Seeking an Abundance of Love

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Most holiday seasons are met with many challenges. We juggle the demands of work and home, holiday celebrations, food, more food, and extra time with family and friends. The infamous holiday shopping also contributes to the added stresses of the season not only because we face packed parking lots, never ending traffic and limited time, but also because our current economy has made it really hard for some families to have the means necessary to buy everything they need. Most have been faced with the choice of limiting purchases and maintaining a tight budget. We want to give our children and family everything possible yet we also know that during these times we need to be mindful about how we spend our money. This has made it very difficult to be in a giving spirit.

Knowing how difficult and frustrating it is to be in these challenging situations we wanted to offer you a few words CNVEP’s executive director shared in our last newsletter (August 209):

Seeking an Abundance of Love

by Ruth Beaglehole

In a parenting class, a question arose: “How can we be the kind of parents we want to be when the economy is crumbling around us? We can’t pay the bills! We’re scared! We’re anxious! How do we handle the stress in our lives and still be empathetic and understanding with our children?” In a time of scarcity, it’s hard to consider the idea of abundance. Many of us simply do not have enough money to meet some of our basic needs. Our debt grows, and along with it, our stress.

More than ever, this is a time to connect with a different kind of abundance—the kind of abundance that comes from within.

When we take care of ourselves, when we manage our own stress, we can offer our children an abundance of love, an abundance of understanding, an abundance of compassion.

The practice of nonviolence in parenting is based on the concept that children should be treated with respect and dignity at all times. To accomplish this simple yet radical accomplishment, we have to maintain a long view of what the future holds for our kids: What kind of adults do we hope our children will become? How do we hope that they will deal with life’s many challenges?

In every moment, we have an opportunity for modeling for our children the ways that a healthy adult can be kind and loving—even in times of stress. This kind of mindfulness in parenting is contrary to our society’s conventional “wisdom” about how to raise children. We must examine the old messages that have prevailed for so long: that “children should be seen and not heard,” that rules are to be followed “because I said so,” that behavior should be controlled through fear.

The paradigm shift can begin with the concept of moving toward a new kind of abundance — the kind that gives us the internal balance we need to give abundant, loving energy to our children.

Reflecting on the Year

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

Sometimes a simple bit of research can be so validating. Ahh… Yeah… It feels so good…

It turns out that dark chocolate is good for you. Seriously! An ounce and a half per day reduces the risk of heart disease. Don’t take our word for it. Actual scientists published a study about it in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Hooray! If we can just get them to publish something about the health benefits of ice cream sundaes, we’ll really have something to shout about…

Here’s some other stuff we feel good about from this year:

* Many, many parents took CNVEP classes – at CNVEP, in private home classes, at schools, churches, community organizations – all over LA!

* Many teachers, domestic violence shelter staff, and therapists attended trainings.

* School Readiness home visiting for the children in the Highland Park community.

* Successful training and graduation of Families, Friends and Neighbors participants, so many of whom take care of children so parents can work and know their children are getting quality care.

* Children carving peace pumpkins and walking for peace at Pumpkins for Peace!

* Children and parents dancing with scarves and hula hoops at the Family Dance Parties.

* The street outside CNVEP celebrating the Festival of Childhood – art projects, painted faces, bubbles filling the air and lots of music and dancing!

And so much more!

Full gratitude to the staff of CNVEP and volunteers for the care they give in all aspects of their work towards a more peaceful world!

How about you? What were your favorite moments from this past
year? Take a minute and think about the last twelve months.

It hasn’t all been a bed of roses, of course. It’s part of our practice of nonviolence to do reflective work to help us become more mindful in each moment. Some things this year haven’t been so
great:

* There’s still an awful lot of war in the world. 2009 was a year in which our government continued to invest hugely in this violent approach to solving big problems. We’re committed to the idea that there are other ways to resolve conflict. The path to peace begins with children. When a child is raised with unconditional love, when they are raised to treat those who are different from themselves with respect and dignity they are not likely to choose war. Gandhi said that “Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary.” We concur.

* The sinking of the economy. We’re not pointing any fingers at who drove the dang thing into the iceberg, but it’s pretty clear that a lot of people got hurt. Many of our friends were already struggling to get by, this just made things harder. Some small comfort: many non-profit organizations went belly up this year. CNVEP managed to stay afloat, growing our programming and holding our dreams to reach more families not only here in LA but all over the state – no all over the United States and no all over the world!

* Many folks who long to love their children with loving kindness still struggling with the challenge to manage their own stress levels and anger volcanoes. Can I change? Can I control my anger? Will I be able to handle the flooding of feelings that come down with a veil of disconnection? Self-doubt waiting to change into self-empathy and hope that there is hope to do it differently
next time.

What were the hard things in your year?

-The CNVEP Crew

Sibling Rivalry

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Our family photo albums are proof of our perfect lives. Look! There we were when the kids were young. See how junior is hugging his baby sister in this family photo? He seems so content and loving. Yes, I guess he is hugging her pretty tightly… Hmm… I suppose she does seem a little bit uncomfortable… Really? She looks like she’s turning blue? No, we were very happy! Never mind, turn the page…

*Sigh*

Sibling rivalry! Sure, it exists. But if we only talk about it in that way, it really limits the conversation. We need to be more expansive in the way we look at our children. The sibling relationship is a laboratory for intimacy. This is the way that our children learn how to do hard things like negotiation, kindness, giving, struggling through conflict, sharing…

Let’s face it; kids are not born knowing how to get along with each other! It’s really difficult to have a human relationship. Imagine yourself as a child. How hard must it have been to learn to be a social being? When that new baby arrives, it’s a pretty tough thing for older children to adjust. They’ve been the center of attention for a couple of years, and along comes this interloper!

