Being Mindful for Joy in School and Harmony at Home

Dr. Shefali’s “Being Mindful for Joy in School and Harmony at Home” was hosted by Fusion Academy.

By UB’s Sari Ticker, Psy.D.

Thanks to Fusion Academy, I attended a free speaking engagement featuring the renowned psychologist, author, and international speaker, Dr. Shefali Tsabary, author of “The Conscious Parent.”  She has transformed the way that parents think about their role and purpose in the family system through her blend of eastern and western psychologies.  The event was open to the public, with an emphasis to an audience of parents, teachers, and professionals, to learn more about her refreshing take on conscious parenting.  She often collaborates with Fusion Academy because of their unique teaching style and 1:1 classroom arrangement.

Her engaging opening thoughts caught my attention, as she described most (if not all!) young adults who are thinking about having children.  She noted the common ideologies that we, as part of our majority society have-  “it’s what you do after marriage,“ “I am going to provide them with the opportunities I didn’t have,” “I can’t wait to have a mini-me,” “My parents really deserve to be grandparents.”

She explained that it is our ego that really pushes us to have children.  Our society teaches us from that our children are ours to mold, manipulate, and shape. Using her humor, she highlighted the tendency for new parents to realize somewhere around day 12 that this isn’t as glamorous as once thought. There is exhaustion, isolation, frustration, and sadness.

Where do we go wrong?

Dr. Shefali explained how children have become “the receptacles for all things we haven’t explored.”  In other words, as parents, we project our own stuff on to our children from day one (and even before!).  When we project, we ignore, or are not aware of our own feelings and insecurities, and instead prematurely assume those feelings to be true for someone else.  For example, a parent who dreamed of being an Olympic athlete may throw the child into swimming lessons at age 2, without even asking the child what they enjoy.  Additionally, we can easily pass on our own insecurities and pain.  As such, we may shame or punish a child for being outspoken because we don’t want those around us to pass judgment for “being too loud” or disagreeing with the majority.

Dr. Shefali encourages parents to shift the paradigm in that children are truly here to teach us.  By the time we are adults, society and its pressures already taint us, whereas young children have not yet been forced into society’s norms.  Children have the ability to jump from moment to moment, emotion to emotion, without getting stuck like adults do.  They can be upset one moment about not getting candy, but can be laughing a minute later.  How can we be more like that?

Dr. Shefali asks parents to adopt a mindfulness approach, to really focus and be aware of the present moment and ask ourselves, “What is my child teaching me in this moment?” or “Wow, I sound like my own mother when I yell at my child. I never thought I would be like that.”  She shared an example of a mother who yells at her children for not staying quiet for two hours while she tries to get some work done.  Dr. Shefali uncovered that in most cases we discipline as a way to feel powerful, something we may not feel in other aspects of our lives.  Is there another way to connect with the child and express our feelings without being rulers?

Lastly, Dr. Shefali explored parents’ attachment to their children’s “success.”  She emphasized the importance of untethering our own happiness from what we see as our children’s success.  Again, this can be an opportunity to pause in the moment and assess where our emotions and reactions are stemming from.  The example she provided was of a college graduate who instead of going to medical school after four years at an Ivey league school, chooses to be a guitar player.  A parent in this situation may feel anger or betrayal.  She asks, what is more important in this situation- that the child pursues the parent’s career goal, or follows their true passion?

This new paradigm is mesmerizing and fascinating, but definitely challenging to put into practice.  Starting small can be helpful, with internal reflection.  What our own insecurities? What makes us happy? Are we unhappy? A deeper understanding of ourselves can lead to a fuller life for the whole family.  Therapy can be instrumental in learning more about our tendencies, ideas, and values.  Insight into ourselves can help us to be more mindful and conscious.

 

(Image credit: Vancouver Sun)