Parenting on Purpose

Parenting on Purpose

Helping Children Through Sadness

posted by srballantine

 

 

Bigstock photos

Bigstock photos

There are times in life when you’re faced with sadness. It happens to everyone. Children are certainly not immune from experiencing unhappy events. As a parent, you can help your children cope with and work through their feelings in healthy ways.

Humans experience a wide range of emotions and there are a lot of names for these emotions. It isn’t that the emotions are good or bad; they just are; yet, how you feel as a result of those emotions can be described as feeling happy or excited or feeling sad or angry.

As a child, you’d naturally gravitate towards the things that feel good, but you didn’t necessarily know how to deal with the strong negative emotions that are part of life. If you envision a pendulum with extreme joy on one end and utter heartbreak on the other end of the swing, then you can better understand emotions for a child.

For most adults, the emotional pendulum doesn’t swing to the extremes very often. You may spend more time in the mid-range of emotions.

Children are different. They experience the extreme ends of the pendulum swing, sometimes very quickly swinging from one mood to the other completely, bypassing many emotions in the middle. The cause of strong negative emotions may seem to be quite small and insignificant to you.

Kids also can experience major loss, whether it is a friend moving away, an older sibling going away to college, parents going through divorce, or the death of a beloved pet. Whether or not you think the child’s reaction is appropriate to the situation is irrelevant in these cases. In moments like this, the emotion for them is real, and it is big.

Rather than focusing on being able to identify what the feeling is or where it is on the emotional pendulum exactly, it is important for kids simply to recognize how they feel. Ask yourself — do they feel good or do they feel bad?

Once your children are able to recognize how they are feeling, you can help them deal with the emotion, and the issue behind the emotion. It is important to allow children to experience negative emotions and sometimes you just have to let them feel it, even if it is hard for you as a parent to see your child in pain.

You don’t want to just ignore the feeling and hope it will go away. It probably won’t. On the other hand, the more you focus on feeling sad and the longer you stay in that vibration, the more opportunities to feel sadness will come your way.

One thing you can do to help as a parent is to learn to recognize the signs in your child that the intense emotional period is waning. Then you can coach your kids to discuss how they are feeling. By encouraging them to check in with their feelings as you talk with them, you can help them learn to shift their emotional pendulum so it starts to swing back to the positive side.

But even if you’re handling your own grief over a situation, remember to tell your children that feeling sad is OK and that’s it’s a normal human reaction to bad situations. Give them all the support you can, and spend as much time with them as possible. Just be wary of signs that indicate that your kids aren’t handling grief as they should, such as acting out at home and at school, an extended period of depression, seeing behaviors that are those of children younger than their actual age (regression), or loss of sleep and appetite. These behaviors could indicate that professional help may be necessary, if they last for any length of time.

But usually, some care, understanding and allowing children to express their grief will be all kids need to bounce back. Even when it comes to emotions, kids can be quite resilient.

Your thoughts?

© 2014.  Sharon Ballantine.  All Rights Reserved.

 

Helping Kids Know Why They Do Things

posted by srballantine

Don'T KnowEach of us spends our lives doing things that start from our place of being motivated. We create things that enhance us, do menial tasks that structure our lives and everything in between. But are we moving through life in a deliberate way that is helping meet our goals? Are we following others or fostering our individuality? Are we making our best choices? And don’t we sometimes wonder why we make the choices we do?

Your children learn about life and motivation to a certain extent from you, so it is important that they become aware of what motivates them and why.

By becoming aware of why they do things, they will become aware of what is true for them and what their inner motivation is which will guide them in making deliberate and conscious choices as they mature and grow.

You can teach your kids to look internally starting at a young age by helping them ask questions of themselves before they make choices or decisions. This helps them be aware of why they are choosing something. A question you can ask a young child may simply be; why do you want to do this? Their answers may be, because it looks fun, sounds fun, my friend wants me to, I don’t actually want to, I have no idea, etc.

Their answers will be simplistic when they are very young but will grow in complexity as they age. There aren’t any right or wrong answers; only those which help them know why they’re choosing what they are choosing, and clarify what they really want.

An older child can ask themselves broader questions like:

~ If I do this, how will I benefit?

~ If I do this, will it take me closer to my goals?

~ Is this who I am?

~ Do I really want to do this?

~ Will I learn something?

~What are the possible consequences?

Asking ourselves questions generally require we answer them, and we at least have a chance to put some thought into our actions.

This practice will teach your kids to discern what is right for them. It will help them know their own truth and at least have the choice to follow what their inner voice is saying. It will guide them in asking powerful questions, which can instill a high degree of clarity. Knowing why we do things holds the power to making conscious choices in our lives.

What are your thoughts?

© 2014.  Sharon Ballantine.  All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Guiding As Opposed To Pushing Your Kids

posted by srballantine

 

Bigstock photos.

Bigstock photos.

