“Good night, John Boy!” – What is Family?

Do you remember the television show “The Waltons”? I know it’s a rather old show, which launched in 1972. It was one of the few TV shows I was allowed to watch as a child. I loved the family support the characters extended to each other and it really touched my heart how each episode ended. You saw their house in the dark, the Walton family with their seven kids and two grandparents went to bed, one light after the next was turned off, and they all said “Good night” to each other. “Good night, Mama,” “Good night, Daddy,” Good night, children!” “Good night, John Boy!”

Over the last six weeks, I have been contemplating the question of what “family” really means. What constitutes family and how do families cope with things?

Waltons 1

There is, of course, the ideal of the “picture book perfect family,” like the Waltons. We probably all carry that family archetype around in our mind. But let’s get real. It is 2017, not the 1930’s, and the reality is that there are more and more blended families. We are faced with more complicated family dynamics, other challenges, and different conflicts than the Waltons would have ever dreamed of. In today’s world, family set-ups change constantly. Separations and divorces occur and new unions, for example second or third marriages, are formed. Custody arrangements change, or children get older and move out. With each stage in life, energetic dynamics are transformed. Families even change temporarily, as we have experienced this summer.

For the last six weeks, my 16-year-old daughter has been living and working in Quebec. Meanwhile, we had a 17-year-old exchange student from Quebec staying with us. Just like our daughter in Quebec, he had to adapt to a completely new environment, a different language, his summer job in English, and many new impressions and events each day. They both impressed us tremendously with their openness and courage.

We also had to adapt as a family and understand cultural differences and differences in communication styles. Within the first weekend, our “exchange son” had captured both our hearts with his awareness and sensitivity. A bass guitar major for the last six years, he brought music into our house and many interesting conversations. He wanted to get to know both of us and made the effort to connect right from the start. Very observant and mature in his communication skills—despite the language challenges—we felt from the first moment on that we “lucked out” with this amazing summer guest.

Sounds like the “honeymoon”? It was. Ten days into his stay, the first challenges naturally arose which we had to work through together. Just as in a blended family, there were different values, other rituals and new ways of doing things. From home, he was used to coming and going spontaneously, unaware that over here in his host family, everybody else had adjusted their schedule to his to spend some quality time together. He was not used to communicating when plans that he had made were changing, or accustomed to keeping each other informed by text. The curfew put in place by the exchange program was initially looked upon by him and other French students as a suggestion, and the concept that parents might worry until the young people are back home safely did not occur to the students.

Having grown up in an all-girls household and having only parented girls, I was expecting that familiar communication of sharing your experiences and feelings, and expressing appreciation for each other on a daily basis. I read one syllable answers to questions and his lack of planning as a lack of consideration and lack of appreciation. He read our questions, responses to his behaviour and different rules as overprotection and judgement. The more he felt “not good enough” and “wrong,” the less he wanted to communicate. When we feel blamed, we sometimes just want to run and avoid an unpleasant talk. That is a human response. It took a change in approach—a “tough love” tone—for him to wake up.

Good Night, John Boy 0

We are so extremely proud of this young man for taking responsibility for his side of the misunderstandings and for being open to hear our explanations and apologies where we had made him feel judged as “wrong”. After this talk, we gained a tremendous understanding for each other. Our communication improved greatly, and we were able to see each other’s dissimilarity as just different instead of wrong or rude. We were able to focus on the similarities and the efforts made by everybody and express more appreciation towards each other.

Now, almost at the end of his stay, we are truly sad to see him go. There is no question in our minds and hearts that we will stay in touch with him, just as my daughter will continue the connection with her loving and truly amazing host family.

This exchange experience had me contemplating the question, “What is family”? What is it that the Waltons have that can be still found—or be missing—today in our modern families?

For me, it boils down to the wisdom that as a family you are stronger. What is good for one member of the family is good for all. You don’t give up on each other, but you talk through challenges and you grow from sharing your feelings and thoughts. You learn about the feelings, experiences and triggers the other family members have. From that place of greater understanding, you take responsibility for your part in a regretful interaction and create compromises together. Or, as a friend of mine said a few weeks ago when we spoke about issues with her step-son, “Shit happens in families, but as a family you work through this shit together!”

Good night, John Boy 1

Unfortunately, in her case, the mother of my friend’s teenage step-son is sheltering him from having to take responsibility for a big screw-up. She is depriving the father and his family from having the opportunity to work through things together as a family unit. Instead of trusting her son that he is old enough at 17 to work through a conflict to which he contributed, she is doing him a disservice by letting him hide behind her apron. Wanting to be the more beloved parent can leave us very short-sighted in terms of what beliefs and coping strategies we teach our children.

A family unit can only function if our feelings and needs are not swept under the carpet but rather are processed. Without the willingness to be vulnerable and discover what is going on underneath the feelings of irritation or anger we might be experiencing, we can’t move out of a stuck state. By not working through things as a family, we are making a choice to carry anger, resentment and blame with us. Sometimes it is the parent generation who is not willing to communicate openly and honestly, at other times it’s the young generation feeling unable to express themselves. Often the unsuccessful communication goes both ways. However, only when we take responsibility for our feelings, words and actions, can we grow as individuals as well as families.

Good night, John Boy 2

If you are enjoying my articles, you can follow Greendoor to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to click the “follow” button in the right-hand corner of your screen.

Angelika, Belief Change & Relationship Coach

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

905-286-9466

One way of working on your relationships is the Relationship Energetics Workshop coming up this fall.  For more course information please click here.

Groundhog Day – Communication Styles

“Just tell me right out what is wrong!” says our exchange student. And I can’t help but feel that this situation is quite surreal. I came to Canada from Germany 16 years ago and have since adapted to the Anglo-American indirect communication style. I can still feel that need to blurt right out what I am feeling bubble up at times but I dutifully squelch it—most of the time—because I have learned such uninhibited “vomiting” of thoughts or feelings will not be well received.

