“What does conscious parenting mean?”
“Who is a conscious parent?”
“What does it mean to be a conscious parent?”
These are the questions I was asking myself as I began to delve into the world of conscious parenting. My own journey into this subject began quite by chance from a book recommendation. The book, The Awakened Family by Dr. Shefali Tsabary, felt like it was speaking directly to me. One of the first sentences that I read was: “We awaken when we become aware of who we truly are.”
To me, that message was that our essence, our true self is important. And while I was intrigued by the desire to find my true self, I also immediately wanted to know how this related at all to parenting.
As a clinical psychologist who merges the world of Western psychology and Eastern philosophy, Dr. Shefali has a totally different approach to parenting than anything I had ever encountered or experienced. She talks about our job of parenting our children as raising a spirit and honoring their essence—that the children who are delivered to us are done so for a reason. According to Dr. Shefali, conscious parents implicitly trust their child’s intuition to recognize their own destiny.
But here’s the part that might really blow your mind: They are brought to us to mirror back to us the parts of ourselves that we need to pay attention to and to heal. This aspect of Dr. Shefali’s approach to conscious parenting gets me so excited. It is why I have become so passionate about the subject, and why I feel a calling to teach and share this philosophy with as many people as possible.
This premise is also the foundation for understanding the reasons why we yell and provides us with the tools to learn how to stop yelling and start connecting.
Coming back to my original questions about what is a conscious parent and how we can become one: Conscious parenting uses ordinary, moment-by-moment interactions with our children to enable an authentic connection with them.
By being present, conscious and aware in the moment, overtime, a new family dynamic emerges which can dramatically impact families. When a parent changes their own reactions, behaviors, responses, and interactions the child’s behavior changes. This leads to a behavioral shift in relationships. How we respond to them, not react, becomes our own inner barometer of how conscious we are.
A conscious parent is something that is learned. It is learned through the actual experience of relating to our children, things we cannot learn by reading all of the many “how to” parenting books that are out there.
As we learn to become conscious parents some questions arise:
- Can we accept our children in their “as is” state in each moment?
- Can we get our entire heart and mind involved and in agreement to the process?
- Can we also accept the kind of parent we need to be for our particular child
- Can we be the parent our child needs us to be as opposed to the parent we think they need?
- Can we allow them to exist without the snares of our own expectations?
These are some of the challenges that we have to navigate in becoming a conscious parent. Conscious parenting spoke so deeply to me because of my many years of clinical work as a social worker and as a hypnotherapist. I understand the way our deeper mind works and how unresolved, unhealed childhood conflicts impact us in our adult lives. These unresolved issues will and do directly affect the way we parent and we probably don’t even realize the degree to which this happens. Being unaware of those issues is one of the reasons we wind up yelling.
Dr. Shefali teaches us that when we react to our children’s emotional reactions, tantrums, defiance, etc. we are reacting from our own child inside of us who is now triggered and is fighting back. She asks us to tune in and pay attention to our own inner landscape so we do not react from the place of our wounded inner child but instead can respond to our child from our adult loving self.
I know we can all heal our inner child; I am living proof. If our child is shining light onto the issues that we—as parents—need to address, acknowledging it is the first step. The next step is actually addressing it so that we can heal. We then can be in a healthier place with ourselves, and with our children. We will finally be able to connect with them and develop stronger bonds. This is your invitation to begin to peel back the layers to a better self-understanding, to yell less and to connect more.
Janet Philbin is the author of the book, Show Up For Yourself- A Guide to Inner Awareness and Growth. In this book she takes the reader on a journey to heal their own inner child. When we heal our own pain of the past it no longer will have control over us in the present. If this article speaks to your heart, the book will give you a framework to help you heal the pain that your heart has been holding. You can get a copy of the book here: https://amzn.to/3cgxKCp.
Janet works with clients worldwide, helping them to heal the wounds their inner child carry. You can reach her through her website, https://janetphilbin.com/. She is also available to come speak at your event, business or school.
We are being called forward, when we become parents, to heal. It is our children who are our awakeners. It is because of them that you see yourself, with all of the wounds, clearly in the mirror for the first time. It is hard to look at these wounds, but if we do not look at them then we are ignoring the self. Do not ignore the self. See yourself, see your beauty, see your unique gifts and see that you are able to heal.
Whatever it is you need to go through in order to heal is not going to be scarier than what happened initially to cause the wounds in the first place.
To heal we take a look inside of our self. There is nothing outside that will heal you. You may find support to help you along the way, to help you help yourself, but the bottom line is that you must heal your heart and pain. We must not be afraid to see it, hug it and love it. If our heart is in pain, then the work we have work to do is ours. The goal is to reconnect with your heart. And in doing so, you reconnect to yourself.
