfactorily until they can do so themselves. Soothing them, entertaining them, providing the comfort of a warm body, making sure they are warm, clean & fed. When we are unable to effectively regulate our own state, if we are over worked, under supported or just plain isolated very quickly our well being begins to suffer. Our anger rises closer to the surface or we become withdrawn & depressed. Us being out of flow has implications for our child’s well being, not just in overt ways when we raise our voices but in subtle ways if we withdraw into ourselves & become less responsive to our child’s needs. To a sensitive & immature being this can be interpreted as rejection, internalised as “my needs are not important”, it can result in the child exhibiting protest behaviour or worse giving up.
In a culture where self sacrifice is subtlety valued & the work we do as parents isn’t it actually takes a lot of courage & discipline to fully take care of ourselves & not continually & subtly undermine our own needs. I would love to help nurture & guide a different way of being where we support each other to make wellness a priority. I love Brene Brown’s research on the world’s most compassionate people, apparently the single trait shared by all of them is cast iron boundaries! If we protect ourselves with clear boundaries we protect others from the more negative sides of our character which tend to emerge when we are under resourced.
For me this journey started when living in an NVC focused house where feelings and needs where actively talked about. My initial reaction was “you mean I have needs?” I was so disconnected from this notion! Gradually I have become better at understanding my needs and therefore where my boundaries need to be although setting them can still be a challenge for me as a reformed people pleaser! My wish is for a world where we can slow down, stop & tune in. If I can take care of me I can take care of you & maybe even live in a way which is more attuned with the planet.
I’d like to talk next time about how polishing our self care practices links in with John Gottman’s emotional coaching approach to parenting.