Author Archive for Kimberly Muench

Each Child is Different, meet them where they are…

Each Child is Different, meet them where they are

Photo Credit: Victor Cristian Mitroi, Flickr.com

The oldest of my five children, Nick, who is twenty-seven, and my second son, Allen-Michael, twenty-one, could not be more different from one another. Because they were raised by the same mother I just assumed the boys would be more alike. Though it makes no sense to expect this since I now understand each child arrives in the world with his own temperament, sets of challenges, and lessons for us, and a unique destiny to pursue as well.

Over the past few years, having made the shift from thinking and “do-ing” my parenting from a place where I was in charge of the teaching of my children, to the daily practice of the concept of their teaching me has been the wildest, yet most enlightening/rewarding journey of my life.

When I let go of my expectations (even those I would not have verbally acknowledged) and simply met my sons where they were, my world opened up.

For instance, Nick has been challenged with addiction to alcohol. He has battled this disease (some days more so than others) since he was fifteen years old. Almost five years sober at this point, he doesn’t attribute his recovery to faith in God or any other Higher Power. If you ask Nick he will say his fear of going back to jail is what keeps him away from any bottle. Nick does believe in God, but doesn’t actively pursue a relationship through church attendance or in his everyday life. He was raised Catholic (I will admit, inconsistently), but doesn’t care to make time for spirituality or religion today.

Allen-Michael, on the other hand, who was also raised “inconsistently Catholic” has had an increasingly close relationship with God since his teen years. Calm and easy-going from the day he arrived in the world, he avidly pursues daily mass, mission work, feeding the homeless, and even contemplating the priesthood. Allen-Michael feels very strongly about the gospel and looks to the lives of Catholic saints as inspiration for his own.

It appears to be too early to tell what role faith and religion will play the lives of my youngest three children, but they continue to be raised in the same way by a mother who often verbally and through her actions places more value in the intuition of a higher calling and a purpose greater then oneself than on the structure of any denomination or book.

What I love most about the different ways in which my children approach life is their ability to show respect for, and tolerance of one another choices to take a path different from their own. Knowing, above all else, I have helped create an environment for that to happen in is very gratifying.

What do you say and do to foster a sense of individuality in your children?

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Conscious Parenting: Raising the next generation to new heights!

Photo Credit:  Matt, Flickr.com

Photo Credit: Matt, Flickr.com

Like so many other people, I have a dream.  This dream of mine began small…under my own roof in fact.  But, the more I learn and invest myself into the process and potential of this concept, the greater my desire to be an instrumental part of seeing the dream become a reality not only for my home,  but for homes throughout THE WORLD.  I firmly believe it can be done, I just wonder if it will be a reality during my lifetime…

What is this dream you ask?

My dream, along with a growing number of others, is the ability to experience what the world would be like to live in if the next generation of children were raised by parents determined to do so consciously.

How can those of us who are working toward conscious parenting build the momentum of this dream?

For starters it means regularly sharing the idea with other parents.  For example, I recently knew three babies born so I bought a copy of The Conscious Parent for each family as a gift.  The recipients will need to be open to take a risk and an  initiative to evaluate their parenting with an open mind.  They would ideally begin to understand much of our child rearing skill comes from what we have experienced in our own upbringing.  While our parents may have loved us very, very much, they were not raised in a way that honored their authentic being, therefore they were unable to raise us in a way that honored our inner self.

Instead, previous generations of people have been raised to believe it is the parent who carries the power, deserves all of the respect, and whom should be honored and obeyed without question.  As a result of many generations raised with those ideals in mind, there have been untold amounts of emotional wounds passed down.  If we choose to continue to ignore,  or to approach parenting the same way our elders did, those emotions will be given to our own children.  When we neglect to tend to our own emotional baggage and uncover, layer by layer, our own authentic life we are doing not only ourselves, but the next generation, a disservice.

And the emotional burden and unauthentic living will never end.

