A couple of weeks ago I emailed a group of parents and asked what they did with their family to get centered in times of uncertainty. I heard back from so many of them, with heartfelt replies of extraordinary wisdom and courage, that I have to share!
I heard from a mom whose husband has been out of work for months. Another who is caring for her mom, who is sick. Families who were put off kilter from the recent election in the US. A family who has a little boy with cancer. And through it all, these wise parents have learned how to come back to center.
There were so many responses that I compiled, edited, and summarized them for you here. (I removed people’s names for privacy!)
Three themes emerged:
- Being present
- Taking care of yourself
- Caring for others
Thank you to all the wise and wonderful parents who contributed! Deep bows to you!
1. Being Present
We also often spend time together. We're trying to really be there with our kids instead of just being in the same room. There's a difference.
Paying attention to myself, others, and the world around me with kindness.
We have been living in uncertainty for over a year. And while there has been a lot of chaos and anxiety, I am also learning to stop and notice. To wait it out and ask myself what really matters in a given moment. Sometimes I'm better at it than others. But I get better at it every day.
I find staying in “today” is the solution when encountering fear of “tomorrow”. We wish not to shut the door of the past but use it for reevaluation and reflection.
Slowing down. Doing less, but being fully present with what we're doing. Lightning candles, snuggling up on the couch, staying in bed altogether, following the kids' pace whenever possible.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in the third trimester of my pregnancy. There is one major theme that I learned from all of it, which was TRUST! Trust enough to have no expectations, trust that we would all be ok, trust that we would be so much stronger because of it all. I am so much stronger spiritually, and therefore I am actually thankful that this happened to us. I would not be the person I am today without it and I like the person I am becoming.
Right now my family and I are talking and I'm spending time meditating and being.
Trying to keep a laser-focus on the present moment – Whenever I'm ruminating over the past or worried about the future, I'm missing the abundance of gifts in THIS moment, with the changing sky, with my children's laughter, with the satisfaction of scrubbing stubborn food off a dish, with the rises and falls of beautiful music, with the realization of how good a long hug or a trudge through the greenbelt feels.
Realizing there's a bigger picture – While I have a certain perspective based on my experience, I am reminded that others have different perspectives based on theirs. This helps me hold on more loosely to what I think and feel, knowing that it is only one small part of a much greater whole that I can't see.
I tell my kids to remember their spirituality, to have faith and pray. I also believe that we're far better off being positive about our own lives and selves, and hopefully, in turn, can inspire others to be positive and hopeful.
I am observing my own behaviour and really trying to give my daughter space but I find it difficult to accept when she does things I don’t like. I need to be patient, get out of the way and do my own thing. My husband and I work on ourselves, our relationship, and our parenting including meditation and attending a relationship support group.
Being mindful of what I let into my consciousness – I don't mean staying in a bubble or “echo chamber”, but deciding intentionally what information (media, social media, conversations) I want to let in (for myself and my children) helps me to stay centered and in touch with my inner truth rather than getting swept away in the shock-value, “take-a-position” mindset of our media culture. It's similar to “eating clean” – just because junk food is readily available doesn't mean I need to binge on it daily.
2. Taking care of myself
Taking care of myself, making sense of my past to free me to be the loving compassionate parent/person I want to be.
During night time I meditate, day time I walk a lot. I attend a women’s circle to work on childhood wounds.
Saying what I believe, knowing that we are never alone. There IS always a solution, a way forward…
To make change, we must work in a triad : 1) take care of self, 2) do your best job, and 3) be an activist or part of the solution. In equal parts, practicing this triad has the ability to shift the world towards positive change.
I want to restart our morning meditation and sit down together to think about service as individuals, family, community. And I am planning a music gathering with good food at our house.
I have returned to doing energy work. I will also be attending a women's group and working to be more active in my community. Sometimes just offering a listening ear.
As a family we are working on the everyday struggles. I'm trying to keep everyone calm and happy including myself. I appreciated the continuous message in the Education: Next Generation conference….to keep taking care of myself and that it is so important to be present for my children. I have tried hard to keep a balance.
I write 3 things I'm grateful for every morning and I quietly talk to the universe each morning.
I look for ways to encourage and uplift where I can. From the Education: Next Generation conferences I gained a grateful heart. We also share big hugs. It’s wonderful!
I am playing with my kids more, listening to beautiful music, and reading more novels.
3. Caring for others
Put kindness first. We shall work harder than ever to think of kind things to do for others.
I have realized that I have to teach my children to find their source of strength in tough times. I've have been struggling to find rituals that feel truly mine, springing from my heart and love. I now want to teach my children how to pray.
Concentrate on the good things that happen every day, there are gifts in the every day and we must be open to notice them.
We are teaching my five year old son how to find ways to give back, too. Our church has been very grounding for my family as well, as I feel less alone, and more supported. Every bit counts!
My family and I are charting ways to give to others and ourselves on our chalkboard. These are ways that don't cost money. They also can be big (clean Nana's house) or small (make my sister’s bed). We talk about how we can affect others and our community by kind acts.
I am volunteering. And also praying.
Going on about my business – Pursuing alternative education options, finding interesting things to learn about with my kids, making family plans for Thanksgiving, volunteering at our church, giving gift cards to homeless people, taking a call from a friend who needs to be heard. I'm still doing little things in my corner of the world that help others and feed my soul, to the best of my ability.
Last night we started dancing around the living room. We also love to draw and paint and make a mess. Being outside is preferable.
During stressful times, I reinforce and practice with my children the idea of making our world “smaller”. This means we literally make our day to day life “smaller” – fewer outings and errands, fewer after-school activities, fewer bright lights and noise, fewer “fast” and processed foods, less screen time. The “more” part is important to us too = more connection time to each other at home, more sleep, more balanced foods (but we don't skimp on yummy treats at this time either) – so the “more” here is more balanced and mindful eating – really slowing down eating, enjoying each yummy bite and doing it together so it's a shared experience, more noticing outside beauty and going on walks together.
I'm working even harder to raise my boys to understand love, their position of privilege, and why it is so important for them to share their kindness, courage and compassion with others.
I have been bringing mindful parenting practices into our home for the past few years. My house is littered with “stop” signs (Stop, Take a breath, Observe how you're feeling and Proceed with kindness), yoga and meditation paraphernalia , and mindfulness children's books. My children see me meditate daily, and are invited to join me. We regularly talk about breathing, race, privilege, compassion, bravery and kindness (in age appropriate ways). And while talking about this is important, I strongly believe that my actions will shape my children's perspective of the world more powerfully than words. As such, I try to model loving, inclusive and forgiving interactions with myself, my children, my partner, my family and my community. And when I forget this path, I own it, try to fix it, and remind myself and my children that it's a practice, and in practicing, we often make mistakes.
Every morning, when I drop them off at school, I get down on my knees, look them in the eye, and say to them, “be brave, be kind, be present”. Often at the the supper table or before bed, we talk about the ways in which we were brave, we were kind and we were present. This daily ritual continues to guide our everyday lives in meaningful ways, and we have seen beautiful actions arise from their commitment to include and love others.
I check in with each of my boys when I get home from work, then chat over dinner. I try to ask questions and listen instead of talking at them. It's hard at times because of the urge to want to fix everything. I want them to learn how to express their feelings without me defining them. But, when I feel vulnerable for their choices or larger societal decisions, I hug them first, tell them I love them, and then ask myself what do I need to do differently.