Updated: May 31, 2020
My worst fear is that I am not a good enough parent.
This is probably why I am a Family Happiness Coach, coaching children and parents and working with teachers and schools as a consultant. I want to help everyone to be happier. This quest to be the best parent I could be, started when I had my first born 17 years ago. I didn’t want him to experience depression like I did in my 20’s. I wanted to protect him from that, like any parent would. Only I didn’t have the tools, so I set about acquiring them. I read up on positive psychology and neuroscience, trained myself up and went on various courses.
As a teacher, I shared all I knew with fellow colleagues and ran parent workshops, passing on what I had learned, in an attempt to immunise every child I came across against mental health problems. I also wanted to help parents feel they were ‘enough’, to help them in the struggles that I understood. I still have that mission today. Only now, I get to work deeper, faster and with more families and schools around the country. You could say, I am living my dream. My purpose.
So fast forward and here we are trying to parent in a pressure cooker. Time is short, goodness knows you have more dishes to wash, so I will get to the point. I want to help; it is my raison d’etre, after all. I have done my best to slim down 5 insights that I think could help you enjoy the parenting journey more in lockdown.
Insights will not have an impact unless you turn them into action, so I have added some suggested activities below each point if they resonate with you. Parenting is your biggest life lesson. It is through parenting that you evolve the most.
"Parenting is your biggest life lesson. It is through parenting that you evolve the most"
Insight One – Be in your joy
Parenting can be tough. Add lockdown and a dozen other pressures into the mix and the pressure cooker could blow. So the absolute priority as a parent is to be IN your joy, daily. Being in your joy means appreciating or doing something that brings you joy, lights you up inside, you feel a sense of gratitude and where you may even lose track of time. It energises you. This is not just numbing behaviour like consuming excesses, such as wine and chocolate, although that can be part of it. It is not distraction techniques like endless Netflix watching or over exercising. And it is not just self-care. Self-care can be like putting a plaster on a wound. It slips off. Being in your joy is deeper than that. When you are daily in your joy your positive energy rises, you vibrate at a higher level and you radiate a different energy which others pick up on. So not only are you in a better mood, it puts everyone else in a better mood too and best of all, it improves your immune system. So being in your joy is not selfish. Quite the opposite. It is the selfless thing to do. It benefits everybody.
The thing is, we can be so busy in our ‘doing’ that we put joy at the bottom of the list. We can feel a sense of constant duty and if we are ‘lucky’, collapse at the end of the day to ½ hr of Netflix. But if you do not find inner joy each day then the day is harder and you can be hard to live with. Your kids pick up on that.
What brings me joy is different to what brings you joy. For me it is being amongst trees and nature, wind and rain (lucky that, as I’m British!). It is eating around the table as a family and having a lovely plant on my kitchen table, bringing the outside inside. It is eating rainbow coloured foods and cooking for my kids (something I did rarely, and if I did, it was begrudgingly before lockdown). I find joy when I put berries in their vibrant juice over yoghurt for breakfast and see all the colours mix in. I love that, it starts my day with a warm ooush. I have found joy in sorting and even dare I admit, labelling (!) my pan drawers. And also (it’s all coming out now) getting an old toothbrush and cleaning the gunk that collects around the bathroom taps. These things bring me joy because they are in line with my context and roles as wife and mother. So look to find what gets you in your joy.
"So being in your joy is not selfish. Quite the opposite. It is the selfless thing to do. It benefits everybody"
Suggested Activity: Sit with a piece of blank paper and draw yourself as a stick figure in the middle. Around it, write and draw pictures if you like, of all the things that can bring you joy in your home, work and personal life. Dig deep and think simple. It is often not ‘stuff’, but more experiences. This is about your vibration. This about feeding your soul essence.
Insight two - Let go of expectations
Let go of expectations. Full stop. That’s it.
Let go of expectations of how people should be and how things should turn out. But also of yourself. As humans we want certainty. We want control. Only there is none. And the workings of our inner minds can’t cope with that because survival is the name of the game. The crazy thing is, we would thrive more than survive, if we just let go of our desire to control and let what is going to unfold, unfold. Expectations stop you appreciating the present moment. They put you into a made up imaginary future. It reduces the NOW. And all you have is now.
So let go of the expectations you place on your children, the need to control how you think they ‘should’ be. Guide them, inspire the, encourage them, coach them, support them but do not push. Stand back and observe, let them blossom before your eyes. Because unmet expectations only leave us with disappointment. How often have you walked into your child’s room or looked at their work or what they have done, only for disappointment to wash over you, as the sight you are confronted with, does not match the image in your mind. That negative energy leaks out. Everything you think leaks out of you, so as a parent you create the weather. This is super powerful. So what do you want your child to feel? Good enough or a disappointment? You create the weather for the day.
"Stand back and observe, let them blossom before your eyes"
Suggested activity: Write on a post it note ‘Let go of expectations’ and look at it each morning and night, visualising what that might look like as you interact with your children or other family members. See in your mind’s eye the interactions flowing more. See yourself as you relax more. Have a mantra as you wake if you like, something like ‘Everything is going to be ok.’ Set the tone from the start. And see what unfolds.
