Contributed by Maureen Spielman, Chicago based Conscious Parenting & Life Coach
One of the greatest gifts we can give to our children is the experience of feeling safe to express themselves within the parent-child relationship. From an early age, we can create a safe container for our kids to express themselves without judgment and shame. This is the foundation for sharing through their years.
How many of us never had the space to share what we were truly feeling with our parents? How many of us withheld because we had a feeling that we might be judged for what we felt? If we were lucky, we had trusted friends to confide in and the experience of sharing safely within a relationship. When we were not heard, our authentic self suffered and our emotions likely became suppressed. This has likely played out in your adult relationships, often not knowing how to express yourself in a healthy way.
Creating this “safe container” is usually a term used in a therapy or coaching model. When it’s done well, this environment supports a client to open up freely and express themselves in an unencumbered way. It includes deep listening and reflection of what is being shared.
The good news is that we can create this for our children and pave the way for honest self-expression and conscious conversations as they grow older. I know that it’s never too late to introduce what we are learning to our kids and throughout any of our relationships.
How exactly would we begin to create a safe space? It begins with ourselves, of course! Creating a safe space for our children asks us to look at our patterns and reactions. What triggers us? A child who asks for what they need 20 times in a row? A late child who misses the bell almost daily? A child who will not eat more than 3 food groups? The child who talks back? You may have learned that any or all of the above children were bad or pushing your buttons on purpose (not true for either, by the way!). But it is our triggers and how we react that set the stage for an environment that feels safe to our kids or not as trusted. I have to admit to you that when my kids were little, I probably didn’t have the skills to always set that safe place. No shame in it really, we all are learning at the pace we are meant to.
Examining the places we go to when we react is important in becoming a conscious parent. If we can witness our behavior without judgment, and set an intention as to how we’d like to respond, we can take the necessary steps to get there. Within ourselves, finding a place to pause and step away when our emotions become big has always served me well.
Allowing a range of a child’s emotions is a key step as well. When I grew up, it was as if my parents thought anger and sadness were less than desired emotions. We were chastised if we expressed either and most often sent to our rooms to deal with ourselves! How lonely that was. I choose to cultivate an environment where all emotions are welcome – even when it gets uncomfortable for me.
Setting safe containers for our kids will have such a payoff in the long run. We will enjoy closer, more intimate relationships with them while setting the foundation for successful relationships in their own lives. Relationships where they feel seen, safe, and heard.
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Maureen is a Conscious Parenting and Life Coach committed to supporting parents in creating deep connections with both themselves and their children. Parenting is often an isolating journey & one we were not given a roadmap for. Maureen supports her clients in individual sessions, groups and through speaking engagements. Check out her work at www.maureenspielman.com or reach out to [email protected] to learn more.