Our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and all parents before them did what they knew to do to raise children.  We now have a more enlightened answer and path.  

When we know better, we must do better.  Therein lies the hope in the conscious parenting movement.

Having the courage to look at the relationship we have with ourselves, and with our children.  To look in the past long enough to recognize where we need to change in the present to positively affect future outcome. Easy, no.  Worthwhile, yes!

Because when we can look at our child as a teacher, rather than as our student, and we comprehend they were brought into the world to serve a purpose which can only be revealed through our attuned presence with them in tandem our encouragement, support, and unconditional love.  The power and practice of this idea will help make the dream of conscious parenting a reality!

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Sometimes The Best We Can Do Is Allow Things To Happen

Photo Credit: Dane, Flickr.com

Photo Credit: Dane, Flickr.com

My nine-year-old daughter threw me a curve ball last spring when [seemingly out of nowhere] she began to experience anxiety over the simplest of things, such as going to school. Mia had always been an eager learner, an outgoing and friendly child who appeared to take life in stride. The kind of kid who, once she learned how to skip, preferred that method of getting from point A to point B…usually accompanied by a whistle or a song from her lips.

When I began to notice my daughter’s shift in attitude and demeanor, my own anxiety kicked in. I had never experienced my daughter this way before, so I had no idea how to “handle” it. I tried many different tactics which seemed natural to me, such as listening and affirming her feelings (while making it clear attending school was non-negotiable), at times I ignored her behavior or minimized the situation and pushed her through the feeling. Another approach I found myself taking (in response to my own growing anxiety) was to ask her if she could tell me what was wrong so I could help her (“If you can just tell mommy what is wrong I can find a way to help you. I can’t help you if I don’t know what is going on inside your head.”)

One of the biggest obstacles, hindsight being 20/20, was learning my daughter didn’t know exactly why she was feeling so much anxiety. If she didn’t know, how did I expect her to tell me?!

The situation escalated to a point where I felt we needed some outside, professional help. We began to see a wonderful family counselor who, over time, was able to unravel my daughter’s anxiety. The counselor also taught Mia some concrete ways to cope with challenging thoughts and emotions (such as identifying/understanding her feelings, journal writing, and deep breathing exercises). The counselor helped her dad and I understand how sensitive Mia was to the mood and energy in our home. Even when, on the surface, she didn’t appear to even be paying attention to our discussions.

During one of Mia’s sessions my daughter spoke, at length, about a young man (a family friend) who passed away a few years earlier (when my daughter was six). I had no idea Mia ever thought about this person after his death, we hadn’t dwelled on the details, or even spoke much about the incident. My daughter did not attend the funeral…yet, she carried this grief and worry about the unknown for three years.

I learned a great deal in going through this experience with my child. The most important being sometimes the best way to handle her feelings is to simply allow them to happen, to acknowledge the feeling and be with her in that moment knowing we[moms and dads] cannot fix or change every emotion or problem our children will face. However, by acknowledging and sitting with them and the feeling it begins to become less powerful.

The point of my story is threefold: (a) our children pick up on, and are more sensitive than we give them credit for, (b) when one of your children has a mental health issue (such as severe anxiety) the entire family has an issue because the family is an interdependent system, and (c) there is no shame in asking for help, professional or otherwise, when the waters get deep and murky as they often do when raising children.

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The Downside to Multi-Tasking

15 01 14 Downside to Mulit-taskingI am embarrassed to say I used to brag about how well I could multi-task.  I would literally give myself mental kudos and pats on the back for my ability to simultaneously cook dinner, nurse my youngest, correct my two-year-old, help my middle-schooler with homework and take a telephone call at any given moment.  This truly was a very normal scene in our home for many years.  I am certain the amount of anxious energy I generated while trying to keep up with my husband, five kids, and the house was what propelled me through this chapter in my life.

