Cathy Cassani Adams and her husband, Todd, co-teach Zen
Parenting classes in Elmhurst. The class focuses on self-care
and a monthly topic, covering everything from mindful parenting to
parenting as a team to raising confident children.
Jan. 30 - Finding Balance (all ages)
Visit yogashalakids.org for more information or
to pre-register or cathycassaniadams.com for more
In a marriage or partnership we often pretend to be fine-even if
we are not-so we don't "rock the boat." Or we pretend that we feel
good about our parenting or that our children are fine when really
they aren't. Sometimes we're afraid to admit what we feel or to
acknowledge that something needs to change.
Denying what you feel to "keep the peace" will eventually
eat away at you and your relationships.
It's important to find some kind of normalcy and comfort
in change, especially when it comes to parenting. Navigating
through change requires open communication and an ability to talk
about feelings. The key is to find a way to communicate without
blaming or judging, so you can collaborate on how to move
The first step is always to focus on you. Not you the
parent, but you the individual. Are you taking care of yourself,
talking about your feelings and finding joy? Are you honest with
yourself, and do you know who you are?
I know, you have no interest in a therapy session; you
just want answers on how to raise your children. But there are no
simple answers. Others can support and encourage you, but they
can't tell you what to do. You need to have clarity and intention
about your family, your values and your choices if you want to move
forward. Rather than have others give you answers that may or may
not feel right, you need to be intent on finding your own
This begins with self-realization, your connection to who
you are and why you do what you do. This is not a blame game-issues
in the family are not all your fault-but to make real change, you
have to take responsibility for what you bring to each
If you are overworked, overwhelmed and over-obligated,
it's a challenge to feel content or parent effectively. It's hard
to listen to your children or find the patience to deal with them.
When lives are too full (with things we may or may not want to do),
we live on autopilot; we "get through" each day rather than truly
living each day.
So making yourself a priority and taking time for you
isn't selfish. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Taking time to
gather your thoughts, do what you love or spend time with friends
fills you up and enhances your being. It helps you become the
person you want to be, which allows you to be the parent you want
So how do you do this? It's a journey, not a destination,
and there are many different paths, but here are three steps in the
Find silence. Our homes and
our world are noisy and loud. Part of the reason we don't know what
we want or need is that we can't hear ourselves think. Cell phones,
computers, televisions, video games and people hold our attention
all day. Finding time for peace and quiet is not viewed as a
If you want to really "hear" yourself and figure out who
you are, you need to detach and unplug, even if it's for five
minutes at least three times a week. Emotionally, it can help you
feel more peaceful; physically, it can slow down your heart rate;
and spiritually, it can help you find your center.
To begin, focus on your breathing. Let your mind take a
well-needed break from the to-do lists and worries. Set an alarm
(for five, 15 or 60 minutes-whatever works for you) so if you get
really relaxed, you'll know when it's time to be done. If getting
quiet is challenging and you need support, try a yoga, pranayama
(breathwork) or meditation class.
Be thoughtful about how you start and end your
day. Do you wake up in a rush or start your day
with the morning news? Do you end your day sitting in front of a
violent or disturbing program or, again, watching the news? If so,
then no wonder you feel overwhelmed all the time. The news and most
televisions shows are based on catastrophic events, the scary
things that grab everyone's attention and keep them tuned in.
Starting your day with this bleak outlook will only zap your
energy. Watching violence or negativity before bed can disrupt your
sleep or cause bad dreams.
Of course you want to know what is going on in the world, but it
doesn't have to be your first priority. Make different choices for
the beginning and end of your day: a good book, music, silence,
talking with family, cooking, writing in a journal. Choose things
that make you feel good, things that feel loving or inspiring.
Making the choice to focus on love instead of fear will shape your
day, and over the long term, shape your reality.
Realize what drains you, realize what gives you
energy. Make a list of the top five things that
drain your energy. Really look at this list, think about it, and
figure out why you do these things. Laundry, cleaning and
carpooling have to get done, but can you figure out ways to do it
less? Can you figure out how to ask for help?
At the very least, acknowledge that these tasks drain you. You
are still a good person if you don't like folding clothes. You are
still a good person if you don't like playing with Barbies or
trains. You don't have to do everything perfectly, and you don't
have to love everything you do. Realizing this, you can let go of
some guilt, the idea that you are not good enough because parts of
your day are challenging.
To balance this out, write five things that give you
energy. Figure out how to do these things more, figure out ways to
spend time with people who do these things. Make it a priority to
do things that bring you joy and help you reconnect with your true
Zen, which means enlightenment can be attained through
self-contemplation and intuition, is what these steps are all
about. It's deciding you want to parent yourself first so you can
be a full, healthy and aware person for your family. It's about
reconnecting to that deeper part of yourself, your own inner
guidance, which helps you remember all the gifts you have to
And the greatest gift you can offer your family is your true
This doesn't mean you will be perfect; there will always be
missteps along the way. But if you make the decision to live an
aware and healthy life, your children will, too-because they don't
learn by listening to what you say; they learn by watching how you
Cathy Adams is a certified parenting coach, yoga instructor and mother to three girls.
See more of Cathy's stories here.
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