Caroline Myss is an author, inspirational teacher and healer in the fields of human consciousness, health and spirituality, among other things.
I wanted to share a few of her quotes as food for thought about the impact of challenges and choices in our lives. I briefly comment on them, but the goal is to allow you to rethink how you approach challenges and how these can become growth experiences rather than victimizing experiences.
My goal is always to lead individuals to develop self-awareness to pass on this beautiful gift to their children, friends or family to make this world a better place at an individual and global level.
The more self-aware we become, the less reactive we are. The less reactive we are, the more present we are to what life places in our path, and the more we can live in gratitude and grace.
“The challenge that each of us is confronted with during our periods of suffering is whether to allow pain to remain at the ego level or whether we can transform our ego pain into a process that strengthens our soul.” — Caroline Myss
This way to face life challenges had supported me through the difficult times such as when my two-year-old was diagnosed with leukaemia and a challenging separation from my husband. After the initial shock, denial and despair, I transformed these emotions by opening my eyes to the possibility of finding the gifts in these situations. Asking myself “what do I need to learn from this” as opposed to “why is this happening to me, to us?”
A second very helpful element was to accept the challenges as opposed to wishing them away or focussing on the past.
Third, I let go of the need to control. Whether it be the need to know that my daughter would be cured, or the need to know what I did wrong, it was futile. No amount of information would give me more control. Instead, I surrendered to the “what is” and decided to live through it and trust that even if I did not know what the future held, that I had no ability to control the future or its outcomes, that whatever would happen would be in my best interest.
Fourth, handling these periods of suffering with the faith that something good would come out of them even if the mind tends to say “What the hell good can come out of a two-year-old having cancer?” I resisted those thoughts as best as I could.
Changing our perceptions about challenges make them more bearable because I know that I will be okay.
Through the difficulties, I also discovered how strong and resilient I am, and I come out of the storms victorious and undefeated. When all else fails, and I am on my knees crying, these simple phrases that Caroline Myss teaches us to use as mantras have carried me through the most difficult times, without fail: “Hover over me, God” and “Man’s rejection is God’s protection”.
“Built into each of our lives are countless challenges that highlight what we fear and what we find difficult to confront. Regardless of what these challenges are, the underlying purpose inherent in every one of these situations is the opportunity to respond in ways that increase our awareness of our own inner strength and power.” — Caroline Myss.
On my life path were placed a multitude of challenges I never thought I had the strength to go through, yet I did. Life has shown me that I am strong beyond belief. I just need to trust.
So when faced with a challenge remind yourself that you have two choices: approach the challenge with fear or love. If you are fearful, you will miss a great opportunity to discover your tremendous inner strength. So don’t resist the difficulty, allow it to pass through you and you will see what I mean. What you resist persists. What you focus on grows. So don’t resist and don’t focus on the bad, focus on the solution and the desired outcome.
“Until you surrender the need to know why things happened to you as they did, you will hold on to your wounds with intense emotional fire.” Caroline Myss
Don’t waste energy trying to figure out why things happened, invest energy in trying to figure out how to get through them. Do not dwell on the past, regrets or resentments. Instead, aim your attention on the future reality or state you want to experience and live it as if it is already a reality. Feel it deeply so that you can allow it to become a reality.
Acceptance is not condoning a wrongdoing. Acceptance enables us to see what is. Only then can we focus on the next steps and not stay stuck. Fighting or resisting what has happened will in no way make it go away or turn back the hands of time. Non-acceptance is futile. It only causes more suffering.
“Every life has a purpose that unfolds amid a journey of endless opportunities. The choices we make, and the underlying motivations that determine these choices, influence the quality of the next opportunity.” Caroline Myss.
You decide if your choices will be made out of fear or guilt, or out of love and faith. Choices based on the former do not usually bring us the outcomes we wish for, but rather place more of the same challenges that feed our fear or guilt.
When faced with opportunities, stop and think before you make a choice. Will you respond in fear/guilt or with love/faith. See your life take a turn for the better.
Choices made in fear or guilt are choices we end up resenting. As a result, these choices will bring about challenging outcomes. It never ends.
