Trying to think of names for this, my new ‘parenting with mindfulness’ venture was a lengthy process that came to an abrupt halt in the middle of one night. From my sleep I awoke with the name Raise and Shine just ‘there’ before me: and without question, that was it. As a former market researcher, it is unlike me to make such a concrete decision without first consulting a wider audience. Not this time. This time I had no choice: not only is it a decent, catchy play-on-words, but it also captures the very essence of what it is I hope to convey. It was a name that I could truly stand-by and work with.
Raising children is sometimes beyond difficult, and the seeming ‘never-ending-ness’ of the challenge can, at times, feel like a tedious and even a painful grind. Lots of wearisome shouting, nagging, reminding, coaxing, shaming and worrying is often involved. It can leave us parents and our children, feeling weary, depleted and battle worn. Although there are those moments that are lovelier than you could ever imagine (such as the warm cuddles with your sleepy toddler, the camel performance at the nativity play or the first time your child makes you lunch and does a decent job!) life for parents can often feel a lot less fun overall. Personal identity feels diminished and for many, the weight of the high-stakes responsibility that children represent is such that the ‘shine’ of life AC (After Children) is lost … or is at least significantly smudged. We find ourselves ‘raising and whining’!
This is exactly where I found myself when my two boys were young, just 2 and 4. I was tired, the 2 year old was still waking us regularly in the night, I was managing ill-health and I was facing the usual day-to-day parenting challenges that I was, with hindsight, ill-equipped to deal with effectively. This ranged from the basics, such as getting the boys to brush their teeth and share their toys, to the more complex, such as a child simply refusing to put his seat belt on in an aeroplane causing the whole flight to be delayed (but that’s a story for another time!).
Still, I found my way on the path to Raise and Shine quite unexpectedly. At the time I was on a course studying and practising mindfulness for health reasons (I have lupus) but instantly saw the benefits ripple out to many other areas of life, not least my relationship with my children. It was at about the same time, again, completely by chance, I found myself at a talk on parenting that introduced me to the idea a more positive and effective way to get cooperation from and motivate my children that actually had the practical steps you needed to get you there. Sufficiently intrigued I perused it, and before I knew it all the pieces were in place for me to ‘raise and shine’ – life, for me and for the whole family, became, and has remained easier and brighter.
So, parenting skills and mindfulness for parents and families have become my ‘things’ and I’ve been researching, training and trying stuff out ‘in the field’ of my own family ever since.
So if you want to start ‘raising and shining’ here are some steps to get you there:
- Develop your own mindfulness practice that is tailored to you and the life you lead. If you need help with this get in touch or continue to watch this space!
- Get some training in positive parenting skills so you can build strong and respectful relationships with your children and one where they learn to cooperate and do the right thing because they want to not because they are forced to. Whilst reading books on parenting is helpful there is nothing like joining a parenting course because I find that that is what really what turns ‘nice ideas’ into lived realities. Again, get in touch or watch this space.
- This will sound trivial but I assure you it is not (remember it’s the little things that are actually the big things): even if it’s just for a few minutes every day, chose to do something that you enjoy and do it with full presence (that means allowing yourself to notice what you are doing using all your senses … and really get into it!).
It could be anything from dancing while you clear the dishes, singing in the car, cooking, reading, writing, massaging moisturiser into your skin, drinking a freshly-made flat white, tending a plant, listening to the birds or looking at an old photo – it doesn’t matter – just as long as it ‘lights your candle’ … and remember it’s almost more about how you do it than what you do.
- And finally, be sure to make the time and space to practice ‘grandma mind’ – the one that encourages and celebrates everything you are, and forgives the mistakes: use it on your kids and yourself and you’ll see life will sparkle, glow, twinkle and shine a whole lot more. And no worries if you find this hard (I certainly did), it is a skill that is totally learnable. Again, feel free to get in touch anytime if you need guidance.
Wishing you the best of luck in your raising and shining! Now: go sparkle …
Nb This post is dedicated to my Granny Barnes. I was her ray of sunshine, she was mine and boy did she sparkle