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Don't be scared! You should do it in spite of fear! Brave men don't listen to their fears. What if we should, on the contrary, learn to acknowledge fear in our lives, through our bodily feelings, and then use this information to take conscious action? Instead of just labeling fear as the bad guy? And more importantly: wouldn't it be great if you could teach your child to maintain her instinctive connection to her feelings and help her use her natural curiosity to embrace fear in her life?

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Meet Emilie and her family 🙂
Photo courtesy of Emilie Hoffman

An interview to understand how we can help our child embrace fear

I'm glad and honored to host an interview with Emilie Hoffman, coach, pilates instructor, and creator of the mind/body coaching method "Science meets soul".

I just love her approach. It consists into creating a deeper connection with our body and our feelings, in order for us to understand more deeply our inner selves - our needs, our emotions, our values.

The underlying belief is that, once we are able to establish a healthy relationship with ourselves, we are then able to build healthy relationships with our world.

I strongly recommend that you go check her website, https://sciencemeetssoul.co/.

She shares amazing insights about all the science behind emotions and feelings and the connection with our body and our actions.

In one of her recent newsletters, Emilie wrote something about fear that resonated deeply with me: how can we know when fear is holding us back from something that would make our lives better, and when is it a healthy signal from something that is dangerous for us?

We so often tend to think about fear as something bad, just as we do with anger. But in reality, those are just neutral, basic and very important emotions: they send us useful information we shouldn't ignore, but learn to interpret, in order to guide our actions in a way that feels good to us.

While I was reading, I couldn't help but thinking about the way we teach our kids to deal with those emotions.. Very often, it's based upon our own experience as children more than a reflected, conscious approach.

And that's where I thought about this interview! I'm so grateful that Emilie accepted to contribute to this topic and help us parents better understand how we can guide our kids into a healthier relationship with fear.

The 2 questions we should ask before we can help our child embrace fear

Kids are all different, we all know that; and their fear may have a different trigger and different intensity.

It's hard sometimes for us parents to find the right balance between:

  • need for encouragement - when we know they can push their limits a little more and learn from experience;

  • and a healthy fear - when the kid really feels overwhelmed.

Not to count when our own fears comes into play. I find myself at times preventing my children from trying because I'm scared, whereas my kids are confident and would "jump in".

Emilie, which reasoning do you suggest? How should we guide our thoughts in these cases, when we not only have to understand ourselves, but we also need to understand our kids' feelings and possibilities?

#1. What's the intention behind our actions?

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Let kids embrace curiosity
Photo by Joseph Rosales on Unsplash

In my experience as a parent, I find that the times I’m most controlling of my child are when I have in my head my own story about what he’s about to do and why without checking with him.

If I’m not feeling curious, I’m probably missing something about what’s going on inside both of us.

My son is not even two yet, so sometimes it’s pretty hard to get his version of the story, but it’s important to try!

What are your kid’s intentions in the actions they are about to take?

There are lots of different ways to carry out the same intention and it’s really helpful to walk through their version of how they expect a situation to unfold.

Whether you are a kid or a grown up, you often get what you expect.

#2. What are you feeling in your body?

Find out how your child is feeling in his or her body to see if they are still feeling grounded or not:

  • Some butterflies in the stomach but still able to think clearly, ask playful questions, and take deep breaths is a sign that it’s probably an adventurous level of fear.

  • But if your child feels really tense; can’t find a deep breath; and starts to lose touch with his/her surroundings, it’s time to pull back and find a sense of security again.

A sense of internal security will help us push our limits in a way that helps us learn.

Without an internal sense of security, pushing our limits just shuts us down. It keeps us from being curious or playful about anything.

Children are amazing examples of what learning can look like: it’s creative, challenging, imaginative, and integrated in mind and body.

When we can still tap into our curiosity, situations feel a little exciting and fun to us, even if we are nervous!

But in a fear that is too much for our brain and body, we don’t feel that excitement, and we do not have curious thoughts.

Instead, we usually feel overcome with tension and the urge to be defensive, run away, or crumple.

If you can’t already tell, I value curiosity highly. One of my top priorities as a parent is to help my child satisfy his curiosity and stay safe at the same time by altering the environment or physically guiding him to help mitigate risks that are too big.

If he goes beyond a point where he is terrified rather than curious, I am there to provide a safe, stable center that he can come back to and rely on to help him change his situation.

Help your child embrace or ignore fear?

A few months ago,  I brought my two kids skiing. It wasn't the first time, but we hadn't been on the snow for a long time.

I had planned to carry my 3-year-old between my legs, and to have my oldest daughter, 5 and a half, go on her own by my side - I obviously picked a baby slope.