However, there was an unfortunate casualty…the first several of my kids’ growing years were so busy I have little memory of our interactions.  Sure, I can recall feeling I had accomplished a great deal at the end of each day (multiple diaper changes, another three family meals prepared and cleaned up, all of the laundry folded and put away, house freshly dusted and vacuumed, toilets cleaned and sanitized) but, in looking back, I spent most of my time just going through the motions rather than really being present in the tedious, yet incredibly important, daily work of being a mother.  Because I was so busy trying to be everything to everybody else…giving and attentive spouse, ever-nurturing and ever-patient parent to kids who were literally in every developmental stage of life, it hindered my ability to really be a part of most of the small, yet significant moments of life.

Somehow I managed to survive that period in my life…and how unfortunate it is that I use the word survive to describe it!  I wish I had been able to slow down enough to recognize I didn’t have to be the perfect wife, mother, housekeeper, cook, chauffer, as well as possessor of unending amounts of patience for every family member sooner.  Because all they really needed, besides the basic necessities, was my full on presence.

I cannot go back and redo my life during those years, but I am blessed to say that wisdom does come with age.  As I continue down the ever-winding path of motherhood I have learned to let some things go, to moderate the time I spend devoted to tasks such as cleaning and cooking (and even to my computer, since writing requires a lot of time behind the keys).  By releasing these various activities I have less stress and more time to devote to really listening and interacting with my husband and children.  The other lesson aging has taught me is not to feel guilty for taking personal time.  After all, how can I continue to nurture others when my well has run dry?

Motherhood will always be synonymous with multi-tasking to some degree, but prioritizing, releasing or delegating some tasks, and recharging regularly (physically, emotionally, spiritually) increases the rewards of time, energy and patience….ultimately the presence I have to give to the most important relationships in my life.

Do you feel the same?

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When the teacher arrives will you be ready for the lesson?

When the teacher arrives will you be ready for the lesson?

When the teacher arrives will you be ready for the lesson?

Photo Credit: Uncalno Tekno, Flickr.com

It’s been said when the student is ready, the teacher will arrive. At forty-six I have enough life experience to comprehend the truth in this statement. I also understand the teacher can come in many different forms and show up in both our most challenging and our most triumphant moments. Upon reflection, I can say with conviction my most valuable lessons have come through twenty-two years of marriage and in parenting five children.

The role of wife and mother have taught me what it means to be part of a committed relationship and, even more important, how little control I have over anyone but myself. While there are myraid ways I have witnessed this throughout marriage and motherhood, the most pivotal lesson came several years ago during a crisis with my eldest son (at the time in his early twenties), and his addiction to alcohol.

It was that particular journey which truly opened my eyes and heart to the essence of what it means to be a parent who loves unconditionally. Prior to this walk I believed I understood the importance of limitless acceptance, in hindsight I know it was (at times) merely lip service and not a thorough understanding or true appreciation for the gifts our children can be in helping us develop into our best selves.

Obviously how we parent our children on a daily basis is very important. But, in the end, we must take care to remember we do not have the authority to direct the outcome of the life they have been given to live. In other words, children come into the world through us, we are chosen to guide them and assist their efforts to work towards their life’s purpose by creating an atmosphere conducive to their growth.

This, in and of itself, is a wonderful gift. We [as parents and grandparents] can choose to take the gift to the next level and remain open to the continuous learning we receive through our children’s journey. For example, once I understood the magnitude of my son’s alcohol abuse I could have spent a lot of time blaming myself or someone else for the challenge. Or, I could have recoiled in shame or guilt for considering myself a horrible mother. Instead, I chose to pray for my own guidance in assisting, supporting, encouraging, loving and learning from my son through the process of his recovery.

There were times when even that was not enough. The epiphany came when I woke up one morning and understood I was not in a position to control the outcome of his battle with alcohol, I was only in control of how I responded to the situation that presented itself to me.

Each day provides opportunities to learn, and people to teach. The question is…are you teachable? If so, look no further than the children in your life to show you exactly where you need to grow.

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