So how do we begin to heal and reconnect with our own heart? We do this by pausing, feeling, looking inside, honoring our pain body, as Eckhart Tolle says. We take time to see which part needs love, attention, compassion and forgiveness
In order to truly connect to another, we must first connect to our self. How much of the day do we spend “doing?” We do chores, run errands, do tasks, and do things for other people yet we do not take time to just be.
In order to connect to your heart, to stay connected and plugged in we must take time for self-care. To spend time with yourself engaged in activities that light you up and refuel your tank when it gets empty. We cannot connect to our children authentically and give them what they need if our tank is empty and we are first not giving to ourselves.
I am going to focus on mother’s here for a moment, but this applies to everyone. There is a belief in society that taking care of yourself, especially as a mom, is selfish. That somehow when mother’s self-sacrifice, it is exalted, and we say what a good mother she is. She is always doing for the kids, PTA, scouts, bake sales, sports, etc. It has somehow been held up as an ideal- this kind of self-sacrifice. However, did you know that the original meaning of the word sacrifice is to make sacred. I wonder how this has become turned upside down. Where and when did the mother get lost and left with no time to make herself sacred.
Ask yourself, when was the last time that you stopped and checked in with you? Pause here. Take a slow, deep breath. Check in for a moment with your heart, your passion, with what you care about deeply. Do you set aside time for self-explorations and self-discovery?
When was the last time you connected to you?
When did you last sit down with a cup of tea, or coffee to journal and just write and let yourself explore the musings of your mind? When was the last time you actually asked your body what she needed? And if you have, did you listen to her? If not, did you not stop until you were forced to because you became ill?
Women and mothers, in particular, are professionals at ignoring the self. We push things under the rug that we don’t want to see, feel, acknowledge, know, admit to and experience. We believe, “If I just push it away it won’t hurt me.”
The truth is, these silent hurts sneak up on you in other ways.
It shows up when your feelings get hurt, when you yell at your kids, when you procrastinate, when you don’t eat well, when you don’t move your body, or use your mind and ignore your own needs.
We are called into parenting, by our children, they are calling us to heal our wounds, our pain, our lack. When we heal, we can then support them to thrive as their own independent being.
So how do we do this, you ask? It all starts with you.
We stop running from ourselves. We stop ignoring our needs, health, time, self-care.
Self-care does not mean massages and manicures. Those are external. Self-care means taking care of the inside. Self-care means exercise, connecting to nature and using your creativity. It means meditation, journaling, inner reflection and listening to what your body is telling you.
All of our emotions are stored in our physical body. We feel feelings inside but then we label them and they become emotions and emotions have stories and beliefs attached to them which keep us stuck. For example, I get a feeling of shortness of breath under my rib cage. That is all it is, a feeling. But instead of letting it pass, as feelings do, I label it fear or anxiety, tell myself a story about it, and then I panic. The goal is not to panic it is to just feel the feeling, it will pass.
We must learn to pause, breathe, and allow. You take time to meditate, journal, go for a walk and allow yourself to explore what is happening inside of you. This is reconnecting. It also means unplugging from technology-which keeps us disconnected from our hearts and others.
Below are journal prompts to help you discover what is going on inside of you, to help identify the parts that need to heal, enabling you to make yourself sacred once again.
Where in my body do I feel uncomfortable?
If I could draw a picture of it, what would it look like?
How big is it?
What color is it?
What physical organs is it affecting?
What is this discomfort communicating to me?
Have I felt this before? If yes, when? Why is it showing up again?
If no, why is it showing up now?
What younger part of me knows this feeling?
What is the story attached to this feeling?
What did the younger self come to believe because of this story?
How does this story show up in my life now?
Can my adult self now, understand why my younger self then, made up this story?
Can you see now that this story was made up in order to survive?
Are you able to forgive that younger self for the story, understanding she did the best she could do at that time with the resources she had available to her?
Tell the younger one what is the truth about who I am now and where I am in my life now?
Let her know you are excited to be connected to her once again.
Imagine sending your love out to her, from your heart, just like the love you send your child or another child in your life, and allow her to receive it and let her know the next time she feels upset you will be there for her, that she is safe, she survived.
As a result of connecting with this younger self you have allowed a part of you to heal. You will continue to heal each and every time you meditate and tune in to the part of your body which is calling out to you. As a result of your healing you are more deeply connected to yourself, your essence and your truth. When you connect to your heart you make yourself sacred.
If you want to work with Janet, explore this more, and are ready to make yourself sacred once again reach out to her through her website @JanetPhilbin.com.