Friday, July 18, 2014

Consciously Navigating Media in Our Families

“I'm trying to find my balance with electronics…. I am posting this here because I have posted this in other places and the responses have ranged from too much, too little, sell it all, get more electronics, etc. I want to find what works for us, realizing it's ok if it doesn't work for everyone…. Does anyone else struggle to find this balance? If you've found it, how did you find what eventually worked for your family?”

It all started with this post from a mom of two young boys in my I Heart Parenting communityThe responses among my very conscious families on I Heart Parenting were as varied as the families in the group. Some aren’t limiting electronics at all, while others are severely limiting them and several families in between.  One family realized that it was they, the parents, who were having trouble limiting themselves, so they drastically reduced their own electronics time for starters.


When I posted a question about how families handle media on my personal Facebook page, I was greeted with equally diverse answers and a couple of private messages sharing what they do in their families and why.

Could it be more complicated?

Possibly.

Start adding in the research about it and it is likely that you’ll end up being more clear about what you don’t want (which may be polar opposites) and less clear about how to get where you want to be.

I have my own challenges in the area of media. After following a limited media approach for early and middle childhood, we're exploring more flexibility now and are running into some challenges here, too. I really resonated with the question, too. I decided to reach out to some of my colleagues and see what they do in their families and what they suggest to the families they support, given their knowledge of the research and their focus on creating connection and putting the relationship first. How do they navigate this?

Despite the wide range of answers to the question from my colleagues, I heard all of these parents putting the relationship first. Most talked about having many open conversations with their child or children about media use, how they feel when they watch certain things, empowering them to make their own decisions in what they felt were age-appropriate ways, and support the child when they were struggling in some way because of media.

So many parts of parenting  are somewhat timeless. Unlike bedtimes, sleeping arrangements, food, and other common parenting issues, we have no template for what to do with media, whether it worked for our parents or not.  In other aspects of parenting, we decide whether or not we need to repeat what was done with us or decide whether we’d like to do them differently with our children. (Or just repeating by default, of course. Always an option.)   It’s a little more challenging to feel our way through media because we don’t have anything to compare it to in our own lives as children.


When I was growing up, we didn’t have cable. The only electronic games we could play were Simon (remember that one?) and the early Atari games on our black and white console television. There is a bit more fear here for many of us just because this is uncharted territory for us. We didn’t grow up with Internet, let alone pocket sized computers we carry with us 24/7.  We probably didn’t get our first smart phone until we were in our late 20’s or 30’s or even later, so what does our teen need to find her way through? We’re still trying to figure this out for ourselves and we’re supposed to be guiding our children through this at the same time. This is another situation where we’re learning to ride the bicycle while we’re building it.

So how do we figure out what’s going to work best in our family? How do we know what’s right? How can we balance our intuition and our fears that may or may not be logical and rational? How can we support our children to grow up to be emotionally healthy adults who know how to have a face-to-face relationship with other people in this world where so many of their interactions are happening virtually? How can we help them find their own balance with media use? How can we find it ourselves?

As I look at this issue, I realize that it warrants a much bigger discussion than a simple blog post.  I’m going to write a series of articles over the next few weeks and months, and have some conversations with colleagues about this subject to give you some food for thought as you find your own path through this jungle so that you can stay connected to your children while you’re guiding them, which is what I think we all want. This week, we’re beginning by exploring the topic and recognizing the challenges here. Next week, we’ll be looking at limiting our children’s media exposure as a path. The following week, we’ll be looking at not putting overt limits on media. The last week, we’ll be exploring how to find your own way through each developmental phase to something that works for you and your family.

We’ll begin next Tuesday, July 22 with a conversation with my friend and colleague, Erika Elmuts of www.consciousparents.org as we kick off this discussion.

Erika Elmuts, Conscious Parents.org

Please feel free to write your own media related questions in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer them on the call. If you’d like to join us, here’s a link to sign up. Even if you can’t join us live, by signing up we can send you the recording and you’ll hear about additional calls as they’re added to the calendar. I hope you’ll join in this very important discussion, whether you’ve figured out what works for your family (and I hope you’ll share your secrets) or if you’re still trying to figure it out!



