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Adult Integration Work Friendship Waking to Grow Up - Blog Posts

Toxic Friendships

Witnessing your child in pain

Have you seen your child taking on a role in a friendship that seems toxic to you? A friendship where they seem to wield all or none of the power? Perhaps a connection where they seem to accept pain as requisite and part of repeatedly being hurt.

The first step is to ask your child how they feel about the friendship with open questions that are not leading them to an answer;

“Would you rate your friendship with …. as the best friendship, a good friendship or a friendship that is okay?”

If they seem oblivious to the situation, you can ask yourself, how do I model relationships as the parent? Do they see me normalising staying in a painful relationship?

They may have witnessed this with a friendship or family relationship where you seem hurt, exhausted, angry or sad or perhaps the other people look that way after being with you? If that is the case, your child may have learnt that situation is normal. Think about how you can shift your spoken and body language to change your interactions and shift your child’s experience.

If your child tells you that the relationship is just okay; you have an opportunity to ask them more questions and record or document their answers:

  • What makes a good friend?
  • How do they show they are a good friend?
  • What makes a bad friend?

Share some stories about being a bad friend so they feel safe to share and DON’T judge them if they say something horrid.

HINT – Try to sit next to them so they can’t see your face during this session if you blanch. Also, remember to maintain your body language; with every stiffening of the shoulders, your child reads a change!

All of these strategies are about developing a regular check-in with you about the status of different friends. Using a concrete tool like Friendship Circles lets your child learn that it is normal for people to move around in their extent of closeness and trust. It also enables them to form clear guidelines for deciding how to move out of a friendship. These are excellent skills to help them stay safe in romantic relationships when they get older!

If your child is still playing with figurine toys or dolls, play with them and take on some characters to explore these roles from movies. Talk about what it felt like to be the character. Let them share honestly, and you do too! They want the authentic you.

Your goal is to build an ongoing conversation about friends. You are not telling them what to think but instead supporting them on a journey, you are taking together.

In support of developing this safe sharing space, consider reading some stories about friends together to discuss. Also, you can watch some movies together and discuss the types of friendship:

  • Up (2009)
  • Lilo and Stitch (2002)
  • Big Hero 6 (2014)
  • Ponyo (2008)

Please add any other suggestions for movies or other media to help with discussing friendship in the comments below.

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Friendship Waking to Grow Up - Blog Posts

My child’s friendships hurt my heart.

Jen Haynes

That moment that you watch your child left behind by a group, to stand alone without support. That is the moment that hurts our hearts the most. 

Fear guides this response in us as parents. We fear a future of loneliness and pain, the one core fear we all share. The need for love and support from our community. 

Boy alone

Our responses often reside in our bodies as records of moments of loneliness in our early childhood. They are then cemented with words to describe the body feeling as we get older.

Abandonment

Exclusion

Isolation

Alone

We watch our child with our somatic/body awareness, feeling it in our own shoulders, stance, chin, stomach and legs. We feel them. 

But do we? 

Our children learn these somatic cues and body responses from the community around them and us. However, they might not associate them with the same experiences as us. They may not have the exact word that, like a spell, lead us to believe that feeling “alone” is inevitable.

We can support our children when we feel these feelings in our body that bring up that language by NOT responding with an assumption that we know. Every one of our children is forming and developing their way of being in the world. Respect that and let them create their own response. Allow them to feel their own way in the world and then give them the space to share or not share it with you. Be their comfort, not their author. Explore the different ways that they may see this scenario and let them find their way.

Provide comfort and belief in their resilience if you see them turn away from their friends.

Retreat and regroup, 

Retreat and mourn or 

Retreat and redirect.

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Friendship Waking to Grow Up - Blog Posts

Ego to Ego – finding a friend

At the age of 4,5, or 6, each of us had our first taste of what it meant to realise that what you felt, what you wanted, was not the same as everyone else. Yet, up until this moment, you assume that everyone is just, like, you. 

That realisation is one of the most challenging moves for a child to make. They shift their ego development focus into building social collectives. From the “I” to the “Us”. At this point, they often feel alone, isolated, and desperate to find someone who feels safe as a friend:

“…just like me!”

“…play the games I want.”

“They let me be the baby every time, which is what I want.”

“They laugh when I make horse noises!”

“They are just nice … you know, kind.”

This focus on the social group, the peer group, is normal and healthy. However, if your child has had a chance in their early ego development stage to learn to say “no” or “stop, I don’t like it”, the peer group will not subsume them. 

If, however, your child has not experienced using their voice to argue for their needs, the peer group can become their only focus. Your child may not have a deep sense of their inherent worth, leaving them very open to control. 

“Sonia said I had to!”

“But Mikey didn’t want to play, so I just went along with it; I didn’t want him to be sad.”

