Swan Mothers

Discovering Ourselves through Parenting

Parenting from the Gut, Heart, and Soul

“How high is an Olympic diving board?” Daniel asked one day as we were jumping off the dock into the lake. “Let me check,” said my friend, pulling out her i-Phone. A quick click and a few taps later, we had the answer: three meter spring boards and ten meter platforms.

“What do swans eat?” Jonathon asked a few minutes later, watching a pair swimming toward us with their cygnets. I opened the browser on my phone. “Seaweed, insects, and snails,” I replied.

With the internet in our pockets, or at least easily accessible, most of us have instant access to much of the knowledge of the world. We can answer almost any questions accurately by peering into our magic screens.

Parenting by the Book

Because many of us do not have experience with children, we approach parenting by researching and reading. Soon, we are armed with statistics and historical facts that validate our choices. It feels good to be doing things our way.

This type of information-gathering can help us uncover new ideas and remedy old hurts. At the same time, all this knowing can disconnect us from what we really Know.

I Know!  (So why don’t I believe myself?)

Growing up tends to silence our inner voice. We are shushed and learn that it is not right to be overly boisterous when we are joyful. Our tears are wiped away with gentle assurances that “It’s okay,” or a curt, “Big girls don’t cry.” When we are afraid, we are told there’s nothing to be afraid of.

By the time we reach adulthood, most of us understand the proper ways to behave. And most of these correct behaviors require silencing the small still voice inside of us that Knows.

Learning to Trust Ourselves

What if, when we want to know something, we spent time observing and considering what we see and hear before looking up the “right” answer? (We could have enjoyed watching the swans and guessing what they were doing when their heads dunked underwater.)

What if, when our children are distressed we checked in with ourselves and asked, “How can I help my child?” before asking our friends on Facebook for advice? (I suspect that we often Know what our children need and are actually led astray by listing symptoms and asking for solutions.)

Here is a simple and effective way to access your Knowing.

1.       Place your hand on your heart.

2.       Breathe into your heart for a count of six.

3.       Breathe out of your heart for a count of six.

4.       Continue until you feel centered and congruent with your heart.

5.       Ask your heart a question, such as, “How can I help my child now?” If you want to know something but aren’t sure how to phrase it, ask, “What do I need to know right now?”

6.       Listen.

I am not abandoning my smart-phone, library, or friends. I do intend to listen to my own wisdom, first, more often.

Where do you find information for the parenting journey? How do you determine if it is right for your family? Tell me in the comments.

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My Kind of Presence

“Children need us to be present.” I’ve read it in a hundred books and articles. I’ve probably written it myself.

When my children urgently, intensely need me, I can be present. When they are hurt physically or emotionally, I am 100% there. When they hug me, I’m there. During choir concerts, band performances, and karate tests, I watch and feel my heart swell with joy.

But when it comes to helping with homework or playing a game, watching karate practice or swimming lessons, my attention wanes.  No matter how actively I try to give the activity my full attention, half of my brain disengages.

Noticing What Works for Me

When I am talking on the phone, I iron or fold laundry.  If I am listening to a lecture, I take notes or scribble something unrelated.  When I drive, I listen to books on tape. My best ideas often show up when I’m not thinking.

For a long time, I tried to make myself pay attention to just one thing: smell and taste the food when I’m eating; focus on clothing while I iron; listen when people talk.

I was certain that was the right way to do things.  Everyone said so.

But that kind of presence didn’t work for me.  I gobbled food to finish eating as quickly as possible.  I left baskets of clothes unfolded.  My attention wandered when people talked.

One day, I acknowledged what I had known for years: I listen better when I’m doing something else.

Allowing My Children to Determine What Works for Them

An  article in the Wall Street Journal by Amy Chua titled Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior stirred up an avalanche of responses.  The most egregious aspect of the article was that Chua’s daughters had to do what she demanded, when and how she required.

