Self-Empathy On Sunday Morning
Becoming a mindful parent is hard on the days when despair is my default.
Sunday morning I was reading Judith Hanson Lasater's book Teaching Yoga with Intention, the part about giving oneself empathy. My 11 year old son was taking a rare nap, entangled with me on the couch under an especially fuzzy, cozy blanket.
In those moments it is so easy to believe I can communicate in a peaceful, empathetic way. I've been practicing for years, having been introduced to "nonviolent communication" through the books How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish and What We Say Matters, another gem by Judith Hanson Lasater (with her husband Ike).
Then I felt a headache coming, and self-massage wasn't helping. I wanted so badly to get up and take something to make it stop. It became less delicious and more excruciating every minute that I delayed.
When I did extract myself (as slowly as I had when he was a toddler who would only nap attached to me), my son woke up. I felt regret, longing for the precious moment to continue, and throbbing in my temples.
Then he demanded to watch YouTube, and there were things I wanted him to do first. Rather than being authoritarian, I was trying to practice "nonviolent communication" with myself and with him.
I knew what his need was: Numb out with YouTube.
But what were MY needs? What was he FEELING? It takes me time to identify my feelings and needs, and guess at his.
Yelling Still Happens, Just Less Often
I fumbled, knowing that all he really wanted was for me to say "Yes." I knew from experience that anything else would be taken as a threat to his autonomy and comfort.
Still, I am trying to teach him a more self-aware way of being in the world. Also, my fear was that if he started screen time he would then struggle with feeling motivated to brush his teeth later. I persevered with my clumsy attempts at connection. "Hmmm, that must be frustrating. Well, I am feeling worried about your teeth, and I have a need for..."
His patience for “talks with mom” is low at the best of times, but he had just woken up and was disoriented and cranky.
He got fed up and threw a pillow at me.
My thoughts and heart rate sped way up. I saw the plant between us and the glass near me on the table, and while the pillow whizzed past the plant and missed the glass and harmed nothing, in that split second my heart leapt and I screamed "I HAVE A NEED FOR SAFETY!!" while he stomped away and slammed his door.
Sigh. I cried for a minute in defeat and despair. Then told myself, maybe next time. Self-judgment is an indulgence I won't allow myself. Croissants, yes. Criticism, no. I know how hard it is to change family dynamics, communicate mindfully with a neurodivergent kid, and keep calm while dodging flying objects. I don't have to get it right all the time.
If yelling still happens in your family sometimes, all that means is you are human. There's no benefit to beating yourself up about it. Instead, take one step towards more connection and less conflict with your kids - and with yourself!
Collaboration & Self-Regulation Strategies for Parents
Over the years I have had a lot of support. It helps to feel less isolated when trying to figure it all out. It helps to have guides and a supportive community who understands.
I know I just shared a story of a parenting oops. This may not be the best time to tell you the exciting news that I’m teaming up with Amy Weber, LCSW to answer the question, “Why won’t my kid listen to me?!?”
Amy Weber (she/her) is a licensed clinical social worker with over 25-years of experience working with children and their families. She is passionate about helping parents and children find new ways to connect, and enjoys finding creative solutions to everyday problems.
If (like me) your parenting feels far from peaceful, join our FREE 30 min workshop on Wednesday Feb 16 for parents of intense kids: Finding PEACE in Parenting.
How I'm Slowly Becoming a More Mindful Parent in a Non-Linear Way
Clearly I haven’t mastered mindful parenting, although most days are better than Sunday (and some are far worse). I’ve come to see our progress as non-linear, just like everything is in our little neurodiverse family.
I’ll keep you updated on our progress with developing patience, empathy and communication. I still get swept up in my son's emotional storms. He is affected by mine. Over time, it happens less and less often, despite my kid’s explosive nature and my many imperfections.
He did end up brushing his teeth before watching YouTube, and it was still a lovely cuddle. I’ll take it. :)
Parents, Does Your Parenting Feel Far from Peaceful?
I'm teaming up with Amy Weber, LCSW, and you're invited!
Join our FREE 30 min workshop for parents of intense kids: Finding PEACE in Parenting
With Amy Weber & Kate Lynch.
Learn a 5-step framework you can apply to your parenting, no matter how overwhelming life is right now.
Wednesday, Feb 16, 8:30 PM EST.
A replay is available, but you must sign up. Join us!
In March We Are Offering a Group Coaching Course!
From Conflict to Collaboration:
Five weeks to less ignoring and more connection.
You will learn strategies that will keep you calm through the stormiest of storms. You'll have more peaceful communication with your child. Maybe not all the time, but more often. There will be less yelling. When you use our simple strategies, everyone will feel heard and respected. You and your child will experience an increase in trust with each other. We will practice self-regulation strategies for parents that you can also teach your kids.
Hi! I'm Kate (she/her)! I’m an inclusive yoga teacher, mindful parent mentor and author of the upcoming book Mindfully Parenting Atypical Kids. I specialize in building resilience to stress and anxiety. My autistic/ADHD son is 11, he's an only child, and we have an intense relationship. I strive for mindful, collaborative parenting and I fall short sometimes.
Members of our community appreciate that I don’t take myself too seriously and that I’m truly inclusive in my approach. They say that my vulnerability is my gift. My core values are empathy, integrity, equity and respect.
Please sign up to be notified when I write something for you.
Here's the link once more for Finding PEACE in Parenting.
Stop Walking On Eggshells!
Gentle yoga to release your stress and shift your mindset about struggle.
If you get your buttons pushed often by other people's issues, you may be hypervigilant. You might feel it in your body as clenching, tension, or chronic pain.
You'll become more grounded in awareness of your body.