Friday, June 13, 2014

It's Never Too Late to Connect


Reader's Question: "I am a 62 yr old grandmother, and my 3 yr old granddaughter loves being with me. I wasn't well-mothered or grand-mothered, and was ill-prepared to be a mother or grandmother myself. My husband and I made many mistakes raising our son, who rebelled at sixteen, left home during his senior year, and at 37, is struggling with drugs and alcohol to this day. His daughter is a precious, loving little girl. I want to respect and understand what she feels and be fully present with her, and don't want to repeat the mistakes I made with her Daddy. I'm especially concerned about how to control my temper and patiently guide her when she makes mistakes, as we all do. Where do I begin? I feel so inadequate."


A: I really appreciate that you brought up this question. I hear that you are really working hard to be a loving and connected grandmother to your granddaughter, but that you're feeling like you don't really have the tools or know how to start. And honestly, this is the place you begin. Identifying that you are learning and knowing what you want for your relationship with her are paramount to making the changes you'd like to make. You can't move forward without that. 

That said, as you pay attention to your own process and your own journey, just begin by acknowledging when you don't handle something the way you wanted with her. You're repairing the relationship, which helps you both, but you're also modeling for her what to do when she makes a mistake. Begin with "I'm so sorry that I lost my patience (or whatever it is that you're acknowledging). Let's try that again." And you can back up or rewind like an old tape (literally, if you'd like, as silliness can really help break our own tension and the tension between us) and do it again the way you wanted to do it. We ALL have those moments and we often think that we're just totally messing things up. But what I have come to realize is that those moments when we "mess up" and then reconnect create a very strong glue in our relationships.

Sometimes you may not know what you could have done differently in the moment. Sit with it and ask the question, "What could I do in that moment to CONNECT?" Practice it in your mind. It really helps. Your mind doesn't know the difference between something that you're imagining and something that is happening, so it is a PERFECT place to practice the way you'd like to do things.

Patience is challenging for all parents. Begin just by being aware of yourself and how you're feeling. Give yourself the space to step away when you're losing patience and breathe. Do something that is nourishing to you- go outside, sing, play some music, dance- with or without your granddaughter. Own it. "I need to do something different for a few minutes so I can really be with you and have fun." And then let her know what you need. If you can shift the energy together, then invite her along. If you need relief for a few minutes, give that to yourself.

I want to acknowledge the relationship that you have now with your son and the difficulty I am hearing he is having in his life to this day. The best thing you can do is to forgive yourself, knowing you did the best you could at the time with the information and support you had when he was growing up. He's an adult now and he's on his own path. As you learn to connect in new ways with your granddaughter, it might surprise you that you see new ways that you can connect with him, as well, if he's open to it.

By the way, I LOVE hearing that your granddaughter LOVES being with you. That says a lot about your connection already. Remember that now.

 Rebecca Thompson, MS

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Creating a Family Life that Works for YOU!

Last week, I was kind of stressed out. OK, I was more than a little stressed. Our family wasn't working well- not the way I wanted it to, anyway. My work time was getting squished, bedtimes were getting later and later, I wasn't getting enough sleep... (maybe you've had a similar experience??)
 
I wasn't happy. I was getting short with my kids because I was frustrated. My to-do list was long, but so was the time it was taking to get out the door to school in the morning. My nights and my work time were short. And every delay for bedtime was driving me up the wall! I didn't have the patience. My needs weren't being met.
 
In the past, I might have just started yelling. I might have resorted to consequences. I might have wanted my child to feel the same discomfort I was experiencing. It probably wouldn't have been pretty.
 
But I've been doing this consciously parenting thing for a while. Not perfectly. But I know that I handle things much better than I used to most of the time. I know that things go better when I find a way to connect before I make a request or correct my sons. I know that if I can respect their needs and mine, too, that things go much better for everyone. I also know that the moment when I'm upset about something isn't the moment to try to have a logical conversation with my boys (or really anyone else, for that matter).
 
My 10 year-old and I had a conversation and worked out a solution that met my needs and also met his. He was able to hear what was going on for me and my frustrations (we've been doing this for a while) and I was able to hear what he needed, too.
 
The next day after a dramatically easier bedtime and a great morning send-off to school, I was sitting in my office chair smiling. I had somehow managed to meet my needs without disrespecting my son's needs. And now I could do the work I really needed to do. Beautiful.
 