I do not believe in parenting by total non-interference.  Parents are parents because children need guidance. When parents teach and support in a gentle, loving manner, children may benefit from our accumulated wisdom.  We show them how to navigate life on Earth.

Children also benefit from figuring out how to do things their own way. We can help our children to notice things about themselves by telling them what we observe.

  • “I see that your eyes are starting to close.”
  • “Sometimes you get cranky when you’re hungry. Have you noticed any signs that you need to eat soon?”
  • “You seem so excited about drama!”
  • “Tying your shoes is frustrating. Would you like me to show you a different way to tie?”

Let’s encourage our children to discover what works for them.

Let them discover their own how. Allow them to trust their own experience and knowing.

We can learn from our children how to support them and how to honor our own needs.

Need helping shifting your ideas about how things should be?  Consider shifting your beliefs with Matrix Reimprinting.

Does your child do something his or her own way? Do you? Please share in the comments below.

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Natalia Erehnah on Starseed Radio Academy

This evening, Tuesday, November 26, 2013, I’ll be the featured guest on Starseed Radio Academy. Please listen and call in.

Learn more about Starseed Radio Academy at http://www.starseedhotline.com.

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11/11 Gateway to Easier, Happier Mothering

11/11. The ones of today’s date seem to create gates.

  • Wouldn’t it be nice if we could step through a gateway to an easier, more joyful life with our children?
  • Wouldn’t it be nice if today were the day to take this step?
Whether your are reading this on November 11 or on a day with no elevens in the number at all, consider that today can be the day. Read on for some ideas for stepping into easier, happier living.

Reaching for “A Little Better”

Are you content with life? How do you see your children today? How do you feel?

Esther and Jerry Hicks created an Emotional Guidance Scale  that helps us move from feeling bad to feeling better about whatever we are experiencing.

In looking at the chart, most of us yearn to be at the top, in the purple zone. Even the blue and green areas look good. We want to feel hopeful and happy and to appreciate our children and our lives.  However, if we are currently in the gray or burgundy zones of guilt or grief or despair, the leap to joy seems inconceivable.

Instead of aiming for giant leaps, it is usually easiest and most productive to move through one gateway at a time. Sometimes, we simply step through. At other times, we must knock and a door will open. Once in a while, we need a battering ram.

Wouldn’t It Be Nice?

One way to move up a level its to find something — anything — that feels good about the current situation.
  • In the midst of a tantrum, consider finding something good. “My child is safe. I am staying calm and looking for a good way to handle this moment.”
  • When you child struggles to communicate, consider, “We have wonderful speech therapists. Look how she tries to show  me what she wants!”
  • As your child insists on the thousandth meal of the same food, think, “It is so easy to feed him. I know what he wants.”

Celebrate Success, Celebrate Yourself and Your Child

Every step is one that brings you closer to the Joy Zone. Anger and rage may not, by conventional standards, seem like a good thing. But anger and rage let you know that your do not feel powerless. You are moving closer to hopefulness and joy.

Tools for the Journey

Please browse the blog archives for tips for really easy ways to support you as you step through each level.
Consider exploring:

Next time you see 11:11 on the clock, take a deep breath and think of one thing that feels good about that moment. Every good feeling that you focus on will bring you closer to more experiences that feel good.

 

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Autism Awareness Flight (1)

This post is brought to you from 30,000 feet in the air, from Phoenix to Detroit. As I look at my fellow passengers, I see people napping, reading, chatting, working. In three hours, we will have traversed most of the country.  Yet no one seems astounded by the magic that we are experiencing, sitting in cushioned seats flying through the air. Just as few seem to perceive the magic that is present in today’s children.