At my astonishment, my son would just throw himself down the slope without waiting for me (putting himself into danger) while my daughter was stuck with fear.

I didn't know what to do, because she would grab my legs and cry, while I had to follow my little one (who obviously didn't wait for me and was dangerously skiing on his own).

I then told my daughter : "I know you're scared, it's normal to be scared, you're doing something new and you don't know how to do it. Fear is like an alarm bell. But I'm here with you, and the only way for you to learn is to go even if you're scared, and I'll stay with you."

This is just an example of many situations we may face as parents, where we would like our kids to go beyond their fears because we feel that if they just try, they'd gain confidence and see they can do it.

After reading your article, I start thinking that maybe, that wasn't the right thing to say.

Which words can we use when our kids panic, for them to learn when and how they can trust themselves, their body, their instincts; and when they can let go and just try?

Is there truly only one way?

Well, I’d like to ask you a question about your focus in the situation…In the little bit of story you share here, it sounds like you were making the focus for your daughter about her needing to ski; but in reality perhaps your main focus was about you needing to be with her brother.

Is it possible part of her discomfort was from sensing the disconnect between what you were saying to her and what you were expressing in your actions and personal energy?

I’d also like to challenge all of us (self included!) to really pause when we say there is only “one way” or “one truth” or “one possibility”; because more often than not, there are lots and lots of options available to us! We have a lot more choice than we think we do.

Realizing that we have choices and that we are allowed to make our choices on our own terms is very empowering!

Sometimes that realization alone can ease fear that feels overwhelming.

The power of choice

Close your eyes and imagine the following scenarios:

Notice what your body does when somebody you trust and respect says to you: “You MUST do it THIS way.”

Then, notice what happens to your body when the same person says: “We can come up with some options of how to do this together and you get to decide on the approach we take.

Which scenario do you think would be most helpful in empowering your daughter to quiet her own fear and learn a new skill with confidence and enthusiasm?

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Are we considering all options to gain that sense of security? Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash

Aside from our kids, it is so important that we do this for ourselves too. When you feel pressure and fear at the same time, see if you can find more personal power by creating different options for yourself and establishing space for you to make your own personal decisions.

Connected: the power of choice to get your child's cooperation

5 steps to learning the value of curiosity if you want to help your child embrace fear

On the same note: what can we do to support our children into learning that fear isn't bad, but to interpret what it tells us? Can you also give us some practical examples of it?

#1. Fear is ok: give yourself permission to seek safety

In my own life, and the lives of many people I’m close with, giving ourselves permission to seek safety and security is so important to trusting ourselves and being resilient. Humans are not robots and we’re not invincible!

We’re squishy social animals who need a sense of security in order to thrive.

So, the first thing we can do for our kids is let them know that fear is normal, okay, and useful! It doesn’t mean you are “weak.” It means you are perceptive!

We aren’t meant to dive into every situation we meet. Sometimes it’s good for us to say no.

#2. Learn to recognize the symptoms in your body

Our brains, bodies, and nervous systems are so clever in their ability to know what we have the skills to handle, and what we don’t.

We get the automatic message: "You don’t yet have the skills you need!" when we feel the body sensations that come along with fear.

As a practical example in my own body, I’ll notice when my breath gets shallow. I'll take a pause to rewind my thoughts and see what crossed through my mind right before I felt the tightness in my chest.

I know that this is a time when I have a great opportunity to either:

  • practice new skills I’m in the process of learning,

  • or identify a skill gap so I can get help to learn what skills could help me here.

#3. From skills to habit - it’s ok to ask for help

These days, fear pops up most frequently for me in two places: business money stuff, and marriage.

I have learned so many skills about relationships in the past several years. I really do know a lot now!

But, not all of those skills are integrated as habits.

So when I’m aware of my body shifting from a calm, alert, warm and bright state to a rigid, tense, vigilant and hyper-focused state in those two areas, I pull out my notes about what I already know and probably need to practice.

If I hit a bump and I really don’t know what to do and I’m feeling very avoidant, that’s a sign I need to reach out for help and let someone else teach me a few new ideas!

When I have help, my curiosity comes back and I can begin to empower myself.

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When they feel secure, children can follow their own path
Photo by Emma Frances on Unsplash

 

#4. Let your child’s natural curiosity guide and help him embrace fear

In the case of my toddler, I let his curiosity guide. He’s too young to talk to me about body feelings or emotions; but he can assert his likes/dislikes and desires very clearly.

We have air conditioning in our house and there is a fan unit on the side of our house in the back yard. My son is a bit wary of it.