So for almost three weeks I have been saying things like, “Your dishes can go into the dishwasher. The frying pan needs to be washed in the sink,” and I assumed, based on my current social environment, this would translate into, “Please put your dishes into the dishwasher and clean the frying pan after you have used it.” I have also been saying, “Do you have an alarm on your phone you can set for in the mornings?” instead of “Please set your alarm for 6:30 and get up by yourself.” And “Please text us your plans,” instead of “We are having dinner at 8:00. If you are not planning to be home for dinner, please let us know ahead of time.”

It is not that this direct way of speech is unfamiliar to me. Had I been speaking in German, I would have automatically slipped into those phrases in German. But with the language and cultural context, I had made assumptions. I expected the receiver of my communication to be capable of inferring from my words to the meta-message.

communication - responsibility lies with sender

We make assumptions all the time. Do you have a family member or co-worker who is not responding to what you are trying to convey? Does it feel like they don’t hear you? We can feel so alone and get really frustrated when that occurs. However, we need to keep in mind that the responsibility for communication always lies with the sender.  Communication is successful when the sender’s message is correctly received and understood. Therefore, it is the sender’s responsibility to communicate clearly and effectively and to check the understanding of the delivered message.

I had not done that. I had found myself in a rendition of Groundhog Day, where each morning the almost 18-year-old man needed to be kicked out of bed after oversleeping, and where each morning, after his departure, the dirty frying pan and spatula were sitting on top of the stove and the unwashed plate and cup in the sink. What does Bill Murray do in Groundhog Day? He first goes crazy until he decides to let go and enjoy himself in the ever repeating reality.

Groundhog-Day

If you are feeling like it’s Groundhog Day, you neither have to go crazy, nor just let it go. You have the key to ending the miscommunication by changing your end of it. That might be the content of your messages, the tone of your voice, the non-verbal signals, or all of the above. When communication is not working, it’s not the receiver’s fault. Too often, we make people wrong in the process of not being able to get through to them. Their communication style is not wrong, just different.

Sometimes when communication is frustrating we feel irritated and annoyed. That sends additional interfering messages to the person at the receiving end. They feel not good enough in some way, perhaps like a burden, or unappreciated, or lectured to, or criticized. Step one is to check your communication honestly for that destructive energy. When we can perceive the receiver as willing and capable, our meta-message is one of trust and respect, instead of annoyed superiority.

Step two, change the choice of your words and double check the result. You might have to try out something completely different that you have not tried yet, and monitor the result. Sometimes your words might be too indirect; at other times the words might have too much edge. Do you perhaps need to use gentler start ups to ensure your receiver remains open to receiving your communication?

I am glad our Groundhog Days at home are over. I am very impressed by how us adapting our communication style slightly has allowed our exchange student to also adapt to planning ahead and being very considerate. Communication can create frustration, but when successful, communication creates wonderful bonds of connection.

If you are enjoying my articles, you can follow Greendoor to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to click the “follow” button in the right-hand corner of your screen.

Please check out the upcoming relationship workshop which will include tools for more successful communication, especially for conflicts.

Angelika Baum

Belief Change and Relationship Coach

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Sitting on the Anger Iceberg With You

angry screaming child

The door slams shut with a loud BANG. Marcia feels the frustration and anger rising in her. Here we go again! She can hear her 11-year-old daughter slam drawers and scream at her sister to get out of her room. “That is really taking it to too far”, she thinks. “How dare she behave this way? If I had ever acted like this, I would have been grounded for life!”

Marcia has different voices in her. The outraged voice is one of them. Then there is the sad voice that feels frustrated and helpless to guide her daughter through this time in her life. Then there is the voice which says she has failed as a mother; she somewhere must have gone wrong in raising her children.

Marcia has not failed. Most of us have just never been given the tools to cope with anger in a healthy way. We learn it is wrong to be angry and that showing anger or even rage is inappropriate. Yet, this response is literally evolutionarily ingrained into our brains for protection. The sub-cortical areas of our brain are wired for fight or flight. Stan Tatkin calls those more instinctive parts of our brain our “primitives”. When we feel overwhelmed, stressed, threatened or unsafe in some way, anger instinctively kicks in for us to be able to fight and keep ourselves safe.

Gottman Anger Iceberg

In November, The Gottman Institute posted an interesting article about anger by Kyle Benson. He uses the analogy of an iceberg to describe how anger is only the tip of that iceberg. More important than the anger visible above the surface is what is underneath the water. Anger is a secondary emotion. Anger is our protection from more vulnerable feelings, like helplessness, sadness, grief, loneliness and shame, just to name a few.

Anger is our internal GPS and guidance system that we are somehow off track in regards to our needs. When we accept anger as a feedback mechanism rather than a problem, which needs to be fixed or suppressed, we can investigate why it is there. It’s easy to see your partner’s or child’s anger but it can be more difficult to see the underlying feelings the anger is protecting. We need to listen closely to what is going on at a deeper level. Underneath anger there is a longing for something else. Marcia will need to sit on the anger iceberg with her daughter to help her figure out what she is really feeling.

Your partner or child’s anger is not a personal attack. It’s about their underlying primary feelings and unmet needs. Rather than judging her daughter’s outburst as wrong or taking it personally, Marcia needs to become curious as to why she is angry. Is her daughter perceiving something as unfair, is she sad about a recent loss, is she confused, is she experiencing helplessness, is she feeling like a disappointment, is she carrying responsibility too heavy for her age and therefore feeling overwhelmed, are her human needs met, and so on?

