Wednesday, October 29, 2014

"I'm here to bring hope," said my 10 year-old

I spent the weekend thinking deeply about my life’s purpose, immersed in Oprah’s Live the Life You Want weekend in Miami. I came home and was sharing some of my experiences with a friend on the phone when I noticed my son was listening intently. He’ll be 11 next month and has always been a deep and sensitive soul, especially with me.  

I was sharing that Oprah began with the words, “Why are you here? What are you here to do in this life?”

My son looked into my eyes and said, “I know why I’m here.”

I stopped my conversation. That’s the kind of thing that completely gets your full attention as a parent.  I paused and said, “You do? Tell me why you are here.”

“I’m here to bring hope.”

 My heart swelled. What a statement for anyone, let alone a 10 year-old. I waited and he continued.

“When Jacob died, you needed hope. And when I was born, I gave you hope. So I know I’m here to bring hope.”

He was right.  He was conceived 5 months after my baby, Jacob, had died from a fatal birth defect. I was ready to try again and I felt confident that things would be ok this time around, yet I was still grieving. My whole world was shaken to the core. I didn’t know how anyone could really recover from such a loss. I felt like there would always be a giant gaping hole in my heart that would never be better. I continued to do my own work before and during (and well after) the pregnancy with him, but he certainly grew in the sadness I was experiencing, along with the waves of fear that things might not be all right.

We’ve talked about his birth. We’ve talked about the baby brother he never knew who came before him.  We’ve talked about how much I wanted to have him and how loved he was and always will be. But I had forgotten the story I had told him about hope. But he hadn’t.

I believe it was Oprah this weekend who said, “Hope is the simple belief that things can change. Despair is that tomorrow will be another version of today.”

I needed things to change. I needed to believe my body could have a healthy baby. I needed to know in my heart that I wouldn’t always be shrouded in a cloud of grief. I needed to see the beauty in every day moments. Honestly, it would have been easy to just have thrown my hands up in the air, curled into a ball and never look up again- except that I had another child already, a little boy who was 3 1/2 who needed me. And so I got up and made breakfast instead of staying in bed on those cold Indiana winter days while it rained or snowed or was just dark and grey outside. And, true to my nature, I searched for answers so that tomorrow wouldn’t be the same as today.

These moments always contain choices. We can be defined by the sadness of the story or the hope. We can allow something that happens to us to be the reason we stop trying or the reason why we must propel ourselves forward. Every situation, no matter how dire it seems, contains the opportunity for defining ourselves and our path forward. And we have the opportunity with our children to help them define their own stories as a hero’s journey, no matter what happened by the stories we tell to them.

We can rewrite those stories so that we are the hero. We can rewrite those stories so that they define us in ways that help us to grow. And we can begin doing that today.

I’m here to bring you hope. Hope for you. Hope for your family. 

"Because it is always darkest before the dawn and the sun always rises." Oprah

Sunrise pictures courtesy from my Facebook friends. Thanks all!


Sunrise in Satellite Beach, FL, courtesy Kim Bannister
Sunrise over Albuquerque, NM, courtesy of Deborah Barkoff
Sunrise in Clearwater (entitled, When You Wake Up on Red!) courtesy of Susan Stroemel Graham
Sunrise in NY from a bus, courtesy Clare Uppenbrink
Sunrise Satellite Beach, FL, courtesy of Kim Bannister
Sunrise Punta Gorda, FL, courtesy of Cecilia Wilhelm
South Nevada in August, courtesy Teresa Lewis Lass

Want to connect more with me:
Phone, Skype or in-person sessions in Palm Harbor, FL (email me at rebecca @ consciouslyparenting (dot) com without spaces and putting a period for the dot to make it a real email address.

You can also join my new Academy, where you can find relationship-focused ways of solving your biggest parenting and relationship challenges, from couples to conception to teens, as well as those other decisions you need to make consciously for your family like alternative health, conscious living- schooling, minimalism, food, etc., and special circumstances, like loss, divorce, etc. Join us here

Consciously Parenting Academy: Real Challenges. Real Relationships. Real Solutions with Heart.
Affordable Classes for Parents 24/7 from the Comfort of Home

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Feeling isolated? We can help!

I’m the only one I know who is parenting this way,” she said on the phone from Boston. Parents are really conservative here and it is hard to find any alternative community.

The same day, a mom in Perth, Western Australia said, I feel really isolated here. We don’t know many other families and those we do know don’t really understand what we’re doing and why.

It happened again the following day talking to a mom in rural Georgia. And then a mom in Kentucky.

This summer, I held a mini-retreat for families in my home and I had a group of dads in a circle talking about dad stuff. Guess what they talked about? Not having anyone to have these real conversations with. Whoa.

I was paying attention. How could it be that all these parents who were talking about similar things regarding their parenting all felt exactly the same way despite living in very different places? What could we do to help us all feel less isolated?

My solution was to create an online community where parents could meet each other, support each other, and learn together. I would love for you to be a part of this community!!

Join us if…

You’re looking for a place to connect with other like-minded parents no matter where you live in the world.


You need something you can access on your own time without having to put anyone in the car.