If we take this pattern into the following significant developmental shift, somewhere between 14 and 20, you will see the same language focus but around ideas and thought connection;

“They understand me.”

“We talk for hours. We believe in the same things.”

“We are on the same life trajectory.”

“They have the same sense of humour as me.”

“They just…you know, get what matters.”

At this later stage, your child may understand their interior world but don’t understand that those around them have different internal thoughts and feelings. Assumptions of ‘sameness’ can lead to many challenges as they embark on relationships and leadership roles if they have not had the opportunity to learn how to manage friendship dynamics. Fortunately, the early practice in primary school sets up these patterns to change by empowering them early. 

Our job as the adults in their lives is to support the development of these skills of differentiation, compromise, resilience, compassion, and empathy, from the earliest chance we get. We plant the seed and need to support its growth until it is strong enough to stand straight without us. 

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Adult Integration Work Values Waking to Grow Up - Blog Posts

Values

Value systems, like all concepts, are defined by how they used by us. Our actions demonstrate our values. We are our values.

What are your Values? Write your top 5 down.

As individuals, values discussions tend to be relegated to the same place as strategic plans are in the workplace – left behind as abstractions that don’t really mean anything to us personally. Perhaps this is because history aligns values with how an individual is being socialised, what they “should” think. We often first grapple with values in our childhood homes as we become adults. Rarely thinking again about what our early socialisation to our first family “values” has left us with as guiding principles.

In contrast to this traditional viewpoint, the real power of values is in how they sit within the individual. How they are lived. Research shows that alignment between the individual’s own values and their places of work and home is an important key to happiness. We also know that as children, we learnt our values by watching our parent’s actions, not by their words. This means we may be unaware of how we are living out our childhood values or how our actions do not align with our identified values. If we heard ” we value kindness” but our parents only demonstrated aggression, that misalignment can make finding and defining our own values difficult.

What do you think is valued in your home?
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS VALUES IN YOUR WORKPLACE OR COMMUNITY HUB?

How do you feel about the values you have identified from home or wider community? Do they feel comfortable?

Are they spoken of as values in your contexts or have you identified them as being valued through actions?

How do we Value?

Often, if we sit with the notion of “value” we can attribute some key indicators to pull out what have enacted lived values versus the aspirational and abstract values. Organisations, like families, can struggle with the alignment of values and actions. We know we value something when we put our resources toward it. Resources like time, money, focus, conversation and priorities. As an employee, you may have read a values charter that claims a value of “honesty” however your colleagues and supervisors demonstrate value for “money” more than “honesty” in their actions.

In your own life;
What do you spend the most amount of time doing?
What are the primary conversation topics?
What about arguments? What do you argue the most about?
Answering these questions can tell you a lot about what you really value. Did your answers reflect what you perceived as your values?

Lived Values

Values are powerful as the guide for how we want to be in our world, they tend to be abstract or subjective words like:

  • Respect
  • Trust
  • Kindness

Whilst important concepts they can only really be shared through negotiated meaning, meanings that can be enacted. They must be lived in our behaviours and actions, not just used as aspirations if we want to show they are truly valued. This is the time to map out your values and find out how to better live them.

Map your Values now!

Awakened Education provides a range of tailored Values workshops for individuals, families or organisations

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Waking to Grow Up - Blog Posts

Making a New Playbook

Across my mind is the embossed goal of being a perfect parent. I wanted to be the very best I could be, and that involved adhering to some core Principles. I also had to study parenting and work very very hard at all times to succeed at:

  • Being fun
  • Not being my Mother
  • Being caring
  • Not being my Mother
  • Being Loving
  • Not being my Mother

As you may have noticed, there was a recurring theme. This is not because my Mother was a terrible mother, she wasn’t. Her skills as a seamstress, cake maker, director and all around “Ladies Home Journal” Mother were legendary. I had neatly divided the pros and cons of her parenting over the 10 months of growing my baby, I wanted to be the very best parent I could be and that involved being more fun, caring and loving than I had patterned from my Mum.

Needless to say, my developmental stage at that point was totally locked into Expert moving into early Achiever, where I wanted to be the best I could be. I had read every possible book, and by the time my baby was born I was ready to make some choices and implement those strategies that seemed the most effective. Of course…I also worried all the time that as a single young parent I would be judged by the world, including my Mother. Consequently, as well as the goals of connection with my new baby (which became the bottom of my list of priorities), I added a series of image based behaviours. These were designed to prove to the world and my family, that I was DEFINITELY taking care of her properly:

  • Never let her have a tantrum or cry too much in public 
  • Always make sure she looks neat and tidy 
  • Teach her to say “please” and “thank you”
  • Provide her with food that was healthy and tasty, no matter the cost
  • Supply her with toys, books, games, opportunities for learning
  • Work as hard as I could to make us enough money to do all the prior things!