Dhebi Essential Human Needs

As Dhebi DeWitz’s chart from her book “The Messenger Within” illustrates, our needs can be grouped into physical nurturance, autonomy, interdependence, celebration/play, integrity and spiritual communication. As a child transitioning from childhood to adolescence, Marcia’s daughter, for example, wants and needs to feel physically safe and taken care of, loved and accepted, able to play and laugh, able to experience a sense of achievement and independence while being reassured she can reach out to others, develop a sense of purpose as well as beliefs of a benevolent universe.

Anger often lives in our shadow. We have learned to disown our own anger as “bad” or “wrong”. The more Marcia has embraced her own anger, the easier it will be not to be triggered by other people’s anger. She can then let her daughter know that it’s okay to feel angry. She can invite her to connect with the more vulnerable emotions and the possibly unfulfilled needs that the anger or rage is protecting. When her daughter feels heard and accepted with all her emotions, pleasant and unpleasant ones, her primary emotions can rise to the surface and steps can be taken to address the underlying needs.

Join Dhebi DeWitz and myself for our next bi-monthly FREE webinar. Our topic on Tuesday, May 7 is “Are Your Essential Needs Being Met?”. How to discover your essential human needs that are not being met in your life and to honour them. Click here to receive the link to join us life from 8:00-9:00 p.m. EST or 5:00-6:00 PST. The webinar will also be posted on YouTube afterwards.

If you are enjoying my articles, you can follow Greendoor to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to click the “follow” button in the right-hand corner of your screen.

Angelika, 905-286-9466, greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Constructive Disagreements in Relationships – PART ONE And Baby Makes Three

We all know that life changing events like death, divorce, retirement, a job loss or major health issues cause stress. These major life changing events go hand in hand with loss and grief. What we often forget is that positive life changing events like getting married and having a baby can also bring on a crisis. According to a study by E.E. LeMasters in the 1950’s, 83% of couples go through a moderate to severe crisis when they become parents for the first time. Other studies in the 1980s have confirmed his findings.

Both parents go through major changes in their identities, which can be challenging and overwhelming. New fears might come up and our values and goals in life can change. Many parents want to be better at parenting in some way or another than their own parents. Mothers often become very involved with their babies. The energy which used to be solely directed towards their partner is now redirected towards the child. The dad can feel left out and depending on his own childhood experiences and wounds, feel unimportant, rejected and abandoned. Often both parents end up feeling unappreciated. Having a new baby brings lots of changes and challenges. When we are so busy, we forget to say “thank you” and “I am so proud of you”, and we forget to ask “How was your day?”

gottman-saying-thank-you

When we are sleep deprived for a long time, we feel stressed and can also get mildly depressed. Sleep deprivation also makes our daily hassles seem more intense. New parents tend to feel more emotional and more irritable. The frequency and intensity of relationship conflicts and fights increase.

The greatest gift parents can give their baby is a happy and strong relationship between the two of them. What the child needs most of all, is for their parents to feel supported by each other and safe in their relationship. It makes the child feel safe in return. The blood pressure of babies rises when they witness their parents fighting and signs of depression in parents also have effects on the babies. “In the first three years of life, fundamental neural processes are being laid down that have to do with the infant’s ability to self-soothe, focus attention, trust in love and nurturance of his parents, and emotionally attach to his mother and father.” (Gottman, And Baby Makes Three)

Keep your fights constructive and respectful. Be gentle with each other and take responsibility for your part without being defensive. Listen and acknowledge your partner’s view. Children need to learn how to communicate their needs and feelings successfully and that their emotions matter to others. When you work on how you communicate, you can model successful interactions for your child. Your child will then develop the neural network for school achievement, healthy relationships and a future happy life.

If you have been struggling with constructive disagreements so far, don’t blame yourself. Let the past go and focus on the now. It is never too late to shift and change and thus show your child how we can all interact differently.

 

  1. Softer Start Ups

The start up is how we bring up an issue with our partner. 96% of the time, the start-up of a conversation determines how a conflict conversation develops. When we introduce an issue with a harsh start up—for example with blame or criticism—the likelihood that the other partner gets defensive right away is much higher. We need to be aware of the four horsemen of the apocalypse: criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stone-walling. They destroy our relationships. A complaint, on the other hand, starts with neutrally describing the situation, how we feel about it, what need we have, and ideally, it includes a request.

gottman-harsh-start-up-2

 

Here are some examples based on those by Julie Schwartz Gottman and John Gottman.

Harsh Start-Up: You don’t care about me (blame). You only care about yourself (criticism). You are just wrapped up in your own little world, with your face stuck in that newspaper (contempt and criticism).

Softened Start-Up: When you read the newspaper at dinner and you are not talking to me, I feel pretty upset. I miss talking to you and connecting with you. Can you ask me how my day was or tell me how yours was?

Harsh Start-Up: You think I’m ugly, don’t you? You want someone skinny, like the girl you were eyeing yesterday (blame and criticism). I know I am heavy, but so what? I just had a baby.

Softened Start-Up: I am worried that I am not sexy enough for you now that my body has changed. We are going to this party and I have put on this fancy dress and it is way too tight. I feel insecure and I would really like some compliments from you right now.

 

  1. Accept Your Partners Influence

In any argument, there is no objective truth. There are always two subjective realities, ours and our partner’s. When we insist that our perception is the only one that’s right and our partner’s perception is wrong, we end up in a power struggle in which we both lose. Instead of focusing on persuading your partner that you are right, acknowledge that there are two sides to every fight and strive to understand his or her point of view. Open-ended questions invite your partner to share more, for example “What makes this so important to you?” Step into your partner’s shoes for a moment and view the issue from your partner’s eyes to see why it makes some sense to have those feelings. Restate your partner’s point of view and validate it. When we accept our partner’s influence, we are honouring our partner as someone who is intelligent and well intentioned.