Mountains and Red Earth

We’ve been in the air less than 20 minutes. Already the landscape has changed from mountains to green valleys to flat red Earth. In the distance, I see smoke as some part of the Earth transforms from wooded to charred. Below me, I see vast spans of almost-untouched Earth.  Narrow roads wind through the red plain, but there are no farms, few buildings. Newly alert after my time in Sedona, I take in the majesty of our Planet. And I wonder what I missed all those times I boarded a plane and fell asleep before the plane even took off. I wonder too what I missed while I was worrying about labels and growth charts and milestones. What miracles were unfolding while I was analyzing child development charts and evaluating information from books?

Gorges, Canyons and More Mountains

Out my airplane window, I see deep gouges in the Earth. There was a time when I would have wanted to know the name of these formations and what geological events were responsible for this dramatic design on the Earth. Now, I am content to gasp in wonder, to look. There was a time when I wanted a name for what was going on with my children. Now I am content to be dazzled by their brilliance without understanding every reason for how and why they are the way they are.

My Version of Autism Awareness

I don’t need to label what I see out my window. I don’t need to label children or people. My practice of autism awareness is to honor magnificently unique people in all their expressions.

Clouds

We are flying over a thick layer of clouds. Of course, there are countless creations of Nature and Humanity below, even though I do not see them. There is much talk in some parts of the autism world of children in shells, children to be recovered. This is not my perception. Perhaps there are simply clouds obstructing our view. Clouds have purpose, function, and beauty. Clouds move and change. Some of the clouds are in our eyes.

Farms between the Clouds

There is space between the clouds. The ground below me is divided into astonishingly precise squares. Every inch, as far as I can see has been conquered by humans. Some of my family’s food is probably grown here. For this I am grateful. Yet as I gaze at the grid below, I find myself overcome with sadness as I consider: What have we done? What are we doing? Is the world ours to conquer, to plow and poison and fertilize into submission? Are our children ours, to bend to our wills and our visions for them? This post has gotten long, so I will tell you about the remainder of this flight in Autism Awareness Flight (2).

 

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Lazy Parenting: Doing Things for Our Children

Daniel was working on his homework on morning while I fried eggs for breakfast.  Not understanding a math problem, he became frustrated.  As he gritted his teeth and whined, I turned around and quickly solved the equation for him.  “There you go!” I said turning back to the stove.  Instead of politely thanking me, he cried,“No, no!  Don’t do it for me.  Teach me!”

Later that day, I saw this exchange on Facebook:

Talisman Camps and Programs When is it appropriate and helpful to be a “helicopter parent” for your special needs child? When does it become unhelpful?

Natalia When our children are in distress, it is time to step in and support them. We don’t need to facilitate every event and interaction because they are not doing it the way we think is best.

Talisman Camps and Programs Natalia, we like how you say “Support” but do not equate that with “do for”

Ouch!  There was my post from just a few days before along with a compliment on not “doing for” our children when that is exactly what I had done that very morning.

How humbling.

I completely and totally believe that, as parents, we should support and facilitate our children’s endeavors, be they social interactions or math problems.  Yet, in my haste, I had taken the lazy way out. I did the problem for him instead of making a suggestion that may have given him the information he needed to do the problem himself.

I could have facilitated a moment of learning and confidence.  Instead, my actions said, “You’re too slow.  Here.  I’ll do it for you.  You probably couldn’t do it anyway.”

Reading the Talisman posts that evening, I realized:

When I am lazy or hurried, I “do for” rather than support.

In general, I have no objection to laziness.  I am a big fan of down time, reading, lounging around, and just being.

In this situation though, my laziness and doing what was easiest in the moment, did not serve my child.  Ultimately, it will not serve me.

We want our children to slow down and pay attentionI am committing to slowing down and paying attention myself.  I will pay attention to my children and how I can best serve them.

When my children are struggling, I will take a deep breath and ask:  “How can I help?”  I will listen to what they say and provide the support they need.  Instead of parenting by reflex, I will pay attention to the habits that are driving my actions and change them when needed.

It is infinitely more important to me that my children become confident and self-sufficient – including asking for what they need – than that they get perfect grades on homework assignments or act “right” according to some unspoken rules.