Like an evil fairy waving her wand over the first five years of her life, these image based parenting goals lodged a range of emotional and relationship timebombs into her psyche. Each and every one of these were taken from my Mother’s playbook, and they crept into the top of the priority list without me even noticing. 

  • In the process of obsessing about her appearance I gave her the gift of self judgement
  • In teaching her to suppress her emotions in public she learnt to distrust her body and feelings in preference to being “calm”
  • In my determination to provide, I gave her less love and connection then she needed and made her hungry for any attention
  • In offering her every opportunity to be followed up on, I took away her joy of learning and replaced it with expectation
  • In suppressing my own needs and emotions, I put distance in our relationship

Fortunately, my own development was challenged by my amazing child and her honest love and connection. I soon realised what was happening and added self reflection and emotional honesty as new priorities. I would never pretend to her. I would be honest about my feelings. I would not expect her to fulfill my emotional needs. 

Once these entered my practice as a parent, I began the process of Awakening and seeing that the most important principles, as evidenced in research after research, is – authentic connection through responsiveness, emotional wellbeing for both of us, and a focus on our relationship as more important than any “thing” that I could give her. 

I left the “I” for my own work and allowed parenting to be about building a healthy “We”.

When working your way through your parenting goals, remember that through parenting your own child inside and integrating all the parts of yourself, you can be the authentic and connected parent you want to be. In the one moment of connection where your child sees the love shining in your eyes when they are doing nothing but breathing joy, you are being the perfect parent. The parent who accepts the child in them, because you accept the one inside of you. 


Le, B. M., & Impett, E. A. (2019). Parenting goal pursuit is linked to emotional well-being, relationship quality, and responsiveness. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 36(3), 879–904. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407517747417

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Integration Waking to Grow Up Waking to Grow Up - Blog Posts

Ban Lazy!

Jen Haynes. 2020

One of the most debilitating words in the English language is “Lazy”. Adults will label a range of behaviours exhibited by children with the descriptor. Once the label is affixed, it remains for many children for the rest of their life, being passed on to their own children; a noxious cycle of judgement passed down generations. 

The toxicity of “Lazy” is in the subtleness of the word. You can’t point at Lazy, it is not a uniform behaviour in every context and it is not able to be objectively defined. Instead, it sits in the hazy world of judgement that we are taught in our childhood by the angry adult tossing the word at us when we are engaged in a behaviour. For most of us, that behaviour is then labelled as “Lazy” in our minds, to emerge throughout our lives as part of our shame cycle. 

So…what does it stick to?

The only consistent description for the term is that it is used when the labeller wants the labelled to do something other than what they are currently doing. 

Stop being lazy! I asked you to do the washing up, and here you are reading a comic!

The “Lazy” label always requires a judgement that the opposing behaviour is somehow valueless…according to the labeller. 

Accept your own needs!

The challenge for us as adults working with children is therefore to use our Acknowledgement Principles in this context:

#1 – Reciprocal Development – What is the priority for the developmental stage of the child versus your own? Children’s minds are generally primed for learning language, exploring social skills and taking on new systems of learning. They need time to process the vast amount of data they are taking in. Staring into space is often the most important part of a child processing information. It is absolutely NOT a waste of their time.

#2 – Non Exclusion – Just because it doesn’t seem important to you as the grown-up or the other person in this interaction, it doesn’t mean it isn’t. Explore the interests of your child and learn to honour those interests. When a child is determinedly focused on a computer game level, they are seeing it as their “work” and to stop in the middle is torturous! Expand your viewpoint to include their interests.

# 3 – Whole Of Life When you are labelling a “Lazy” behaviour, how much of what you are judging comes from your own life story? Remember that your tone of voice, choice of language, body language and facial expressions, all communicate judgement to your child. What are you relegating to the “Lazy” label, and how will this impact on their life? Do you want them to think negatively about these behaviours for their whole life?

#4 – Face Your Shadow It is time to integrate the behaviours that enrage you in the child in front of you. What seems so “Lazy” that it makes your blood boil? Is it because the job they were supposed to do will fall to you? Is it because you think their lack of eagerness to be responsible seems synonymous with their not caring? Note down what emerges for you and then use a shadow process to explore how this is a projection from your own safety strategies. Find out how to honour and integrate them. 

#5 – Active Awareness – With all of this new insight, move aside your own story of “Lazy” and make way for what the child in front of you really needs; honesty about your own feelings. If you feel uncomfortable saying, “ Stop putting your interests ahead of my responsibilities, just do what I have told you to do immediately.”, then consider the actual value of the task you are delegating to the child. What do you need? What do they need? How can you both be comfortable with the outcome of this investigation? 