Gottman - understanding partner's position.jpg

 

  1. Calm Your Conflicts

When one or both partners get flooded and go into a state of DPA (diffuse physiological arousal), also known as “fight or flight”, it is time for a break. When we are in DPA, our hearing is compromised. Surges of adrenaline give us “tunnel vision”. We are not able to be compassionate or to be creative and problem solve. We see danger lurking and our partner feels like an enemy.

We need to request to halt the talk. When we tell our partner how long the break is going to last and when we intend to come back and resume talking, they will be more receptive. A break should last at least 25-30 minutes to give us adequate time for our heartbeat to slow down and for the adrenaline and cortisol levels in the body to decrease. At the very most, a break should last one day or otherwise it can feel to our partner as if we are avoiding the talk or are trying to passive-aggressively punish them.

gottman-30-min-break

 

During the break, anything that helps us physically soothe ourselves is a good idea: going for a walk, meditating, playing the piano, petting the dog, reading a book or anything else that is personally comforting to us. Ideally, you can combine deep breathing with a progressive muscle relaxation and with guided imagery. To learn how to do this, contact me.

 

  1. Compromise

When we are relaxed and able to express our feelings and needs, we can communicate successfully about problems. Part of successful problem solving is working out compromises. First, define the most minimal core area of need which each of you cannot give up on. What is your core need? Then define areas of greater flexibility, for example in regards to when and how you each get what you need. Third, come up with a temporary compromise.

 

Gottman - repair attempts.jpg

 

  1. Make Repairs

For a relationship to thrive the partners need to make and accept each other’s repair attempts. There is no right or wrong way to make a repair but it has to be made by one partner and heard by the other partner. Repairs can be words of apology, smiles, a joke or even a goofy face. Some examples of possible repair statements are:

  • I am sorry. I overreacted.
  • I might be wrong here.
  • I really blew this one.
  • Can we “rewind”? Let’s start over.
  • Let me try again.
  • I apologize. I got really triggered.
  • That must have really hurt your feelings.
  • I need to calm down. Can we please take a break and continue talking in 30 minutes?
  • That hurt my feelings.
  • Tell me you love me.
  • Can I have a kiss?
  • I am feeling unappreciated / sad / misunderstood.
  • I feel defensive. Can you perhaps rephrase that?
  • Please don’t withdraw.
  • I know this isn’t your fault.
  • Let’s compromise here.
  • I love you. Let’s work on this.

 

If you don’t want to miss part two of this article about perpetual problems in relationships, you can follow Greendoor to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to click the “follow” button in the right-hand corner of your screen.

Angelika

Relationship Coaching and Belief Changes

905-286-9466, greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

 

Good As Gold – How Siblings Carry Each Others Shadow Traits

I have written in the past about partners carrying each other’s disowned energies and how children mirror our shadows for us. Another way to find out what is in your shadow is to take a look at your sibling(s). Sometimes the differences between two or more siblings are subtle but in many cases they are quite obvious. Often siblings carry each others opposites.

The older sister—or brother—might be, for example, over-identified with being the responsible one, the one who is more conservative, careful with money and striving to save up for sensible goals like buying a house. He or she might be the one who studies and works hard. The younger sister or brother then often steps into the opposite energy. He or she shows up as “irresponsible”, fun loving, care-free and able to spend money on an adventure or instant gratification. One sibling perhaps seems to live for the future, worrying that everything turns out the way he or she hopes. The other one lives in the present and does not dream of owning real estate or saving up for retirement.

Is one of them right and the other one wrong? Neither one has made the “better” choices, neither energy is bad. In fact, to be whole we need to feel we have a choice whether we want to be responsible in a situation or less responsible, whether we want to make a sensible choice for future safety or possibly a choice to enjoy the present moment. It is important to plan ahead; it is also enriching to feel care-free and to fully live right now.

Being identified with one energy while disowning the opposite energy, affects our relationships. Instead of truly supporting each other and being friends, the siblings usually end up judging in each other what they don’t allow themselves to be. The older sibling will judge the younger one as “irresponsible” and the younger one might call the older one “boring”. Meanwhile there is a part in both of them which longs to be whole, which feels resentful when the other sibling’s approach seems to give them an advantage. The older one, who feels he or she has worked so hard and always does what is expected might feel annoyed to see that the younger one gets through life alright, apparently without worrying about money and having so much fun. The younger one might secretly feel inferior and wish at times that she had savings or better grades or higher qualifications.

Yet, neither approach to life is right or wrong, neither is better than the other. Those are two different experiences of life, based on different choices and a result of the fact that they are both not fully conscious of how energy works.

Both are depriving themselves from being truly whole and having a free choice in each given moment in life who they want to be or what energy they want to display. What the other one mirrors to them, what they are irritated by and judge in the other sibling, is actually, as Hal Stone says “the medicine they need”.

Hal & Sidra what we judge in others

Hal and Sidra Stone

The older sibling is not automatically the more serious and responsible one. John is the father of a 15 year old son and a 12 year old daughter. He has come for relationship coaching as he is greatly struggling with his son. He describes him as “disrespectful, irresponsible, messy, unreliable, not applying himself in school, lazy” or in short “incredibly irresponsible”. As John talks about his son, he is getting agitated and angry. It is palpable how much the teenager triggers him. When I ask him about his daughter, he smiles and his voice becomes soft. “She is good as gold”, he says several times. “She is always reliable and tidy and gets good marks in school. She helps around the house; she is always even tempered and so responsible. She is really good as gold.”

