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Parent Nemesis Number One

Parents face so many challenges and difficulties, from financial stress, to relationship difficulties, to things like guilt, exhaustion, sleep deprivation and more general and insidious oppressions like racism.

Parenting by Connection recognises the impact these things can have on your ability to connect well with your child; this approach holds the view that all of these hurts can be healed from with the right attention and with time. The one thing that can stop that healing though is what I think of as Parent Nemesis Number One.

Isolation.

Isolation means that we hold back from letting others into our hearts. It means we don't share how hard we find it when our child speaks to us disrespectfully, or how guilty we feel that we can't always give our kids our best selves, or how angry we get when our kids fight. We don't allow others to see our vulnerabilities and our faults. And that means we don't see theirs. So we think we are the only parent who has these issues.

Image by Nathan Dumlao from Unsplash
Parenting by Connection offers a life changing tool to counter this sense of isolation. Listening Partnerships are an agreement made by two parents to meet regularly.

The person listening makes a few important commitments - to listen with warmth and respect; to listen without judgement or advice; and not to refer back to what is said (with others or with the speaker). This provides a safe haven where you are free to offload your thoughts and feelings about areas of tension and stress. Having this uninterrupted time to mull over your own thoughts and ideas provides an avenue for your own intelligence to shine.

You speak for a pre agreed time, and then you provide the same listening to your partner for the same amount of time. Trust and respect between listeners builds over time, but this isn't a relationship that brings burdens or expectations - you won't need to send birthday cards, organise catch ups, or even engage in chit chat before your meetings. This is a relationship set up with one purpose only - listening.

Having an opportunity to talk about the things that challenge us provides us with much needed support. Having an opportunity to listen to another parent's experiences helps to break down the sense of isolation that pervades our lives as parents. We learn that we aren't the only ones to have hard days,  big feelings, and regrets. Over time, our kinship with other parents grows. We realise in a very deep way that all parents want the best for their kids, and that all parents are doing their very best in each moment. And as the feeling of isolation slowly disintegrates, we are more free to use our intelligence to problem solve and lead well in our family.

Listening Partnerships can sound daunting at first... but many thousands of people around the world use this concept every day, and every one of them reaps the rewards in terms of self-care and an improvement in family life. It is absolutely worth a try! If you'd like to give Listening Partnerships a go, there are various avenues - send me an email and I'll be glad to help! pbcwithbelynda@gmail.com

Here's how it can work: (from the book Listen by Patty Wipfler and Tosha Schore)

I was having a really hard time with my twelve-year-old. She and I could not see eye-to-eye at all. My listening partner invited me to talk about what it was like for me when I was twelve. That's the age I was when my Mom left us, and we were very poor. I had so much work I had to do! I cried many times about the shock and the very hard times we had. No wonder seeing my daughter have so much more than I had brings up a lot of feelings! In my listening time, I could say, "How dare you say that you don't have anything! I had nothing!" and cry and cry.

I think that really helped me, because now when we're together, we have a lot of fun. She and I have playful ways to connect. I'm no longer screaming, "Why aren't you cleaning your room? Why are you complaining? You have everything!"

Her life is so different than mine was at her age, and it wasn't her fault that I didn't have all the stuff that she has now. All I can do is wish the best for her, and hope that she will use what she has wisely. The most important thing is that the connection between is there. We go for walks; I get along with her so much better now than when I wasn't working on my feelings about when I was twelve years old.

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