As you know, the name of my blog is Nurturing Little Souls. An important part of nurturing our “little souls” is nurturing their natural spirituality. Helping them to recognise and develop their spiritual connection is a gift we can give our children that will enable them to live fully, with authenticity and peace. The idea of being able to give this to my boys is exciting but, I used to feel very unsure how to go about it – so I started writing my blog to figure out the “hows”. A few months into writing, I realised that it’s not as complicated or mysterious as I first thought and I actually wrote a post called Relax, It’s Simple.
Deeper into my spiritual parenting journey now, I’ve realised how important it is to nurture my own soul in order to nurture my children’s. During the recent school holidays, I struggled to find quiet time for myself to connect. I usually spend time alone each day either before my family wakes in the mornings or during Thomas’ afternoon naps. But I was tired, needing to sleep in a little longer, and I didn’t have Thomas’ nap time to myself because Jake was home off school. My parenting suffered in various ways from not taking time for my spirit. I don’t say this to judge myself, I accept that my usual routines can’t all stay in place during the holidays, but it has helped me to understand more fully that nurturing my own soul is essential to my parenting. Here are 3 reasons why –
1. TO BE AN EXAMPLE TO MY CHILDREN
I know I sound like a broken record when I say that our example is our most powerful tool as parents – but, it’s the truth.
“Children learn more from what you are than what you teach”. – W.E.B. DuBois
When I have spent time attending to my own spirituality, I am a much better example of Love for my boys. Having connected with Love/The Universe/God, I invite its power into my days and find myself recognising and taking more opportunities to be compassionate, trusting and grateful, for example.
I am also giving my children an example of a spiritually-led way of life. Jake, the next to rise in the mornings after me, comes downstairs to where I am in the lounge and he knows I’ve spent time praying and writing – two of my main spiritual practices. During the day, I sometimes share a spontaneous moment of gratitude with my boys or invite them to say a short prayer with me when we hear bad news. It’s not that I want them to live my way, they must find their own, but to know that they can include Spirit in the way they live their lives.
2. TO HAVE PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE & EXPERIENCE TO SHARE
Life is full of big questions and children are great at asking the tricky ones! Having had a recent death in the family, Jake has had a lot of interesting questions for me. Over the past few years, we’ve also had great conversations about the nature of God/Love/Source and intuition, for example. If I had not had some experience of these things myself, I wouldn’t have anything meaningful to offer Jake.
I’m interested in introducing my boys to meditation as I know it can be a great tool for letting go, relaxing and tuning into Spirit. The thing is, I don’t do much of it myself. I know I don’t need to be an expert to be able to offer it to my boys, but I’m fumbling to explain it or to suggest practices that are accessable for their ages because I don’t know it well enough myself. So, first step, commit to regular mediation myself.
Having said this, I think it is absolutely okay to reply “I don’t know” to some of our children’s questions or to frame our answer as a hypothesis. We can’t possibly know it all. With older children, we could even write down our questions and endeavour to find some enlightenment together.
3. TO FILL OURSELVES UP SO WE HAVE SOMETHING TO GIVE OUR CHILDREN
It’s the old “you can’t give what you don’t have” scenario. Nurturing my spirit fills me up and my capacity to be patient, non-judgemental, present and creative with my boys expands. I also find I get more information intuitively about what they need from me when I’ve taken time to connect. Another benefit of taking time to journey inwards is that it helps me to be more aware of my pain points, fears etc so I don’t take them out my boys.
IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW WE NURTURE OUR SOULS
How we fill ourselves up really doesn’t matter, as long as it works for us. Praying and writing are my first choices and, as I’ve said, I am going to meditate more often. I also sing to my favourite songs as I cook, do my nails or sort the plastics cupboard in the kitchen – sometimes, I just need to do something fun and frivilous which takes me out of my head and brings me to the present. I do lots of different things and my style is to follow what I feel I need, rather than have a set-in-stone routine.
From my experience, it seems that consistently taking time alone is more important than how long we actually spend. So I’m learning, also, to take the short moments available to me in a busy day to quiet my mind and sense Spirit within and around me. When a spare minute arises, I’ve stopped reaching for my phone and instead take the opportunity to just be. When I’m taking my morning shower, I use the time to chat to God, instead of to plan the day ahead. When I’m stuck in traffic, I notice my surroundings and what it feels like just to be where I am in that moment. When I haven’t been able to begin my day connecting in the ways that I like to, I can at least find small moments to remember my Spirit.
IN SUMMARY – YOU’RE WORTH IT!
I think it’s fair to say that our lives are often not well set up for taking quiet time and it is really something we have to intentionally carve out for ourselves or, at least, grab for ourselves when an opportunity arises. Taking care of ourselves is really taking care of our families. I think many of us can be resistant to taking Spirit time because it feels luxurious and, sometimes, selfish when there’s a family to look after. Let’s do it anyway. I’m finding that the more I do it and the more I see the benefits, the less guilty I feel. Also, we’re worth it.
