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  • Jessica Chrystal

Life, Parenting & Uncertainties: How we respond is important for our child.

I recently watched a seminar by my favourite neuropsychologist, Dr Dan Seigel, who is amazingly knowledgeable in his field of parenting and attachment, and how these influence emotion and behaviour.

Dr Seigel spoke to Nikki Bonus from, ‘Life Skills Group’ on how to navigate difficult and uncertain times with more presence as a parent and as a family.

At one point or another in our lives, we will all find ourselves under a huge amount of stress. It might be due to our work environment, through financial obligations, from parental responsibilities, we may experience a death or a loss of a loved one and feel overwhelmed with grief. It is during these times that relationship conflicts and our own vulnerabilities, are exacerbated. It is completely normal to feel overwhelmed and absolutely stressed out! And when we feel this way, it’s only natural to want to impose certainty and predictableness on to ourselves and our children. It is this perceived sense of certainty and our desire to always let our kids know what is coming next, that helps us feel like we are achieving our first fundamental role of parenthood…protecting and helping our child feel safe.

A scary but true fact - How we parent shapes the structure of our child’s brain. If we are feeling overwhelmed and if we perceive our stressors as threatening, we aren’t providing our children with protection and safety; we are in fact creating a perception of danger within them. So how do we ensure that our own feelings and emotions aren’t projected onto our children?

1. See the stressor as an opportunity not as a threat.

  • What will this teach me?

  • What am I being confronted with and why?

2. Be present with your children.

  • Act with curiosity (what is the actual meaning behind what my child is saying?)

  • Act with openness

  • Act with acceptance

  • Act with love

3. Try to speak to your child in a ‘receptive’ rather than ‘reactive’ state.

  • Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your heart and take 5 deep breaths before communicating with your child.

4. Rupture and repair.

  • As with any relationship, there will be ruptures (a break in the emotional connection with your your child) and we may feel as if we have not acted in our child’s best interests and created an ‘unsafe’ environment for them.

  • Be aware of when this happens - Own it, accept responsibility for your part in it and apologise.

  • As Dan Siegal says “these acts of repair are a deep force of building resilience in your child”

One of the big take home messages for me was that life, in general and particularly as a parent, is always uncertain. There is a beautiful quote, by Rasheed, which states, “Having abandoned the flimsy, fantasy of certainty, I began to wander.” There are always times when we feel vulnerable, confused, exposed and volatile. But it is during these times that we learn so much about ourselves, and about others. The world is not a certain place and holding on to that notion of certainty will only cause incredible conflict within us when that belief is shattered.

So in the future, is it possible to look at difficult and challenging times as an opportunity to abandon that idea of certainty and to let go of the need to control? Is it possible to be more present and forgiving with ourselves and with our children? When we are present, when we are grateful and when we are forgiving, we are actually achieving that first fundamental role of parenting – we are helping our children feel safe!

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