Be quiet and if fear creeps up, notice, and let the fear pass. Instead, trust your gut or intuition and see what you would do if you were not scared, and do that! The more you do it and see the endless possibilities, the more the fear will die down.
The outcomes will speak for themselves. As a result, there will be no turning back because you will experience the relief of making choices from an authentic place. And there is no better way to live!
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
“There are two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.”
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
Self-esteem is the foundation of a successful, and happy life. It does not matter what kind of expert you listen to, whether it be financial coaches, nutrition coaches, business coaches, health coaches, fitness coaches, parenting coaches, the bottom line is this: they all say that to be successful, people need a healthy amount of self-esteem.
When people love themselves, they take better care of themselves, others and have clear boundaries. They make better choices, are happier, have healthier relationships, and feel empowered. They do not let external circumstances define them; they are self-accepting, less judgmental of themselves and others. They do not feel the need to be people pleasers. They follow their beliefs and values, and not those dictated by others or the media. They defend what they believe in and don’t cave into peer pressure. Most importantly, people with healthy self-esteems know they are deserving of love and respect. They do not tolerate abuse or mistreatment; they walk away from it. They have integrity.
Individuals with healthy self-esteem are not only respectful of themselves, but they are also respectful and empathic to others and the environment. They are not prejudiced, racist, sexist, and do not strive to crush others to elevate themselves. They take on life’s challenges head on and are not victimised by them, thus reducing unnecessary suffering. Moreover, this is what every parent dreams of for their children: the kind of self-love that will carry them through life.
Until we learn to love ourselves, the world will mirror back to us that lack. People with low self-esteem tolerate from others the same kind of mistreatment that they inflict upon themselves. People’s worlds drastically change for the better when they genuinely start to embrace who they are.
To become this kind of adult, it starts at the root of life. Feeding and nurturing the precious stage of infancy and early childhood, and parenting consciously by being fully present. Parents do not fully realise the amount of influence and power they have over elevating or crushing their child’s self-esteem. Parents are too often concerned with external accomplishments and doing (as opposed to just being), and don’t invest as much effort into the actions that feed, foster and maintain a child’s precious self-esteem.
Traditional values of connection, sharing, cooperation, and collaboration have been replaced by messages of consumerism, superficiality, outer achievements as opposed to inner growth. The media and social pressures have cleverly orchestrated these messages and values to do more and have more.
Most of us have a wounded inner child that needs to be healed. On the journey to caring for our child’s self-esteem, we can heal our own. In this sense, our children become our greatest teachers, and we can grow together, side by side. Children are precious and deserving of their birthright to being loved unconditionally. Children are born with healthy self-esteem. It is our duty to make sure it stays this way.
Children with healthy self-esteems are happier, more resilient, self-confident, and able to ward off bullies or negative influences. Children with healthy self-esteems usually have a closer relationship with their parents. They are not afraid of being themselves and open up to their parents because they have been loved unconditionally. These children grow up to become adults with the wonderful qualities I have mentioned earlier.
Raising children with healthy self-esteems is the greatest gift we can offer them. It stems from a strong attachment and being loved unconditionally. Let’s not be short-sighted, lets place the relationship in the forefront and not worry so much about discipline and external achievements. Moreover, keep this in mind when parenting your kids: wouldn’t it be nice if they spoke kindly of you when they become adults and not grow up to be filled with bitterness, and resentments?
I leave you with this song. Pay attention to the lyrics… and ask yourself “will my child speak of me in such kind words when he/she is older?”. I sure hope so.
Self-esteem is the greatest gift you can offer your child. How to foster a healthy sense of self, resilience and self-confidence in a child is not an easy task. It is not difficult in the sense of how to do it, it is difficult because of where we are today as a society. We have lost our way and forgotten the basic principles of parenting that help us raise children with healthy self-esteems. We have shifted our focus on externals, when really, self-esteem is an inside job. Healthy self-esteem is stable in independent of external accolades and circumstances. People today, all too often define themselves by externals. Thing is, these are fleeting.
The best way to start is a back to basics approach. A return to nurturing each child’s unique needs, and anchoring parenting choices to specific individual and family values. Simple is better, and more sustainable with the busy lives that we lead.