When I explain about opposite energies and shadows John has a hard time seeing how any of the traits his son displays could be useful energy or good in any way. He wants his son to be “good as gold” just like his daughter. However, that is not how energy works. The younger sister has taken on the brother’s responsible shadow and he is carrying his sister’s care free energy. Both children are not showing up as their whole complete selves. They have polarized into opposites and being labelled as “irresponsible” and “good as gold” manifests this situation. They don’t see a way out of this polarization. The daughter gets positive attention and affection by being a perfect little angel. The son gets attention by being the black sheep.

Angel 3

I ask John what happens when the daughter makes a mistake or gets a mark that’s not a perfect score. At first he says, “But that doesn’t happen! She is an A student across board!” Then he admits that she beats herself up for any mistake or less than perfect performance. She is tough on herself. She worries about the future too. She has a hard time relaxing, doing nothing for a few hours.

As parents we see this polarization between siblings from the outside. Often, we will look at one of them and feel more comfortable with their approach to life than with the other. We mustn’t forget that our children are a mirror for us as well, for what we don’t like about ourselves (our dark shadows) or what we maybe admire about others and think we are not (our light shadows).

It is our job to allow all our children to be whole. It is up to us to encourage a child who is identified more with responsibility or perfection to loosen up, to be okay with making mistakes, to enjoy life right now. And it is also our job to trust the child who shows up as more irresponsible that they are capable and willing to take responsibility for their actions. It is our—perhaps most difficult—task to allow them to learn their own life lessons. By embracing our own shadows which we see in them, we can come to a place of non-judgment and true unconditional love.

If you enjoy my posts, you can follow Greendoor to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to click the “follow” button in the right-hand corner of your screen.

 

Would you like to understand the energetic dynamics in your family more? Is there a relationship you would like to improve? Do you want to stop being triggered by certain family members?

To learn more contact me (Angelika) for individual sessions or Shadow Energetics Workshops.

905-286-9466 (free phone consultation) or

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

For 2016 workshop dates and locations go to Upcoming Workshop.

 

 

HOMEWORK – Part Two – by Angelika Baum

This is the second in a two part series on homework. The first part, called “How a Grade 3 Book Report Turned into a Parenting Life Lesson for Me” was written by my friend and colleague Mary Strachan, the Founder of Fresh Perspectives and mother of two.

PART TWO

Nobody Likes Homework – Or?

By Angelika Baum

For the past ten years, I have been trying to convince my oldest daughter to throw out an old school project that was taking up room in the closet. It was a huge model of an airport runway, buildings and model planes attached to it. She made this project in grade two—or so we think. We also cannot remember anymore what the title of the assignment was. Yet, this project had become like a fifth limb to her. It had turned into the perfect representation of her creative ability. It was probably one of her first experiences of being resourceful and able to produce something that looked good and felt good. For this project she had to “interview” two people who worked at the airport. Ironically, she works at the airport herself today. The project—or what was left of it after all those years—stood for being able to achieve anything she sets her mind to.

As a teacher as well as a parent, I have seen children come into school with these elaborate and perfect projects which have so clearly been 80% produced by a parent. Have you ever wondered what is underneath this? Could it be our fear that our child will not be able to compete without us?

Let’s sit for a moment with the beliefs that cause this fear in us.

Does our story go a little bit like this? “It’s a tough world out there. It’s hard to compete with others. If you don’t get good grades in school you are not going to get a ‘good job’, and if you do not get a ‘good job’, you will not make ‘enough money’, and if you do not make ‘enough money’, you won’t be happy.”

Sometimes the fear story goes “My child is different. He/she is too sensitive/has too much energy/ADD/etc. Unless my child learns to be ‘normal’, he/she is lost and is going to fail in the system.”

Just notice your fear story. Be compassionate with yourself for having it. It was probably instilled long time ago by your own parents and your own experiences. Also ask what it would be like to let go of that story and trust that everything is alright. And what would it be like to trust our children to be smart, complete and resourceful? If we are packing their symbolic luggage to go out into the world, what would we like them to have in that suitcase of theirs?

homework - suitcase

What limiting beliefs do we teach our children by doing their homework for them?

“I cannot do my homework by myself.” Or more specifically, “I am not good enough (smart, creative, etc) to do it myself.” Maybe even, “I cannot do anything by myself; why even try.” He or she learns, “I am not good at problem solving” and “Homework is overwhelming.” And most limiting of all, “I need my parent in order to get through life and to compete with others. In order to make it through life I need help.”

It does not even have to be a project, regular everyday homework provides the opportunity for either learning limiting or supportive beliefs. Now that school is in full swing again, many parents find homework time stressful. Emotions fly high, tears roll and there is a lot of struggle when the experience could be completely different.

Am I saying that we shouldn’t under any circumstances support our children with their homework? Not at all. But there is a difference between supporting them and doing it for them. It’s the difference between teaching them strong beliefs about themselves and teaching them limiting beliefs about themselves, school and life.

Is homework a big dramatic event in your household? Do you have a child who puts all his or her energy into not doing the work or into whining about it? Do you hear “I don’t want to do this,” “I can’t do this,” or “I don’t know this” a lot? Do you find yourself being pulled into endless repetitive games around the school work?

homework H Ford quote

If this is your household, your child most likely believes that learning and homework are hard and not fun. Instead of embracing the homework as easy and enjoyable, your child puts his or her entire energy into fighting the situation.

How different would life be like for this child if he or she had the following beliefs?

  • I can do most of my homework by myself. If I need assistance, it is given to me.
  • I can think for myself and problem solve. If I need further clues, I can ask for them.
  • I am good at reading, writing and problem solving.
  • I am smart and I can do whatever I set my mind to.
  • I have the choice to make homework pleasant and I do.
  • I like doing my homework and I am good at it.
  • My homework is my responsibility and I do it as soon as I can.
  • I always complete my homework efficiently.
  • I do my best in school and my best is always good enough.

