Harvard University embarked on a study in 1938 to understand what makes us happy. After 85 years the data is clear on what truly brings happiness.
Even though popular media likes to promote career achievement, money, physical appearance with exercise and a healthy diet as keys to happiness, the most consistent finding is connection and positive relationships keep us happier, healthier, and helps us live longer.
I was not surprised by these results because connection has been the cornerstone to my health and happiness. It has also been one of the hardest aspects for me in being an expat. No matter where we lived the thing I was saddest to leave were the people and relationships we had built.
My career has always centered around connection and I have seen over and over first hand the power in real genuine connection. It is one of the reason I am so passionate about supporting parents in raising connected kids.
As I have learned more about the power of connection, I discovered that the more connected we are to ourselves by knowing and understanding ourselves, the more we are able to understand others, especially our kids.
When I learned this essential piece of connection it really helped me understand the power of connection more deeply. It is so important that it is one of the foundational aspects of the work I do with my clients.
When we are able to notice and name our feelings we are better able to help our child do the same thing. If we are able to accept our own thoughts and feeling, without judgement, we are better able to support our child in doing the same thing. Emotions are complex but when we combine the expat lifestyle with various cultures, languages and traditions things get more complicated.
I do not want to downplay the many beautiful, rich and wonderful benefits and upsides to the expat life, because there are many. But even with the upsides it is important to acknowledge and recognize the complexities.
I remember one day when one of my kids was getting ready for soccer. The morning had been going well but as we headed out the door for soccer the mood in one of my kids shifted and the shoe was kicked off because “didn’t feel right”. Then the meltdown started.
Since we were running late the child got in the car without the shoe on. As we drove to soccer I tried to sooth them and it hit me, the shoe wasn’t the problem it was the symptom. I understood in that moment that the child was not feeling good inside their body and the way they expressed it was through a sensory challenge. I had never understood it this way before but I had been beginning to see patterns in my kids meltdowns.
I didn’t know where the feeling was coming from, it could have been the child was sad about a friend they were going to miss or the anticipation of their dad’s departure on a business trip. I didn’t know what was causing this child to feel dysregulated inside but I remained calmed and did my best to soothe the “pain” they were feeling to help them feel safe again. By the time we reached the soccer field they felt better put the shoe on and ran to soccer. Phew, total meltdown avoided.
I speak with lots of parents who struggle to manage their own emotions when their child’s emotions are elevated. It is normal and so common. When we feel overwhelmed (or not safe) it is easy to lose our cool.
Parenthood often opens the door to more self awareness. You might have learned the minimum number of hours you needed to sleep early in your parenting journey, you might have learned you were more patient than you thought, or you might have learned you were less patient than you expected.
All this awareness has helped you to grow and change in ways you might never have thought possible before becoming a parent.
As our kids grow and change so does our connection to them. It’s harder to be furious at a new born baby who is crying because they are over tied, yet when that same baby is nine screaming and storming around the house because they are over tired, we right or wrong usually expect more. As kids get older sometimes we expect more from them than they are capable of, we have less tolerance, especially after a long day with many demands on our time.
Yet if we are able to understand our own limitations it allows us to help our kids in understanding their limitations. As we learn more about ourselves we are able to be more open minded, we better understand triggers, we have more insight into our strengths and weaknesses and then may be able to set better boundaries based on our limitations.
My clients have told me how they have seen that understanding different aspects of themselves as well as those close to them was a gift to everyone in their family.
One exercise you can do to begin to deepen your connection to yourself is to start paying attention to your own feelings and how you act depending on those feelings. Journaling is a great way to “keep track” and make a record.
I see and I am cheering you on.
P.S. On March 22 at 10am I am doing an in person talk “ Do you want more peace in your home and a deeper connection to your child?”. If you are local to Jakarta and would like to join, reply to this email and I will send you the link to sign up.