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Mmmmm….has parent changed me?

Do you want the short answer or the long one?

Based on a gloriously harmonious day or on a –stressed out, exhausted, I feel like a rag and I want to throttle you- days? …

Parenthood has defiantly thrown me to these extremes as well as everything that falls in between. So the short answer is yes, parenting has changed me tremendously from reacting with fear to responding with love. It has been the most challenging experience I have ever undertaken as well as given me a hearty dose of humility, empathy, and resilience. It has spiritually, emotional, mentally, and physically healed me.

The long answer: I was born hardwired for fear and hyper-sensitive. Experiencing or even witnessing violence, especially during the crucial period of brain development under age of five significantly affects brain development and can make a child feel scared, anxious, worried, confused, angry, and insecure. This list of feelings sums up my battles in life to a “T” and parenting triggered every one of these vulnerabilities.

You see, even with extensive experience working with children and degrees in elementary education, psychology, human development & family studies and marriage and family therapy, I still felt inadequate and unprepared for parenthood. I even had a self-imposed rule to wait till I was married for 5 years before having children. I began joking with my partner that we needed to have kids so I could have more credentials for my practice as I specialized in children and parenting issues.

After a snowball effect of interventions and traumatic labor, my first son was born 5 months shy of my 5th wedding anniversary, yet I was too tired and hungry to hold him. The natural concoction of bonding hormones was disturbed and my predisposition lead to post-partum depression. I spent a large part of his first year just going through the motions, feeling like a failure and even resentful. Then the anxiety and shame over what I thought I should be doing kicked into overdrive and robbed much of my joy.

During this time, I also worked with families involved with Department of Family Services providing in-home, intensive family therapy. After a couple miscarriages and another pregnancy, I took part in intensive therapeutic and parenting trainings that introduced me to how trauma affects brain development and regulation abilities in children. The light bulbs went off in my head like a fireworks display. So much of my life made sense and new connections made. Then I had another traumatic labor, this time ending with a stillbirth.

WOW…talk about turning your life upside down…try holding a dead baby…your baby.

Althou1935_1079097454232_8939_ngh this was extremely painful, the perspective it gave me toward life and parenting was astounding. You can read more about my processing of the stillbirth here. It encouraged me to truly process my grief, to dig deeper, try harder, and keep learning. I took more trainings on understanding brain development and healing trauma. Having a child actually gave me more compassion and understanding for the 24/7 demands of parenting and complexities of the parent/child relationship.

I chose to put my relationship with my child first and take responsibility for getting my own and his vital needs met.  I chose not to conceive again till I had no fears about the pregnancy and accepted the reality that I may never have another live birth. I did eventually go onto to have a positive and empowering birth experience with my daughter who I had a home, water birth with. I had to consciously filter out other’s opinions and outside influences to tune into my mind/body/soul connections and innate intelligence. I was better able to parent from my heart and less from my trauma.

My relationship with my children has been a mirror to my soul. The reflection is not always pretty, yet I can easily see when my intention, thoughts, feelings, and actions do not match and align them. I am blessed to have 4 angels, 2 children, a supportive partner, and a peacefully chaotic family. As the more I focus my energy on the integrity of my relationships, the more I have of the gloriously harmonious days. Now don’t get me wrong, I am human and still have those other days yet they have shortened into moments, happen less often, and are easily remedied with a hug, silly face, or a happy song. I can truly feel how every day is a gift.

This has been more like my medium answer because honestly, I could go on and on about how evolutionary principles, attachment science, quantum physics, and a love-based paradigm shift could maximize human potential and heal the world…But I’ll just leave you with my poetic version of how parenthood changed me:

lessons from my son meme

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These ideas listed below is my first attempt of a handout that goes along with an interactive workshop for families where I live.  The title “Be Happens” is the phrase my 2yr old coined from all the times I say “it happens” when we spill, and me playing “Don’t Worry, Be happy” to relieve my stress. She started to sweetly say “Be happens” whenever we made a mess.

Be Happens*: Enriching Resiliency & Connections between Caregivers & Children

*Tuning into senses, thoughts, feelings, and actions that happen

in any moment within our bodies, minds, & hearts.

Resilience: the ability to cope effectively in the face of stress, adversity, and potentially traumatic experiences.

Stress: anything emotional, mental, physical, or chemical that is prolonged, unpredictable, and overwhelming => Any stress can become traumatic if it continues on unexpressed, unprocessed, and/or misunderstood

Dysregulation: being in a state of STRESS beyond our threshold of tolerance resulting in changes of the chemistry and functioning of our brain/body connection.  Dysregulation => dysfunctional survival behaviours => creates unconscious emotions of fear =>activates flight/flight/freeze mode of reactions.

All negative behavior comes from a state of STRESS andor unmet need.

Emotional Regulation: the ability to experience a feeling, know that the feeling signals a need and then know how to get that need met.

Inconsistent amounts or quality (unique to each individual) of the following vital needs may trigger Stress/Dysregulation:

  1. Nutrition/Hydration
  2. Temperature
  3. Sleep
  4. Level of stimulation (from all senses)
  5. Connection/respectful touch
  6. processing negative thoughts, feelings, toxins

Be Detectives as a family and spy around for what might be triggering you to act out…

Get regulated together by doing the following:

  1. Take Deep breaths
  2. Eat/Drink water
  3. Rest/Sleep/Meditate
  4. Reduce or change stimulation (i.e. adjust temp, turn off electronics, lower noise level, get fresh air and sunlight)
  5. In crease production of happy, calming hormones by doing fun, interactive activities  such as smiling, silly faces, singing, music, hugging, playing games, tickling, dancing., exercising, attend social events, spending special one-on-one with each other
  6. Process negative feelings/thoughts by drawing, acting out, playing, reflective listening, asking open ended questions, identifying/labeling possible feelings, empathize

 Making healthy habits that meet your vital needs will help regulate your body, mind, & heart connections as well as harmonize your thoughts, feelings, actions, and RELATIONSHIPS.

View these links for more info on children’s resilience and stress:

http://www.pbs.org/thisemotionallife/blogs/attachment-and-development-resilience

http://brainwave.org.nz/wp-content/uploads//Stress-Article-2010.pdf

This is also a synopsis of some highlights I have learned from these amazing people and have peacefully weaved into my life:

Barbara Wetzel http://www.theergonomiccouple.com/

Juli Alvarado http://www.coaching-forlife.com/

Heather Forbes http://www.beyondconsequences.com/

Bryan Post http://www.postinstitute.com/

Bruce Perry http://childtrauma.org/

Randal and Sarah Farrant http://vital-wellbeing.com/ http://vitalmoms.com/

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