“As long as we’ve got each other, we’ve got the world spinning right in our hands”, as the theme song goes for the 80’s hit sitcom, Growing Pains. A show about a Father of 3, who moved his business to his home, so that his wife could resume her career. Hence why, the setting was mostly based in their kitchen and lounge. The show tackled issues like drugs, suicide, peer pressure and alcohol. Real issues the viewers related to and helped them understand it was the norm.
Fast forward 30 years and not much has changed; we, parents, are still faced with these issues. But the Seavers Family pulled through their problems with a sense of humour and would emerge stronger than before.
From my personal experience, an independent Mother of one child who is in primary school, I feel the ‘growing pains’ in my world is more pressing on the parent than the child and it’s no laughing matter. Of course, I am responsible for my child and when she goes through a painful experience, I am there. But what about giving our children the time and space to learn from their mistakes and grow through their emotional challenges? It seems old fashioned, but we’ve started to lose that guidance in helping our children become independent of their thoughts and feelings.
When I first looked into this topic before writing about ‘Parenting During Growing Pains’, my main question was; “How do we parent our children going through a challenge whilst staying true to ourselves?” I also wondered what parents perceived ‘growing pains’ was.
A google search proved that it was all about physical aches and pain as our child’s body goes through developmental changes. When a child experiences this kind of ‘pain’, they are unaware what is happening to them and even we forget about the aching bones and muscles during growth spurts. Physically, soothing our children’s growth with essential oils, a massage and a cuddle is a healthy approach. Explaining to them that it’s part of their development eases their mind.
Though, there was not one mention about emotional and mental challenges when facing other types of ‘pain’, like, not being heard or not offering a safe space to express themselves.
I took my research to my followers and colleagues. The response I got from an array of people; both parents and professionals, were so different to each other depending on their own upbringing. Some felt a lack of community in helping them raise their child, where others felt they sensed parents are over protective. All in all, we all had a common denominator; self-care and the lack there of it.
Parenting is a difficult job alone, throw in undue pressure from a situation outside the family dynamics and you’ve set yourself up for fight or flight. This behavioural response is familiar. Our subconscious part of our brain thrives for these moments. With emotional and mental challenges becoming more evident in our children, parents are striving to be more conscious and looking for ways to work through it without losing sight of themselves. There’s so much we want to be part of that we can easily fall into the void and fear of tackling an issue when it becomes overwhelming.
Taking a deep breath in, releasing, then giving space and time to collect ourselves may just be the trick in tackling our children’s growing pains.
A PAGE FROM MY STORY
My daughter came home one day and told me she got into trouble at school. Such a common thread we could share between parents. If your child has never said this to you, I’d like to meet them and dissect their brain. What child has never felt they’ve been in trouble? None that I have known! Hey, even in our adult years we experience letting ourselves down and others. We’re only human.
Instead of buying into my daughter’s story, I showed interest by being present and heard her side. Such a simple parenting tool; to just be present and listen. After her story, where she perceived she did something wrong, my response wasn’t the general kind. First, I followed through with one of my emotional coaching tools by acknowledging her, I gave a warm hug and then reassured her that what she had experienced was not singling her out. That she wasn’t alone. I then told her a story. My story. Truth.
I looked back into my childhood years and went to the same age as my daughter. This is a technique I am fond of doing, yet, so many parents do not do this. Over the years I have worked in personal development, most people have taught themselves to forget their past. They purposely put their stories away in their unconscious mind under the file, ‘forgotten trauma’.
To understand our children, we need to wake up those past experiences, memories and emotions. Our children need to know that their parents were children once too, so they can see you relating to them. This will help them feel connected and it can help them work through the ‘pain’ they are experiencing.
When I looked back, I saw my school, my teacher and then, all of a sudden, my mind went to an incident where the teacher didn’t let me use the bathroom and, so, wait for it, I pooped my pants! What a disaster of a day! From then on, I always brought a pair of underwear in my school bag, just incase.
She laughed so hard that tears jumped out of her eyes like a sprinkler. I didn’t stop telling the story, though, there was so much more she needed to know. I delved deeper into the truth of what happened, to show her that honesty with self is key. I went on saying that no teacher would be that mean to let a child poop in their pants, in class, in front of all their friends! I always knew I made a mistake but I never knew it was really a missed opportunity to be honest with myself.