I found myself thinking about all the parents who have felt like me- when things aren't working in a way that feels good to you. And when it doesn't feel good to you, it doesn't feel good to your family, either. And that means it isn't working for them, either. If you're like me and you're wanting to parent consciously and peacefully with respect, that can be really challenging if you don't have the tools to do so. I know I didn't have them for many years and felt so frustrated!
 
Last week, I had a mom contact me because her 4 year-old daughter was hitting her. This was clearly not working for mom! Mom didn't want to react negatively, so she was just trying to ignore the behavior until she figured out what to do. She would rather do nothing than something that was going to be really disrespectful (like hitting her or yelling at her).
 
I'm guessing that you probably have felt this way about something in your parenting life. What is it? I want to talk about these things with you and other parents around the globe who are striving to parent consciously, but aren't sure how to get to a place of balance in the family in respectful ways.
 
So you're invited to my upcoming webinar / call: Creating a Family Life that Works for YOU. I'm going to be answering YOUR questions.

 
Would you like to join us? Sign up here.
 
The call will be held on Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 8pm eastern. Please sign up even if you can't attend live. We'll be recording this call and will send out a recording once the call is over (and all the technical miracles have happened to put it on a page where you can listen to it... magic, I tell you...).
 
What are your biggest challenges getting in the way of creating a family life that works for you? And for your family? I had an image of the way I wanted things to be in my family and then I had the way things actually were... and I wasn't sure how to get there from where I was. It didn't happen overnight, but I found the baby steps I needed to take to begin to move in the direction I wanted to go. Baby step after baby step. Steps backwards and sideways, but I finally realized that I was just dancing and there was nothing actually wrong.
 
Come join us as we explore ways you can begin to make your own baby steps from wherever you are right now.
 
 
Looking forward to hearing what's going on for you and having you be a part of our call!

Warmly,
Rebecca
 
Rebecca Signature.jpg

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Healing on Mother's Day


Mother’s Day 2014

There is so much of each person’s story that comes up on Mother’s Day. As I scrolled through my Facebook feed today, I was really struck by the glimpses of my friends’ stories about their mothers and mother figures in their lives. From the charming pictures of my friends with their own children to the heartbreak of my friend whose mother is under hospice care and hasn’t woken up today (but has been very peacefully sleeping with loved ones nearby), it is clear that mothers and mothering strikes a deep chord for nearly everyone I know.

Me and my boys last summer
Some highlighted their own mothers, living or no longer with them, with loving tributes along with touching pictures. Others focused on their own journey as a mother, sharing pictures with their own children now or when their children were small.  Some shared multigenerational pictures with their own mother and their children together. (Those were so fun for me to see the familial resemblance and so many mothers who look like their mothers!)

This day means something different for everyone and we can really touch upon our own story of being a mother (if we are one), having a mother (which we all have, some of us having many mothers and mother figures in our lives), or our mothering losses (including needs unmet, the loss of children, being unable to conceive, the loss of our mother, disconnections in our relationship with our mother past or present). The events and circumstances in our lives that we are not complete with around our mother and mothering are bound to show up on this day for us.

Regardless of what story may be showing up for us today, what is most important for us is to nurture ourselves. I believe more than anything that this is a perfect opportunity for us to ask ourselves what we need and then ask others for support in meeting those needs. If you are sad and grieving losses today, ask for space or for connection. If it feels true to you, spend time writing your story, to share or not share, but write it for yourself. Maybe you find yourself feeling angry for your mothering losses. Create space for that and write or share with a friend or loved one. Perhaps you feel overjoyed and grateful for the love you’ve been given and the connection you share with your children. Share that, too. Write it down. Remember and cherish these moments.

Whatever you’re feeling is more than OK. It is necessary and will point you toward the direction of your own wholeness.

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to work with a family with a child who had been adopted shortly after birth. This particular year, instead of being happy on Mother’s Day, Sarah was sad. Sarah’s parents, who were quite aware of their daughter, didn’t take it offensively, but were curious about why she was feeling sad on this particular day. At 8 years old, Sarah was able to articulate that she was thinking about her birth mother and wondered if her birth mother was alone on this day. Sarah had a family and a mother, but there was someone else who was on her heart. Her mother realized this was an opening to help her daughter to heal a bit more of her own story. She listened to her daughter share what was on her heart then together they decided to light a candle to remember her birth mother on this special day. A lightness came back into her daughter as they lit the candle together. Mother and daughter were able to celebrate the day with a renewed appreciation for each other.