Insight three – Dig below the surface
You never knew just how much you could get frustrated or be pushed to the limit until you had children. Our children can trigger us. They know the buttons to press. The thing is, it is not them that is triggering us. It is US who is triggering us. And we need to look at why that is and look at what lies beneath the surface. Let me give you an example. Not so long ago, my 12 year old was asked to clean the work surfaces. I gave him the dishcloth and he threw it back with such disgust on his face saying, in the Scousest of accents, “Eee…scatty!” I flipped. I went from nought to 90 and started shouting at him. I screamed at how selfish he was, how unhelpful he was and how he needed to get over the disgust at holding a dish cloth! Now, my son knows, when I get angry I choose that response. It doesn’t mean anything about him, it is not because of him and he didn’t make me angry. (Big lesson to teach your children, but that is another blog ;-) )
He’s learned to ask me what is below the anger when I blow. So when I stopped to look, I realised that it was because I had fast forwarded to a made up future and had catastrophised that I had raised a spoiled, selfish son (all my fault, what a bad mother I was) and that he would end up getting divorced because his wife would get sick of his laziness and go on to have a miserable life. All that from a dishcloth. My fear of not being a good enough mother and fear for his future had made me overreact massively. My outburst was all about me and not about him. It so often is.
"My fear of not being a good enough mother and fear for his future had made me overreact massively"
Suggested activity: Take a look at what irritates you about your children. Then dig below the surface. Follow it back and unpick what is the fear and what it is that you need to look at and pull apart and makes sense of. Remember, we parent out of love and fear. Love because we would give our life for them, fear because what if we don’t keep them safe, and provide them with all they need for the big scary world out there. So look. Is it love or fear that is triggering you?
Insight four - Step into their world
Apparently, Roald Dahl once told an interviewer that adults should get down on their hand and knees for a week, in order to remember what it feels like to live in a world where all the power lives with people who loom over you. He had a point. We do live in a different world to children.
So that is what I advise you to do. Stop trying to get your child to step into your world, step into theirs. Of course they do not care about picking their shoes up, they just want ice-cream. Of course they do not want to make their bed they just want to roll out of it. Of course they do not see the need to pick a towel up off the floor, they are ready to start their day. Of course they want to play on a screen, they just want to do what they see makes them feel good. It all makes sense when you stop and look at it. So rather than bash your head against a kitchen cupboard door, think what would it be like to live in their world and go and hang out there with them. Seek first to understand.
To give you an example, my 12 year old moves round the house leaving drawers, cupboard doors, garage doors, freezer doors any door you can think of, open – even the front door. It used to frustrate me until one day I realised how lovely it must be to live in a world of openness. He doesn’t see the need to close stuff, as his mind is already ono the next fun thing to do. My world need doors and drawers closed. Who is to say that my world is the right one to live in? Once I stopped getting frustrated, the energy around it all changed. He still leaves doors open but now I just laugh at it.
"Adults should get down on their hand and knees for a week, in order to remember what it feels like to live in a world where all the power lives with people who loom over you"
Suggested Activity: Take five minutes out with a cuppa and sit and put yourself in the shoes, body and general being-ness of your child. Go through the day as if you were them. Think what the world and events must look like for them. Then go and meet them in that world for a bit. See how your connection improves.
Insight five – It is the relationship that counts
That’s it. In a nutshell. Your relationship with your child is the top priority. On your death bed you won’t wish that you had insisted that they put away their shoes in the hall more, tidied their bedrooms better, eaten that veg or cleaned up after themselves. And you definitely won’t wish that they had done more school work in lockdown (age appropriate obviously). You are not their teacher, you are their parent, so do not ever try to be. As a teacher I learned that long ago. Your children want you to parent. Not teach. No. You will want to know that you connected with your child as fully as you could. That you did your best. And you led with love. You will want to look back at The Great Revelation of 2020, when the world stopped and you could get off the merry go round, that you lived in the now and made the moments count, not worried about the ‘what ifs’ of the future.
"You will want to look back at The Great Revelation of 2020, when the world stopped and you could get off the merry go round, that you lived in the now and made the moments count, not worried about the ‘what ifs’ of the future"
Suggested Activity: Imagine yourself at the end of your life sat in a rocking chair with a blanket over your lap, reminiscing. Then visualise how you want to look back on your parenting journey. How you want to feel inside when you think of your children. How you want your children to feel about themselves and how you want them to feel about you. With that in mind, consciously BE who you need to be, to make that happen.
"Imagine yourself at the end of your life sat in a rocking chair with a blanket over your lap, reminiscing"
This lockdown will end and this time will be gone forever. Wouldn’t it be lovely if you saw this time as a gift to deepen your relationship with your children and yourself. What if, just suppose, that this time meant that your child had an advantage, not a disadvantage, in not being at school for a few months. What would that look like? And what would that do to the way you parent?
Lead with love. Not fear. And be IN your joy.
I’ll see you on the other side ;-)
Family Happiness Coach, Educational Consultant, Keynote speaker