Now you might be thinking, “Sure! When pigs fly!”

I promise you that you CAN shift the energy in your house—but you need to start with yourself.

Do you truly believe that homework can be fun and easy? Or do you feel burdened by it and are secretly thinking, “It’s the teacher’s job to teach my kids in school, not mine at home on the weekend!” Watch how you are responding to the homework; how do you feel when it’s homework time; how are you are talking about it?

We also need to be conscious of our own fears and not pass them on without questioning their measure of truth and their usefulness. Is it more likely that our children will thrive in life when they are living in fear, or when they are embracing new challenges and tasks with curiosity and joy?

homework 1

How different would your family life be if you embraced your child’s school work not as an evil which has to be done but as something positive? Show interest in what they are doing in school, supply an everyday context for what they are learning, or be impressed by the amazing knowledge or skills that your child is currently acquiring.

Provide applications for what they are doing in school. Math, for example, is abstract if I am only writing numbers underneath each other and adding or subtracting single digits. Give your children money to buy something small rather than you buying everything. Point out prices and do calculations. When they ask, “How old is grandpa?” don’t give them the answer but say “Grandpa was born in 1945. How old do you think he is?” Life is full of mathematical calculations. Playfully practice the times tables and simple additions, subtractions and divisions. Most of all, know that you child can do this. They are smart enough to put their energy into avoiding thinking and doing homework. Just re-direct that curiosity and intelligence to playfully learning every day.

Walk your talk about learning and school work. Does your child see you read to relax or educate yourself? Do you enjoy when you have to write something? Do you approach problems with an attitude of I’ll find a solution rather than “I can’t do this”? Are you making time for creativity?

homework - bookshelf 1

Nobody is perfect, so if you have noticed that you are not modelling to your child that thinking, learning and being creative are fun, be open about it. Say to your son or daughter, “I don’t read as much as I would like to. Let’s find some time each week for you and I to read together or sit in the same room reading.” Or “I think grandma would really like to get a letter. Let’s sit down together tomorrow and write one for her.” Or “When it comes to new things, I sometimes give up to fast. I want to change that. What do you think I should do?”

Children value transparency and truthfulness. Don’t get annoyed, angry or lecture. Don’t tell them stories about how you always did your homework right away when you were a student. Be honest and prepared to make changes yourself. Change your own attitude towards homework. Use it as an opportunity to connect and have fun with your children. School is their life; you can help them to enjoy it.

Angelika

Coaching & Conscious Parenting

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

greendoorrelaxation.net

If you enjoy my posts, you can follow Greendoor to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to click the “follow” button in the right-hand corner of your screen.

HOMEWORK – Part One – by Mary Strachan

I have a special treat for you today, a collaboration on the topic “homework”. I am sharing the blog space for today’s post in two parts with my colleague, friend and fellow mother Mary Strachan, who is the founder of Fresh Perspectives, a Parenting Coaching Service. She coaches and mentors parents and children. The purpose of Fresh Perspectives is to empower parents to get clear on what they want most, understand what might be getting in their way, and get re-energized to raise a happy and healthy family. Here is a story Mary would like to share:

PART ONE

How a Grade 3 Book Report Turned into a Parenting Life Lesson for Me

By Mary Strachan

When our son was in grade 3, he had a series of 3 book report projects to do over the course of the year. The first one went really well. I supported him to break it down into pieces and he was able to get it done without any drama at all. It was really quite a pleasant experience, with minimal involvement on my part.

homework mary 1- zombiekins

The second one didn’t go so well. His motivation to do it just wasn’t there, and, ski and snowmobile season had started so he spent most weekends away, enjoying his fun in the snow. He definitely did not work on it a little bit at a time.

Suddenly it was Family Day weekend, and the project was due on the Tuesday, and it wasn’t anywhere near being done.   As you can imagine, stress levels were high – both his and mine. The more I pointed out that he was running out of time, the less he wanted to work on it. Instead, he suggested he might as well not do it at all, seeing as he’d “never get it done anyways.” (In the heat of the moment, I may have suggested he’d never get it done at the rate he was going.)

Several arguments later, I found myself bargaining with him to get it done. If I drew the characters’ heads, would he colour them in (please say yes) and, if you tell me what you want to say, I’ll type it out for you (it was so painful to watch him type.)

We got the project done. On time. Mission accomplished. Crisis averted.

I could breathe again. Until Tuesday night that is. When he came home from school, he was worried about how a class mate would do on the project because she had only written a couple of sentences for each section – unlike him, whose sections were full because I had typed them out for him. He was convinced she was going to fail. But I knew better. If anyone had failed, it was me.

homework mary 2- failure

Sure enough, I got a call from his teacher later in the week, asking me to come in and talk about his project. Even though I was embarrassed, I went in to have the conversation. Luckily, his teacher kept an open mind about what happened, and wanted to understand what lead me to do so much of the project for him.

Together we figured out that leaving most of it to the end was a really big part of the problem. He felt so overwhelmed at the thought of having so much to do that it was just easier not to do it at all. He also changed the kind of project he wanted to do at the last minute, creating more work for himself. We agreed that she would work with him to set up a time line for the last project to keep him on track and stress free.

But there was more to it than that. She also helped me see that I was unwilling to let him take the project to school “as is” and incomplete. The thought never, ever, crossed my mind. It was due so that meant it would be finished and handed in. No ifs, ors, ands, or buts. At least not on my watch.

Cartoon

Cartoon

My belief that he had to have a finished project to hand in robbed him of the opportunity to learn from his choices. To feel the consequences of the decision not to finish it. To understand what to do differently next time so he wouldn’t be so overwhelmed. To admit to the teacher it didn’t go the way he’d planned. Even worse, it taught him that the only way to handle the situation was for me to do the work for him.