As a parent, you want what is best for your children. Even before they’re born, most people have some preconceived notions of what their children’s lives will be like. You may speculate about their future, but you generally envision something positive. You think of a life that is “better” than your own. As your children grow, you work hard with them, guiding them towards that vision that you have for them — even if they don’t always share that vision.

So when does parental guidance become pushing your children towards something they don’t want? How, why, and when do you cross the line? More importantly, how can you recognize your behavior before you actually cross the line, giving yourself a chance to modify your actions?

Some parents see their children following in their career footsteps or taking over a family business. Others envision their children being the first to graduate from college or even high school. For other families, the picture they have for their kids is about having their own families with a spouse and children.

None of these pathways are wrong, but what if your children want lives that are quite different from the ones you have planned for them? Will you be able to accept their decisions and guide them to success on their terms? Or will you only support and guide them if they meet your expectations?

The best parental guidance you can give is to steer your children towards what brings them joy. By paying attention to their reactions from the youngest age, you will have a good picture of what they like and do not like. You can gently steer them towards things they enjoy and encourage them to try other activities at the same time. In order to develop their own Internal Guidance System, they must have a variety of experiences and learn what pleases them and what doesn’t.

You can push for them to experiment with different activities, but you should also recognize that even young children have an inner sense of what is right for them. This may be quite different from what was right for you as a child.

If your children really don’t want to participate in some activity that you are encouraging, take a few moments to check in with your own Internal Guidance System. What is your motivation for this activity?

Are you encouraging or even pushing your child to do something because you enjoyed it? Because it is expected? Is it because it is the “obvious” choice?

Maybe you think it will be “good for them.” Or perhaps they enjoyed this the year before. Maybe the neighbor kid is doing it and so it is convenient for the parents to carpool.

There are so many reasons you could encourage your children to take this class, play that sport, learn an instrument, get the right job, or date a person. By taking the time to listen to your own IGS and pay attention to your children’s reactions, you can be the parent you want to be. You want to be the person who guides, rather than push your children through joy-filled childhoods towards joy-filled adult lives.

Share your thoughts?

© 2014.  Sharon Ballantine.  All Rights Reserved

 

 

Birds Of A Feather…Kids Choosing Their Own Flock

posted by srballantine
Bigstock Photos.

Bigstock Photos.

Everyone has heard the phrase, “Birds of a feather flock together.” Once in a while, there is a news story about the lone, odd duck hanging out with the gaggle of geese, but those stories only make the news because they are exceptional. People tend to have their groups, and one of the experiences everyone faces is figuring out which flock they belong in.

Throughout their lives, your kids will be in many different groups. Some will be of their own choosing and some groups will be forced upon them, as in school study groups. Finding their way in the groups and where they sit the pecking order is something that they will have to figure out for themselves for the most part, but you can offer some guidance.

While it may be tempting for you to handpick the right group for your kids, it is not helpful for them in the long run. Generally, a better solution is to provide solid parental guidance concerning how to select friends. It is up to them to hear what you say, but also to listen to their own Internal Guidance System. With this combined approach, they will learn to find others that they can connect with on their own.

Early in their lives, your kids will experience others who are just “there.” These potential friends include family members and the children of your friends. Although these groups sometimes last, it’s not very often. There is no reason to expect that just because your best friend has a daughter the same age as yours that the kids will become, or remain, BFFs.

And your child may not like your friend’s child, either. Their personalities could be very different. So, rather than insist that your kids hang out with people they don’t like, it’s good to help them learn how to relate to many different people and personality types. Coach them to check in with how they feel when they are with other people, too.

If someone makes them uncomfortable, help your kids to figure out why. Is it just that these people are “different”? Perhaps they have never met someone like the person in question before, and you can help them to recognize that different is not necessarily bad. You can also help them to distinguish between the unknown or new and the unpleasant or undesired.

An analogy that is easy for kids of any age to understand concerns ice cream. Some kids like vanilla ice cream. Over time, they may try new flavors and discover that they prefer chocolate or strawberry ice cream. Some will have a favorite flavor, while other kids will like lots of variety. The only way to know their preferences for sure is through encouraging them to try things that interest them.

Like ice cream, the same is true of people. When kids give themselves the chance to be around a variety of people, they get a better sense of the type of people they prefer to be with. Maybe your kids like the other kids in your neighborhood, and maybe not. It’s really up to them to learn who they’re comfortable with through a long period of trial and error.

However, recognize that during any lifetime, tastes change. Someone your son or daughter liked when they were six may not be who they like at 11 or 20. The paths they follow in life will also tend to dictate which people they choose to be with and those they have to “get along” with, even when they don’t like them. This is really important, especially in formal situations like in school and later, in their jobs.

Just support your kids when they want to meet new people, and remind them that some friendships will last their entire lives while others may only last a summer. Help them to be true to themselves, and they will always be able to find flocks to call their own.

What are your thoughts?

© 2014. Sharon Ballantine. All Rights Reserved.

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