Between Christmas and New Year I had one of those “Twixmas” moments when I was sat there wondering what day of the week it was and whilst eating too much chocolate, I decided I would walk a marathon at the end of January 2022.
What came out of the marathon, in aid of Macmillan, in memory of a family member who passed away in November and in support of a friend of mine who’s son has recently been diagnosed with Cancer, is a renewed sense of connection with myself.
I’ve had to do a lot of walking to prepare – I wasn’t fit by any means at the end of last year, but I will say I’m a heck of a lot fitter now, a month later!
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“Getting out and walking has given me that space to connect with myself. It gave me thinking time, solution-finding time, and that time to relax, listen to the birds and look at the amazing view..”
I’ve had a lot of fun with the walking, fun that I realise that I would never have had if I didn’t have to train for that marathon that I’d signed myself up for in a moment of post-Christmas haze.
One of the things that I’ve noticed is that when I’m not looking after myself, I’m not connected to myself, and therefore I can’t always recognise how I’m feeling or take that step back and ask myself what I need right now. I don’t always make sure I’m eating as healthily as I could, or drinking as much water as I should.
When I’m not connected to myself, how do I connect with my son, or my family and friends?
If we’re not in a good place, it’s much harder to ask ourselves “What does my child need from me right now?”.
Getting out and walking allowed me to find the headspace I needed again to connect with myself and my son. Using my support network to talk through things has also been really helping.
Walking every day has given me space to find the answers to my questions again.
This has really reinforced what I share with other parents: If we have that sense of connection with ourselves, we are more able to connect with our child and see what they need.
One of the things I’ve been asked a few times over the last month by parents I’m supporting in The Connective Parenting Hub is “What are the exact words I need to say in the heat of the moment?”.
It’s a really interesting question. We often want a script or a set of instructions because it helps us feel like we’ll know what to do.
For me though, the reality is that in the heat of the moment, we need to use the words and phrases that connect for our child and sound right for us to be saying.
So if I give you a script to follow, your focus in the moment is going to be on remembering the script or instructions, and worrying about “what was it Sarah told me to say?”. Those are not your words and they’ll likely sound robotic to both you and your child. They won’t sound like you.
The words you use need to sound like you as the adult, and work for your child.
A set script that every parent uses in every escalation isn’t going to work.
Thinking about what it is you want to achieve in the moment can help you think about the words that you use, and the words that work with your child.
Saying what you need to say, instead of what you’re told to say, comes from a place of connection. And that’s going to raise your presence and help you create a stronger connection with your child so much more than just saying the words you’ve rehearsed and been told to say.
I truly believe that when we are connected to ourselves as parents, we have the instinctive ability to know what our child really needs, but that comes from us being connected and looking after ourselves.
It doesn’t mean we’ll get it right every time. I absolutely do not get it right every time. Sometimes I’m tearing my hair out and wondering what the best thing to do is, or wishing I didn’t say the thing that I just said!
When we’re focused too hard on using the right words, we’re not focused on the connection.
When you have a child who is dysregulated and struggling in the moment, more often than not, they need connection, not words.
This is why, in The Connective Family Formula – my new five week course, I’ve made it clear right from the start that we don’t provide scripts. We are looking more at the underlying causes of the behaviour and how we can build stronger connections both with ourselves and our children to make positive changes and bring more calm to our homes.
Making myself go out and go for long walks in January has given me a much greater sense of connection with myself, and through that, a much stronger connection with my son, family and friends.
I can see how things really do shift and change when I have the energy to make the shifts and changes.
I’m not saying go out and sign up for a walking marathon – but as always, I am saying: the importance of self care, however that looks for you, should not be underestimated.
If you are a parent or carer and would like more support on this how to work on changing your child’s behaviour, you can come and join us over in The Connective Parenting hub, where I do weekly Ask Me Anything sessions to help you with exactly this!
If you’re a professional who works with children and families, click here for more helpful resources and support.