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Why is inner work important? (Especially as a parent) What does healing + parenting look like together?

December 28, 2023

Written by AIM Parenting POV Contributor, Tina Hamilton, The Healing Parent

“Look what you did!” I shouted at her as she sat stunned on the kitchen counter.

“Don’t you see this mess?! What were you thinking?” I continued.

It wasn’t until her dad came running into the kitchen and grabbed me by the shoulders, shouting for me to take a breath before I realized what was happening.

My daughter, two at the time, was sitting on the counter as I cut tomatoes for a salad. She had leaned over to grab a tomato from the bowl when she accidentally pushed the bowl off the counter with her feet.

It was at that moment, when the bowl smashed to the ground, when I snapped.

Everything that followed is a blur, but I will never forget the feeling in my body that day.

The rage that consumed me. My inability to catch a breath. The way my hands and feet tingled. My racing heart.

And the look on her face that will be forever seared in my mind.

She was shocked. Startled. And terrified.

Her father scooped her up off the counter and whisked her out of the kitchen.

“Get a hold of yourself,” he said as he left me standing alone in the kitchen, the red tomatoes and dark green spinach peppered with shards of white ceramic bowl, at my feet.

I wish I could say that this was the moment when I answered the call for healing. But it would take a failed relationship and single parenting before I recognized that something deeper was begging for attention.

I believe there are two places in life when you will be shown glimpses of your pain and wounding: entrepreneurship and parenting.

While the path of entrepreneurship is not one that many are called to, more than half of all adults become a parent in their lifetime.1 And yet there is very little education or support available to parents to help them navigate the major life change.

People have been doing this for millennia. How hard could it possibly be?

Turns out, much harder than people let on.

When moms are pregnant, people will shower them with the cutest baby clothes and books. Parents often spend more time preparing the nursery than they do preparing themselves for the emotional impacts of having a child.

Simultaneously, there is very rarely a discussion about the emotional changes that accompany the transition to parenthood. Hormonal shifts aside, becoming a parent will trigger a flood of unfamiliar emotions, often catching parents off-guard.

It is in this deluge of emotion where parents, if willing, can uncover the wounds experienced in childhood that are at the root of their adult behaviors, thoughts, and habits.

What was experienced as a child shapes the way we see the world. As children, we learned how to act, speak, and think, by observing our parents and caregivers. Early-life experiences provide the foundational understanding of how the world works and how we are received and perceived by others.

And all of this shapes how we show up as adults, and most importantly, in how we parent our children.

Without intentionality, we will parent from the place of these learned behaviors and thought patterns. We will pass down the lessons that we learned without considering whether or not we believe those messages–whether they help us to expand with excitement and wisdom or shut down with fear and anxiety.

The moment I shared at the start of this piece was a glimpse of that unintentionality–the living and parenting from learned behaviors and thought patterns.

I was raised to believe that children should be seen and not heard. That children sit quietly without drawing attention to themself, and they are always on their best behavior. To act otherwise would result in loud shouting. Maybe even a belt or a wooden paddle.

And when my daughter (accidentally) pushed the bowl from the counter, she triggered the child-like fear within me. Simultaneously, I reacted with the same wrath I received from my caregivers and the protector part of me that kept me safe as a child–the internal voice that kept me from acting out to keep me safe as a child.

Inner healing work, as an adult, is important–necessary, even–to release the messages and lessons that we learned as children that no longer serve us. Inner work provides the opportunity to hand-select the thoughts, behaviors, and habits that we want to embody, while allowing us the space to release those that we no longer want to cling to.

Most importantly, though, inner work allows us the opportunity to intentionally parent our children. There is no one right way to parent. How you were parented as a child is not necessarily what is best for you (or your children), and you get to decide who you are as a parent. But that decision only happens when you do the inner work. Stay tuned for February’s issue when I share the ways to do that work.

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