3 Key Steps Towards Peaceful Parenting.
Parenting during a pandemic isn’t something that any of us imagined doing this year we’re joined by Dr Mari Kovanen to look at 3 key steps towards peaceful parenting. Just in time for half term some wonderful advice for how to deal with your triggers and maintain a calm, peaceful parenting approach. If you’d like to find out more about Dr Kovanen see below for her biography to find out more.
3 Key Steps Towards Peaceful Parenting: Dr Mari Kovanen.
In the past few weeks, you have been living under very unusual circumstances and spent most of your 24 hrs in a day with your family. There may have been the added pressure of home-schooling. You may have been triggered & on high alert a lot of the time and/or even personally affected by Covid-19. Now things may or may not be slightly changing and improving for you in terms of your movement is less restricted.
Then, in the past week, you may have experienced anxiety over the state of the world following the news of a person (and many others) losing their life because of their skin colour. You may have experienced a full range of emotions from anger and rage to sadness and disbelief of how still in 2020 there is such inequality between us humans.
Whether your personal experiences of inequality have been triggered or you feel helpless because you don’t know how you could personally impact the world and make it a better world for all of us here, we have all been touched in some ways. Your other personal experiences of feeling rejected, perhaps within your family, maybe triggered.
I am so really sorry if you personally have ever experienced discrimination on the basis of the colour of your skin or any other quality. How can we collectively change the world? That is a big, even overwhelming question if we don’t break it down to smaller, more manageable steps.
Why good enough parenting is in the heart of changing the world?
Children are the future. Only by us parents and other parental figures teaching children about values such as (self-)compassion, acceptance of difference, equality, resilience and problem solving when facing difficulties can change happen for the future generations. As I generally write about childhood trauma, this post is for you if you struggle with parenting at the moment. Positive role modelling and being a peaceful parent may feel very difficult at the moment.
If your nervous system has been alarmed by the recent events, you may have also been more triggered by your children’s behaviour as the smoke detector of your body, the amygdala, is already alarmed.
You may have had strategies for coping with parenting dilemmas and challenges, but when you are spending extended time with your children and/or your internal wounds are triggered, your usual coping strategies may go out of the window.
It is so hard being a parent, and especially if you did not receive appropriate mirroring and nurturing in your family of origin. It is very hard to know how to parent peacefully and you feel at a loss.
Stress in parenting
When under a lot of stress, you may revert to the parenting practices you experienced as a child, even if you swore that you would not repeat the same patterns. Please be kind to yourself, without appropriate knowledge about triggers and tools for bringing your nervous system down when you are being triggered, it is very hard to change patterns. Hence, often prevention is the key in trying to keep your nervous system in the window of tolerance (where you are able to function well).
Parenting is in the heart of social change and the values of peaceful parenting can help with creating an atmosphere at home that helps children to become individuals with not only a strong sense of self and confidence, but also having the courage to speak up if facing inequality or injustice, and having (self)compassion, acceptance and a sense of celebration of difference and uniqueness. Children learn best through our example and not necessarily just by our words.
This post talks about the steps towards becoming a peaceful parent. The key features are parental self-regulation and self-compassion, cultivating connection with your child at all times and especially when a child is having a hard time, and being a loving coach to our child.
3 Essential principles for becoming a parent you wished you had
When you think about your own parenting experience, how would you have liked your parents to be with you? This post was inspired by Dr Laura Markham’s book “Calm parents, happy kids”. The secrets of stress-free parenting.
Previously I wrote about parenting in this post. These three key principles of parenting can truly change your experience of parenting particularly if you did not receive adequate parenting yourself.
Grounding oneself and having compassion towards self
It is awful being in a state of high alert (your nervous system is alarmed) when you are triggered because something your child did or didn’t do triggered some old stuff within you or by external circumstances. It is very difficult to parent effectively from that state of mind.
If you want your children not only to be happy but also to be future role models of a society that is kinder and more accepting, the change starts from within you. Please do not take this as a pressure for you having to do more but just as an invitation to acknowledge how important you are in this world.
Being a calming influence in your family starts from taking care of you, the leader of your family. You can only create an atmosphere of peaceful family existence by learning to acknowledge, accept and regulate your own emotions. If you are responding to your children from a place where you are triggered, it is like putting more fuel to the fire.
Be kind to yourself
Please be kind yourself, if this has been very difficult for you in the past. You are learning and the more aware you become, the easier it is for you to change your patterns of behaviour to help your family to become more peaceful. I have previously written about self-compassion here.
It is essential that you focus on supporting yourself and seek support (even professional support) if you find yourself dysregulated a lot of the time.
Start a self-care practice that helps you to feel grounded and return to the window of tolerance when you may feel triggered by something. You could join this 10-day self-care and self-compassion challenge to kick start your self-care practice.
When you get triggered during a parenting moment, take a deep breath. Give yourself a moment, if it means going to the bathroom to catch your breath. If no one is likely to harm themselves whilst you pop out of the room for a couple of minutes, take the space to regroup. Notice your body and stand tall. When you are grounded, then address whatever is going on in the family. A calm leader makes better choices.
The Resource Library has some tools e.g. Safe/Happy place exercise that can really help with creating a resource for you which you can use in these moments to regulate your nervous system.
Humans crave connection: Children and adults want to feel connected. Our survival as a species has been dependent on the connection. When your child/children are playing up, they are likely to feel disconnected. Those are the moments that someone might label them as being “naughty” when in fact this is likely to be a way of a child communicating that they feel distant and disconnected from you. These are the moments when children need our attention and feel connected even more than ever.
Connection means that your child feels that his/her feelings are accepted as they are and s/he feels heard. Connection means that you and your child are in tune with each other. S/he feels calm and at ease in your presence.
This connection can be created through talking, but often it does not necessarily mean words but your child experiencing your loving, accepting presence. Your child feels that you have time for them and their thoughts and feelings without being judged. Some children feel more physical contact to feel connected such as roughhousing or giving your child a back massage.
Start to notice patterns and look beyond your child’s behaviour. What is s/he communicating to you about connection and disconnection either by words or behaviour?
If you struggle with connecting with your child, seek professional support to help you out to understand what is stopping you from a connection. Often this may be linked to your own experiences of being parented.
Being a peaceful parent is about being a guiding leader and coach who sees disruptions in the relationship with child and children’s unwanted behaviours as opportunities for teaching and coaching. Coaching can only be effective when it takes place after a full connection has been created.
Your child will not hear you trying to explain why they should have not done something if they are in a state of alarm and feeling disconnected. This is a standard threat response. When we are feeling disconnected which is experienced as a threat, the higher parts of the brain go offline and we cannot learn new things. Your child may not hear or even understand what you are trying to say to them if they are in that state.
Therefore, the key thing is for you to regulate yourself so that you can approach the situation from a calm place. When you have reached that then you can connect. And once you have connected you can start to coach and teach again. 3 Key Steps Towards Peaceful Parenting.
Finally, I hope this piece gives you hope that you can do a lot for changing the world by being a good enough parent who role models (self-)compassion, kindness, acceptance and fairness. If you feel a mixture of emotions at the moment, please be kind to yourself. If it feels all too much, please seek support for yourself whether it is with understanding your trigger points or parenting.
Dr Mari Kovanen, CPsychol, is a registered counselling psychologist who helps individuals to heal from past trauma, live whole-heartedly and have fulfilling relationships. She is passionate about peaceful parenting and supporting individuals, who have suffered childhood emotional neglect themselves as children, in becoming knowledgeable and peaceful parents.