Raising Confident Kids – Roots and Wings

Raising Confident Kids: Roots & Wings

I’ve been blessed with three healthy children. I appreciate and am grateful for this gift I have been given. I have aspired to parent consciously. It has not always been easy. I suffered with severe post natal depression on and off for over a decade. My daughter suffered with Anorexia during her teenage years. I divorced my husband after a 20 year marriage. The road has certainly be challenging. Yet, we, the children and I, have come through it stronger and more connected that I ever imagined possible at the time.

One of the fundamental goals and responsibilities for me as a parent for the last 25 years has been the idea of giving my children Roots and Wings. To raise them in a way that they feel they have a strong sense of self and of belonging and at the same time instilling in them through unconditional love, trust and respect the confidence to truly spread their wings and fly. I’m not sure I’ve done this consciously over the years but I’ve certainly been able to articulate it more coherently recently.

What do I actually mean by roots and wings? For me roots are about having a sense of what home means. Home not as in the bricks and mortar necessarily although this does help, but home as the unconditional love and support that home gives. It is the understanding of family and of values. A shelter from the storm, a place inside that is always safe. Even when the family home was sold at the ending of my marriage I kept with me this sense of home so that the transition could be made as easy as possible for the children.

Think of it literally. A plant that is given food and the correct amount of water, talking to and tender loving care WILL grow a strong root system that will sustain it through drought and growth spurts, wind and rain. As will our children.

By roots, I’m also implying an understanding of oneself. I want that my children have spent some time exploring who they are as people in a safe, loving and non-judgmental environment and what better place than at home. My understanding of roots is also about having a sense of place in the world and what better place to explore than at home.

We will all have different experiences in how we were raised and we often either continue in the same vein (if it was a positive, life-affirming experience) or we react against our upbringing and do something quite different. There is of course a middle ground!

Some of us may well have been raised with very strong roots (sometimes these can strangle). We know who we are, who our family is, and we have a very strong identity. We may also have been given the impression of having wings. We may be the bird that has wings yet sits perched in a cage and can fly nowhere. These are not the wings I mean.

To give our children wings means to truly give them the freedom to fly the nest. To trust and love them completely. To give them our blessings to choose the path they will walk. To give them wings without conditions. This is a gift from us to them. Often it is not easy, letting go never is. I have given my children wings and my eldest now lives in Singapore (I’m in London). My daughter works in Overseas Development and plans to live overseas. My heart aches at times yet I know deep within me that this is right and good. I give them my blessing with all my heart. I know that they will come to see me, that I will always be part of their lives. Because I have given them wings with which to fly I know that those wings will fly back home too when they needs to reconnect……there is always soup on the stove and a batch of brownies at home!

Six months ago I wrote an email to my eldest son for his birthday. It was an outpouring of my wisdom for him. Would he read them? Would he appreciate them or consign them to his email trash? He loved them and I then shared them (with his permission) in a blog for The Huffington Post. The response was astounding! This led me to develop these words of wisdom further resulted in the publication of my book 40 Words of Wisdom for my 24 Year Old: A Parenting Manifesto.


 

Rebecca Perkins is the author of Best Knickers Always: 50 Lessons for Midlife and founder of RebPerkins.com. Her latest book 40 Words of Wisdom for my 24 Year Old: A Parenting Manifesto (originally a Huffington Post blog) was published in April.

 She began writing to make sense of her life after the ending of her 20 year marriage. Rebecca is a NLP Master Practitioner and Personal Performance Coach working with women to navigate the transition of midlife. She is passionate about midlife as a time for renewal and for living the second half of life with enthusiasm and vigour.

 As a coach she is challenging and fun, motivating and inspiring. Midlife has taught her to be open-minded, to take more risks, to enjoy the simple things and to live each and every day with the question, ‘If not now, when?’ She lives in London and enjoys supporting and being surrounded by her children, spending time with her guy and celebrating life after 50.

 You can contact Rebecca via her website and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest as well as YouTube.

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

Daphne

I’ve literally just finished reading Rebecca Perkins: ‘Best Knickers Always’ so it was lovely to read some more from her. I enjoy her passionate way of writing and living and will be checking out her website.

Thanks for the article.

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Growth doesn’t always announce itself in ways that feel safe or invited. Often, it can leave us exhausted and confused and with dirt in our pores from the fury of the battle. It is this way for all of us, our children too. 

The truth of it all is that we are all born with a profound and immense capacity to rise through challenges, changes and heartache. There is something else we are born with too, and it is the capacity to add softness, strength, and safety for each other when the movement towards growth feels too big. Not always by finding the answer, but by being it - just by being - safe, warm, vulnerable, real. As it turns out, sometimes, this is the richest source of growth for all of us.
When the world feel sunsettled, the ripple can reach the hearts, minds and spirits of kids and teens whether or not they are directly affected. As the important adult in the life of any child or teen, you have a profound capacity to give them what they need to steady their world again.

When their fears are really big, such as the death of a parent, being alone in the world, being separated from people they love, children might put this into something else. 

This can also happen because they can’t always articulate the fear. Emotional ‘experiences’ don’t lay in the brain as words, they lay down as images and sensory experiences. This is why smells and sounds can trigger anxiety, even if they aren’t connected to a scary experience. The ‘experiences’ also don’t need to be theirs. Hearing ‘about’ is enough.

