Helping Our Kids Find Peace

Helping Our Kids Find Peace

We’ve all heard the saying; we can’t give what we don’t have. We can feel stuck in this quandary of knowing that we often don’t have our sense of peace. How can we help instill that in our kids?

As we often say, it’s one thing to deal with struggle ourselves, and it’s an entirely different and heart-wrenching thing to watch our kids struggle.

Any single parent wants their child(ren) to have a sense of certainty, and purpose, even in the midst of a less than optimal situation. How do we help our kids find that sense of peace and try to avoid some of the emotional instability that some of us suffer from ourselves?

Author, Consultant, and Counselor, Dr. Chip Dodd will provide insight into helping our kids find peace.

Why is it important for our kids to have a sense of peace?

According to Chip, peace is stability, trust, and a circle of security. Every one of us as human beings is walking around looking for what equates to peace. We are all driven by two primary needs: the need to belong and the need to matter. We are also seeking safety and security, and we are all looking for life, life to the fullest.

But amidst all these, how can parents offer or provide a place, not necessarily an environment, but a place for their children to be able to rest, have security and stability, and be at peace?

First, Chip says that parents must understand that peace is not necessarily calmness, but peace is also the ability to connect and bring whatever we have going on in us out of us and know it will be okay. “Peace is not just tranquility; peace is a place to come to that I can express whatever is happening in me and know that it will be received, it will be okay, and I will still be welcomed and loved,” says Chip.

This makes us feel that we belong, matter, and feel safe and secure. And this, according to Chip, is what is life and life to the fullest. A place to go and deal with the problems that are inevitable and going to happen. Chip says peace is not a place “where you can shut yourself down, or anesthesia, or coma, or drug addiction, but it’s a place to deal, and parents can provide that place.”

Robert adds, “We can’t give what we don’t have. We feel like we have to have it all together in order to provide security.”

Peace and Serenity

How do you differentiate between peace and serenity? Are they the same thing?

Chip thinks both are the same. He explains that serenity is the sense that everything is okay because someone has control, even in the midst of things. He says it’s a state of “it’s okay to be okay, and when it’s not okay, you can still be okay.” That’s serenity and peace.

Serenity and peace are still about a place we can go to where we can find that which speaks to what our hearts need.

What serenity does for us

According to Chip, serenity does three things.

Serenity turns down the adrenaline. “It turns down fight, flight, or freeze,” adds Chip. Naturally, we become alert when we go into the world, an unfriendly environment, or the anticipation of things being a certain way but turning out differently. Our state of alertness turns up our adrenaline level, which results in a non-rest experience, otherwise known as stress.

Peace or serenity helps us turn down the adrenaline, which then allows us to increase our focus, which then turns around, and allows us to lean into deeper learning because we are safe, and we are not listening to danger, but listening to all we can be fed to be stronger and go live more fully.

Reiterating what Chip says, Robert adds that we are not looking to bring complete calm, like it is the absence of chaos or struggle; it’s just being okay in the chaos.

Chip adds that it is a preparation for the future, in that we can rest, learn, and gain strength to go back into whatever we need to do, but still have a place to come back and restore.

“As parents, we can provide a place to restore,” says Chip.

Four things to do to help bring peace to a child

Let your children know you’ve got it

According to Chip, children need to know that their parents “got it.” “Being okay does not mean- not feeling. Being okay, I need to know that you will deal with your feelings,” he says. If a child is being provided with an “okayness,” in order words, the assurance that the parent will handle a situation, even amid uncertainties and lack of clarity, a child will return to being a child.

Often, we labor and blame the child for being selfish and narcissistic when they are trusting and believing in the safety. Children believe that they do not have to pay attention to us, help us, or watch us because we’ve got it. So the child can focus on child things like learning, feeling safe and secure, knowing where they belong and matter, and growing into someone who can trust the big outside world.

Robert says that children not being affected by a situation means they are safe. “It’s not our job to point out the gravity of the situation. In fact, it is the antithesis of that,” says Robert. It means there’s a situation, and the parent is stepping up to say, “it’s my job; I’ve got it.”

If children are not put in a position to caretake their parents, they are free to learn about life. They will be free to explore the world and do dumb things, make mistakes, and learn from them. Children are free to find out about life if they do not have to watch mom and dad see what they will do next. Chip adds that his experience growing up in a troubled family made him a caretaker as child and he was not at peace. He was not free to be a child and grow into whatever he wanted.

According to Robert, it’s not about the parent not having a feeling, but feeling, facing, and dealing with it. It doesn’t mean that parents should act like there are not any problems out there.

Instead, it is saying, “I don’t know how this will work out exactly, but I’ll take care of it; I’ve got it,” Robert adds.

Develop gratitude

Chip believes that parents need to develop gratitude. However, gratitude is not just a positive attitude. According to Chip, gratitude is believing that there is an outside world that is good for us, a universe interested in our well-being, and people in the world that are concerned about our welfare.

“In other words, the parents know they belong and matter. They are safe and secure. There’s life in the midst of the trouble,” he adds.

Gratitude is trusting that there is a God who cares, and there are some people we are connected to who get us.

“The people who get you are the ones who can relate to you. In other words, they all tell the truth about facing, feeling and dealing with life on life’s terms,” says Chip.

Gratitude creates a sense of well-being and peace for children. It makes them understand that feelings are good because fear, for example, allows a person to cry out for help, and when help comes, it develops faith. Also, sadness allows us to have the tears that bring us to the place where we know that sometimes we are going to love and lose, but we will love again through our tears.