And, at the end of the day, if he didn’t hand in a completed project, on time, didn’t it mean that I was not a “good” mother?

Lots has changed since then. I’ve seen him hand projects in on time and late. I’ve also seen him hand in a version of the project he thought he was supposed to do that was very different from the one he was actually assigned. I’ve kept him company late at night while he has finished them and celebrated with him when he’s completed them a day early. I’ve encouraged him to check in with his teachers to make sure he’s on track and to be honest with them when he’s having trouble. I’ve bought supplies for him, driven him to friends’ houses to work on group projects, and even proof read his writing when he’s asked me to do it.

Are there times when I want to manage his work more? Sure. Are there times I’d love to jump in and rescue him? Yep – I’m still working on this one. Do I like it when he procrastinates and leaves things to the last minute? Not really – I find it kind of stressful, actually. But I realized something. I’ve had my turn at being a student. This is his turn. And the more I do for him, the less opportunity he has to experience what it truly means to learn – beyond the facts and multiplication tables and capital cities.

homework mary 4- plantinhand

As far as my worries about being a “good” mother, I know it has less to do with being “right” or what other people think about me and more about allowing space for my kids to experience all of what life has to offer – the good and the bad, the ups and the downs, and allowing them the chance to discover what works and doesn’t work for them. It’s about staying connected with them without overdoing it and being available and present when they need me to be.

Check out Mary’s website for 5 Ways to Support Your Kids With Their Homework Without Actually Doing It For Them

Piece of Advice for My Daughter

My friend Crina was sharing a lovely blog with me in which a mother gave her daughter 32 principles or lessons on life as she is moving out to go to school. That made me wonder, if I could only give my own daughter one piece of advice, what would that be? What is it that I have learned that has made a fundamental difference in how I experience life?

Sometimes clients resonate with a part in me, like a tuning fork will trigger another equal one into vibrating. That might be a part that I needed to see in a mirror, or a message I needed to hear. Other times, I recognize a part that I haven’t connected with in a while but have integrated or made peace with over the years.

Lately, a few of my younger female clients have shared about the part in them that feels that the “clock is ticking” in regards to reaching their goals. That part used to speak to me very loudly as well when I was in my twenties. The story that part would tell me went something like, “You only have so much time to make it all happen, to finish your education, start your career, find the perfect partner, get married and have children. You better hurry and make it happen or you will be too old in no time.”

Piece of Advice 2

That part wants us to have a plan for the future and to focus on reaching it. It is undoubtedly a useful part. Yet, if we over-identify with this part, it can also put us in a place of anxiety and of constantly living in the future. We miss out on the present moment. We deprive ourselves from living right now, from experiencing and enjoying the magic of today. That magic is not just present at whatever age we have decided our life will surely be perfect, but continues to be constantly present during our twenties, thirties, forties and so on.

The one piece of advice I would like to give my daughter as she is starting out on a new adventure is to honour the part in her which is focused on the future, while not forgetting to live fully right now in the present. The voice in us which is aware of the passing of time and the need to “get ready for the winter” like a squirrel, is only one voice on our committee of advisers, only one voice on the panel of our internal board of directors.

How would it feel if we just moved into a place of trusting that everything always unfolds perfectly? Our career will take the twists and turns it needs to take for our personal growth. We will learn from each of our partnership(s) until we decide to start a family. Children will come in their own time and in their own way, some biological, others as adopted children or stepchildren. What would our experience of life be like if we—instead of feeling we have only a limited time to make it all happen—relaxed into everything unfolding with ease and grace?

Piece of Advice 3

Angelika

Life Coaching

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

If you enjoy my posts, you can follow Greendoor to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to click the “follow” button in the right-hand corner of your screen.

Empty Nest?

Have you ever tried to push an emotion away instead of dealing with it? Doesn’t work so well, does it? It’s a bit like trying to push a beach ball under water. It is bound to pop up again sooner or later.

I had my own week of pushing down a beach ball. Ten days ago, my oldest moved out. She and I have always had a very strong bond. A friend of mine, who has a son a few years older, has been making foreboding remarks about the challenges of adjusting to children moving out for the last few months. Resolutely, I had refused to listen and “have her put suggestions into my head”. After all, her son had no siblings and the term “empty nest” did not apply to me at all.

When you google “empty nest syndrome” definitions like this one come up: “Empty nest syndrome is a feeling of grief and loneliness parents may feel when their children leave home for the first time. This can result in depression and a loss of purpose for parents, since the departure of their children from “the nest” leads to adjustments in parents’ lives. Empty nest syndrome is especially common in full-time mothers.”

Nest 2

I just couldn’t see how that could possibly apply to me. I have my work which I love, a close loving partnership, another daughter and a stepdaughter. Does that sound like an empty nest? I was worried about how my younger daughter would deal with her sister being away from home. I feared she would miss her best friend and mentor. Her older sister is the one she is closely bonded into. However, I was not expecting to feel grief myself.

My daughter moved out on Friday. On Sunday, my stepdaughter, who is an intuitive little one, asked me twice out of the blue “Are you okay?” I replied to her I was feeling tired but secretly started wondering what she was picking up on. By Monday, I was starting to realize that I was suppressing something. The bond with my oldest is strong and I trust it will change and become in some ways even deeper than it is. So that was not it. Yet, I felt moody, restless and just not myself.

It took a couple of meditations and some muscle testing to realize what was being triggered. A very old primal fear came up. I traced it back to being barely four years old. At that time, shifts happened in my family with one of my sisters being born and my mother almost leaving my father due to another crisis. The experience I had back then was that it is not safe for me when shifts happen among the people I love. Once I had uncovered that limiting belief, it was easy to clear it out.

