What parents of teens and young adults really want
When first asked what they really want, most parents will laugh and say things like an instruction manual, a kid who does what I ask them to do, a tidy kitchen, a teenager who doesn’t argue with every single thing I say… And then I ask them what would be possible if they had these things and what it would mean to them. What inevitably emerges is that they want to feel peace in their parenting. Peace in their parenting. Because, right now, they’re feeling anything but peace. They’re exhausted, defeated, doubtful, reactive and unresourceful.
Angie feels overwhelmed most of the time. There’s a constant buzz in her head about all the things coming at her and her whole body feels tense, especially her shoulders. She avoids asking her teenagers for help because it causes more hassles and she just ends up doing it herself. "I soldier on."
Kelly feels like a stranger with his kids. He doesn’t know what they’re doing most days; they only seem to come home to eat and sleep and they rarely talk with him. He describes a grey, hollow feeling in his gut, “like a one-way sign pointing to my failure as a parent.” He wrestles with anguish and guilt.
Jayden is deeply worried about their daughter (24), who is “going off the tracks.” They admit to imagining worst case scenarios but can’t seem to stop themself. “I have to do something to make sure she doesn’t end up in a life full of regrets. But everything I say makes her more hostile. I’m feeling desperate.”
Autumn is almost always angry, though she tries to keep it hidden. Her kids don’t do what they say they’ll do, don’t tell her the truth, and don’t care about their responsibilities or their futures. She’s irritated and exhausted and can’t imagine how she’s going to make it through.
These beautiful people want peace in their parenting…
When people say they want to feel peace in their parenting, they're talking about inner peace. It's not an absence of conflict - we all know that conflict and rough patches are inherent in relationships. And it's not that they are expecting to feel complete confidence that they are doing everything right as a parent.
Peace in your parenting is the feeling you get when what you're doing and how are you doing it feels right in your heart and aligned with your values. You're parenting in a way that feels true to you. You have a comfortable acceptance of who your kid is and faith in how they're developing. It's having a connection to the Big Love (however you name it) and the big picture of nurturing the next generation and the deep-seated serenity that brings.
** Before I go on, I’ll just say that there’s nothing bad about overwhelm, disconnection, disappointment and frustration. These are unpleasant but impermanent states that we all experience from time to time. When experienced with awareness and curiosity, they inspire us to learn and grow. If you've been following me for a while, you know how passionate I am about facing and learning from our discomfort.
A state of tranquility or quiet.
Harmony with others.
Peace and quiet.
Freedom from disturbance or disquieting thoughts or emotions.
A sense of balance or stability.
Acceptance of what is.
When you want to experience more peace, there are activities you can engage in to generate that state of peace. For example, you might go to a weekend yoga retreat, listen to relaxing music or walk on the beach.
And when you get this feeling, you want more.
You decide to cultivate an ongoing practice that brings you peace more regularly. You start getting up an hour earlier to write in your journal, designate three hours a week to be alone in nature, or join an aikido group or a drawing class. You do it regularly and “grow” your state of peace.
And we all know that the more we practice something, like piano or juggling, the better you become at it. It's the same thing with peace. The more often you practice, the more you find yourself living peacefully and the more readily you can access peacefulness in those times when you need it.
When my children were small, I claimed peace for myself by going away two or three times a year. I know, I know, lots of people had opinions about this. And yet in our family, we agreed that this was good for all of us. I unloaded my stress, worked through my stuff, rested, replenished my heart and soul and then went back into mothering more balanced and resourced. I also danced regularly, which was another way of releasing overwhelm and frustration, and finding my grace and strength. And I participated in healing circles that brought me into greater connection with all beings and the divine mysteries beyond, which is a great source of peace to me.
Peacefulness can be cultivated in four realms:
Physical – how you move and nurture your body. Maybe your way to peace is swimming, veganism or Feldenkrais.
Subtle – Tai chi, breathwork and reiki are all examples of working consciously with the subtle energies, including peace.
Causal – connecting with the empty universe and experiencing peace through conscious dreaming, sustained mindfulness, witnessing meditation, etc.
Non-dual – experiencing the peace of interconnectedness and oneness.
If you're like most of the parents that I work with and, in your heart of hearts, you want to feel peace with your parenting, how could you go about cultivating it? Take a moment here. Your mind will answer first, thankyou. Then take a few breaths and listen more deeply for an answer from your heart and belly. What ideas or images come to the surface? Listen inwardly and trust what you perceive. What feels like it would be a good way for you to begin? Say it out loud now. Jot it down.
And then, taking it a step farther, let’s talk about how you bring more peace into your parenting right in the moments of your interactions with your young adult children. Do you imagine a placid pond? Do you clasp your hands and feel their warmth against each other? Do you take a slow cleansing breath? Do you close your eyes for two seconds? Do you imagine birdsong? Here are my ways of generating peace in the middle of tense situations:
Subtly moving my neck. It’s likely to be rigid with my chin pointing forward (striving to make something happen) and a little movement relaxes the push.
Placing my tongue behind my upper teeth. This is a qigong move and, when I do it, I have access to all the peace I’ve cultivated in my years of practice.
Exhaling with sound. This is a way to quickly release tension and come back into my body center.
What's your way of finding/ creating peace in the moment? What move brings you back to your calm center?
And what other energetic states do you want to feel regularly? Peace is the response I hear most often from parents. But it’s not the only one. What’s on your list? Confident, joyful, connected, hopeful, content, carefree…? How will you invite it into your daily life?
When my kids were about 12 and 15, I was known around the neighbourhood as the “chill” mom. I was flattered that their friends felt comfortable coming to our house and talking about anything that was on their minds. I also felt almost incredulous at how far I’d grown from the overwhelmed, critical, controlling mother I was ten years prior. That is to say, if I can do it, so can you. Deep in my heart, I have a powerful desire for peace in the world. And I believe it begins with each one of us cultivating peace in our own hearts and expressing it in our way of parenting, so that it lives on in the hearts of our children and future generations. Thank you for sharing my vision.
REFLECTION QUESTIONS What would "peace in your parenting" mean to you? How could you begin cultivating more peace in your life? What's your way of finding/ creating peace in a tense moment? How do you want your children and grandchildren to know peace?
With you on the journey, Lori
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