Allowing Success, Building Confidence

When children do things on their own, they learn:

  • I can do hard things.

  • I’m good at figuring stuff out.

  • Mama trusts me.  She believes I can do it.

When parents constantly jump in and do things for them, they learn:

  • I can’t do anything right.

  • Mom and Dad do everything better for me.

  • Mom never let’s me do anything.  She must think I’m stupid.

What are you teaching your children?  Will you join me in slowing down and paying attention?

We can learn from what we say and write and think.  We have all the wisdom we need inside ourselves.

I will be taking my own advice.  When my children are deeply frustrated, I will support them.  I will encourage, give a hint, teach.  I will still do things for them of course.  It is one of the ways I show my love.  But when I do for them, it will be from a place of love – not because it is more convenient for me.

Next time they are tying their shoes or clearing the table too slowly, I will let them be. Except, when I slip and interfere and forget or neglect to be the mother I want to be. But I already wrote about that.

Getting to This Place

By gathering with other mothers and supporting them as they support us, we move along in our parenting journey.  Support groups for mothers starting soon.

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Tools and Words for Reducing Anxiety in Children (Part 2: Verbal First Aid)

In the Part 1:  Changing Old Stories, I wrote about using Matrix Reimprinting to change how your child sees old events.   When old traumas continue to affect our children, Matrix Reimprinting is the tool to use.

In this post, I offer suggestions for speaking gently and minimizing the effects of trauma on the scene and in the moment.

When our children get hurt, the words we say can initiate healing or exacerbate the trauma.

Consider these three possible responses when a child falls and scrapes a knee.  (The examples for this article are taken from the outstanding book, Verbal First Aid by Judith Simon Prager, PhD and Judith Acosta, LISW, CHT.)

Response 1

“Oh, no! Look at you! You’re bleeding, oh, my poor, poor baby! Are you okay? Does it hurt a lot?”

Response 2

“You’re all right. Buck up, buddy. It’s not that bad.”

Response 3

“Oh, you’ve fallen and your knee is bleeding.  See what a good job your blood is doing cleaning out that cut.  Now you can even use your mind to stop your bleeding.  We’ll wash it off and put a bandage on, and you’ll be surprised at how fast it will start to feel better.”

What are your words teaching your child?

We cannot know definitively what a particular child will learn from each of those responses since each child is different.  Each already has a bank of experiences and his own temperament.    Here are some possible learnings:

  • Response 1 teaches the child that seeing blood is cause for alarm. His body will respond by creating chemicals that impede healing.

  • Response 2 teaches the child that his feelings are not valid and that he should not cry or express pain.

  • Response 3 teaches self-confidence and initiates the healing process.

The words we say in those first moments can set the course for both physical and emotional recovery.

When children are injured, they are particulariy susceptible to influence.

What We Think = How We Feel = How We Heal

Science has demonstrated that words, thoughts, images and memories generate an instantaneous cascade of chemicals, causing a physiological reaction within us.  This reaction is most pronounced when we are scared or in pain.  Our breathing gets faster, our hearts race, we sweat or freeze or run.

What we think can throw us into this flight-flight-freeze response – or initiate healing.  Since we cannot hold two thoughts simultaneously, presenting our children with a positive scenario can pull them out of the panic place to a place of peace.

Building Rapport:  Believability and Credibility

Using words that are honest and authentic will build credibility with our children.  We want our children to recognize the truth.

Saying, “Everything is fine” when neither you nor your child believe it can be damaging.  Instead, state what you see and use the knowledge and wisdom you possess to uplift and support your child.

For example, if your child is seriously injured and you don’t know what to do, try this:

Take a deep breath to calm yourself.  Use a gentle tone and say, “I’m right here.  You can relax now.  Let’s figure out what we need to do next . . .”

For extensive scripts and protocols for burns, cuts, bruises, getting stitches and much more please read the book, “Verbal First Aid.”