Tips for Mother’s Day Healing

-Whatever you are feeling today is right and perfect.

-Those feelings will point you in the direction of healing parts of your story that need a little love balm. This is true of you, your partner, and your kiddos.

-Make space for those feelings by writing or sharing with someone else who can just listen to what you need to say.

-Find a way to let it go. Here are some ideas to help you:

Release it by writing words on a balloon or a sky lantern (I like these best because they are      100% biodegradable) and watch them sail away into the sky.

Write words on paper and tear them up or burn them (safely, of course).

Sky lantern
Light a candle to remember someone.

Say a prayer.

Meditate.

Go for a walk and allow the energy to move through your body.

Take a nap.

Sing.

Create something.

Tell stories with your loved ones.


Do what calls to you to help you move through the energy around this day. Listen to your own internal guidance. You know what you need to do.

Wishing you many blessings today and always.

Warmly,
Rebecca

P.S. If you enjoyed this post, please share it with your friends! If you'd like more, make sure you sign up for our newsletter here. We have so much great stuff coming up this year and I don't want you to miss it!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

New Beginnings

Welcome to my blog! I've been writing here intermittently for the past several years since the IT guy I consulted (who I happened to have nannied when he was small- ugh!) suggested that blogging was just like journaling in public. I like to write, so it seemed like a good fit. He held my hand and told me how to get it all set up (thanks, Matt!) and my blog was born.

I've had some good runs with my blog and I've been able to write about many topics that are near and dear to my heart. Unfortunately, I've neglected it for a little while.

It isn't that I haven't wanted to write. It's that sometimes life is complicated and perhaps we need some time to just pull inward while the storms pass. And so I did. The picture on the bottom of this post is from last year taken by a friend. It's a picture of me taking a picture of the sunset with my phone, which I did every night. You see, every night for a year, I went down to the seawall (I live in Florida near the Gulf of Mexico) to watch the sun set. We called it "Seawall Therapy" and it surely was. I highly recommend this sort of ritual for general sanity. Imagine if the whole world slowed down to watch the sunset every night... even without the seawall.

Now that the air is clearing and I have a whole year of sunsets under my belt, I have more space to step into new beginnings. I'm going to be writing more regularly again with a whole new set of topics to educate, inspire, and support your parenting journey. I'll be having guest bloggers join me from time to time to share their unique perspectives on finding their own way.

I'd love to hear if there is something specific you'd like me to write about, too. This is OUR blog and we're co-creating it, much like the parenting journey. We can't do this alone and we all have our own story and our own voice. Together, those voices form a chorus. :-) If you have a story you'd like to share, let me know! We'll be posting more details about our plans soon. In the meantime, happy parenting!

Warmly,
Rebecca
Me at Seawall Therapy, 2013. Taken by a friend and her iPhone.





Friday, July 12, 2013

When the Unexpected Happens

Life often throws unexpected things into our path and we get to decide how we handle them. We don't always get to choose what we will face, but we do have a choice about what we do next.

This past year has been really rough for me in many ways. Though I separated from my husband and we have both moved on with our own lives, and even though things have been quite unexpectedly adversarial between us, I still care about him and want the best for him. Even though some of his choices have made things harder for me, maybe that's all part of the way it needs to be for me to step more fully into who I am on this journey. But let me be honest here- it has been really rough.

He hasn't been well. Not for a while. I went through my own personal challenges with my own health over the previous months. It seems health issues are a common experience for most people who are going through a separation and divorce. I'm finally feeling almost back to myself, but things have taken an unexpected turn for Ryan.

Long story short, about two weeks ago, Ryan was in cardiac ICU with a severe systemic infection, damage to his heart valves and awaiting open heart surgery. We didn't really know what the outcome would ultimately be, but I definitely found myself in an unexpected place. I couldn't have imagined I would be here in a million years, but here I am. It was heart-wrenching and completely discombobulating. Suddenly everything I thought was a given wasn't. I didn't know what would happen next, but I knew that it was time for me to step up and take good care of my boys in the midst of the uncertainty. I knew I couldn't change what was happening with their father, but I could be there for them. I could make sure that their needs were met, that there was room for their feelings, and that they were surrounded by lots of people who love them.