Much love to you and your little souls,
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One night last weekend, I had to get up to Thomas (3-years-old) so many times I lost count. I just couldn’t figure out what he needed and he didn’t seem to know either. When I heard him call out again at 3:34am, it was almost physically impossible for me to open my eyes, which only wanted to sleep. Once I’d managed to rouse myself, I decided I was going to cover all possibilities to secure Thomas and I both at least a couple of hours of unbroken sleep before it was time to get up. So, I fetched him a drink and a snack, added another blanket to his bed, gave him another cuddle and even measured out a dose of paracetamol thinking “this is so unlike him, he must be sick”. It worked for him but all that activity had woken me up and I took another hour to get back to sleep. The next day, I was hopeless.
I cried over a disagreement between my husband and I – we weren’t even arguing, we just had different points of view. I couldn’t muster up any energy or enthusiasm to play with my boys. My patience was paper-thin and I became that shouty parent I wrote about in my post “WHY AM I SHOUTING AT MY CHILDREN?!” All my respectful parenting strategies went out the window and I resorted to the path of least resistance to get my boys’ co-operation – bribery. My brain felt mushy and my body felt like a heavy bag of bones. My inner resources had leaked away along with my sleep.
A BRIEF LESSON ON THE PURPOSE OF SLEEP
We often think of sleep as largely a physical need but it is a lot more than that. Sleep is for the renewal of all parts of ourselves – body, mind and spirit. When sleeping, our bodies don’t have to move beyond their survival functions and natural rhythms. When sleeping, our minds don’t have to perform conscious actions. When we’re awake, the physical needs of our bodies and noise of our thoughts can interfere with our connection to Spirit because they are more obvious and hard to ignore. But, when we are asleep, they are quieter so our souls can more easily connect with and receive spiritual energy and, therefore, be regenerated too.
This is why “sleeping on” a problem can be so helpful. Through sleeping, our soul gets a chance to be heard and offer its intuitive solution. We are often also more creative after sleep. I write these blog posts first thing in the morning because that’s when ideas and words come most easily to me. It is also why there is a healing quality to sleep. When I was depressed, I would take to my bed. Not just to escape from the world but because the break from having to function gave my spirit some refreshment.
“The process of truly becoming yourself takes a lot of energy and this energy can be replenished during naps”. – SARK, Change Your Life Without Getting Out of Bed
GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP FOR ALL THE FAMILY
Generally, I fall apart if I don’t get at least 7 hours of good sleep. As a result, I have always been very protective of my boys’ sleep, not wanting them to suffer from lack of it. As babies, it was straight to bed as soon as I saw their tired signs (once I figured out which of all my baby’s peculiar little movements were actually “tired signs”). I wasn’t willing to go out for a day and make do with letting them doze in their capsule or buggy because it compromised the quality of their sleep. I have always tried to prioritise and optimise their day naps and night sleeps because it’s so essential to their well-being. (And mine – every parent knows the suffering an overtired child can inflict!) Experiencing true sleep deprivation for the first time as a parent, I also realised I need to prioritise my own sleep.
Fortunately, my long night of getting up with Thomas was during the weekend and my husband was home. So, in the afternoon, when I could barely haul myself out of my chair, I plodded up the stairs to my bed and I had a nap. In her book, Change Your Life Without Getting Out of Bed, SARK includes permission slips to take naps. I was so grateful when I first saw these. I always feel guilty about deserting my family for nap-land but I do it when I need to because it is essential. When I got up after an hour of dozing that afternoon, I made a lemon pudding for desert and played Lego with Jake. I was restored.
I doubt there is a parent out there who can’t relate to that overwhelmed, can’t-function feeling of sleep deprivation, at least from the newborn days. But, if your exhaustion doesn’t come so much from lack of sleep as it does from being busy and over-committed, I implore you, too, to sleep-in or take a nap when you need it. Sometimes we wear our busyness like badges of honour – we must be important if people are relying on us to do all these things – but we’re miserable and we make those around us miserable too when we’re under-slept.
IN SUMMARY – A PRESCRIPTION OF SLEEP-INS & AFTERNOON NAPS
The title of this post may have seemed tongue-in-cheek at first but it’s not. When we’re tired, any energy we have (physical, mental and spiritual) is used up on simply surviving and there is none left to be our best selves. We want to be patient and kind and wise and all those sorts of things as parents – and just as people – but these can be near-on impossible when we’re sleep deprived. Our bodies, minds and spirits are all beautifully connected and they all need plenty of sleep.
Let’s teach our children to take care of themselves by having sleep-ins and naps through example. We could even nap with our children on Saturday afternoons.
Much love to you and your little souls,
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As I take a moment to stop and watch my boys play or sleep, drinking them in in the way that mothers do, I sometimes wonder Do they love themselves? They appear happy in their lives, they’re certainly proactive about standing up for themselves, they do the things they enjoy…it looks like they love themselves but I don’t know if I can really tell.
The sad truth is that, although we arrive in this world aligned with Spirit, knowing that we are loving and lovable, at some point, that changes for most of us. Immersed in a society that is quicker to criticise than to encourage, we start questioning our own lovability. As a parent, I often doubt my ability to prevent that shift from happening…but I have to try.