The first and simplest step to take on your journey to raise your child… is to start with you. Yes, you heard me right: YOU (the parent). You have to lead the way.
When you love yourself, you take better care of yourself (physically and emotionally), you make better choices, you are happier, you have healthier relationships, you are empowered, you have healthy boundaries, you don’t let external circumstances define you, you accept yourself fully, you are less judgmental of yourself and of others, and the list goes on and on.
The reason why we start with you, is simple. Children learn best by looking at what you do, rather than listening to what you say. That’s the bottom line. If you can develop true healthy self-esteem, your child has greater chances to follow in your footsteps. There is no way around it. You have to do the work. No short cuts.
So follow me on this journey, and stay tuned.
Mindfulness and meditation have proven beneficial for both parents and children. More and more studies are uncovering the short- and long-term benefits of incorporating mindful parenting practices into families’ lives (1).
Meditation and mindfulness are not mere techniques. They are states of being that bring less suffering, more presence, and peace into one’s life. Once a person has experienced the benefits of these practices and the ways in which they permeate our daily life and being, there is no going back. Mindfulness and meditation practices have a positive impact not only on the practitioner but also the people that surround this individual, including our children.
A Google search offers this simple definition of mindfulness: “A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.” Renowned meditation teacher John Kabat-Zinn also emphasizes the importance of noticing “nonjudgmentally” (2) because suffering is caused by the judgments we place on our perceptions.
Individuals who have chosen to apply these practices to their parenting have seen improvements in their own lives and the lives of their children. If you are not convinced of the value of these practices and wonder if they are just a fad, here are 40 benefits meditation and mindfulness can provide for parents and children.
For parents, a meditation and mindfulness practice offers numerous benefits:
- Develops more patience because we do not mix in our problems with those of our child.
- Reduces reactivity because we respond from a calm place instead of from past wounds when children push our buttons.
- Cultivates emotional awareness.
- Allows us to exercise self-regulation.
- Slows down time because we become more fully involved in our child’s life, and so do not miss out on the wonderful and simple moments of their childhood, which goes by too fast.
- Develops gratitude for all the mundane and extraordinary moments with our child.
- Helps us to become in tune with and accepting of our child’s actual needs, thus allowing us to make better choices.
- Promotes secure attachment with our child and a trusting relationship.
- Enables us to be more present, which allows space for us to listen with full attention and be able to validate our children.
- Develops compassionate and non-judgmental awareness in all interactions.
- Facilitates finding pleasure in and appreciating simple things.
- Helps us cope during stressful moments, such as tantrums or emotional outbursts.
- Promotes our ability to model proper emotion management, and this is how children learn best: by imitation.
- Prevents our children from becoming fearful or traumatized by our out of control reactions or screaming.
- Improves parenting interventions (3).
- Reduces stress, anxiety, and depression.
- Improves the immune system, which means parents are healthier (4).
- Promotes greater satisfaction with our parenting skills and therefore with our relationships with our children.
- Facilitates incorporating mindfulness into all aspects of our lives (5).
Children can also experience many benefits from a meditation and mindfulness practice:
- Develops the area of the brain responsible for emotion regulation and impulse control.
- Reduces stress, anxiety, and fears.
- Allows for a less reactive state to emerge.
- Promotes feelings of safety and security.
- Improves self-esteem and self-confidence because children feel heard, seen, and validated.
- Develops problem-solving skills by developing self-reflection and self-awareness, instead of being reactive and living on autopilot.
- Develops conscious individuals.
- Improves emotion management.
- Improves resilience.
- Cultivates better self-awareness of their thoughts, feelings, and sensations. Children become better skilled at communicating their needs to others.
- Promotes healthy psycho-social development in children. Improved social skills and interactions emerge because children become skilled communicators. Conversely, they become good listeners themselves.
- Creates grateful children able to live in the present moment.
- Fosters compassion and empathy for others; they become less self-centered.
- Diminishes behavioural problems, while improving emotional health and behavioural functioning (6) (7).
- Improves attention, focus, concentration, memory, and learning (4).
- Improves emotional intelligence.
- Reduces reactivity to others’ anger. They do not take it personally.