As I was wandering around my kitchen trying to get breakfast at 4pm a few days ago, my head spinning with so many unknowns and unanswered questions, I remembered that I taught a series entitled When the Unexpected Happens a couple of summers ago. In it, I talked about the importance of meeting our own needs and taking care of ourselves when something unexpected happens so that we can take care of and support our children. (In other words, I probably need to eat breakfast before 4pm...)

I needed to listen to it again and I figured that there are probably many of you reading this who probably do, too. So I asked my amazing assistant, Lianne, to put it up on a special page so that you can go in and listen to it for free all weekend beginning Friday, July 12 and ending Sunday, July 14. If you're so moved, there's also an invitation to purchase the whole series at a big discount. It is a gift to you and it will also gift my family to help me put gas in my car and food in my children's bellies during this big transition for us all.

Unexpected things don't have to be in the form of a major health crisis. Losing a job, a birth that becomes traumatic or doesn't go the way you'd planned, a death in the family, separation or divorce, or really any other major life stressor that you didn't anticipate. Have a listen and see what you think.

Visit this page and you can sign up for free listening, and we'll send you a link to the page where you can listen to all the audios. Please share with anyone who might also need this resource.

Update: Ryan had open heart surgery on Wednesday, July 3, 2013 and had his heart valve replaced. While he is recovering well after such a big procedure, there are still lots of unknowns. Thanks for positive thoughts and prayers, if you're so moved. He has a long recovery ahead.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Nurturing Connection Pre-Order Open!!

I've been threatening to publish this book for months now, but I'm actually going to do it. We always know we're close to publishing when my friend's daughter, Alexa, models the book for us. This time, she's modeling it for us wearing a princess cape. Perfect.

Nurturing Connection is really about those moments when we or our children are on a yellow light. It's the fork in the road. How do we navigate those moments so that our relationships end up intact? Nurturing Connection is what that's all about. Those moments of emotional upsets can be the ones where we come unglued OR they can be the ones that pull us together as a family.

Anyone who has ever experienced a really rough patch knows that relationships either get closer or further apart when something is difficult. How do we do harness those moments at the fork in the road with our children? How do we take the every day moments of parenting and find ways to connect?

You can read more about my new book, including viewing the table of contents, here. This is also where you go to purchase it. We've got some great pre-order specials going until Monday, May 27. This is how we, as a small publishing company, fund the printing, so your pre-orders really do matter. Buy one for yourself, one for a friend, and one to share for great discounts. All purchases of paperback books will get you a PDF version of the book as soon as we finalize it next week. :-)

In the meantime, here's a sneak peek at the Introduction to the book.

Introduction of Nurturing Connection
"Deepak Chopra spoke powerful words when he said, “Love without action is meaningless and action without love is irrelevant.” I believe this speaks deeply to what nurturing connected families is all about and what we all want when we become parents. We need to realize that we convey our love, or lack thereof, in everything we do with our children and our partner. Nurturing connection is about finding ways to demonstrate love through our actions, as well as our way of being with one another.

Nurturing our relationship with our children is the heart and soul of consciously parenting. Nurturing relationships, once they are established, is really an art. It is about remembering that our children’s need for connection is a primary factor in most of their behavior. It is about recognizing that, in every parenting situation, we have choices about how we respond to our children and their behaviors. It is about seeing every parenting situation as an opportunity to create connection or disconnection. It is about looking at our everyday parenting situations and beginning to see how we can choose connection. It is also about being able to admit when something didn’t go as planned, to forgive ourselves for not always being the parents we hope to be, and to forgive our children for not always being the children we hope they’d be.

When parenting situations challenge us, how we handle them can create connection or disconnection in our relationship with our children. We can imagine these situations as forks in the road; there is one road sign, going off to the left, that says, “Connection” and another, going off to the right, that says, “Disconnection.” At the fork, where the roads meet up, we have choices, and the decisions we make can mean the difference between peace and struggle, not only in that moment, but also in the relationship as a whole. It is through these smaller, moment-to-moment decisions that the stage is set and we and our children move closer together or further apart.

