I had the opportunity this past week to talk again about one of my favourite topics, parenting. Every parent struggles, no doubt about it. The parenting landscape is riddled with judgements, guilt, shame, remorse at times, confusion, and pain. Give yourself a break, our world does not place enough importance on the most important job on the planet by putting resources in place to support parents by helping them learn the skills to what I call “parent with intent”. In my own life I have had, like most, a mixture of some good parenting practices and some very bad ones. The reality is my parents were never shown how to parent in a way that benefits their children, teaches them empathy and compassion and the importance of navigating a world that sees us leave this world in a better way than what we came. I had to learn different skills as I got older. I studied and tried to learn as much as I could so I might leave a different legacy. Now that I have learned a few things along the way, including what I learned from my days in Child Welfare, thank you to all those who helped me, especially my former families, I am feeling the call to share whatever knowledge I have learned. And so it is I am fulfilling that calling to share. This is merely a piece of a greater pie.
One skill my father taught me was how to think. I realize now that learning to think, meaning think critically, is something we have to be taught. He would ask questions of a very much younger version of myself, “Donna what is life”. Now to a child and teenager, the answer, which I thought I was supposed to know eluded me. As an adult, one day I finally answered him, “dad life just is” and he “that is correct”. Yeah, boom I got it right!!! Excuse my digression, he taught me to think and question what I see and observe and not take things for granted.
I began at one point to question what is missing from the parenting landscape. Empathy was one of those gaps that came to me during meditation. As I think about empathy, I realize that in order to teach our children empathy, we have to experience it for ourselves or we risk not understanding what it means and hence cannot light the path for our children. Empathy is when we feel “seen”, meaning whoever we are interacting with is able to look beyond the curtain and see what is really inside. If we have never or rarely experienced being seen, it leaves us with a sense of not knowing how this happens. As we become adults this remains elusive. Much of my work with parents involves me having them begin to become empathetic with themselves, which begins when I “empathize” with them and their struggles. This leaves them in a position to start learning about being empathetic with themselves which in turn will help them show empathy with their children.
Anyone who would like to learn more about this can contact me and if there is enough interest, we can organize a group and learn.