According to Chip, the body has a regulatory system, and every human being naturally seeks to live fully. We are always seeking safety and security and made to belong where it matters.

“We’re naturally going to heal, but we have to let ourselves have the feelings and the pains of how the healing occurs,” says Chip.

Sadness brings us to a place of acceptance. Fear brings us to faith and wisdom. Hurt brings us to healing. “The scars are stronger than the wounds we protect,” adds Chip.

Gratitude is a sense of well-being in our heart that good things will come for those who seek them, ask for them, and knock-on doors to get them. “It’s not denial and positive talk,” Robert says. Robert also adds that children absorb their parent’s working living faith, not their religion.

It is difficult to look for things to be grateful for in the height of a struggle. “It takes discipline to look for things to be grateful for, but if I can look for the faithfulness of God, I can find it,” says Robert.

“Ultimate gratitude comes from the last time we remembered God’s presence,” says Chip. Gratitude makes us remember, and children enjoy the benefits when we remember. “We put ourselves back together if they don’t have to worry about whether or not we’re going to stay together,” he adds.

According to Chip, gratitude is kept when we have it by finding another parent who gets scars, feelings, and troubles. The beauty of solo parenting is it helps single parents identify with each other. It’s not saying solo parents have an exclusive kind of pain but a certain kind of struggle they can identify with. They don’t have to spend a lot of time explaining but showing, expressing, and exploring.

“Because there’s a commonality, there’s a sense of trust,” adds Robert.

Chip says there is a sense of not-alone in a community of single parents. The community can provide safety, security, belonging, mattering, and a possibility of a life to the fullest. When the truth is spoken and related to, parents are fed, and they have something to feed their children.

“When we lose gratitude, go find a parent. Don’t make yourself okay through that child; there are enough puppies,” he adds.

Chip says that when remembering parenting, he cannot escape regret. He explains that he understood this when one of his sons told him that there were things he regretted and felt should have been different, even though he is grateful for his dad and loves him. Chip believes the whole experience of his son sharing his regrets with him was an offering of peace because “it’s a reconnection to his heart that says in our solitude, I did, I regret it, I wish it didn’t happen, and now peace can be built.”

“Parenting doesn’t stop, because love doesn’t stop, until we’ve stopped.” We get to keep loving in our moments of peace. However, we cannot live in love if we cannot feel, face, and deal. As soon as we love someone, some place, somehow, or something, we have signed the contract of pain.

“If you don’t do feelings, you can’t do love,” he adds.

When we love, we don’t have control. A lot of peace for our children comes from how much we can let go of controlling their hearts versus permitting them to have them.

Create a space of consistency and stability for the child

Chip believes we can create this space of consistency and stability by being trustworthy. We must follow guidance, routines, and/or discipline as parents to build this trust. Therefore, we become predictable, and our children can depend upon us to be there.

“At that point, you don’t have to think of will they be there, you just know that they will be there,” Robert adds.

In Chip’s words, the parent can be somebody the child takes for granted. “The ultimate compliment in a child-parent situation is that a child can take the parent for granted,” he adds.

To explain this concept of children taking parents for granted, Chip refers to when England gave land grants to people in America and when war heroes were given land grants after the revolutionary war. These grants were pieces of land the government could not take back and the owners to do what they liked with them.

To liken this to a parent-child relationship, Chip says that a child can assume without fear, terror, or a sense of doom that their parent will be there without them asking or wondering.

“You are like the sun, moon, and ocean waves. You function like nature.” he says.

Be the place where the children can bring their feelings

It’s a disruptive parent that won’t allow their children to process and have their feelings. “That parent is disruptive through manipulation, inconsistency, lack of gratitude, and resentment. They are not okay.” says Chip. These disruptive attitudes create children caretakers. They burden the other parent with the desire for revenge, resentment and wanting to fix things. It now becomes necessary to get another parent to process and bleed out the struggle to gain forward movement and the child’s trust. Parents become a sanctuary, a nest that is a place to come back to when the bird flies out.

“A sanctuary is a place the child can bring their hearts and download it or not download it and be okay with not talking,” says Chip. Sometimes, our children are not ready to talk about things when they happen. They will talk about them when they are ready.

Chip believes that success, in many ways, is a tolerance for the feelings and struggles of the child. “We have the ability to contain and hold their pain because we have a place to take it,” says Chip.

Chip shares a story of how his son tore a hip muscle when he was sixteen. This affected his son’s dream of playing baseball with his big brother. He became mad at people for telling him it was okay. He was also angry at God for allowing it to happen. Although Chip tried to encourage his son, he knew that telling him it was okay was not the truth. “The truth was my son was in pain. I don’t know what to do, but the question is, what am I going to do?” After the outbursts, Chip’s son came to him and said, “I don’t mean everything I’m saying but I know you’ll deal with it.” Chip’s response was that he would be there for him even though he didn’t have the right answer.

Chip was a sanctuary for his son, a safe place, at that moment. The trauma his son offered to him did not get him. “Trauma occurs when we don’t have a place to go to process what was lost.” A disruptive parent is a traumatizing parent.  By becoming a place to go to just to process feelings it makes you a safe and secure place where your children know they belong and matter, and there’s still that sense that there’s life and life to the fullest. They also know that “the universe is not a bad place and others in life are good people, so that we don’t give up on hope, and if we don’t give up on hope, we don’t give up on love,” he adds. Finally, Robert adds, “Just as Emmanuel means God with us, we need to be with our kids.”

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