I have read a great many parenting books in my quarter century as a mother...philosophies, theories, how-tos, how-NOT-tos...but the God's honest truth is my five children have been reared by a woman who has mastered the art of child rearing through trial-and-error. Sure, I've had a good role model to encourage and support my endeavors, and I know I absorbed some of what I read in all of those books, but I spend more time than I would care to admit relying on my intuition for what the next right step should be as my husband and I continue to raise our offspring.
So when my youngest [and only] daughter, at the age of nine, began to have some pretty serious anxiety issues (completely stumping her dad and myself), I was all over trying to find an answer. I read child development websites, watched national news stories, picked up the latest parenting magazines, read books about managing emotions with her...you name it, I was on a mission to help my child feel her "happy, bubbly, carefree" self again, fast!
A key element in my journey to understand her sudden angst has come from a book entitled, The Conscious Parent, Transforming ourselves, empowering our children, by Dr. Shefali Tsabary.
A psychologist from New York who has worked for many years with diverse populations and a multitude of troubled families, Dr. Shefali is also practicing what she preaches every day as she and her husband raise their own preteen daughter.
Dr. Shefali makes a number of important points in her book, however, the center of her message revolves around the idea our children arrive in the world with their own unique destiny, along with a blueprint as to how to achieve what they have been called into the world to accomplish. Unfortunately in the process of our best intentions and efforts to raise our children into happy, successful people, we often (inadvertently) silence their inner voice and unintentionally circumvent their efforts to become the people they are meant to be.
Our role is not to fix or mold our children into what WE desire them to be, but rather to create the condition for our children to rise. ~Shefali Tsabary, PhD.
The essence of Dr. Shefali's directive indicates parenting is not hierarchical, we are not "above" our children. Our children arrive knowing how to express their inner voice. It is we (as loving, well-meaning mothers and fathers) who, over time, tend to squelch their drive to pursue the path they are meant to walk by directly (and sometimes indirectly) imposing our agenda onto them. Many times, despite our best efforts not to, we create anxiety within our children and families as we try to meet all the markers society tells us are crucial to raising "happy, well-adjusted, successful" children.
Think about it, we repeatedly ask our children to channel their energy into the behavior, personality traits, and activities that WE (and society) deem necessary for success in life. Achievement in academics, social aptitude (sometimes pushing our introverts to become extroverts), excelling in sports or the arts have become our guiding lights for raising kids today. Our desire to mold our children into something that may not be a part of their story at all (because we did so as a child, or maybe it is because we DIDN'T do so...) serves only to create a great deal of stress and tension in family life, all of which is for the ultimate gratification of our own ego.
As parents we raise them with what we know at the time, and from our own life experiences. Because many parents carry emotional baggage from childhood, children often become the receptacle of those unresolved emotional traumas.
Our children, like no other human, have the ability to conjure up unresolved emotional baggage we carry from our own upbringing. ~Dr. Shefali Tsabary
However, Dr. Shefali does not look to place blame on parents. We are merely repeating the cycle which was passed down to us from our parents and their parents before them. Unless we make a conscious decision to learn to become aware and present in our own lives, to work through our own emotional challenges, we will not be able to fully attune to our children's innate direction and voice.
My daughter's sudden onslaught of social anxiety raised a great deal of fear in me because I too encountered extreme anxiety when I was about her age. Anxiety made it difficult to pursue friendships and even to finish the school year. My child's development of a very similar situation triggered my own anxiety and called me to question my ability as her mother. Through counseling my daughter has made great strides in unraveling the anxiety, and as a family we have learned to pull back, take a break from what society shoves down our throat as important. Working on stronger, closer emotional bonds and practicing coping skills as individuals and parents is helping us get in better touch with our inner voices. There is no convenient resolution to this issue for my daughter or our family, we understand this is an ongoing process.
Won't you join me on my journey to explore a more significant way to embrace the most important journey we have been entrusted with in life? I encourage you to pick up a copy of The Conscious Parent by Dr. Shefali Tsabary today!