This is not going to be your typical parenting list reminding you to get down to eye level with your kids, take a pause and really listen. This is a deeper cut and it’s a little radical, so be prepared. The basic theory is this: your kids are going to turn into you. In many ways, you’ve turned into your parents (or a reaction to them). Regardless of what you say, tell them, cop to, or wish, they will follow in your footsteps, so, because all you want is for your child to turn out to be happy, the best thing you can do for your child is figure out how to be happy yourself (oh yes, and pay some attention to them too, of course.).
So here goes the list:
Tip #1: Take Care of You
You are underestimating how important it is for you to feel control over and love your body. If you can remember a time when you sculpted it to be how you wished and you took great care of it, you remember, it felt so good. Everything else in life was better because of it. Having kids is no reason to forego that bliss and confidence. I know it is commonly accepted as an excuse, but no more.
I know it feels like you have no time, but you do. I know you make time for certain things that are a waste. I know you are not always efficient. I know you could do less social networking. I know you could do jumping jacks while you watch TV, or chase your kids around the playground. (I literally do this, I set a timer on my phone and play tag for 20 minutes, breathless the whole time. The kids know I am exercising, the other parents may think I am nuts, but the kids and I are having a ball!) Be willing to go outside the usual in order to be happy and see what it does for your kids. I know you know how to do yoga or strength builders with your kids right there if you really put your mind to it. And then there is always the pre-dinner dance party to get all the ants out of everyone’s pants. Turn on your greatest hits. I think this should work through adulthood.
If the kind of clean food or exercise you love involves getting someone else’s help, ROCK ON! If you don’t ask for what you need, you find a way to take your resentment out on others anyway! It never fails, there are no free rides. So give your loved ones the chance to be your heroes upfront. Hint: you don’t already do this because then you’d have to shut up your inner-brat and actually eat healthfully and go to the gym! Ha, the jig is up. Here’s the truth: People are prepared to help. Healthful food is quick and easy to prepare; the rest of your family will like it and support you, if you mean it. Exercising is fun and easy.
Like my belief system? My attitude? Think it’s outlandish and unrealistic? I am a mother of two and own a company, run another company and exercise daily, eat clean (except planned occasional “cheats”) and have a regular sex life. Oh, and I get seven hours of sleep a night. I didn’t figure this out all at once, but I did figure it out, and YOU can learn from my mistakes and figure out your plan, too. Listen, the world needs well-rested, energized, happy parents to raise the NEXT generation of world-changers. Okay? So please consider your health your Number #1 duty and kill the voices of the brat, martyr and lazy bones. We (Handel Group™ Life Coaching) can help you make your food and exercise plan and stick to it.
Tip #2: Take Care of Your Partnership
Ultimately, your children don’t do what you say, they do what you DO. So whether you are married, divorced, legal partners or not, or raising your kid with a friend or grandparent, this applies to you. The partnerships they watch are the ones they will emulate (or shall I say repeat?). They are watching and unconsciously sucking all of it up, so if you think you don’t have to be working on your marriage or partnership(s), you are missing a major key to good parenting. Here’s what you might NOT be doing in your partnerships that would make a big difference:
* Telling the Truth (in a graceful way)- Whatever you are hiding in a relationship wreaks havoc. Whether it’s cheating, withdrawing your love, making secret rules your partner keeps failing at or just not saying what you need, you are doing real harm. Just because you don’t talk about it, (or you only talk to your friends about it) does not mean you are diminishing the harm. In fact, you are increasing the harm. The more you keep a secret, the more weight and irreversibility it seems to gain. Learn to speak up (we can help).
* Listening- To inspire an environment in which the truth can be told, you have to be a non-reactive listener. Gosh I know, easier said than done. This takes planning, preparation and practice. We are NOT born with this skill and most of us never learned it from our parents. First step, admit you ain’t great at it.
* Making Time- If you don’t make time for communication, fun, bonding, romance and sex, they won’t stay. You wouldn’t dare think you should have a great body or a great business without putting in some time, and yet we take for granted our most precious relationships so much, and then, conveniently blame the other person. Please, for the kids, schedule this time together to practice the above and to keep alive what drew you to each other. No matter how great you or your partner is, no matter how hot or deep it once was, it is not designed to last or evolve unless you do the work. (Also, the “work” of being in love, even if not at first, is fun!) Sorry. But also, yay, because now you know what you’re here for. I hope this helps you focus and get to it.
