As if parenting didn’t have enough challenges to begin with, the universe had to throw a major plot twist into things by planting us all in lockdown and immersing us with fear over a potentially deadly virus. Because the fears we were already battling were clearly not enough. I have always considered parenting both the most rewarding and difficult job in the world. Everything else we undertake comes with some sort of training manual or preparation but raising another human being does not…go figure! You’re thrown into the water and pray you can stay afloat. Sadly, many of us just barely keep our heads above water most of the time and it’s difficult to understand why.
The moment a child is born, every notion we’ve had about ourselves along with our vision for our lives changes in the blink of an eye. Now, this new dynamic of being parent, teacher, and full-time caregiver has left so many of us even more exhausted, confused, and scared than ever before. Like most parents, I have always tried to be aware to not “mess up” my kids. I try to be conscious of my own traumas and aware not to project them onto my children, however, I believe that a large part of who we become as adults is a direct result of instilled beliefs and traumas that we ourselves are not aware of. As a result, we subconsciously implant all our fears, reservations, and misgivings without fully understanding what we are doing or the longterm effects we may be generating. Take for example a mother who was never accepted or bullied by her peers as a child and suffers from a lack of self-confidence and self-awareness. Because of this, she makes sure her introverted child has play dates with every child in her class so she is liked and popular with everyone. At no time does she consider the child’s needs and she acts solely based on her own fears and anxieties without even realizing it. Enter Conscious Parenting! Although this is not a new concept, it is relatively new to me. I have been studying and learning about it for over a year now and I am amazed at how much work I have had to do to be more aware of my own actions.
Dr. Stephanie Mihalas of The Center for Well Being in Los Angeles https://askdrstephanie.com/ states that “Conscious parenting is the concept that you are mindful and present in your direct and indirect interactions with your child. You are engaged in an interactive way that is focused and attuned. Additionally, you are also aware of your own personal behaviors, biases, attributions, and triggers.” She goes on to further point out that “When we act, behave, and think in unconscious ways our children may think we are disinterested, angry, or attribute other feelings that are inaccurate onto them. They will start to personalize things and create fictional narratives about our behaviors onto their personalities. They frequently will believe they did something wrong or that they caused us to check-out or behave a certain way.” In the example given above of the mother who was over socializing her introverted child, the child may begin to think there is something wrong with them because they are not enjoying or engaging in these activities in the way the parent is expecting them to. This is where personal beliefs and instilled beliefs become blurred and as Dr. Mihalas suggests, fictional narratives are created by the child. Dr. Mihalas further explains that “Parents who have unresolved fears or traumas sometimes pass this along to their children because they are afraid that the same thing will happen to their own child. They will either openly talk about the trauma or fear so much, that their own child will start to have the fear. The child may start to avoid certain situations. Some children will start to take on the personality of their parent as a means to identify with the parents’ trauma because they want to feel close to the parent.”
For me, the stay at home order has been somewhat of an “intermission” in life. It stopped all the extracurricular activities, all the dinners out, and all the fluff we had added to our lives for the sake of adding it to our lives. The break from everything gave me the opportunity to look at myself and my parenting style more thoroughly and left me wondering if all the extras were in some way silencing some of my own fears. Why did I spend the evenings running from one activity to the other, often eating dinner in the car, and taking work calls while in the gallery of my daughter’s tennis lesson? Why did every spare moment need to be booked with a play date, coding session, or tutor to ensure the kids were occupied? Was it because I never had any of these things when I was a kid so I wanted them to have it all? Did they even want it all or were they doing it because this was the norm I had created for them? Was I instilling some sort of unreasonable expectation of my girls that had more to do with my personal struggles than them? Just when I thought I had worked through much of my trauma, here I was re-analyzing so much again….sigh!
I strongly believe that being a good parent means working through your own ambiguities which allows you to be more self-aware and mindful of your actions and decisions. Having an understanding of one’s self allows you the ability to distinguish between your own needs and your child’s needs which is vital to the development of their own personality, individualism, and belief system. Being conscious, recognizing and working through your own traumas is quite possibly the best thing you can do for your child as it can afford them the ability to grow into their own amazing individual without feeling the need to take on the parent’s insecurities. For me, it continues to be a work in progress and however difficult or painful it may be for me to uncover the challenging truths of my childhood and life experiences, not exploring my reality and healing my fears would be even more excruciating in the long run. Both for me and my children.
With love….Eleni xoxo