What another great call we had for parents on the topic of Resiliency! Weren’t able to make the call? Or forgot and want to listen in? You can download a recording of the call by clicking here.
In July, we started to talk a little bit about resilience in our parenting (check out the recap from that call too), and in August we continued down that path opening up with a discussion of Love Languages based on the books by Gary Chapman. Chapman’s premise is that we all show up in the world with a way that we feel loved and appreciated and that the things that “do it” for us translate into these five categories:
- Words of Affirmation: “Oh, your car is lovely, just like you.”
- Acts of Service: “Honey, I washed your car!”
- Receiving Gifts: “I got you these fuzzy dice for your car, do you love them?”
- Quality Time: “Want to go for a ride in your fancy car?”
- Physical Touch: “Let’s hold hands while we ride around town in your car.”
We all have at least a primary love language (and possibly a second) that, when it’s spoken to us makes us feel loved, appreciated and cared for and often it’s the love language that we “speak” when we wish to show our love and affection for others. Interestingly, we don’t all necessarily have the SAME love language and what registers as loving and comforting to one may have an adverse, even if unintentional impact, to another. For example, as an introvert, I am limited to how much physical touch I can tolerate over the course of the day. This can be tricky as a mother of small children who need me to hold their hands, cuddle them when they fall and snuggle them to sleep. By the end of the day, my physical touch quota is usually met. As a result, it does NOT make me feel loved and cared for to be offered a massage, despite the loveliness of the intention there. However, acts of service IS my love language. So if over the course of the day, I’m finding that my car gets washed, or the dishes are put away, or the children have already been fed and bathed so I can sit and read a trashy novel…. that DOES make me feel cared for and adored. Moreover (and here’s the tie back to that resiliency topic) as my love tank fills with these deposits, so does my resiliency! And with resiliency comes by capacity to speak a love language that isn’t necessarily my native tongue.
Resiliency, as you see, is tied to our emotional state which is inextricably related to our capacity to love and feel loved. Knowing what makes deposits in to our love tank (and therefore our capacity for resilience, our our “resiliency tank”) and what makes withdrawals helps us to draw our awareness to our current capacity so that we can take action, by making requests or setting boundaries. These actions build our relationships and help us maintain a strong resilient center that allows us to show up as our best selves EVEN when the dishes are a mess, the kids are not bathed, work is blowing up and… and… and… and…
In addition to becoming aware of the triggers that tend to reduce our capacity for resilience, try becoming aware of the signs that resiliency is running low. Many people notice this in terms of behaviors but if you really examine those behaviors, there are probably some underlying assessments (the language our inner monologues speak that, while not factual, we tend to treat as until we draw awareness to them) along with some somatic symptoms and emotional traits. For example, one person mentioned that when her resiliency is low and she is in need of more quality family time, when she is acting OUTSIDE of her resilient center (and less than aware) she tends to make accusations of her husband that sound like, “You never spend any time with us. When are you going to make time for our family?” But when we dug in, we noticed that these accusatory complaints were masking a hidden request to schedule some quality time so that she could point to it on the horizon and feel safe and secure that that time was coming. What was preventing her from simply making the request? When we dug deeper it turned out there was a secret hidden assessment — she had just spent 10 days on a wonderful vacation with her husband and her inner monologue told her that to ask for MORE time would be needy. And she wouldn’t want anyone to think she was a needy/clingy girl. Ah hah! Awareness!
With awareness we can also establish a re-frame. What language could she replace that assessment with that would be more beneficial to her? She came up with this, “I cherish and value my family and it is important to me to spend quality time with them… because I am awesome” (I may have added in that last part just a little tiny bit.) Exactly. Instead of seeing herself as a clingy needy girl, she transformed into a powerfully caring and loving mother and wife. That is, indeed, awesome.