I recently found myself in a pattern of criticising more than encouraging my boys, especially my eldest, Jake. I’d been a bit unwell so my tolerance level was low and my ability to hold my tongue had disappeared almost entirely. After a few days I realised, Oh my goodness, I’ve been picking on my own son! I had fallen into a pattern of regularly judging, prompting and correcting him. Poor Jake couldn’t do anything right – “you didn’t say ‘thank you’”, “stop using your fingers, there’s a knife right there!”, “if you kept your room tidy, you wouldn’t lose your Lego in the first place!” Given the way I was speaking to him, He must’ve thought that I considered him hopeless and, maybe, not loveable in some way. That thought horrified me. The way we treat our children shows them how to treat themselves and I did not want him picking on himself like I had been. I have to show him what it really means to love.
WHAT IS SELF-LOVE?
Self-love is not building up our egos with a c.v. of external “successes” to make it feel worthy of love. It is connecting with our true essence which is love. Self-love is about the way we regard ourselves and the way we treat ourselves, knowing we are inherently loving and loveable. A simple way to explain it to a child is to be your own best friend – appreciate yourself, care for yourself, extend kindness to yourself just as you would a friend.
I’m going to be my own best friend, stick with me till the end. – Jewel
HOW TO LOVE OURSELVES
We love ourselves in the same ways we love other people. If a person doesn’t have much self-love, they may find it grows by treating themselves lovingly anyway. I doubt I’m the only parent on the road back to self-love after years of being unkind to myself so the ideas I offer below are for parents and children alike!
Speak nicely to ourselves We need a cheerleading squad inside our heads, not a judge. For parents, the way we talk to our children becomes the way they talk to themselves – so no picking! We can also coach our children to speak kindly to themselves when we hear them talking negatively about themselves. This doesn’t mean being dishonest, just compassionate. For example, instead of “I stink at reading” we can teach them to say “I am learning to read” or “I’m finding reading difficult right now” or focus them on their effort and determination instead of the reading.
Forgive ourselves when we make mistakes Forgiving ourselves is perhaps the truest act of self-compassion. It allows us to move forward without the burden of our past. Sometimes I can see that Jake is heavy with the regret of something he has done and I suggest to him that he can forgive himself. My post about forgiveness explains more.
Give ourselves what we need Perhaps we feel in need of help, rest or a good laugh over our favourite comedy show. When we honour our needs, we honour ourselves. We can help our children to be aware of their needs and encourage them to be proactive in meeting them.
Do what feels right for ourselves This is about honouring what we know is true for us – from following our dreams (even when they don’t seem “realistic”) to listening to our intuition (even when it doesn’t match popular opinion). We can steer our children inwards to help them make authentic decisions for themselves. My post about intuition may give you ideas about how to do this.
Spend time with ourselves Just as we invest time in our friendships, we need to invest time in ourselves. Hanging out on our own gives us the quiet to hear our own voice instead of others’ for a while. For our children, this means allowing them plenty of unstructured, unscheduled time to potter as they wish.
Do things that bring us joy Our busy lives are often not set up for joy. We tend to prioritise what we think we should do over what lights us up. But it is in joy that we recognise ourselves and recharge. I think it’s important that we prioritise time for our children to do what brings them joy. For example, we can enrol them in the extra-curricular activities they want to go to – not the ones we think, for some reason, they should do. We can use joy as a criteria for planning their time and ours.
Surround ourselves with people who treat us well When we truly value ourselves, we expect other people to value us too. We don’t submit ourselves to others who are disrespectful or hostile. We care for ourselves by choosing kind company, people who lift us up. Children make many new friendships throughout childhood and will likely need our help to become discerning and make positive choices.
WHY IS SELF-LOVE SO IMPORTANT?
Self-love is not simply giving ourselves warm fuzzies to cheer ourselves up. It’s surely a happier life for those who love themselves – and that’s important but it’s not the only benefit. By loving ourselves, we build our strength to truly love another. We practise unconditional love for ourselves in order to be able to extend that love to others. My observation is that it is often those who appear toughest who are actually the weakest – unable to love themselves, they have little to give to others. The ways they are tough on themselves become the ways they are tough on others. Children who love themselves become rich sources of love for the other people in their lives.
As I near the end of this post, perhaps I have stumbled upon the answer to my question of how we can really tell whether our children love themselves. Maybe the depth of love they extend to others is reflective of the love they have for themselves?
IN SUMMARY – OUR ROLE AS PARENTS
In those moments when loving ourselves is hard, it may help us to remember that the Universe created us from Love, exactly the way it wanted us to be. Self-Love is not about building up our egos by counting up our successes and wonderfulnesses. It is about knowing we are successful and wonderful regardless of what we do because we were made that way. Our role as parents is to reflect our children’s lovability back to them so they have no doubt of it. It is also to model self-love so that they may see what it really means to love themselves through the various circumstances of life.
Much love to you and your little souls,
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