Aware Parenting - Part 1 - LIGHTSPACE

Aware Parenting - Part 1


Let me tell you about a regular day in my family. We wake up and try to get the kids out of bed. Then there is the lunchbox runaround. Next we run to catch our respective buses, autos and get to school before the bell. In the midst of all this there are shouts of ‘where is my notebook?’ Or ‘where is my pink pencil?’ Or ‘why have you given me boring food in my dabba?’ Needless to say we speak in high volumes and often degenerate to screaming. This I am told by my well meaning friends is ghar ghar ki kahani (story of every house). Repeat performances of this happen consistently, daily. It’s normal. And we never tire of this. Or do we? I know I am tired of beginning my day like this – with stress playing at full volume. What is happening to me? What’s going on inside me? Why am I doing this? Why do I respond to stress with either anxiety or anger?

And I felt very angry with myself. I am a mindfulness teacher! Where is my equanimity when I need it the most? Why do my children experience this monster mom avatar? Sounds familiar? Well parenting is such a great equalizer – in this we are all together and all one.

So what is the trick here? What can I do to be a parent who is aware and relaxed about this actually fun ride? The next few articles will be a series on my experiments and understanding of Aware Parenting.

And the first question I asked myself was why do I get triggered? Why does this fuse blow? I found some answers in neuroscience and some within myself.

Why do my children experience this monster mom avatar? Sounds familiar?

Our bodies and brains are wired to react to high stress situations as a safety net. If our brain perceives a threat, it signals the amygdala, the body’s “alarm” system, which tells our body to act without thinking. The amygdala responds to situations with the fight, flight, or freeze response. This is to protect us, but our stress receptors cannot distinguish between real dangers or false dangers. In everyday parenting, our stress response often gets triggered unnecessarily by events that are not actually life threatening. Our bodies are reacting to our child getting late for school in the same way we would react if we were being chased by a lion. Dr. Dan Siegel, a clinical psychologist who studies the brain, explains that during stressful parenting moments we may “lose control” or “flip our lid” and let our emotions control our reactions and we totally respond from a space of ‘fight or flight’ So for me that translates into yelling at my child or walking out of the conversation and hiding in my room or even bathroom!

And what is it doing to my child? I realised that when in the middle of a tirade I actually looked at my child – and saw absolute horror and fear on her face. And I realized it can be a really scary experience.To my child, in those moments where I lose control, I can be terrifying. I am supposed to make her feel safe. And I can only imagine how seeing me towering over her, red with anger and losing my temper can really scare her. And what am I telling her with my actions? That its ok to lose control and get aggressive? Now that is scary for me!!

When I look at my own triggers I see that they are coming from my own fears, my own thoughts and my own beliefs. These are coming from my childhood, my sense of right and wrong, my list of do’s and don’ts. When I think about all that I say to my child and all that I expect from my child, I can see this so clearly. I am afraid that my child will not be a ‘mini me’, and will have her own beliefs, values and thoughts. Though at a very external level, that’s what I am saying all the time – that my child is her own person – the fact is that I am trying to turn her into me. (Incidentally my partner is doing that too – and the poor child doesn’t know whether she has to become mama or papa).

And then of course there is the stress hot button, that gets triggered when I am tired or hungry or just simply not well. In stressful situations when I am triggered, it’s hard to be the best version of myself.

So Aware Parenting begins with recognizing my own triggers. And not acting on them. That’s the tough part. Let me share some tips that work for me when I am feeling triggered.

I would love to hear from you. Tell me your stories. Tell me what worked for you and what didn’t. This space is as much yours as it is mine.

You can reach me at sameera@lightspace.co.in

3 Responses

  1. This is great. I can resonate with the ‘scary face’s and the ‘ scared face’to which my heart cries when i realize and say to myself ….shucks , again..that’s not me.

    Your article is really helpful and helps me as a mom of 7 year and 2 year old gals , that err is to mom .

    I will keep the triggers in mind especially….the morning school chaos to you always do this .

    Glad could catch up reading this .

  2. Yup, been there done that! Till I woke up to the realisation that this wasn’t me, just my reaction to the stress of being Mom and responsible for 3 little ones. I have worked on myself over the years, worked with my children too. We plan ahead, keep uniforms , books, dry tiffins ready the night before so we aren’t at each other’s throats in the morning. It’s taken time but each one has learnt to be responsible for their stuff and contribute towards a chirpy bright morning for all.

  3. Wow. Yes its perfect… The yelling the helplessness in me that I am not supposed to be yelling, but I am yelling… Off late, I yell and the minute I see a change in my daughters face, I quickly cool down to norm and just hug her and say either am sorry, didnt mean to yell, just want you to be fast as we are getting late or quickly just focus on what we were doing instead of yelling & most often correct myself in front of her.

    ALso, just this night, after a 5 minute bhaashan to my 5 yr old, whose eyes just welled up, when I said we are past bedtime and no Story for you because you took 3 hrs to finish homework of simple 3 pages … I just immediately felt so so guitly of what I was doing … just helplessly went and lay down with her and she hugs me and says…. amma its ok I love you even if you scold me… I quickly hugged back and asked, if she still wanted her stories and quickly read out to her and then put her to sleep.

    Also, when I give her threats like, am gonna leave you here and go, she breaks down… and I quickly come and tell her, that no matter what I will never leave you… these kind of things, amma does not mean…

    Often I begin wondering if what am doing is right or wrong, but anyways currently this how its going …

    All the best on your work, would be awesome to follow the one I Adore and Love and Respect … looking forward to more and more Awesome inputs and thoughts from your side!

    Love
    Priya

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