Whenever we play in that part of the yard, he will always listen for the fan and tell me: “air conditioner fan off!” or “fan turned on.”

He’s not completely comfortable with it yet; but each time I notice him checking on the unit, I ask him if he wants to get closer.

Sometimes he says yes, and sometimes he doesn’t. If he says no, I’ll ask him if he wants me to pick him up and carry him to a place where he can see the fan, but doesn’t have to be too close.

There’s a garden bed (my son calls it the dirt box) on the far side of the AC unit. When the fan was on, he used to say "no" when I asked if he wanted to play in the “dirt box”, because he was too scared to walk past it at all.

Now he goes past it to get to the dirt box if I’m there too; and he’s started talking more freely about the AC fan.

“Fan goes around and around!”

His curiosity is helping him engage and find his own sense of security in his relationship with the air-conditioning unit.

It’s a serious and important process for him, even if it’s “just an air-conditioning unit” to us grown-ups.

#5. Protect their sense of security

That’s the same approach I use for all situations I sense my son is feeling fearful.

There’s no rush for him to push through circumstances that undermine his sense of security; because in the long run, it will just make fear an even scarier feeling for him to experience.

I want him to know he can work with his fear, that he doesn’t have to be overwhelmed by it.

Let your kids embrace fear and reconnect

As adults, we've very often grown in a way that disconnects us to ourselves and our bodies. That's why you created your activity in the first place, right? Rebuilding this confidence and alignment within ourselves is not always an easy job. What can we do, while we're still on the path towards a better understanding of ourselves, to help our children grow in a more "connected" way? (And I'm obviously not thinking about the internet 😉 )

will-o-connection
Find the connection within ourselves. Photo by Will O on Unsplash

Reconnecting with our feelings in 3 questions

Hahah…very clever, Clio!

I love asking the following questions mindfully throughout the day:

  1. How does your body feel?
  2. What do you think that feeling is saying to you?
  3. How can you respond kindly and quickly to the message?

For most of us adults, we’ve lost touch with what we’re feeling! And because we’ve lost touch with what we feel, we aren’t even asking the other questions.

Many adults end up knowing very little about themselves. They experience a lot of self-doubt simply because they don’t realize the brilliant messages they are sending themselves; and they don’t give themselves a chance to respond.

I believe in teaching our children that their physical feelings are very important because our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all woven together.

The feelings that arise within our kids will be the root of their wellness, their emotional experience, and their intuition.

Our kids will have great trust in us and trust in themselves the more we model asking and answering the three questions. “How does your body feel? What do you think that feeling is saying to you? How can you respond kindly and quickly to the message?”

Resources

A few useful resources for you to dig deeper if you want!

Note: some links may be affiliate links. It means that if you buy something after clicking, I might get a small commission. All opinions are my own.

 

We are born women, but moms, we may become.. How can we build this role, while keeping intact our other many identities? Career, love, friendship, sisterhood, sport, volunteering.. Women, can we find a balance? Does this balance even exist? Analysis of an apparent contradiction.

Woman-in-balance-multiple-roles
Overlapping roles

"You can't have it all"

Growing up, we find ourselves all wearing new roles; sometimes we change them like snakes change their skin; at other times we accumulate them like the layers of an onion.

"You can't have it all," I was repeatedly told. "You'll have to choose." And I stubbornly insisted, out of contradictory spirit mostly.

I distinctly remember when I went to the office to show my newborn babies. I saw a golden aura around me, as if the stars were suddenly aligned.

And then, when I came back to work to work, the roles added up, and the first real challenges hit me.

Which of these moments have been more difficult in assuming your new role as a parent?

  • Discussing your working hours;

  • Juggling between day care centers and baby sitters;

  • Fumbling unlikely solutions to cover the summer closure, the strikes, the sicknesses..

  • Calling the doctor's office months in advance so to have the vaccines' appointment after 5 p.m.;

  • Counting your available days off to see if you can use one to go to the school party, because last year you got there too late;

  • The eternal never being there enough;

  • Getting dressed in the laundry, because you still haven't had the time to put your dry clothes away..

"You can't have it all." And there I am, looking for counter-examples, for different possibilities; 'cause I don't like to choose. I have a hard time when there are more than two dishes at the restaurant.

And when no one sees me, I caress the doubt: what should I give up? Is it really inevitable that if I'm a woman, and a mom, I can't also be all the other identities I'm wearing? Because I feel more onion than snake.

...continue reading "The multiple roles of women: Is a balance possible?"

You've always wanted to work on yourself and increase your self-esteem. And probably, you also aim at raising confident children. Because, especially if you've been suffering from your low self-esteem and the continuous self-criticism, you want to stop this negative cycle; and grow strong and self-assured kids. I have good news: you can increase your self-esteem! The bad news is, it's going to take some time and energy. But the stakes are high: your kids' confidence..