Create your own word

Spend some time before speaking to your child to notice what they are doing. What does it look like? To facilitate the retiring of the Lazy word from our vocabulary, consider one of these alternatives to follow “Stop…”:

Resting.  Reflecting.  Thinking.  Imagining.  Playing.  Talking.  Socialising.  Having fun.

Sit with how it feels when you actually say what you mean. 

Personally I find stamping my foot like a toddler and allowing myself to say “It’s not fair” was the first step to realising that I too could choose to not wash-up right now, and instead, I could join my child watching the clouds go by. That would be important and valuable time spent bonding, imagining and experiencing joy. 

Want more insight into the value of play?

To find out about the importance of play for grown-ups then have a read through this fascinating article from Research into Organisational Behaviour. I will also be featuring the importance of play soon, so keep connected to have access to the resources.

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Adult Integration Work Integration Waking to Grow Up

Difference is Strength

Learning and growing contexts for Atypical Learners and Thinkers

As a an adult working with children, it can be tempting to go into interactions with our young people thinking with assumptions of similarity. Parents assume themselves within their children and teachers will assume a “oneness” of the group, an average. Both of these positions are about starting from a place of adult comfort, which immediately closes us off, as educators to difference.

Discomfort can be an excellent starting place when working with young people, a search for uncertainty. This doesn’t mean removing our connection as similiar or together, it means starting from a place of curiosity and questioning.

Sameness

As a parent, holding our newborn or a child who we have welcomed into our heart, we look for ourselves, to feel ” They are like me!” Teachers do the same thing. When they meet a new student they search for the connection point as a similarity. We all know that the moment of sameness can make the connection swift and seemingly rich. It is a hard choice to not follow that comfortable path.

The discomfort comes from a search for our tribe, for ease, for equilibrium as our default; drawn from a belief of our Self as compared to the “typical” we were proffered in our childhood. From that point, our benchmark is what we know, what we think, what we feel and when the child is not matching those expectations we identify them as “atypical”, different.

Difference

The fear of difference builds on our concrete experiences of not being part of the group, our behaviour making us stand out; the desperate loneliness of that moment. That core muddy Self-identity is a powerful challenge when working with atypical learners, our shadowed fear of expulsion and abandonment sees us project the same terror onto the little person in front of us.

  • They are just lazy
  • They are not trying hard enough
  • They just don’t care
  • Why can’t they just do what they are told
  • Why can’t they…

Because they are themselves, not us. Not you. You are identifying their challenging behaviours as alien to you, through the lens of negative judgement.

Differentiation and integration practice

To best support, the children in your orbit who exhibit sensory, emotional, cognitive, or physical challenges, explore the notion of integration of the shadowed Self or expelled Other, who was different. These early binary judgments are important to identify and accept as part of ourselves. The steps to achieve this will allow you to explore your projections from both frames as we will be using the Binary Disruption process. Before you start you will need:

  • Your Awakening Journal
  • A pen/pencil
  • A safe space in which to write
  • 20-30 minutes uninterrupted

Centering

Stand and breathe deeply, in for 5 seconds and then out for 5 seconds – repeat five times.

If possible and safe, close your eyes and wrap your arms around yourself as you take these five breaths.

Keep two feet on the ground.

Hold yourself in this pose for 10 more breaths as you remember the most recent interchange with a challenging child, who demonstrated difference. Focus on the feelings their behaviour aroused in you.

Explore

Make yourself comfortable with some blank paper and a pen. You are going to finish the statements below, you MUST not edit your answers to be “nice” let yourself sit in your judgement state and record what arises first. Remember, you were a little child when you built these ways of seeing the world. This is your chance to unearth them.

1a Smart kids…

2a Good friends always…

3aTeachers and parents like kids who …

Now write the opposite

1bDumb kids …

2b Bad friends …

3b Teachers and parents don’t like kids who …

Review and Integrate

Now we will put these statements together and speak them aloud. Look at the groupings below and write the statements out again putting them together as below.

I am a smart kid and I …( answer 1a ) and ( answer 1b )

Notice anything that arises as you read that aloud.

I am a good friend and I ( answer 2a ) and ( answer 2b)

Notice anything that arises as you read that aloud.

Teachers and parents liked me and I am ( answer 3a ) and ( answer 3b )

Notice anything that arises as you read that aloud.

In your Awakening Journal, note down anything that arose for you, discomfort in your body, a change in posture, opposing statements and internal argument.

This practice can be used for the statements that emerge when you are working with your atypical little person. If possible, when a judgment about them arises, go and write it down so you can use the Binary Disruption process to explore both sides of the story in your mind. This does not mean that you are trying to ignore behaviours that are not acceptable to you, it allows you to hold both possible behaviours and consciously choose one, instead of defaulting automatically.

For the sake of the child you are caring for, so that you can understand the challenges they face. Stay in awareness of the integrated whole that is both possibilities.