The content of the fear might seem irrational but the feeling will be valid. Think of it as the feeling being the part that needs you. Their anxiety, sadness, anger (which happens to hold down other more vulnerable emotions) needs to be seen, held, contained and soothed, so they can feel safe again - and you have so much power to make that happen. 

‘I can see how worried you are. There are some big things happening in the world at the moment, but my darling, you are safe. I promise. You are so safe.’ 

If they have been through something big, the truth is that they have been through something frightening AND they are safe, ‘We’re going through some big things and it can be confusing and scary. We’ll get through this. It’s okay to feel scared or sad or angry. Whatever you feel is okay, and I’m here and I love you and we are safe. We can get through anything together.’
I love being a parent. I love it with every part of my being and more than I ever thought I could love anything. Honestly though, nothing has brought out my insecurities or vulnerabilities as much. This is so normal. Confusing, and normal. 

However many children we have, and whatever age they are, each child and each new stage will bring something new for us to learn. It will always be this way. Our children will each do life differently, and along the way we will need to adapt and bend ourselves around their path to light their way as best we can. But we won't do this perfectly, because we can't always know what mountains they'll need to climb, or what dragons they'll need to slay. We won't always know what they’ll need, and we won't always be able to give it. We don't need to. But we'll want to. Sometimes we’ll ache because of this and we’ll blame ourselves for not being ‘enough’. Sometimes we won't. This is the vulnerability that comes with parenting. 

We love them so much, and that never changes, but the way we feel about parenting might change a thousand times before breakfast. Parenting is tough. It's worth every second - every second - but it's tough. Great parents can feel everything, and sometimes it can turn from moment to moment - loving, furious, resentful, compassionate, gentle, tough, joyful, selfish, confused and wise - all of it. Great parents can feel all of it.

Because parenting is pure joy, but not always. We are strong, nurturing, selfless, loving, but not always. Parents aren't perfect. Love isn't perfect. And it was meant to be. We’re raising humans - real ones, with feelings, who don't need to be perfect, and wont  need others to be perfect. Humans who can be kind to others, and to themselves first. But they will learn this from us. Parenting is the role which needs us to be our most human, beautifully imperfect, flawed, vulnerable selves. Let's not judge ourselves for our shortcomings and the imperfections, and the necessary human-ness of us.❤️
The behaviour that comes with separation anxiety is the symptom not the problem. To strengthen children against separation anxiety, we have to respond at the source – the felt sense of separation from you.

Whenever there is separation from an attachment person, there will be always be anxiety unless there is at least one of 2 things: attachment with another trusted, adult; or a felt sense of you holding on to them, even when you aren’t beside them. 

If separation is the problem, connection has to be the solution. The connection can be with any loving adult, but it needs more than an adult being present. Just because there is another adult in the room, doesn’t mean your child will experience a deep sense of safety with that adult. This doesn’t mean the adult isn’t safe - it’s about what the brain perceives, and that brain is looking for a deep, felt sense of safety. This will come from the presence of an adult who, through their strong, loving presence, shows the child their abundant intention to care for them, and their joy in doing so. The joy in caretaking is important. It lets the child rest from seeking the adult’s care because there will be a sense that the adult wants it enough for both.

This can be helped along by showing your young one that you trust the adult to love and care for your child and keep him or her safe in your absence: ‘I know [important adult] loves you and is going to take such good care of you.’ This doesn’t mean children will instantly feel the attachment, but the path towards that will be more illuminated.

To help them feel you holding on even when you aren’t with them, let them know you’ll be thinking of them and can’t wait to be with them again. I used to tell my daughter that every 15 seconds, my mind makes sure it knows where she is. Think of this as ‘taking over’ their worry. ‘You don’t have to worry about you or me because I’m taking care of both of us – every 15 seconds.’ This might also look like giving them something of yours to hold on to while you’re gone – a scarf, a note. You will always be their favourite way to safety, but you can’t be everywhere. Another loving adult or the felt presence of you will help them rest.
Sometimes it can be hard to know what to say or whether to say anything at all. It doesn’t matter if the ‘right’ words aren’t there, because often there no right words. There are also no wrong ones. Often it’s not even about the words. Your presence, your attention, the sound of your voice - they all help to soften the hard edges of the world. Humans have been talking for as long as we’ve had heartbeats and there’s a reason for this. Talking heals. 

It helps to connect the emotional right brain with the logical left. This gives context and shape to feelings and helps them feel contained, which lets those feelings soften. 

You don’t need to fix anything and you don’t need to have all the answers. Even if the words land differently to the way you expected, you can clean it up once it’s out there. What’s important is opening the space for conversation, which opens the way to you. Try, ‘I’m wondering how you’re doing with everything. Would you like to talk?’ 

And let them take the lead. Some days they’ll want to talk about ‘it’ and some days they’ll want to talk about anything but. Whether it’s to distract from the mess of it all or to go deeper into it so they can carve their way through the feeling to the calm on the other side, healing will come. So ask, ‘Do you want to talk about ‘it’ or do you want to talk about something else? Because I’m here for both.’ ♥️
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