Sometimes when we talk to our children they don’t listen. It may seem like a lot of the time in fact.
As a child therapist I am used to slipping into the language of children to engage them in conversation and pull from them their strength. They are engaged easily through their active imagination with play and story. They learn from watching and doing.
However admittedly I sometimes forget as a parent to use this child speak. This often happens when I am trying to do so many things and when I am so task focused and in my adult head. I forget that my children are not in that same head space and are driven by other motivators like play, having fun, enjoying life. The usual kid stuff.
What would happen if more adults were focused on having fun?
Luckily because my kids are so play driven, I can’t help but be reminded of their need to have this outlet. They are constantly trying to engage me in play so I am reminded of a different way of being in my head, namely through my creative imagination. When I am in this space it’s as if we are doing a wonderfully intricate dance where everyone is in rhythm with each other. Cooperation is not a struggle but a fun game where both players are winners.
I cherish those moments knowing that I have access to them any time I choose. It’s these moments that make the hard work of parenting worth it. It’s these moments that give me the clarity to communicate in my child’s mother tongue: play.
Sorting through and tidying up my computer files I came across a letter I had written for my youngest son from the voice of a small (bean bag) bear cub which I gave him. To put it in context, I will tell you that my son was having some difficulty doing his daily routines and was needing much encouragement and reminders. Also at the time he would rather stay home than go play at a friend’s place. I knew that he was feeling like he couldn’t do things as well as his brother. Anyway, though these were things that we talked with him about, there is something about stories that sparks the interest of a child to “listen” on a deeper level. With this in mind I share with you the letter below.
I just want to let you know that I am a black bear cub, and I am mostly vegetarian. I am still little but big enough to do things like swim across the lake (like that bear cub your mom told me you guys saw last year while camping). I heard we have a lot in common like your mom said that you like to forage for wild edibles and I love foraging for berries. I have been to Crab lake too just for the blue berries- I heard you like them too. One thing you should know about black bear cubs is that we stick with our moms a lot but we also venture out to explore new things. We are good swimmers, climbers, foragers (and your mom wanted me to mention that we almost always listen to our mamma bears- because they keep us safe). I have come to live with you so that I can learn some things about camping (my mom said I can visit her when you take me wilderness camping). I heard that you are a great portager- that is something I have never done before. Will you teach me? Your mom also told me that you like to help out at camp and you have a great smile. I am so excited that I will be living with you!
Lots of love,
Your bear cub friend
(Bears don’t have names like humans do- but my mom said it was okay if you gave me a human name)
What does your child speak look like?
The other week I stumbled upon a writing prompt I had written in my journal with the intention of responding to it later. It was a series of prompts to write a letter to your self that I had found while blog hopping (sorry to say I could not find the original reference- but when I Googled it there were many renditions of the letter to Self). One of them was to write to yourself 10 years ago. I thought I would give it a try.
After just writing a few sentences I was struck by how powerful this exercise was for me. My intuitive parent stepped right in and began to respond with such empathy I was brought to tears. Parenting is tough, we all know that. But sometimes we can be our own worst critic, ruminating over how we should have done things differently or comparing ourselves to other parents who don’t seem to be having such a hard time.
For me 10 years ago was a very significant point in time as a parent because it was really so near the beginning of parenthood for me (my eldest son would have been 1 1/2 years old). Allowing myself to speak to my “new” parent self now, after 10 years, also brought to light how very important it is to continue to show the same empathy for one’s self even later on in one’s parenting career.
Perhaps this is something each and every parent can give themselves as a gift for the new year. We often talk about empathy for our children when they are going through tough times, but how about extending that empathic understanding to ourselves?
Here are some excerpts from my letter to my younger parent self. The advice I give myself is relevant at any point in my parenting, even to this day when my children are (almost) 8 and 11 1/2 years old.
You are a great mommy who loves your little baby boy deeply. I know it is hard to be away from him and you feel stressed because you wish that you could give him more of your time.
You worry. Don’t let your worry take over who you are and get in the way . . . You will have another child. You will learn more . You will make mistakes that you regret, but you must let go of that regret, you must pay it no mind for it will eat away at you and fuel your worry, your self doubt.
Know that you are a wonderful parent, a fantastic parent. You are human , yes, you make mistakes, yes, but you can and will learn from them.
You are the best mom your son has, he needs you, he needs you to believe in yourself. For when you believe in yourself as a mother, as a parent, your son will learn to believe in himself.
Don’t worry that one year has passed. There is still time, there is always time. You are a great parent, know that, feel that, believe that, and you will see how much easier things will be, your life will be easier, your parenting will be easier.
Let go of the past.
Walk boldly, with confidence, into the future!
Love your Wise Parent Self.
No matter what stage of parenting you are at, whether it is 2 months in, or 2 years, 12 years or twenty years into parenting, it’s never too late to show your self some gentle understanding and acknowledgment for all of your hard work as a parent. Sometimes all it takes is a little perspective of time to realize the beauty of what we have done as parents. I invite you to write a letter to your younger parent self. For showing compassion to yourself is the first step in letting go of past “mistakes” and moving towards the intuitive parenting that we all have inside.
With the holidays upon us it’s easy to forget to take care of one’s self. I find myself rushing about baking gingerbread cookies like the ones above I made last night from Naturally Yours’ video. We parents so often put ourselves last as we prepare for welcoming others into their home.
This season make yourself a priority. Be sure to take some time for yourself, to relax and regenerate. If you wait until its all over, you’ll miss out on enjoying what the holidays are all about. Below are some helpful posts to make the most out of this busy time of year. Enjoy!
Jo of the Red Box Company shares 10 tips for staying stress free over the holidays
Carrie Hensley of Free to Be Me has a great video with tips for helping you stay present and centered during the holidays.
Jackie of essence of wild has a wondeful post on taking cues from nature to find peace.
Gina of Veda Sun shares some tips on staying present with Awareness Practices for you and your family’s sake.
Pixie Campbell has a wonderful ceremony to let go of emotional baggage which you can do with your children to help them visualize letting go . You don’t have to celebrate the winter solstice to do this,it goes well with the traditional New Years letting go or releasing the year to make room for wishes .
And if you want to give yourself some play time I have just the thing on my sister site with my free Free Your Inner Child e-course
May your holidays be full of peace, bliss and joy!