Saturday, February 4, 2017

"You don’t have to answer me, but I’m happy to listen if you’d like to share." Teaching your kids the art of self-reflection

We’ve been talking about staying connected with our kids as they grow in my parenting support classes for parents of teens and tweens. Parents want to support their growing kids to become interdependent adults who are aware of themselves and their needs and are aware of others around them. 

You know, we want to raise the kid who notices when your hands are full and it might be helpful for him to hold the door open for you or to grab a bag to help? Or the ones who can take responsibility for their own choices.

Self-reflection gets the ball rolling. When they can connect with how it feels for them, they can connect with how it might feel for someone else. When they notice what something is like for them, they're more likely to ask what needs to happen next or what they can change.

But how do we get started?

The tips below are especially important as kids enter middle childhood, pre-adolescence and teen years, but you can practice when they’re little, too. Especially number one!!

Photo Credit: Flickr, Seattle Municipal Archives

1.     Start with you. This ability to self-reflect, to know what one needs, starts with us and then with our relationship with our kids. Start with yourself.

I asked my parents in the last round of support classes to self-reflect and share what they noticed about themselves. These were actual examples parents shared in our classes last month:

“I stayed up too late playing on Facebook and now I’m tired today.”
“I ate potato chips and chocolate for lunch and now I am having difficulty focusing.” (That one was mine…lol. Similar ones were shared by the parents in the class.)
“I went to a Kickboxing class and feel so energized today!”
"I had some alone time to actually read a book today! Ahhhh... I needed that."

Photo credit: Pixabay

2.     Share what you observe about yourself with your kids. As we, as parents, begin to pay attention to what makes us feel good and not so good, we can share that with our kids out loud. As you begin to share those things out loud, your kids will naturally start considering them, especially if there isn’t any pressure from you.

Just share what you notice about yourself with your kids in casual conversation. Share when it worked for you (“I feel so great after I went for a run this morning!”) and when it didn’t (“I didn’t get outside yesterday at all and I’m noticing I have less energy today.”).

Photo Credit: Pexels
3.     Begin asking your kids what things feel like for them. Don’t expect them to answer, but be open to a conversation if they’d like to share. The key here is to help them to learn for themselves when something is working for them and when it’s not working, rather than having you or another outside force make that decision for them. Try questions like these:

“I wonder what it feels like for you when you stay up too late at night? How do you feel the next day? You don’t have to answer me, but I’m happy to listen if you’d like to share.”

“I noticed you had a hard time getting to sleep last night. Did anything you did or didn’t do earlier in the day make it harder to get to sleep? I know sometimes when I have a hard day, I didn’t get enough exercise, or I’m thinking about something that happened earlier that I have a hard time falling asleep. You don’t have to answer me, but I’m happy to listen if you’d like to share.”

Kids need to learn to pay attention to themselves so they can learn what they need, but they need us to start asking those questions without the expectation of an answer. This isn’t telling them that they stayed up too late and now you’re grounding them. This is encouraging them to become responsible for themselves by connecting with themselves. That’s a totally different thing.

We want them to be responsible, empathetic and observant. We want our kids to get to know themselves. For some kids (and adults), knowing what things are like for them and what they need is brand new. Take some time and play with it for yourself in your own life. Introduce the idea to your kids and encourage them to notice things about themselves and see what happens.

I’d love to hear what you notice when you start paying more attention to this for yourself and for them. What happens? How does it feel? Do you notice your kids taking more responsibility? Please share!

More parenting support classes are starting soon! We're running a class for Consciously Parenting Couples (to help parents stay connected as partners), Consciously Parenting Children with Special Needs, and another class for parents with kiddos between the ages of 5-9. Classes start the week of Monday, Feb. 6! As of this writing, only 3 spots remain in each class. Click each class name above for more information and to join!