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I didn't do anything! That milk was already there...

I never make it right..

My daughter and I have the unfortunate tendency to distract ourselves easily and, as a result, to drop things down. Shall we call it clumsiness? But I purposely didn't  say that "We are clumsy", and now you'll see why.

You know those days when as soon as you get up, you're in a hurry? You have a hard time waking up, so you're late. You'd forgotten you had a very super important meeting; you selected the wrong program on your washing machine and now you don't know what to wear. Your children sniff your undisguised nervousness, as a bloodhound who finds truffles..

And just when everything seems to be back on the rails, your daughter spills a whole cup of milk on the floor. And a few minutes later, she stumbles into his brother's potty (no need to mention that it was still full, right?).

What would you do?

...continue reading "Why should you increase your self-esteem? It’ll help your kids to thrive"

22

My-never-ending journey-becoming-a-parent-who-smiles

Becoming a parent who smiles when you keep falling into the same old patterns

"Kids kids kids! It's time to get up my lovely children!

What starts as a whisper, gradually becomes a perky scream, as I notice that my two "bundles of love" are hardly hearing my voice under their still strong sleep.

At some point, I finally manage to actually wake them up and take them to the breakfast table.

We worked on our morning routine, and used so many of the positive parenting strategies here and there.. Yet, here we are : both kids in their pajamas, running again under their duvets when we only have 20 minutes to leave and be on time to school.

My daughter's staring at her drawer, lost in her own thoughts.

"Honey, you'll have to go to school in your pajamas if you don't get dressed, I'm leaving in 15 minutes.

"But I'm too cold mom! I want you to dress me! I want to be with you."

All this, while her younger brother is crying that he doesn't want to go to school, he doesn't want to brush his teeth, and I don't recall what else he didn't want to do by the way.

What does it take?

The purpose of this article is NOT to give you yet another very useful list of techniques or sentences you can use to survive to morning prep.

It is to show you that even when you do know plenty of these, you still have to adapt them to you, your kid and the specific situation you're in.. a never ending journey.

...continue reading "Becoming a Parent who smiles and grows – a never ending journey"

30

Never frowned in front of a child making noise in the train? Or sighed at a mom who couldn't keep her children still in the waiting room? Or worse, those parents who dare taking their kids out to dinner on Saturday night! What is your attitude with regards to disturbing children? And why is it important to talk about it? Well, let's see!

No kids allowed they disturb
No disturbing kids allowed - Photo by Gary Bendig on Unsplash

Italy (and Germany, US, UK..) : no kids allowed in certain restaurants

A few months ago, thanks to the magical powers of serendipity, I came across an article in an Italian newspaper.

A restaurant in northern Italy had banned children from entering. And since then, a ton of comments were published (because, as we know well, the internet frees us from any inhibition) which, for a good part, supported this decision. I even believe that the restaurant in question has seen its customers double.

In fact, I remained speechless in front of people's harsh words : "I can't stand children"; "I didn't want to have kids myself, so I don't see why I should put up with other people's children"; "today's parents are incapable of raising their children well"; and so on.

Some declared that, abroad, "You can immediately recognize Italian children!"; that other cultures are different and parents know better how to raise children in a proper way.

Others responded by accusing them of lack of empathy and support for parents (a minority nevertheless).

Who is right ?

no kids allowed to interrupt our quiet meal
You said quiet meal out? - Photo by Sonja Punz on Unsplash

...continue reading "No Kids Allowed : Should we ban disobedient kids from public places?"

24

You come back home, tired from work, and all you can think of is sinking into your bed with a good book. You ask your 3 year-old-son to wash his hands before sitting at the table. What an outrageous request! "If you do not wash them, I'll wash them!" He's screaming, you're screaming. How can you handle such crises? How can you calm down and help your children control the storm of emotions? Let's see 10 ways to calm down - for the whole family!

ways to calm down breathing and meditating
Photo of Jared Rice on Unsplash

What could have triggered the crisis?

One morning like many others. "Mom, are we going to school today?" My little one asks me first thing once his eyes are opened. The angry look leaves no doubt: I want to stay at home!

Fortunately, we can take the luxury of having breakfast together before realizing it's late and we're all in our pajamas.

One way or another, we manage to get to the front door with the right clothes and enough time to go to school and office on schedule.

Mom, I want to take my bike !

My whole body gets ready for a fight or flight reaction.

Honey, you have to practice a little bit before, it's better if you come with me on the child seat for the moment. Tomorrow, if we can get out a little earlier, we can take your bike ok ?