- Promotes self-reliance by teaching them to accept and tolerate their own emotions, feelings, sensations, and thoughts. In turn, they find comfort within by learning to soothe and calm themselves without depending on external factors.
- Allows children to find happiness from the inside, independent of external circumstances.
- Improves parent-child relationship during adolescence.
- Cultivates more emotionally and socially competent youth(8)(9).
If you are new to mindfulness, start small. Choose moments throughout your day where you can pay attention to the unfolding of each moment. Become the non-judgmental observer of the experiences taken in by your five senses. Moreover, take in the beauty of your life. Incorporating mindfulness and meditation into our family life can only prove beneficial to all those involved.
- Many of the benefits covered in this post are also summarized here : Duncan,L.G., Coatsworth, J.D. & Greenberg, M.T.(2009) A Model of Mindful Parenting: Implications for Parent–Child Relationships and Prevention Research Clin Child Fam Psychol Rev. 2009 Sep; 12(3): 255–270.doi: 10.1007/s10567-009-0046-3.
- Kabat-Zinn, J. (2003). Mindfulness-based interventions in context: Past, present, and future. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice,10, 144–156. doi:10.1093/clipsy/bpg016.
- Dumas, J. E. (2005). Mindfulness-based parent training: Strategies to lessen the grip of automaticity in families with disruptive children. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology,34, 779–791. doi:10.1207/s15374424jccp3404_20. [PubMed]
- Mindfulness Web Site: Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life. www.greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness
- Coyne, L. W., & Murrell, A. R. (2009). The Joy of Parenting: An Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Guide to Effective Parenting in the Early Years. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.
- Singh, N. N., Lancioni, G. E., Winton, A. S. W., Fisher, B. C., Wahler, R. G., McAleavey, K., et al. (2006). Mindful parenting decreases aggression, noncompliance, and self-injury in children with autism. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders,14(3), 169–177. doi:10.1177/10634266060140030401.
- Singh,N.N, Lancioni, G.E., Winton, A.S.W., Singh, J., Curtis, W.J.Wahler, R.G.,& McAleavey, K.M. (2007) . Mindful Parenting Decreases Aggression and Increases Social Behavior in Children With Developmental Disabilities, 31 (6) , 749-771. doi: 10.1177/0145445507300924
- Eisenberg, N., Cumberland, A., & Spinrad, T. L. (1998). Parental socialization of emotion. Psychological Inquiry,9, 241–273. doi:10.1207/s15327965pli0904_1. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
- Katz, L. F., Wilson, B., & Gottman, J. M. (1999). Meta-emotion philosophy and family adjustment: Making an emotional correction. In M. J. Cox & J. Brooks-Gunn (Eds.), Conflict and cohesion in families: Causes and consequences. The Advances in Family Therapy Research Series (pp. 131–165). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Portable screens can seem like a godsend to parents. Give the kids a “hit” of your iPhone and bam! The whining, the crying, the tantrums are instantly over. Built-in TVs and iPads seem to have resolved car rides from hell. With a portable screen handy, there’s no need to suffer the nasty glares of annoyed shoppers wondering why we can’t control our kids. Ah, the peace screens can bring! Bliss. Total bliss! And yet, we know that misuse of electronic media devices is hurting our children.
I’m not here to preach for the elimination of electronic media devices. Screens, in and of themselves, are not bad. I’m the first to admit that I don’t think I could live without them. They have become my GPS, my encyclopedia, my research assistant, my editor, my accountant, my recording studio, my DJ, and even my meditation buddy. They have made my life so much easier. However, I know that I need to make a conscious effort to unplug, and it’s not easy.
Kids, just like their parents, can benefit from using screens. Among other things, they have become a convenient source of information to do research for homework and school projects. Now kids can turn to Wikipedia or YouTube to find out almost anything. As with all good things, excess consumption of electronic media can be toxic so moderation is key. It’s also important to consider the motivation and intent behind the use of electronic media. In short, parents must guide children’s media use and help them unplug.
The convenience of screens has turned many children—and many parents (let’s not fool ourselves)—into little addicts. Many of us can’t live without them, and often the glowing rectangles are our go-to solution when our children need distraction. And therein lies the problem.