See, about 30 minutes prior to my embarrassment, I was bored. I was sitting in class, following through with my task and I was completely and utterly bored. I took it upon myself to take a break. A little white lie later, I headed out of class down the corridor, feeling free. I stood in front of the drinking taps, recited a dance move before being caught out by a student who looked at me like I was a freak. Quickly, I pretended to go to the toilet, closed the door in the cubicle behind me and finished my dance routine. It felt so good. I felt so free. And then I was ready to head back to complete my task.
However, my happiness was flighty and I over stepped the boundaries by looking into my teachers pigeon hole. I wanted to bring her papers, not knowing that I wasn’t allowed to do that. I’m not even going to get into how having a teachers pigeon hole in the schools corridor, for all to see, was asking for trouble! Or, how it wasn’t made into a rule and reinforced during assembly. So, I’ll carry on with my story. I was curious and thoughtful. I scanned the names across each hole, found my teacher’s to be empty and walked off to my room. On entering, I felt like all was at peace. I didn’t feel naughty and I didn’t feel like I did a bad thing. Not until, my bowels decided to teach me a lesson. I asked to go to the toilet, again, but my teacher was sure I didn’t need to go and denied access. It wasn’t till my friend sitting next to me said “Miss, Lisa smells like poo”, that I realised I was never going to lie about my feelings, again!
The next day, my teacher got word about my ‘pigeon hole snooping’ and addressed me. “Those spies”, I thought, “How dare they ruin such an adventure.” And that was the moment I made myself wrong, the teacher mean and told my parents I got into trouble at school.
Telling such a story helped my daughter understand I was a child once too and I had similar experiences. Luckily, she still believes my stories are way more extreme than hers. A part of me, the protector, hopes they will be and then the adventurer in me hopes she steps it up a notch.
Owning ourselves and sharing our truth with our children is part of parenting. It’s something my parents did with me. Each time I told my parents about a troublesome time, they would tell me a story about when they were kids. It soothed me and brought me closer to myself. Though, after the discussion, that was it. There wasn’t anymore talk about how to tackle the matter or if we needed to speak further with the other party. That’s why I know how important it is to take a break and regroup when our emotions have settled. By adding the emotional coaching technique of giving space and time, our children will come to a better understanding of their feelings. That way, the growing pains of it all become more of an opportunity rather than a challenge.
SELF-CARE DURING GROWING PAINS
The only way we know our children are going through growing pains; mentally, physically and emotionally, is when it is brought to our attention. Either from our child telling us of their pain or someone else. We may be able to pick up on it through our intuition and then start to query our children, family and friends. Either way, parenting moments can drag us away from ourselves and sometimes we can fall into the void and fear of the situation by blaming and fault finding.
To prevent this from happening, keeping true to ourselves is a way to show our children the steps in working through it. It’s a sign of self-care, too. Acknowledge their story, listening and relating with our own experience will soothe their emotions and mind. Then, letting them know, Mum and/ or Dad need some time and space to think. Reassuring them that we’ll come back to the matter that evening, or the next day, will give them their own space and time too.
Whilst marinading on what has happened, this is when we need to get back to our roots; our values. If we don’t, we run the risk of parenting less effectively and compassionately. Values are the beliefs that each person considers are important to bring the best out of themselves and for humanity as a whole. Values provide clarity and guidance. But what if you don’t know what your values are? Not all of us are sure what’s to be considered important. Exercising that part of ourselves through personal development is always a good start. Find a source you resinate with and attend a workshop. You could even use your time out to go over books or google a direct question to read through a forum thread.
In my hours of time out, I went back to one of my roots; chi cycle. I practise this mindful lifestyle technique to keep me rejuvenated. An early night, putting away all tech devises by 9pm and falling asleep by 11pm for 8 hours. It gave me the ‘ready for anything’ parenting feeling in the morning. This is my value. It may not work for you, but if you have a healthy approach you can follow that will give you the feeling to be ready for anything, go with that.
The result in the end after the pain of growing in that situation was waking up to a sound under the covers. A giggle. I pulled down the sheets a little and saw my sleeping daughter with a smile from cheek to cheek. A child’s happiness is a sure sign you are doing a great job as a parent.
Lisa Jane hosts a quirky podcast show with life mentors a-like making sense of what it means to be a parent, partner and lover in modern society whilst staying true to yourself.
Lisa Jane has a workshop; Retreat with Lisa Jane, both online and live. She bridges the gap between Science and Beauty. With hands-on activities, simple strategies and techniques that helped her to get to where she is today; she shares with you a way you can get to where you want to be too. She never forgets self-care, so with that in mind, once you step into her workshop retreat, you are taken care of as if you are a guest in her own home.