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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Anxiety is a sign that the brain has registered threat and is mobilising the body to get to safety. One of the ways it does this is by organising the body for movement - to fight the danger or flee the danger. 

If there is no need or no opportunity for movement, that fight or flight fuel will still be looking for expression. This can come out as wriggly, fidgety, hyperactive behaviour. This is why any of us might pace or struggle to sit still when we’re anxious. 

If kids or teens are bouncing around, wriggling in their chairs, or having trouble sitting still, it could be anxiety. Remember with anxiety, it’s not about what is actually safe but about what the brain perceives. New or challenging work, doing something unfamiliar, too much going on, a tired or hungry body, anything that comes with any chance of judgement, failure, humiliation can all throw the brain into fight or flight.

When this happens, the body might feel busy, activated, restless. This in itself can drive even more anxiety in kids or teens. Any of us can struggle when we don’t feel comfortable in our own bodies. 

Anxiety is energy with nowhere to go. To move through anxiety, give the energy somewhere to go - a fast walk, a run, a whole-body shake, hula hooping, kicking a ball - any movement that spends the energy will help bring the brain and body back to calm.♥️
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#parenting #anxietyinkids #childanxiety #parenting #parent
This is not bad behaviour. It’s big behaviour a from a brain that has registered threat and is working hard to feel safe again. 

‘Threat’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what the brain perceives. The brain can perceive threat when there is any chance missing out on or messing up something important, anything that feels unfamiliar, hard, or challenging, feeling misunderstood, thinking you might be angry or disappointed with them, being separated from you, being hungry or tired, anything that pushes against their sensory needs - so many things. 

During anxiety, the amygdala in the brain is switched to high volume, so other big feelings will be too. This might look like tears, sadness, or anger. 

Big feelings have a good reason for being there. The amygdala has the very important job of keeping us safe, and it does this beautifully, but not always with grace. One of the ways the amygdala keeps us safe is by calling on big feelings to recruit social support. When big feelings happen, people notice. They might not always notice the way we want to be noticed, but we are noticed. This increases our chances of safety. 

Of course, kids and teens still need our guidance and leadership and the conversations that grow them, but not during the emotional storm. They just won’t hear you anyway because their brain is too busy trying to get back to safety. In that moment, they don’t want to be fixed or ‘grown’. They want to feel seen, safe and heard. 

During the storm, preserve your connection with them as much as you can. You might not always be able to do this, and that’s okay. None of this is about perfection. If you have a rupture, repair it as soon as you can. Then, when their brains and bodies come back to calm, this is the time for the conversations that will grow them. 

Rather than, ‘What consequences do they need to do better?’, shift to, ‘What support do they need to do better?’ The greatest support will come from you in a way they can receive: ‘What happened?’ ‘What can you do differently next time?’ ‘You’re the most wonderful kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen. How can you put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
Big behaviour is a sign of a nervous system in distress. Before anything, that vulnerable nervous system needs to be brought back home to felt safety. 

This will happen most powerfully with relationship and connection. Breathe and be with. Let them know you get it. This can happen with words or nonverbals. It’s about feeling what they feel, but staying regulated.

If they want space, give them space but stay in emotional proximity, ‘Ok I’m just going to stay over here. I’m right here if you need.’

If they’re using spicy words to make sure there is no confusion about how they feel about you right now, flag the behaviour, then make your intent clear, ‘I know how upset you are and I want to understand more about what’s happening for you. I’m not going to do this while you’re speaking to me like this. You can still be mad, but you need to be respectful. I’m here for you.’

Think of how you would respond if a friend was telling you about something that upset her. You wouldn’t tell her to calm down, or try to fix her (she’s not broken), or talk to her about her behaviour. You would just be there. You would ‘drop an anchor’ and steady those rough seas around her until she feels okay enough again. Along the way you would be doing things that let her know your intent to support her. You’d do this with you facial expressions, your voice, your body, your posture. You’d feel her feels, and she’d feel you ‘getting her’. It’s about letting her know that you understand what she’s feeling, even if you don’t understand why (or agree with why). 

It’s the same for our children. As their important big people, they also need leadership. The time for this is after the storm has passed, when their brains and bodies feel safe and calm. Because of your relationship, connection and their felt sense of safety, you will have access to their ‘thinking brain’. This is the time for those meaningful conversations: 
- ‘What happened?’
- ‘What did I do that helped/ didn’t help?’
- ‘What can you do differently next time?’
- ‘You’re a great kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen, but here we are. What can you do to put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
As children grow, and especially by adolescence, we have the illusion of control but whether or not we have any real influence will be up to them. The temptation to control our children will always come from a place of love. Fear will likely have a heavy hand in there too. When they fall, we’ll feel it. Sometimes it will feel like an ache in our core. Sometimes it will feel like failure or guilt, or anger. We might wish we could have stopped them, pushed a little harder, warned a little bigger, stood a little closer. We’re parents and we’re human and it’s what this parenting thing does. It makes fear and anxiety billow around us like lost smoke, too easily.

Remember, they want you to be proud of them, and they want to do the right thing. When they feel your curiosity over judgement, and the safety of you over shame, it will be easier for them to open up to you. Nobody will guide them better than you because nobody will care more about where they land. They know this, but the magic happens when they also know that you are safe and that you will hold them, their needs, their opinions and feelings with strong, gentle, loving hands, no matter what.♥️
Anger is the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. It has important work to do. Anger never exists on its own. It exists to hold other more vulnerable emotions in a way that feels safer. It’s sometimes feels easier, safer, more acceptable, stronger to feel the ‘big’ that comes with anger, than the vulnerability that comes with anxiety, sadness, loneliness. This isn’t deliberate. It’s just another way our bodies and brains try to keep us safe. 

The problem isn’t the anger. The problem is the behaviour that can come with the anger. Let there be no limits on thoughts and feelings, only behaviour. When children are angry, as long as they are safe and others are safe, we don’t need to fix their anger. They aren’t broken. Instead, drop the anchor: as much as you can - and this won’t always be easy - be a calm, steadying, loving presence to help bring their nervous systems back home to calm. 

Then, when they are truly calm, and with love and leadership, have the conversations that will grow them - 
- What happened? 
- What can you do differently next time?
- You’re a really great kid. I know you didn’t want this to happen but here we are. How can you make things right. Would you like some ideas? Do you need some help with that?
- What did I do that helped? What did I do that didn’t help? Is there something that might feel more helpful next time?

When their behaviour falls short of ‘adorable’, rather than asking ‘What consequences they need to do better?’ let the question be, ‘What support do they need to do better.’ Often, the biggest support will be a conversation with you, and that will be enough.♥️
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#parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #anxietyinkids

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