Getting Support as Parents. Why we Need Support and Why it’s Hard to Ask.

Whilst most of us understand that getting support in parenting is helpful, many of us struggle to ask for help, to receive help and to prioritise our needs for support. But why is that? Surely if it helps us with parenthood – a role that we all find extremely challenging at times – then we would just get support?  As with most things that we struggle with, it comes back to our childhoods and how we were responded to when we were young.

How many of us were able as babies and young children to express fully how we were feeling? How many of us were heard with love and empathy when we were feeling stressed or scared, anxious or angry, frustrated or disempowered? How many of us were supported with kindness and compassion the many, many times we felt overwhelmed by life? How many of us had our tears welcomed, our tantrums supported, our natural expressive healing behaviours received with love? Most of us are carrying around a lifetime of unheard tears, wounds and pain and our early attachment patterns to our caregivers have a huge impact on our beliefs about asking for and receiving support as adults.

As babies and young children we all tried to express how we were feeling and to show our caregivers when we had strong feelings to share. Crying, raging and tantrums are all part of a perfectly designed, natural release and healing system for stress. However, this is not well understood in our cultures and most of our parents were not able to support us to express and heal our feelings in this way. This is not because they didn’t love us but rather because they in turn were not listened to and supported in this way either so they did not know how to support us effectively.

So maybe we were punished when we expressed ourselves, or ignored when we cried. Maybe we were shamed for showing emotion or learnt that we had to stop crying in order to receive love. How ever we were responded to as babies and young children, deeply effects how we are able to share how we feel and receive support as adults. As young children we had to learn how to keep ourselves safe in order to survive and we then internalised these thoughts and behaviours and they then continue to deeply affect how we think and feel as adults.

We might now feel shame and discomfort about asking for help and sharing our feelings. Perhaps we feel we are a burden to others. Maybe it is difficult for us to accept help and we find it hard to trust others. Maybe it feels confusing to reach out. Perhaps we feel that we should be able to do it all alone and be strong and independent. Perhaps we have a critical inner voice that tells us that we don’t deserve support. We might have had to learn to suppress our needs and feelings as children and so as adults we might now be disconnected from our needs and unaware that we even need help and support. Maybe we judge ourselves as selfish if we focus on our needs.

One of the crucial aspects of Aware Parenting is getting support for ourselves. And those of us who support our children to express their feelings and heal from stress and trauma witness first hand, many times a day, how incredibly helpful this is for our children. So the first step in getting the support we need as adults is to bring our awareness to our thoughts and patterns from our childhood. What are we telling ourselves about needing support, asking for support, receiving support? Are we able to lean into these thoughts a bit, to begin to bring some compassion and understanding to ourselves, to see where these thoughts have come from and to question if they are really still true? One of the most beautiful aspects of reaching out for support is that we can share these feelings and thoughts, we can express them to someone who understands this way of being with our children and with ourselves and, by receiving loving support and empathy about these feelings, we can heal the childhood patterns and let them go. In this way, it gets easier and easier to ask for support and care, to receive empathy and understanding, to heal our pain and sadness from our childhoods and to have the healing balm of compassion more and more on our hearts. From this place, it becomes easier and easier to listen to our children, to support them to express and heal from how they feel so they do not grow up burdened by our pain and carrying around their own unexpressed wounds, having to wait to be adults to heal their pain.

Most of us are living in a culture that doesn’t provide us with the supportive structures that we need to thrive (what Marion Rose calls the Disconnected Domination Culture). There is deliberate disconnection set up in the systems to perpetuate our feelings of loneliness, isolation, shame and resistance to getting support. However, there are many ways that parents CAN get support. Perhaps you might set up a Listening Partnership with another parent who understands this way of being with ourselves and our children. In an LP, you meet at regular times to take turns to share what is in your heart and to listen with compassion to each other. You don’t need to solve anyone’s problems or advise them, you don’t need to offer opinions, you just listen with kindness. Perhaps you could set up a voice message sharing partnership where you send voice messages to each other when you are experiencing strong, painful feelings and you respond when you can with empathy. Some people find it helpful to write in a journal when they have painful thoughts and they then re-visit their words with loving questioning – “Is this true? Is this really true”? They might have a ceremony where they then burn what they write.

It is also really helpful to have sessions with an Aware Parenting Instructor to receive this kind of support and empathy. You can explore how you are feeling, what you are struggling with, the challenges of parenthood and your feelings from childhood and have that all heard and acknowledged with compassion and respectful care.

Whatever you are feeling, whatever you are struggling with is there a way you can get more support? Can you listen to yourself and offer yourself compassion? Can you reach out to set up a Listening Partnership? Can you explore what’s in your heart with an AwP instructor? We all want our children to feel safe and connected, to be able to release what’s in their hearts and to be supported to heal from stress and trauma. Are we also able to find a way to offer this to ourselves?

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Aware Parenting with Joss

I am so passionate about sharing this beautiful approach with parents. I believe that Aware Parenting is THE solution for so many of the challenges facing the world. - Joss Goulden, Aware Parenting Instructor
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