We all have underlying assessments that tend to keep us from acting on our human need to seek out and nourish our resilient centers. I fear appearing selfish – as though I put my needs ahead of those of my children. These assessments come to us through our culture. But there’s a reason why when you get on an airplane the flight attendants have to remind us that in the event of cabin depressurization, put the mask on YOURSELF first and then help those in need. Because if we aren’t taking care of our selves, we aren’t running at full capacity, then the person we are putting in front of our families – the person raising our kids – is not whole. We are denying them the value and the gift of our fully present and centered selves. Again – it’s about the re-frame.
When you draw your attention to how you show up in your “running on empty” state of resilience, you may also notice symptoms in your body. Notice your posture when your resilience is low. Are you slouching? Are you struggling to carry the weight? Where do you hold that weight? Does your heart feel heavy? Does your stomach feel tight (not the good – I just did 50 crunches – tight, but the knotted up and feeling punched in the gut tight)? How is your appetite? What cravings do you have when resiliency is low? And… what are these things telling you?
What do you notice about your emotional state? Are you quick to anger (a sure sign that boundaries need to be established or enforced)? Are you starting to feel depressed or lonely? Disconnected or fearful? What are these emotions telling you?
Practice for Building Awareness:
Consider the following questions to help create an action plan to build and maintain your capacity for resilience:
- What is your love language? (Need help? Try this quiz). How does this impact your capacity for resilience?
- What are some things that make deposits into your resiliency tank?
- What are some things that make withdrawals from your resiliency tank?
- What do you notice about yourself when your reserve tank when it’s running low in terms of your body (physical awareness), feelings (emotional awareness) and language (intellectual awareness)?
- What underlying assessments are keeping you from nurturing your resilience? What re-frame can you draw?
Practice(s) for building resilience:
Consider the things you can do to nourish your resilient center in terms of body, emotion and language. Make a list of possible actions you can take and how you can create practices (actions we do repeatedly, as in a habit) out of them. Take a look at these thought starters, but do be aware that these are NOT universal. What may be a deposit practice for some may actually be a withdrawal practice for others.
Bringing it home as a parent
So you’ve explored and built some awareness in what builds your resiliency, consider what makes withdrawals and deposits in your child’s resiliency tank. Depending on your child’s age and development awareness, you can make a few assessments based on your observations or invite your child to have a conversation with you. Some ideas you could consider:
Share your journey out loud and invite them to participate: Be transparent with your child about what you notice in your own journey. Language like, “today I noticed that when I for for a run in the morning, I feel more energized and calm throughout the day. Do you notice anything you do that makes you feel energized and calm?” You may notice that your child can be a great supporter in helping you maintain your practice: Once, when my son was three, he asked me when I was leaving to go to the gym why I always went to the gym. I told him that sometimes when I don’t go to the gym and work out I notice I get really grumpy but then when I go, I feel good about myself and that makes me feel strong, healthy and happy. A few days later, I think I was snapping at someone about something (who knows?) and my three year old son looked at me, “Mommy, do you need to go to the gym?” I actually did.
Creating a tangible example: Set up a jar with some marbles or m&ms in it…. Explain to your child that when the jar is full you feel calm and peaceful and fun. Show how when things happen it’s like a marble goes in the jar. “When you give me hugs and kisses, it’s like a marble goes in the jar and I start to feel happy.” Also share what things takes marbles out of your jar, “but when the toys are all over the place it’s like the marbles are falling out of my jar.” Invite your child to talk about what puts marbles in and out of his or her jar.
Have your child take the love languages quiz: The online quiz for the five love languages actually has a space for you to take the quiz for or with your child. My daughter did this quiz when she was six. We were doing it together for a while and about half way through she asked me to sit someplace else so she could do it without my seeing the answers. Who knew? I was pretty surprised at the result. I would’ve thought that all middle class kids have “gifts” as their primary love language (hello limiting assessment). Turns out that hers is quality time and physical touch. This was quite an eye opener for me.
Keep the dialogue going: Once you establish some awareness, talk about it every now and then. See if you notice more things evolving over time, or if things change. Notice if your interactions change as a result of what you now know about each other. Revel in the new found intimacy created by this awareness you now have in eachother.