Blog: Conscious Parenting Part 6: Learning from Our Triggers
By Joanna Adler, Psy.D.
Editor’s note: Joanna Adler, Psy.D. is a certified Depth Hypnosis Practitioner and licensed clinical psychologist. Her two-day workshop on Conscious Parenting will be at The Bodhi Center in Bainbridge Island, WA on the weekend of April 28-29.
Life throws so many difficult things at us as parents. It’s important to find enough time to support ourselves so that we can be resilient and offer that same support to our children. We know this, but sometimes it can feel like yet another thing to do. The good news is that there are practices we can cultivate for when we encounter difficulty in our relationships with our children, practices that allow us to get out of the way and offer the child what is truly needed in that moment.
Most of the time, when we get tripped up as parents we are dealing with our own places of pain or fear, and these places can make us respond to our children in a reactive way rather than a skilled way. This is a huge thing to understand. If we’re coming from a place of reaction because there’s a place of pain inside us that’s getting triggered, that reactive response is generally not going to be in the child’s best and highest good.
But if we get triggered and we have a practice of taking the time to understand what we are experiencing before we respond to our child, where we can hold our own pain and work with our own experience long enough to say, “OK. So this is my experience. Now let me take a deep breath, consider my options and see what my child is actually needing here.” In this case, we are much more likely to be able to have a productive and supportive response to our child. What a child actually needs is often quite different from what our initial reactive response might have been…
For example, I was talking to a parent this morning whose son has a chronic illness that has been a real challenge on many levels for this mom. And what she was opening to today was all the fear she had around what her teenage son was missing and has missed and how difficult it has been for him to stay caught up at school because he’s missing dozens of days of school every year. When this mom brought some space around the fear she was holding, a new experience started to open. She began to see that there were options that could open for her son in spite of his illness – different options from what she had previously considered. She could see that she needed to change her expectations of him, in order to best support him. She could also see that the structure of traditional high school may not be the right one for him.
It was a beautiful process to see this parent take in her own fear and then allow it to slowly melt and transform into enough space to see all the potential there is if they are to open to new possibilities.
To open to new possibilities, that mom had to be brave enough to look at her fear and hold her attention there long enough to understand it’s emotional roots.. She had to understand how her expectations of her son were based in old experiences from her own childhood. She had to be brave enough to allow her old beliefs to melt away so she could support her child in what he actually needs (which is different from what SHE had needed as a child).
It’s important for parents to give themselves time to understand their own experience, so that they can create space between their own pain and how they respond to their child. With this space, parents can learn to tap into the deepest intention of their hearts when they are looking to find the most skillful response to their child.
When we as parents align our behavior with the values of our heart, we are able to more easily see the gifts and the authentic nature of our children. This is what becomes possible when we take the time to be curious about our own experience. We cultivate our ability to understand our child more clearly, more cleanly. And this makes all the difference in our ability to facilitate the blossoming of their potential.