Let’s suppose your partner came home one day and said: “Honey, I’ve got some great news… we’re getting a new wife/husband! It’ll be so great! Someone for you to talk to, and play with, and share all of your stuff with… They can wear your clothes, and sleep here in our bed with us, and when you go off to work, I’ll stay home and hang out with the new one! And they’re going to stay forever! Isn’t that so exciting?”

Well, no actually. That probably wouldn’t be so exciting. And although as adults we can (often) see the value of having siblings, it’s not always so easy for kids to understand. Here are a couple of things to remember when you’re trying to support your kids in their relationships with one another:

Empathy. The OFNEEDS tool is a great way to help your children through difficult situations. Put yourself in their shoes. What is this situation like from each point of view?

Regulation. Calm yourself. Help your children to calm down too. When our brains are in a calm state, we are able to coach our kids through this hard learning.

Needs. They are never in conflict; the strategies are where the conflicts arise. Often, we can help our kids develop new strategies. It’s not your job to meet every need in every moment. Acknowledge. Validate.

Gratitude

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

Cicero said that “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” And right there on the CNVEP List of Feelings and Needs is the core human need for appreciation. What are you grateful for? This year, why not spend a few minutes to reflect about what you are thankful for in your life, and jot it down on a piece of paper…

We are so grateful; we hardly know where to begin.

*****
Thanks to our children, who teach us that every challenging moment is an opportunity for us to model the kind of values we hope to pass along to them. We are so grateful for all the enriching interactions, though many of them were hard.

Thanks for the moments of acceptance, when our denial melts away and we can be present.

Thanks for the hardships that led to personal growth and learning. The mistakes, failures and losses made room in our lives for important events that we never planned.

Thanks for the tears of sadness and joy. Thanks for the laughter. Thanks for the anger and fear. Thanks for all of the feelings that we were privileged to hear and see expressed. It made our
relationships stronger. It helped us develop our brains.

*****
In November of 1963, President John F. Kennedy issued a proclamation in celebration of Thanksgiving Day. Part of it said “…As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

So we’d like to appreciate you. Thanks for choosing the tools of nonviolence. Thank you for modeling kindness and generosity in your families and in your communities. Thank you for participating in the work that we do at the Center. We are very grateful.

Surviving the Holidays, CNVEP Style…

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Ah, the holidays. A time of peace and joy and relaxation! We’ll eat ‘til we’re pleasantly satisfied, snuggle up under a quilt with our sweetheart, kick our feet up by the fireside and nibble delicious little chocolates while the children frolic. Tra la la.

Oh, and then there’s reality.

The holidays are among the most stressful times of the year. For some of us, it’s a time of survival! We have to endure the financial stress and crowds of holiday shopping, our children have time off from school and need something to do and/or someone to care for them, and we spend time with… (Cue dramatic music) our FAMILIES! Or if we don’t have parties to go to or people to spend time with, there can be stress about that as well! Triggers from our own childhoods seem to be very present at this time of year,

Let’s face it, for many of us, the end of the year is filled with tension and anxiety. If you’re making a choice to raise your children in a nonviolent paradigm that differs from what others in you family or social circle practices, it might be very stressful to be at holiday events. It’s hard enough to be a parent; doing it under a microscope is practically impossible! Children can have added stress at the holidays too. Socializing in unfamiliar settings, a lot of people coming over to their house, expectations of how to be or act with relatives or friends, no school or extracurricular activities, eating differently, and not getting enough rest are only some of the
season’s pitfalls. For teenagers, showing up with their family to an event they might not want to attend in the first place can be nearly insufferable. These days, many families are having economic hard times, which only add fuel to the fire for everyone in the family.

If you’ve taken our classes, you’ve likely heard us talk about the stress hormone, cortisol. In times of stress, cortisol is released into our brains and helps us to get through challenging times. When this flood of hormones occurs, however, we become disregulated. The synapses connecting to the highest area of our brain, the neo cortex, become disconnected. So there we are, struggling to get through a holiday meal with only half our brain connected; the emotional area of the brain, and the survival area. We’re feeling stuff and we’re ready to survive it, but it’s not exactly the best place to parent from!

Here are some things to prepare your family for a holiday event:

* Make a book! Help your child to imagine what the event will be like. Who will be there, what will we do?

    * Remember your child’s age. What are developmentally appropriate expectations for your child in each setting?

    * If you’re traveling this season, make sure you pack a backpack full of things that your child likes to do. What will help them in a new environment? What do they want to bring?

    * Lead with empathy. Remember that empathy doesn’t mean agreement, it doesn’t mean you condone a certain behavior, it doesn’t mean that you or your child will be happy with the outcome of the situation. It means that your kid can feel understood, like you’re on their team, even if you don’t agree. And practically speaking, when children (and adults!) feel that they are being heard, when they are treated respectfully, it can open the door to cooperation.

    * Manage your own stress! Get plenty of exercise, eat healthy food, and make sure you get as much rest as possible. When you become stressed, do some deep breathing, use some sensory tools to get yourself regulated so that you can parent in the way you really want to!

    * Be mindful about the holidays. How do you choose to create meaning and/or ritual at this time? Are you making mindful choices about how you choose to celebrate or acknowledge holidays?

    * Come to CNVEP! Parent support is what we’re all about. We’re here to help create a world where children’s rights are respected, and where parents get enough support to guide them.