Verbal First Aid for Non-Verbal Children

Even if your child is non-verbal, using words in the way described in this article will be helpful.  By changing how we speak, we shift our feelings.  Children will respond to our tone and energy and gain confidence.

Super-Easy Homeopathic First Aid

Like Verbal First Aid, homeopathic remedies support the body in healing itself emotionally and physically.  I always carry the remedies described in this article.  Having homeopathic remedies with me has saved the day for my family many times.  If you don’t want to buy them all, buy arnica and prepare to be amazed at the rate of healing.

Reference

Highly recommended!

Verbal First Aid: Help Your Kids Heal from Fear and Pain–and Come Out Strong

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How to Discover the Wisdom of the World

I’ve learned from reading parenting books. I learn by reading blogs of autistic individuals. I learn by living life. But my favorite way of expanding my awareness is by reading fiction.

In recent months, I have experienced unexplained trepidation. I seem to have lost  understanding of what I once understood. I have more questions than answers. I’ve pursued common-sense solutions (eating better, moving more, spending time outdoors), but remain stuck. And so, I reach deep into the fictional story of Paulo Coelho’s Brida, hoping that I will learn from her journey as I seek to unravel some mysteries of my experience.

Discovering the Answers to Your Questions

Each of us must discover the answers to her own questions in her own way.  Brida learns that there are four paths to discovering the wisdom of the world, four Rings of Revelation that a woman can use. (pp. 62 – 63)

The Ring of the Virgin

The Virgin needs no one.  She does not wear herself out by loving others.  Through Solitude, she discovers the wisdom of the world.

The Ring of the Saint

The Saint has the courage of those for whom giving is the only way of receiving.  The Saint offers everything for others.  Through Surrender, the Saint discovers the wisdom of the world.

The Ring of the Martyr

The Martyr has the power of those who cannot be harmed by pain and suffering.  She surrenders herself, suffers, and through Sacrifice, discovers the wisdom of the world.

The Ring of the Witch

The Witch discovers the wisdom of the world through Pleasure.

Which ring will you choose?

Do you recognize your own path in one of the above descriptions?  All paths are worthy, but if we can choose to learn through solitude or sacrifice or suffering or pleasure, which would you prefer?

Brida’s wisdom teachers tell her that “In her life, every woman can make use of the Four Rings of Revelation.”  In my life, I’ve worn each of the rings. I  believe that to every thing there is a season. Yet when I consider how I want to experience life, I realize that I yearn to wear the Ring of the Witch. I want to grow through joy.

Pleasure for Parents

Magic is a bridge, a bridge that allows you to walk from the visible world over into the invisible world, and to learn the lessons of both those worlds.(p. 10)

I suspect that all of the readers of this blog practice a bit of the above kind of magic daily.  We find bridges that connect us to our children.  We build bridges that allow our children to step safely into this world.  We understand that it is all one world – and that our children experience the world in a way that most of us do not yet understand.

the age of miracles is returningand no one can remain indifferent to the changes the world is beginning to experience…Anyone not already following their own path will begin to feel dissatisfied with themselves and be forced to make a choice:  they will either have to accept an existence beset with disappointment and pain or else come to realize that everyone was born to be happy.” (p. 199)

Here are a few more quotes to propel you in shifting your beliefs:

page 203:

“Never be ashamed.  Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup.  All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle.

How will I know which is which?

By the taste.  You can only know a good wine if you have first tasted a bad one.” 

 page 11

“When you find your path, you must not be afraid.  You need to have sufficient courage to make mistakes.  Disappointment, defeat, and despair are the tools God uses to show us the way.

 page 26

“You must get used to the fact that there are many things in magic which are not and never will be explained. God decided to do certain things in a certain way and why He did this is a secret known only to Him.”

page  42

“But the path of magic – like the path of life – is and always will be the path of Mystery. Learning something means coming into contact with a world of which you know nothing.

page  74

“It isn’t explanations that carry us forward, it’s our desire to go on.”


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