Tip #3: Take Care of Your Career or Mission
The kids are watching how you feel about your career or what you do, all day. Whatever you’ve chosen, I know you had your reasons. If you love what you do and your only issue is that your kids tease you that you don’t love them as much as you love your phone/computer, awesome! Your kids will probably end up loving their careers. All you have to do is plan quality time, be fully present, say back to them what you think they are saying and feeling and practice until you get it right and they are sick of you already.
But, if you haven’t found your true calling or you don’t love what you do all day, put it down as the next thing on the list to address before this year is over. You’d think it tragic if your kid did not get to fulfill his or her full potential, but what about you? Have you taken the time to even think, dream, write and begin discussing what you really want to do with your life? We are at a critical time in human evolution where we need “all hands on deck” from consciousness-aware humans to help humanity. That means you need to get off your pity-pot and start talking about your dream job/career. As with body, brat, lazy, and martyr (but my kids need me!) and chicken (it’s too scary, I bet I won’t succeed) will rear their ugly heads. But this time, you be on your team, not theirs. Okay?
We can teach you how to tell the truth about what you really want to do and start making promises about action steps to get there. Even before you get there, when you are pursuing what you love, you get prouder and happier. This will impact your family more than your face time ever will. That was very hard for me to believe at first but when I realized I used my “kids needing me” as an excuse every time I felt afraid to grow in my career (and never when I wasn’t afraid), I knew I was simply going to have to keep moving forward despite the fears. None of these tips is simple.
Tip #4: Tell the Truth
In Tip #2, I focused on telling the truth to your partner. Here I want to remind you the importance of telling the truth to your kids. Lying doesn’t pay. I am not talking about dumping your problems on your child or sharing information that is (or in a way that is) developmentally inappropriate. I am talking about regular lies about, for example, where you have been, how long you’ll be gone, what addictions you are struggling with, what’s really going on in your relationships. Hint: If you are too ashamed to tell the truth to your kids (especially if they ask) it means you shouldn’t be acting the way you are acting. Get help to fix that and come clean with your kids as soon as you can.
Your children end up reacting to the truth as they grow up even if you/they don’t know it. For example, I’ve coached dozens of women who don’t know why all their partners cheat until they find out what they never knew, that one of their parents had cheated! Similarly, bad habits, traits, addictions and lying patterns get passed right down. The apple just does not fall far from the tree. The only way to counteract this trend is to start letting the cat out of the bag. I know there is so much shame about the “dark sides” of being human, but we all share these issues, so the shame has got to go. Remember, your kids are not going to escape the trials of being human, so pretending issues don’t exist doesn’t save them.
Tip #5: Deal with Your Mom/Dad Baggage
Nobody escapes having baggage with their parents; it comes along with, well, being born! It doesn’t matter if you were adopted or who you were raised by, you most likely have “issues” with those who raised you and those who made you biologically. I wish I could say you could skip dealing with it or that “having good boundaries” was enough to protect you. Because we tend to repeat bad patterns, especially when we become parents ourselves, the deepest and most rewarding work we can do is to heal our relationships with our parents. This means taking them off the pedestal or out of the ditch we’ve placed them in and learning to see them as adults: human, fallible, equal adults, who made mistakes, had feelings, pain, hard decisions, possibly tragedies to deal with in their lives and who desperately want to be known and forgiven by their children.
Think about how much you’d like to die knowing your child released any baggage he or she had with you. That’s as much as your parents would like the same, even if they can’t say it or don’t realize it (even if they are dead, I believe). This is deep, spiritual work, and I think we owe it to future generations to do this kind of work on ourselves, not to mention how precious it is to previous generations who are impacted. I will write other blogs on rituals to do with kids: how to listen, developmentally appropriate communication, etc., but behind all the good “how-to’s” and tips is the REAL YOU. Like your parents, you are also emotional, imperfect, scarred, scared, hopeful, magical, triumphant and divine. This is the you who needs attending to in order to be the parent you want to be. Please start paying attention to you and the real work you need to do this lifetime.
It may take a year or more to attend to all these tips, but you will find that any action in the direction of doing this work will make you proud and happier. If you want to surround yourself with people who care this deeply and get some solid support, please come to the Urban Retreat, The Real Deal: Parenting and Partnership on November 5th in NYC. NY. I look forward to seeing you there.