I had dinner with a friend last night, and we found ourselves talking about how painful it is as parents to see our children in emotional turmoil. We want to compensate for their hurt by worrying, focusing on the unfairness of the situation, or encouraging our children to get even.
Since we see things through the lens of our own experience, often we over identify with their situation as though it were our own childhood scenario. Sometimes our children remind us that we still have our own self-examining to do. This involves asking myself “Does this emotional response really serve my children best?”
What responses do serve our children and ourselves best?
1. Remind our children of their many strengths, especially those that authentically empower them to find strength in difficult situations.
2. Teach our children about the false belief that some hold of “I can make my sad feelings about myself disappear by hurting someone else.” Through the victim/victimizer dynamic, both participants play out a drama that causes a lot of emotional pain and isolation. The truth is, when we hurt someone, we hurt ourselves. Life teaches us this over and over again.
3. Teach our children to understand and have compassion for both victim and victimizer. They are both caught in an isolating pattern of separation. Fleeting satisfaction can be found dominating someone or winning a fight, but true joy is found in connection, authenticity, acceptance of self and others.
4. Providing our children the tool of stepping back from their reactions in social situations. By taking a moment to breathe, they can notice their conditioned response, and ask themselves, “is this going to serve me best in this situation?” Does this question sound familiar? It is the same question that could serve all of us immeasurably if we stop, take a breath, and ask it.
5. There is a gift in these interactions (the ones between our children and the unkind child, the one between our child and ourselves, the one between ourselves and a parent, the one between ourselves and a co-worker, and on and on) The gift is that every interaction and experience is a lesson in our classroom of life. The lesson can best be learned if we let go of our ego, our conditioned response, our need to be right or all-powerful. The lesson is that there is an invisible thread that connects us to each other, so being good to each other lifts us up! The lesson is that we all share the quality of vulnerability, and we are our most authentic and joyful selves when we can accept that as the unifying human condition.
If you like the approach I talk about, check out the work of Michael Pritchard. He is one of the most inspiriational people I have ever met.