Three Tools To Help Us Help Our Kids

connection listening openness tools Nov 18, 2021

There are so many tips, tricks and recommendations out there about how to raise healthy kids, and other ones about how to help with concerns about weight (yes, I know alllll about eat less, move more.... that is sooo not what we are talking about here).

We're talking about 3 things - 3 tools - that actually help us to help our kids. Whether they are struggling with weight, body image, bullies or... life.

These three tools are foundational.

First, building connection. Yes, it most certainly is a tool. A tool that comes in handy, especially when things get tough. Connection is the tool that I use the most, in the office, at home and in the community. It's a powerful antidote to when things are going bad - because if you can connect with a caring human, you are on the path to healing. Connection supports human development, nurturing, safety and modeling.

This past weekend, I attended a conference on trauma-informed care. It was so informative. And it reinforced so much of my approach - of connection between humans as being THE primary need. And by meeting that need, it is the key (TOOL!) to achieve optimal health, growth and outcomes. True health comes when we are connected to ourselves, our families and our communities. It is how we support our mental health - feeling that we are seen/heard and how we find belonging.

Consider the opposite: disconnection. The disconnection that we’ve experienced with the pandemic is what I see as the largest burden upon our families and impacting our health - the stress that we have weathered oftentimes disconnected from our extended families, our church, and school supports. Is it any wonder that stress and disconnection created the environment to gain weight? It’s not that there is anything wrong - it MAKES SENSE.

Disconnection ➡️ stress to the individual ➡️ hormonal and inflammatory changes ➡️ increased weight; along with comfort-seeking behaviors - and let’s acknowledge that food can definitely comfort.

When we just focus on the weight and food alone (hello typical medical model), we miss the bigger issue: we are humans looking for connection to heal.

The second tool is the practice of being open to others' experiences. What does that look like? Listening. Being curious - not to have an answer, but to just being open to listen & understand. This, my friends, is what saved me as a mom in the thick of the pandemic. When my kids had their biggest challenges, their darkest days - I was there and LISTENED. I honestly didn't say much of anything. I was present, and open to hear everything. I was open to be silent, to not try to fix a thing.

I swear that those moments are the culmination of all of my practice of listening and parenting. And it reminds me that being open to others' experiences is a tool that deserves practice - and is so worthwhile to build true heart-felt connection (see tool #1 above!).

The third tool is learning. I think more of a mindset of learning. We are learning all the time. We evolve, we change our minds. We change our approach. In a way, that's progress. But the other time that we are learning is when things just don't go the way we planned. Some could call it failure - but when we remove judgement and ask "What have I learned here?" failure turns into a fantastic teacher.

So many of my approaches in my family have changed over time. I used to believe that being a parent meant I had all the answers for my kids, that I was teaching them.  Now I understand that they are teaching me, that we are learning and growing together. I became a much better parent when I let go of what I needed to tell them and then listened to what they were telling me.

Heck, even understanding about connection and being open to other answers or experiences - these are things that I have learned over time. This is not the language that I learned in medical school. This isn’t how I raised my children in the early years. But I get to admit that, acknowledge it - not just say where I was wrong, but remove the judgement about being wrong - and open up to a whole new world where I can learn so much more with my family, my clinic families, and my whole community.

Check out the Family in Focus with Wendy Schofer, MD Podcast!

Listen Now!

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