Obviously, the stubborn and definitive answer is NO.

After a few attempts, I had to take him and put him on his seat...
C-A-T-A-S-T-R-O-P-H-E

Screams and desperate cries, scratches, kicks .. The ultimate crisis.

The one where you must be able to calm down before you can calm your kid .. not easy when your child's pulling your hair as if he wanted to shave you bold.

...continue reading "#10 easy ways to calm down in face of a major meltdown"

12

Do you or your partner come from a different country? Or maybe, you've always had a hard time learning a new language in school; you love traveling, and you wish your kid could do better? Are you wondering whether to raise a bilingual child, but you don't know if it's a good idea, and where to start from? When our kids were born, we were living in France. We would only speak Italian at home. And I started worrying: is my child going to have problems because of this? Will she still integrate easily? I discovered, many parents ask the same questions.. Let's look at myths, truths and tips about why you should raise a bilingual child.

#1.Should you raise a bilingual child? It will allow your kid to speak to more people

Most of our closest relatives only speak Italian. In the city we currently live in, most people only speak French. So there was no other option : other children had to learn both.

Of course, if your spouse's family comes from a different country, and you really want to avoid any relationship, than you shouldn't raise a bilingual child. Forget everything about their language, their origins, their culinary tastes. They'll probably hate you forever, and you'll be sure never to see them again.

Or else: if you want your child to stay glued at your side for years to come, forever afraid of leaving the country for fear of not understanding all those weird people making those nasty sounds, then please don't ever let your child hear anything else other than your language. No traveling, no music, no foreign movies. What's outside your country, anyway?

...continue reading "#5 Reasons why you shouldn’t raise a bilingual child"

1

Jealousy is a complex feeling, have you ever thought about it? Try to think about the last time you were jealous. Were you able to recognize the symptoms and rationalize them? Could you express those feelings in a balanced way? It's not that obvious, is it? Well, now you can imagine how hard it can be for your jealous toddler to welcome a new little brother or sister, and learn how to become "the big one". Jealousy : Instructions for use ! (And I recommend: Handle with care!)
Jealous toddler seeing baby brother

What's jealousy?

Thesaurus defines jealousy as a "mental uneasiness from suspicion or fear of rivalry, unfaithfulness, etc., as in love or aims."

I think it's important to keep that in mind if we want to understand our child better! (Remember, empathy is the key to everything in a relationships).

Let's dive in!

...continue reading "How can you help your jealous toddler welcome the new baby?"

3

Just as handwriting gives a first psychological insight about a person, and is used by many companies in the recruitment phase, even our children's drawings and scribbles can tell many things about them.. Do you know what to look at when your children show you their works? Here are some key points to consider when you interpret children's drawings!

Why interpreting children's drawings

When we announced to the children that we would come back to France, and explained the consequences this would have for them, my daughter started drawing houses.

They were beautiful, cheerful drawings; but it struck me that the subject's choice had suddenly become "monotonous and repetitive" - while before she would mostly draw people, whether it was us or the princesses she liked so much.

How-to-interpret-children's-drawings- houses
Houses, houses, houses

Have you ever noticed any weird detail in your children's drawings, and wondered what they meant?

For example, take the drawing below : isn't it .. Say peculiar ?

How-to-interpret-children's-drawings-body

I wanted to investigate.. And I asked an elementary school teacher to give me some clarification.

...continue reading "Keys to understand what your kids’ drawings really tell about them"

26

Mothers light up when they have to talk about their offspring and related joys and sorrows.. But what do men think about becoming a dad? Behind their silence, do they really hide a true hassle for such feminine occupation, or maybe ... ? Is it really that hard for them? If you are a dad, from the "not yet but maybe a day" level to the"Yes several times" one, then this interview is for you. If you're a mom, here's a point of view that could explain many things..

Becoming a dad is an adventure
Yes, becoming a parent is an adventure for all

Becoming a dad - the first time

Becoming a dad the first time was.. Well, there was the novelty effect, it was all very exciting. I really enjoyed attending the prenatal classes, and paying attention to the reactions and questions of the other couples; feeling that atmosphere of preoccupied excitement.

Then childbirth.. Watching as your child comes to the world is an indescribable thrill, and at the same time it feels like a normal thing in life. An extraordinarily natural phenomenon.

I am glad to have witnessed and seen everything; that's something you don't want to miss.

Those first days you're as suspended in a time that has stopped; with such a tiny baby, that's yours, you can't just stay indifferent, regardless of how much you're a rational, thick-skinned guy.

...continue reading "Becoming a dad. A chat about fatherhood"

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