Blog created with the information from our #mentalhealthmonday live with Blimie Heller of Unconditional Parenting (aired on June 24, 2019) compiled by Arielle Jacobowitz.
For full video of Mental Health Monday interview, click on link below.
Blimie Heller’s parenting course teaches all about the concept of gentle parenting, which she believes can be adopted by any type of parent (whether it comes naturally or not). Every parent can adapt the concepts to their own parenting style.
Many people struggle with the idea of gentle parenting, misconstruing it as undisciplined parenting. Others don’t think that they are equipped with the personality to be able to apply the concepts.
Really what it all boils down to though is “connection”, and everyone has the ability to connect.
One of the core principles of gentle parenting (and relationship skills in general) is connection. All human beings have a need to connect with other people and need to feel like they belong.
Children really need to feel connected to their parents for their emotional health. If children don’t get that basic human need for connection from their parents, they will seek out that need elsewhere.
The same way food is a need, connection is as well. There are so many unhealthy places a child can get connection from, which can be damaging for them. Nowadays, we have the added challenge of the internet which can be misused by a child seeking connection. As a teen or adult, if connection was missing during those formative years, the search for connection will continue. This can take the form of an addiction - which is really someone seeking connection in all of the wrong places.
Connection gives people that feeling of home and belonging.
A child who feels very connected to their parents is generally protected from certain forms of trauma that stem from attachment wounds.
So how do we connect to our children?
Unconditional Sense of Belonging and Acceptance
Real connection means that our children feel like they belong and are truly known.
We have to listen to our children and get to know them. Sometimes we are so focused on getting them to do what we want them to do, so we become friends with their behavior instead of with them.
With connected parenting, the best way to discipline is to get to know the child in the process. When people remember being lectured by a parent for having done something wrong, usually that person felt misunderstood. Even if they truly did something wrong, they still felt misunderstood because the child wants the parent to understand why he did this negative action. In gentle parenting, we listen to their side of the story. We are not putting down the child. We are conveying that we want to understand the whole situation.
Parents usually think that since they love their children the children must know that intuitively. It doesn’t work like that.
Children are much more perceptive in some ways but in other ways they need to feel that connection and validation the same way we do. Our tone and behavior is as important as what we say. If children are treated in an unloving way, they may think they aren’t loved, even though we do love them. We must convey our love in all different ways instead of assuming they can read our hearts and minds. How can they feel that we love them when we don't actively show it and work to connect with them? We make a lot of assumptions when it comes to our kids. In this generation, it’s so important to be aware of this.
Allowing for and Supporting Emotions.
Many of us were raised in homes where emotional expression wasn’t allowed or supported. Allowing our children to express emotions, creates emotional health. Emotions are supposed to move through you and if they are suppressed instead, they remain stuck in your body and they don’t leave.
Instead of getting worried or picking on a child’s emotion, we must try to understand where they’re coming from and offer support. Each kid needs something different in these situations. It’s not about the words we say but the feelings we convey. Many times the child just needs to feel validated and can then move on. If a child’s emotions aren’t dealt with, they can carry it with them for a very long time. If we don’t, It can turn into depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses.
The ability to feel our feelings and not be terrified of them helps us as well If a child never gets to experience feelings, they think that emotions are scary. Instead of sitting with feelings and letting them pass, people use other things to numb emotions such as addictions, eating etc.
If the parents are not okay with their own emotions, it will be very hard for them to sit with their child’s emotions. First you have to sit with your own emotions so that you can sit with their emotions. (we can work to self-parent and give ourselves the validation we never got as children as a first step to helping our children).
First comes self care; sitting with our emotions, taking care of yourself emotionally, spiritually, finding a creative outlet, finding things you love. You have to be somebody to be able to give to your children. You can’t give what you don’t have.
We all believe in a hierarchy in parenting. We are certainly the leaders and guides for our children, and we must parent them.
It’s our duty to correct their behavior and discipline them, and in those aspects they must follow us and listen to us. When children are younger, we are supposed to give to our children and they are not supposed to give back to us. We should be meeting their needs and they don’t have to meet ours. If we have a need for connection, we should NOT look to our child to meet that need. This can be incredibly damaging to the child in the long run. We need to fill our unmet needs on our own. Our connection with our children should be identifying their strengths, supporting their growth and nurturing their passions - not getting them to be like us.
Children are not responsible for our emotions. We are.
If we think this, it may interfere with our ability to parent them because if they don't give us that connection we may lash out and get angry. This is not connected parenting.