Mindful Parenting to Heal Our Children

Holt’s director of clinical services shares her thoughts on the story “Healing Wounds and Leaving the Past Behind” — elaborating on the notion that to heal our children, we must first heal ourselves.

Clinical flier mom and childStacy’s story is a powerful example of what parents can do to help their children. I remember helping Stacy find a hospital for her daughter when it became clear that she needed more than a loving family home. The impact of trauma can sneak up on family members and traumatize them also. Stacy’s willingness to take the journey of healing her childhood wounds was the turning point in this story.  When I first contacted Stacy about sharing her experience, she told me how one day after starting her own healing, she connected heart to heart with her daughter over the phone. The change in her daughter’s behavior was immediate and was documented in the extensive behavior logs residential treatment facilities keep on each child. This was not wishful thinking. It was captured in detailed behavior improvements in her daughter.

In my 25 years as a child and family therapist, one constant has been that a change in a child can only happen after changes in the parent. The most effective change is becoming emotionally present for your child. To be truly emotionally present, parents need to be aware of their childhood pain and the beliefs and behaviors that grow out of that pain. Until we open ourselves to exploring our past, we cannot be sure what is there. When these old “hurts” are hidden from our consciousness, they can be very damaging to others and most significantly to those we are closest to. They color how we perceive the behavior and intentions of those we love, thereby influencing how we respond to them. When we take these old hurts out of the closet and shine a light on them, we diminish the destructive power they have on our relationships.  The more we come to understand them, the more mindful we can become — not only as parents but as a spouse, friend, co-worker, supervisor and as an adult child of our parents. Mindfulness empowers us to be in the moment. It empowers us to see the current interaction clearly, unencumbered by old hurts. It empowers us to be open to what is happening in the here and now so we can respond to our loved ones in a way that meets their needs. This is what heals our children who come from “hard places.” We as parents must heal ourselves before we can help our children heal.

If you are wondering if you might have some old hurts, look for some of these signs:

  • You are told that you are over-reacting to a situation
  • You just can’t get a recent difficult experience out of your mind
  • You get angry easily
  • You yell at your kids
  • You say “No” to your kids more than you say “Yes”
  • You tend to get angry at your parents for the same old things
  • You are anxious or uneasy playing with your kids
  • You struggle with addiction of any kind (even if it does not interfere with your daily life)
  • You value things, having fun or achievement over “just being” with your loved ones
  • You are more comfortable with your companion animal than with people
  • You tend to see the cup as half empty
  • You find yourself relying on your child (who is under 14 years old) to help you
  • You find yourself relying on your child (who is under 14 years old) for companionship

If you are wondering whether you could benefit from healing the unresolved experiences from your past, just as Stacy thought, what have you got to lose? Find a counselor and go clean out those closets. You will help yourself and your child.

Books and resources to learn more about mindful parenting:

“The Connected Child” by Karyn Purvis, Ph.D.

“Parenting from the Inside Out” by Daniel Siegel

“The Whole Brained Child” by Daniel Siegel

“No Drama Discipline” by Daniel Siegel

Visit www.empoweredtoconnect.org for parenting information and resources to help meet your child’s needs, build trust and help your child heal and grow.

Abbie Smith | Director of Clinical Services

To read adoptive mom Stacy Presley’s story, click here.

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