This guest post is by Amy Phoenix who is a gentle yet direct parenting guide, healing facilitator, mother of four, and creator of Peace 4 Parents dedicated to helping parents tune into their roots to parent in the present.
Have you ever loused up as a parent? Chances are you’ve done something that warrants an apology. Sometimes parents not only let their children down, but also themselves. We may have ideas or aspirations about parenting that we don’t live up to. It can be easy to consider giving up on what we really want for the parent-child relationship, thinking we can’t make a difference now.
Children are natural observers. They pay attention to our every move and the younger they are the more forgiving. As they get older if a parent only apologizes for their parenting mistakes, the child may put them in a category of “apologizes but does nothing to do it different next time.” This isn’t how we want to be viewed by our children as it points to a clear break in the relationship.
One opportunity we always have as parents, though, is to make the most of the present moment. Even if we forget, we are keenly aware that tomorrow is not promised. We have known someone who has lost a child or we have lost a loved one ourselves. We know that the past doesn’t have to dictate the future and it’s up to us to heal our past parenting blunders so we can have the relationship we want with our kids. Here are several steps you can take to rebuild the connection you have with your child so you can demonstrate the power of healing the past to make the most of the present.
In the moment of a parenting blunder – whether you’ve yelled, lashed out, been dishonest, or something equally damaging, as soon as you notice what you are doing – stop. Take a deep, cleansing breath and refrain from continuing down the path you were on a moment ago. Apologize, get some space, and communicate that you will continue talking at a later point when you can be calm and respectful. When you remove yourself, continue breathing with your attention on your breath and body. How do you feel? Allow the focused attention on breathing to bring calm and focus. What are you upset about? If you see what you don’t want, what do you want from your child? How can you appreciate your child right now, as she is? Focus on that before you start communicating again.
Admit your mistakes. Notice if you feel pity for yourself or like you are the victim. When we go there as parents we are sending our children a powerful message that emotions and circumstances have power over how we conduct ourselves. If you find that you want to explain your behavior notice if you are really willing to take responsibility for your actions. When we fail to take full responsibility we also send a message to our children about the power we have to live our lives. Where do you feel your power is? If you think it’s in something outside of you, look again.
Be honest about how you have hurt your child. Talk about how you think you have affected the child and ask if that is correct. Listen attentively and allow the child to express his experience. If you feel sad, allow yourself to cry as you focus on your breath. Emotions can certainly surface when we look at how we’ve hurt another. Allow the emotions to move through your body as you breathe and to pull you forward to what you do want for your relationship, instead of drowning in any harm you have caused.
State your intentions about how you will handle similar situations in the future. As we grow, we soak up many communication skills. Some are more effective than others. If you are stuck in an unhealthy rut, decide to pull yourself out. Think about what you will do differently next time. If you have no idea, take a parenting communication class to learn new skills. There’s no required training to become a parent so you’re doing yourself and your child a favor to seek the education you need. If you feel like you are not skilled enough to put what you know into practice, get support from someone you trust – a parent educator, coach, other parent, friend, or family member. People who are dedicated to healthy communication can support you along the way and share ideas you can implement in your family.
Ask for forgiveness or for your child to accept your apology. It is hard to put what forgiveness truly is into words. It’s a process many humans can only partially conceptualize in their minds. Simply put, it is a releasing of negative thoughts and emotion towards a person or experience in life. That may or may not come instantaneously. Forgive yourself also. Allow the process to unfold as it needs to and be patient. You do not need your child’s forgiveness to move forward. Asking for forgiveness is more of an effort to continue resolving the situation than a step that has to take place in a certain amount of time.
Most importantly, remember that you have the ability to change the future through the present. As you stop and focus on your breath to change course in a heated moment, you can also focus within to discover your innate strengths as a person and parent. Although it sounds simple, through incorporating awareness, conscious breathing, and focus into your life you can heal the past, enjoy the present, and contribute intentionally to the future of your family. I invite you to start now.
Amy Phoenix is a gentle yet direct parenting guide, healing facilitator, mother of four, and creator of Peace 4 Parents dedicated to helping parents tune into their roots to parent in the present.