This isn’t a blog about how to get your children to eat more vegetables, or about spending quality time with them, or even about how to get them to turn the tv off. Important and all as these are, they are already the subject of numerous books and articles.
What I want to share are four less-ordinary tools that I wouldn’t live without as a parent. And I’m not including the bottle of wine and the babysitter!
First off the mark is homoeopathy. I was lucky enough to have been raised in a household where homoeopathy was used regularly, so no-one had to convince me that it worked – I had experience of it working long before I encountered others‘ doubts. I’m also sneaking herbal remedies in here too. Between them they have sorted out many of an almost-endless list of the standard trials and tribulations which parents deal with. For simpler things – teething, bumps, cuts, colds, sore-throats, stomach bugs, mild eczema – I have home prescribed. For others – colic, tonsillitis, anxious insomnia, tantrums from hell, chronic coughs – I’ve used a professional homoeopath. I have friends who have had success in treating childhood asthma, bronchitis, behavioural difficulties and a host of other ‘difficult’ problems through using a professional homoeopath. At home I have a homoeopathic first aid kit, some books, a bottle of Echinacea tincture and calendula ointment, all of which are worth their weight in gold in terms of having something to hand for everyday challenges. Visits to a medical doctor are rare, courses of antibiotics rarer still, and the remedies are wonderfully palatable and immune-building for children. But, apart from all that, for me as a parent it is so empowering to know that there are effective, non-toxic, easy cures available for the physical and emotional challenges that all children and parents face.
Next up is astrology. If someone had told me ten years ago that I’d be taking astrology seriously, I would have laughed. But my work with it over the last few years has shown me what a powerful tool it can be in helping parents not only to understand themselves better, but their children too. Even without a detailed understanding, astrology can offer insights into the style of nurturing your children will respond to, as well as offering you an understanding of what your own natural style of nurturing is. Many parents get simple relief from just knowing that their child feels most nurtured by, say, deep emotional connection, whereas their approach as a parent might be more inclined towards the ‘lets go and get muddy’ style of parenting. When we have a better understanding of ourselves and our children, we can more easily address our own needs and also adapt our parenting styles to suit our children. And aren’t they all so unique!
Third up is the ‘talking stick’ – harnessed from the shamanic traditions. This is really more suited to families with older children and teenagers, but using the stick from a young age means that children get used to the idea. It can be useful, too, for us as parents when we need to discuss a particularly emotive subject between ourselves. The talking stick is basically used as part of family meetings when everyone needs to be given an opportunity to speak and be heard. Using it is simple. When it is brought into a family discussion, it is passed in a clockwise direction from one to the next, each having their say on the subject. No-one else is allowed to speak while the stick is being held, and the speaker must be listened to with respect. Each member of the family ends with ‘aho’ to indicate they are done – the family can then respond with ‘aho’, ‘we hear you’, or something similar. Ideally, the stick becomes a tool to help families discuss common topics peacefully, and to practice both speaking up and listening to others. It becomes a way of introducing respect into the way a family discusses things. And even selecting and decorating the stick can be a family activity.
My fourth tool is meditation. Wow! Where would I be without this. My meditation practice has been a haven for me at times of stress; fifteen minutes of recharge in the midst of early childhood chaos; and the excuse to take time out for myself every day. I’ve meditated sitting beside my daughter’s bed, during times when she wouldn’t fall asleep without my holding her hand. I’ve meditated in the middle of the night while breastfeeding (although breastfeeding can be a meditation in its own right!). And I’ve used my ability to find stillness through meditation as a way of staying present with my children at times when my mind kept drifting off towards all the other things I wanted to be doing instead. My children are used to their parents meditating, and it is something I hope they will also use as they get older and are facing the joys of exams and teenage angst.
At this stage, I have to acknowledge that I have the skills to incorporate a lot of the above without needing external support. I offer shamanic practices, astrology and meditation as part of my therapy practice. And I have long studied homoeopathy and naturopathy as a hobby. But there are no shortage of skilled practitioners for parents to call on, and also books to refer to. Knowing they can help is the first step.
I also toyed with the idea of adding ‘self-discipline’ and ‘ability to surrender’ as fifth and sixth tools – or even as prerequisites to parenting in the first place! But they are a separate article all unto themselves.