So often, we take for granted our children’s feelings. We just assume they are fine, they are managing all that is within their heart space and they would tell us if they need something from us – as they are rarely shy from asking for things. These assumptions create blinders along the road of life in which we are traveling with our children and many times we miss the signs and cues along the way until we crash head on with them. They begin to withdraw, they shut us out of their lives, they don’t want us around and they definitely don’t want to hear (anymore) of what we have to say as they’ve heard quite a bit up to this point. Do you blame them? Don’t we get tired of listening to our own selves at times? I know I do. It’s usually in pure silence that I can hear all the noise in my head and it’s no wonder my 4-year old tells me at times, “that’s enough talking mom.” So brutally honest she is and I receive it with full acceptance.
Sure there is a huge disparity between a 4-year old and say a teen’s perspective on their parents but the common thread / lesson for us to learn through all age groups is, “what are our children really trying to tell us (through their behaviors) that we are not openly willing to receive because of our own skewed screen we are holding between them and us?” A toddler may scream and tantrum, a preschooler may talk back and be feisty, and a teen may bury their heads in their electronics and put on their headphones to block us out altogether. Whatever the age, the signs are there, we must just be willing to pay heed to them. Through conscious parenting, we see our children’s behaviors as a way to mirror back to us where we have yet to grow.
These behavioral manifestations can occur in any stage along our children’s development yet mostly show up around the preteen / teenage years. All of a sudden (or so we believe), our children seem to be different people from our own vision of them – almost to the point we don’t recognize who they are (becoming). I quote Dr. Shefali from her book, The Conscious Parent, “when parents wonder who their children have become as teens, I respond, ‘they are the same people, they didn’t morph into someone else overnight.’ As our children mature beyond the middle school years, we get to see the effects of their upbringing. A difficult teenager doesn’t sprout up overnight; the seeds were being sown all along.”
We all know “communication is key” and foundational to any relationship building process yet is still so difficult for the masses. We tend to hold back our thoughts and resist expressing our feelings for fear of rejection, judgement, what others will think, not prepared to hear what others have to share with us, getting our feelings hurt, causing or avoiding conflict and asking the wrong questions. All of these reasons and more can lead to deepening our inner lack of unworthiness. Essentially, we don’t trust ourselves enough to show up authentically because we have not been raised to go inward for the answers but rather taught to look outward for validation. To no fault of our parents or caretakers, they did their absolute best with what tools they had to work with growing up themselves.
But there comes a time (and the time is now) when we need to stop making excuses as to why things are the way they are in our life and in our relationship – primarily with our children. We must take full responsibility to show up in all we do, say and be honest with ourselves first. We have a choice in everything we do (Dr. Shefali shares through her online courses) – the choice in how we create the situation and in how we react to the situation. What a simplistic yet powerful way to think and an instrumental guidepost to evolving within our own being and with our children.
Here are some important life-changing questions you can begin asking your child. Set up some non-distracted time together – go for a walk, have lunch at the park, go the the beach, wherever it best fits your lifestyle. And before you meet, be sure to get clear with your intention, set the tone / energy with yourself and child, release all expectations, let your child know you are holding no judgment and honoring their feedback, invite them to be honest and that the intimate space you share is safe, be prepared to receive the truth (even if it hurts), and then thank them and embrace the present moment for the gifts it bestows upon both of you.
- How can I be more present in your life?
- What do you need most from me right now?
- What are some ways I can better connect with you?
- Where can I help to improve / strengthen our relationship?
- Do you feel seen, heard and validated by me?
By showing up vulnerably, with an open-heart and mind and authentically, you will raise the vibration of your parent-child relationship to a level that is authentic, supportive and based on honoring your mutual essence. You will also teach your child the power of communication, connection and compassion all at once.