Most of our parenting information leads us further away from connection in the name of “teaching” our children what is right and wrong. In my own home growing up, I saw how parenting focused on behavior change alone led to more disconnection and the need for relationship repair. The advice given by “professionals” and implemented by my parents created a greater level of disconnection and chaos within my family. Parents need to teach their children appropriate behaviors, but they don’t need to do so at the expense of the relationship.

Children who feel connected to you will want to please you—and they will. If they aren’t acting in a way that is acceptable to you, there is something going on with them or something going on with you, and they’re reacting to your energy or what is going on with your connection. The first of consciously parenting’s eight guiding principles says, “All behavior is communication.” When we are aware of what is going on beneath the surface, beneath the behavior—such as emotional regulation or dysregulation, unmet needs, or unresolved traumas—we can respond in a loving way rather than just reacting to the child’s behavior. And responding lovingly nurtures the relationship.

We need our children to have a strong relationship with us so that they can trust that we’ll be there for them when they need us. And they really do need us. Behavior-focused parenting information uses pain, fear, punishment, isolation, shame, and coercion to manage our child’s negative behavior. When we dole out punishments or focus on the behavior, our children learn that they cannot come to us. Instead, they seek out information and support from their peers—those with only a limited number of years on the planet and limited long-term decision-making skills. Relationship-focused parenting teaches our children to calm themselves down by reaching out to us when they’re stressed. It teaches our children to come to us, the parents, to be supported through challenges and when they are having a hard time.

Whether we were parenting consciously from the beginning of our children’s lives or we have worked hard to create more connection with our growing children, we need to understand that love and respect are co-created in a relationship. This idea can be challenging for us as parents, because most parenting information suggests that parenting is about the adult drawing the line in the sand and the child submitting. Many parents struggle with the expectation that their children just need to “do as I say when I say to do it.” That method of parenting is about control. But control isn’t co-creation; controlling your children isn’t nurturing, nor is it realistic in a healthy relationship. This doesn’t mean that your child doesn’t have to do what you ask or that your own needs don’t matter, especially as your children grow older. But when we stop and respect our children and their needs, as well as our own, we are modeling respectful, nurturing behaviors.

It is the day-to-day experiences we have as parents that determine whether our children learn appropriate behavior or not, whether our children learn to regulate their behavior and emotions or not, and whether we live in a peaceful environment where everyone respects everyone else’s needs or not. It is our choice whether or not our children learn these things. If we are mindful of our parenting choices, we can create the family we want to have. Many times, we just are not aware that we have choices. Learning what those choices are is what this book is all about.

We’ll look at common parenting situations with children of different ages and stages of development, and we’ll discuss behavior-focused parenting strategies, which are what we normally see in our society, followed by a relationship-focused approach. The more that you are able to see examples of this paradigm shift, the more you will be able to apply it to your own parenting situations and circumstances.

Please note that nurturing relationships doesn’t mean that if we don’t always make the best choice, we will have somehow failed as parents.


We’re going to have times where we end up creating disconnection because we’re running on autopilot and parenting according to old road maps from our childhood. Nurturing relationships means that when we do make a mistake, we set it right and find ways to reconnect with our children, to prevent the need to totally repair the relationship. A pilot friend shared the example of how just a slight shift in the course set early in the flight can mean the difference between arriving at the destination and ending up in a different country. When we make small course shifts early in our parenting, it avoids the need for much larger or radical repair to our relationship later.

We’ll also talk about how we can meet our children’s connection needs and nurture the relationship when we are so busy. We always have places to go, things to do, email to check, TV to watch. We have laundry that never ends and dinners, lunches, and breakfasts that need to be planned and prepared. And many of us also hold down jobs outside the home. Since we clearly don’t live in a simple world, we need to make our personal world simpler for the benefit of our families and our children—and ourselves. Even if we can’t slow things down all the way, we can find ways to simplify and find ways to create a community of support around us.

Pam Leo points out in her book Connection Parenting, “We can either meet children’s need for connection or we can spend our time dealing with the unmet need behaviors. Either way, we spend the time.” When we can nurture our relationship with our children on a daily basis, going out of our way to create connection, everything is easier, and parenting is much more enjoyable."