Many parents have decided to use electronic media devices as babysitters, soothers, peacemakers, rewards and punishments, time killers, and educators . When parents over rely on screens, they have handed their parental responsibilities to teach, play, care, and comfort to computers, TVs, and smartphones.
Over the last 30 years, there have been countless research articles highlighting the risks of misuse and overexposure of children to TV, videogames, and computers. It’s not a question of “if” our kids are being affected, but “how.”
After two decades of working in the mental health profession and forensics, I have seen a long and ugly list of adverse effects related to the overuse of screens: children sexually abusing children, cyber bullying, sensory deficits, school failure, lying, attention issues, hyperactivity, obesity, mood disorders, defiant behaviour, sleep deprivation, addiction, and aggression.
Screens obviously aren’t the only culprits but often when kids are placed on a “media diet,” these problems resolve themselves. They are a key factor over which we have control, and we can no longer plead ignorance.
Parents especially need to guide and control the media consumption of younger children. Toddlers have not developed sufficiently to be able to control themselves and limit their consumption. Kids two and younger should never watch screens. That’s the bottom line.
All this said, we know that computers, tablets, and smartphones are here to stay. We need to teach kids how to use them wisely so that they don’t become hazardous to their mental and physical health.
So now what? What are we supposed to do? Here’s what I suggest:
- Educate yourself about the impact of electronic media on your kids (1, 3, 4, 5, 6). Assess the use of screens in your family and see if you need to make adjustments (for tools: 2, 3).
- Model proper screen use. Don’t let the TV run in the background all day. Put your phone away when you interact with your children. Unless you’re dealing with an emergency or an urgent work matter, most emails, texts, and calls can wait. Select specific times of the day when you will check your phone and try to do it when you are not interacting with your kids.
- Allow the use of devices for schoolwork.
- Don’t use their devices to punish or reward them. Research has proven that punishment does not work (7), and rewards do not teach proper behaviour (8).
- Teach young kids to use crayons, books, paints, playdough, dolls, sticks, Lego, blocks, play structures, etc. Read to them. Encourage them to use their hands (9). These are the best ways to learn.
- Have them play with real toys, and even better, toys that foster creativity and imagination, and cooperation.
- Schedule recreational screen time on selected days, at the same time, and for a limited amount of time. Place it on a calendar for everyone to see. This way your kids will know what to expect. No negotiating. Stick to it and be consistent. If you can, avoid recreational screen use during school days. Don’t allow more than one to two hours per day, even less for the little ones.
- Shut off all screens one to two hours before bedtime to unwind and allow the natural production of melatonin in the brain.
- Have your children be active, play outside, interact with nature and real people.
- Don’t allow kids to be on social media until they are in their later teen years and can understand the impact and responsibilities involved. Before then, they are too young to comprehend.
- Do not leave kids unattended with electronic media. Track their use. Put blockers or filters on and use apps such as Curbi. Don’t forget: there is no substitute for parental supervision.
Our children count on our wisdom and guidance to make them safe and help them to grow into healthy and successful individuals. Children can only learn self-soothing, self- regulation, developmental, intellectual, and interpersonal skills from real people. Children learn these skills through play and real life experimentation. It’s up to parents to lift the screens before our kids’ eyes and help them to see all the other great stuff out there that life has to offer.
- All the American Academy of Pediatrics articles and links on media can be found in one spot: Media Kit: Children and Media (e.g., Media Education (1999); Children, Adolescents, and the Media (2013); Media use by children younger than two years (2011); The impact of social media on children, adolescents, and families (2011) ).
- Media History (2000). American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
- Electronic Screen Syndrome: An Unrecognized Disorder? (2012). V. Dunckley
- Why the iPad is a bigger threat to our children than anyone (2016). S. Palmer
- Gray Matters: Too Much Screen Time Damages the Brain (2014). V. Dunckley
- Selected Research on Screen Time and Children (undated). by CCFC
- Punishment Doesn’t Work (2014). Michael Karson.
- The Hidden Downside to Rewarding Your Kids for Good Behavior (2015). Kerri Anne Renzulli
- The Vital Role of Play in Childhood (2003). Joan Almon