Nest 5

We can clear out fears or limiting beliefs using PSYCH-K® or another belief change technique. In addition it can help to use NLP-based techniques of refocusing on what we want at this point in our life. This helps us to further adapt to changes and to be able to direct our creative energy towards our own/new goals.

Sometimes we underestimate periods of transition in our life. We are getting married or moving in with someone. We are having a baby. We are melting two families. Somebody moves out. We are getting a promotion into a more challenging position. Somebody in the family is retiring. All these are usually “happy” events. Yet, just like losing our job, a break-up of a relationship, a separation, a divorce or losing somebody through death, transitions shake us and require adjustments. They can trigger emotions and fears. They might bring limiting beliefs up to the surface. They are, however, a gift. They are an opportunity to do our growth work.

Are you going through a transition in your life?

For Life Coaching and Emotional Healing Work

Contact Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

 

If you enjoy my posts, you can follow Greendoor to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to click the “follow” button in the right-hand corner of your screen.

Additional Points to Consider for Step-Parenting

Do you know what a pot-bound plant is?

When a plant is growing in a particular pot, it keeps growing but its environment, the pot, does not grow with it. The plant gets to a certain point and then becomes what is called “pot bound”. The roots just keep going round and fill up the whole pot. They become more and more rigid. They cannot spread out in that cramped environment. When you break open the old pot and replant the plant in a bigger pot or in the garden the plant can stretch out and grow much bigger.

A stepfamily, according to Sidra Stone—who came up with this perfect metaphor—is like breaking the old pots open and giving the family members, especially the children, a place to grow which is much bigger.

stepparenting - heartWith this new, unfamiliar and bigger space come a lot of adjustments. The plants need to get used to the new soil. If loving gardeners make sure the new soil is rich and fertile and full of nutrients, the plants are more likely to do well in the new environment.

These days, who doesn’t know someone who is part of a stepfamily? In 2011in Canada, there were 464,335 “melted families”. This represents more than 10% of Canadian families with children. Melted families are becoming increasingly complex. In 1995, the simple stepfamilies—in which all the children were the children of one of the spouses only—were still in the majority. Today, complex stepfamilies with children from both spouses are as common or even in the majority.

Stepparenting 7

In my blog “Points to Consider for Parenting” on September 1st, I elaborated on four aspects of parenting which can help us to be more successful parents if we are aware of them:

  1. The Adults in the Family Should Be True Partners in Parenting
  1. Children Carry Our Disowned Selves; They Show Us What We Tend to Judge and Dislike
  1. Be Aware of the Energetic Linkage: Who is bonded into Whom?
  1. Ask, What Does This Parenting Situation Have to Teach Me?

Stepparenting 1

Here are two additional points to consider particularly for stepparenting:

  1. You Are the Parent of Your Own Children

Don’t try to be the disciplining parent for your stepchildren, especially if they still have two biological parents. It’s impossible and bound to fail. Don’t expect to take the part of their mother or father. There is no such thing as “just” being the stepparent. It is an important and enriching experience for everybody involved. Yet different guidelines apply for the stepparent than apply for the parent. When the parent is not taking charge of a situation, it can understandably be challenging for the stepparent to hold back.

It is therefore important for each parent to step into your parenting role when it comes to your own biological children. It is your responsibility to parent your children. Leaving it up to the stepparent to do the disciplining or activities that you do not enjoy is unfair to everybody. Communicate clearly with your partner what you need from him or her. This can mean that you—or your partner—need to step up and become a more confident or involved parent.

Stepparenting POINT 5 - Step up to parent

  1. Vulnerability

When old family systems are dissolved and we move from being a couple to being parents or stepparents, from having no siblings or full siblings to suddenly having stepsiblings, everybody is vulnerable and insecure: the adults as well as the children. Everybody is faced with a new situation and adjustments while navigating their own feelings and experiences.

We need to be aware of our vulnerability and this vulnerability has to be available between the partners. We usually live in our power selves of pusher or rational mind or assertive self and so on, which exist to protect our vulnerability. These power selves are useful for our survival but can prevent real connections.

Vulnerability gives us the option to be with somebody without all the defences and guards. It allows us to be authentic and to feel and communicate all feelings. When things happen in the parenting situation, it allows us then to come to our partner and express how we truly feel and to work out a solution together. If we are not able to do that, we might end up attacking our partner or his or her child because we are not aware of our own vulnerability in a situation. Our power selves jump in and take control. Communicating the vulnerability is the first step towards aligning with your partner. The next big step is to bring this same open communication to the children or stepchildren instead of coming from a place of power all the time. The interactions can then become deep sensitive connections with them, a totally different quality of interactions than when we come from our power selves.

Another vulnerability that comes into play is the new set of in-laws for each partner. In the case of a second or third marriage, we have even lost one set of in-laws and siblings-in-laws from the previous relationship and we need to navigate the new rules and ways of the new in-laws. The new in-laws might be struggling just in the same way with the changes which come up. They might fear losing the contact with their son or daughter and with their grandchildren, now that a new person has come into the picture. It is a situation which brings up lots of vulnerabilities, insecurities and fears. Be loving and kind with yourself and those around you as you are going through those changes.

Stepparenting POINT 6 - Vulnerability

When the parents choose to parent consciously, both stepping up to be involved parents who are aware of vulnerabilities among the family members and ready to address them, the conditions are ideal for new growth. Children can spread out to make new experiences and to grow strong roots in their new and more expansive environment, like pot bound plants that are being replanted in larger pots.

Angelika

Conscious Parenting & Life Coaching

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

905-286-9466

If you enjoy my posts, you can follow Greendoor to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to click the “follow” button in the right-hand corner of your screen.