You love Consciously Parenting’s cutting edge, yet practical resources.

You need some extra support, but one-on-one sessions are out of your budget.


The idea here is that there is strength in numbers (kind of like a Groupon for parenting!). When we have a large group supporting the financial cost of what I’m offering, I can lower the price and still be compensated for my work. I’m offering a special deal for Consciously Parenting’s Membership Community, aka I Heart Parenting.

This is the last time I’ll be offering the community membership at this price(and if you get it now, you’re grandfathered in at the lower price for as long as you’re a part of this community).

If you had one 60-minute session with me per month, it would be over $1000. With all the other bonuses, you're easily getting $300-500 per month of valued content and support. 

For just $97, you get :

-a full year of community and support, including support calls with Rebecca 
-a secret Facebook group (shhhh), 
-monthly calls to ask your questions, 
-special topic calls,
and the Consciously Parenting Academy, which launches this weekend. 

The Academy includes an all access pass to many of the resources here at Consciously Parenting including:

Couples
Early Parenting
Emotions and Behavior
Conscious Living
Alternative Health
Special Circumstances (death, divorce, trauma, and more)

We have many collaborators who will be adding content weekly, including short videos and other written content. You’ll be able to join just the Academy tomorrow, but today you’ll also get the community bonuses for less than the cost of the Academy alone. It’s a steal!

(This is pretty crazy to be offering this for such a low price. But I want so much to support you in a cost effective way that as part of my 7th Anniversary specials and in honor of my angel, Jacob, I'd like to offer this special.)

You can learn more and join here:

http://www.iheartparenting.com/become-a-member/

I really hope you'll join us! All specials for our 7th Anniversary end on Sunday, September 28.

Thank you for being a part of The Consciously Parenting Project. I'm so glad you're here!


Warmly,
Rebecca Thompson, MS, MFT
Founder and Executive Director of The Consciously Parenting Project
P.S. If you know anyone else who would enjoy the community and support of this great deal, please share! You know, that whole GROUPon thing. :-)

P.S.S. I'm behind on responding to my emails, but I am still scheduling the free 30 minute sessions. If you've emailed me, I'll be getting back to you soon!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Gift for YOU as Consciously Parenting Celebrates 7 Years

The Consciously Parenting Project began 7 years ago today.

Consciously Parenting was founded in loving memory of my son, Jacob, who came into the world at 10am on this date 12 years ago and passed away at noon the same day, leaving my world forever changed. Jacob was born with a birth defect incompatible with life. He was born at home by choice and spent his entire life held by those who loved him.

The struggle that followed his death far exceeded my ability to cope, though I really didn’t see that at the time. (I don’t really give up. I’m kind of stubborn when it comes to things like this…) Things went from bad to worse as my son, in his 4 year-old way, tried to bring it to my attention that I really wasn’t present with him anymore. But 4 year-olds don’t tell you nicely. They express their own struggle and hope you pick up on it.

But I didn’t. Not for a long time. I thought he was the problem.

If he would just listen to me, we would be fine. If he would just be a little more calm and patient, things would feel better for all of us.

I didn’t see his fear. I didn’t see that he just needed me to love him and comfort him. I saw no connection between his brother’s death and his current behavior. And I saw no connection between Jacob’s death and my current behavior, which I thought was ok. (ish)

Once I finally figured out that Jacob’s death had spiraled us all (after about 4 years of struggle), I had uncovered some pretty big Truths that needed to be shared. 

I knew this information could completely transform families as it had mine.

My dear friend, Lianne March, web master extraordinaire, held my hand and helped me put together the first version of Consciously Parenting. We launched on September 21, 2007 with the mission of educating families and helping them find hope and support to connect deeply with one another.

I’ve continued to have my own struggles and (luckily) I’ve continued to learn. Now I have developed a vast library of resources on a wide variety of topics, including some incredible interviews with my colleagues, classes, and lots of writing to help guide your journey out of chaos and into connection.

Thank you for being a part of The Consciously Parenting Project. Whether you just found us or you’ve been with us since 2007 when we began, thank you. Without you, we wouldn’t be here. Without your powerful stories of transformation in your families, I might forget how important this work really is for all of us. We really do need each other. I believe that’s what a community is all about.


As a thank you, this week, I’m offering free 30-minute phone or Skype consultations. Sign up this week for a time between now and middle of October by sending me an email. (rebecca @ consciouslyparenting (dot) com without the spaces and replace (dot) with .)

It is my way of saying thank you.

I’d like to hear your story. And I’d like to see what I can do to help your family feel better- more peaceful, more joyful, more connected.

Just title your email "Free 30 min session" and we’ll find a time.

This week, I’m going to be sending out some special offers to my newsletter list. You may not know how many great things we have going on here at The Consciously Parenting Project, so please allow me to share. Make sure you're signed up for my newsletter list to see all the great stuff going on this week! You can sign up below. (You can also sign up and then hit reply to the email welcoming you after you opt in and that goes straight to my inbox.)

Thank you again for being here.

Now you know why I am here. Email me and share with me what brought you here and what you're seeking. Or post in the comments. I'd love to hear.

Warmly,
Rebecca

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!