There's a two-way mirror between us and our children. It's built in to our very circuitry and design. We're born to read each other's cues, to sense each other's moods, to trust based on feelings rather than words.
Our parenting journey is full of opportunities disguised as doubts, fears and frustrations, fertile soil for us to grow beyond our own limited beliefs and old wounds in adulthood, while our children evolve before our eyes. Their growth is shaped through the power of our relationship. Through our conflicts and resolutions. Our breaks and mistakes and repairs. Our forgiveness. Of ourselves, mostly.
Parenting with the 4C's means we get curious about who our child is and who we are becoming in their presence. We see context, instead of behavior. We are open to repair because we have compassion. We re-connect after moments of disconnection, which cultivates deeper connection.
The heart of connection begins with curiosity. Our sense of wonder keeps us nimble, flexible, open to understanding the human complexity of our stories, as they reveal themselves in our day-to-day fears and perceived failures. Our bonds are tested through the trials of our conflicts and strengthened through the healing power of our compassion. For ourselves and for our children.
- Lu Hanessian
Because we're born for connection
Every parent has a story.
There is a saying that when we know better, we do better. But, we often don’t not because we can't or don't want to, but because there’s a “gap” between our knowing and our doing. That gap holds our stories. Understanding the ‘gap’ is about cultivating awareness, curiosity, intuition and our capacity for tenderness...toward ourselves. Only when we can feel for ourselves can we truly feel empathy for our children. In the absence of self-understanding and self-empathy, we may find other people’s vulnerabilities, fears and needs threatening, overwhelming and unbearable.
What is our story? All of our experiences shape our internal states, our neural and emotional circuitry, when and why we feel and react the way we do, and, where our relationships are concerned, determine our depth of trust and security, how we show up in the world and with others, how we feel in our own skin, how and if we feel the need to defend against closeness and the possibility of loss or rejection.
By adulthood, we may find we struggle with relationship, trust, and emotional security, often in the form of keeping our distance, getting locked in power struggles or vicious circles, feeling burdened by anxiety, anger or fear, even harboring a sense that something’s off-balance or missing deep within. Parents may wonder why joy, connection and peace can seem elusive.
Knowledge isn’t enough. Knowledge without action is merely information. But we often find it hard to act on what we know. Where do we turn?
Our relationships hold the key.
Parenting is about cultivating relationship. We often lose sight of this truth. We’re distracted. We’re bombarded by over-advice. We carry old stories from childhood. We hold onto hurts and regrets and don’t realize that the reason we might feel dissed or victimized by a child is because, in times of stress and crisis, we still feel like a child. When we feel powerless, it makes sense that we then parent with fear instead of trust; reach for the quick-fix instead of searching for resolution and healing; and manage instead of engage.
When we white-knuckle the wheel, we often slip into defensive parenting--on the lookout for bad behavior, signs of trouble, mutiny, feeling seized with volcanic rage one moment and heavy with shame the next. In our defensive states, we tend to misperceive our child, seeing him through the eyes of fear and frustration, rather than compassion and curiosity.
We feel pressured to be perfect, or at least “right,” in a culture that measures us and our children by externals. We are afraid that we are “messing it up” and pretend we have it all under control. Our children unwittingly become our barometer for “how we’re doing,” and can lose their own sense of self along the way.
We assume that we are helpless to change our past experiences and defend against the pain of our old wounds despite the fact that we re-enact them in our present lives with our children.
We might think what's done is done. But the truth is that our past plays out in our present relationships EVERY day. If we want to truly clear the way for ourselves and our kids, we can change the way we make sense of our experiences, and in doing that, science shows that this practice alters the way those experiences were embedded in our brains. So, parenthood is very literally a healing journey in that we can discover where the past still influences us. We have to *know* in order to grow. What’s the alternative?
Parenting is a beautiful invitation to embrace our humanity, explore our authenticity and deepen our connection.
It isn’t our perfectly attuned connections, but our missed connections and re-connections that actually teach our kids (and us) resilience as we both discover how to transform our struggles to wisdom.
If we were perfect, how would we teach our children about humanity, forgiveness, humility, hope?
Modern science has provided us with robust and exciting new information about how our brains, minds and systems grow, change, and integrate our experiences and shape our relationships. Parent2ParentU draws from affective neuroscience, interpersonal neurobiology, cognitive and developmental psychology, positive emotion psychology, and family systems psychology, and seeks to nurture resilient and abiding family connections that thrive through the generations. Beginning with parents. Healthy, secure parents create a safe haven for children to flourish. When we didn't have optimal attachment experiences ourselves, it's never too late to create a secure base, a place of trust and peace for us to parent with positivity, authenticity, inspiration, creativity and joy. - LH
All site content, course curricula, and WYSH photographs are copyrighted material. Copyright 2009 Lu Hanessian. All rights reserved. Photos by Lisa Trakis for WYSH, LLC. No part of this site may be reproduced without prior written permission from Lu Hanessian.