The following article is written by Ashley Avinashi, a certified parenting coach, international best-selling author and founder of Raising Humanity.

Anxiety is skyrocketing in children, depression and suicide rates escalate year after year AND the personal development industry has blown up for adults. 

And yes, these trends are interlinked. Self doubt hits kids at younger ages now. In my work, I’m seeing children learn to betray their authentic selves at an early age, at the expense of what they intuitively know. When children start to navigate life based on the outer world’s expectations of them, rather than their inner GPS (aka their intuition), that’s the starting point of a life-long disconnect between the mind, body and spirit. 

Unfortunately, this is also pretty common and we’ve all been in situations where this happens unconsciously. For example, when a child’s exuberance is dismissed as ‘too much’ or when a child is told by someone they love unconditionally that the way they’re playing (what brings them joy) is not ok.

When a child is constantly told to be different from what they are, they learn to shut down their more expansive nature, and begin operating as only a portion of who they really are. When a child is told the way they are or the way they play is ‘too much’ or ‘not ok’ these messages are often internalized into a belief that ‘I need to behave a certain way in order to achieve the love, connection, safety and security I want’. At the same time, what often happens is that children become fearful of the consequences of their greater expression and fearful of making mistakes. 

Many of us have gone through this! Adults and children alike are constantly taught to fit into the mould of society, a contained way of being that’s primarily driven by the mind. Unfortunately, this is an orientation towards a life led by the mind, and by fear, which is the opposite of living expansively. It’s an orientation towards what isn’t possible vs. what is possible. 

The pressure to conform is increasingly enforced by the overwhelming ways of modern-day society. Unfortunately, most parents – particularly mothers – are not well supported enough to be attentive to their children’s real needs; nor their own. Between work and home duties, few parents are able to give children the nurturing care that they need in their early years. By default, the child learns to move quickly through life, and much of their childhood experiences are not processed and learned from fully.

From a cultural perspective, we have built many ‘rules’ around what childhood should look like – forced eating at the dinner table, strict bedtimes, and very structured play with plenty of parental interference when things look less than ideal. Perfectionism is the pattern parents develop when they don’t have the bandwidth to be with their own emotions and accept their own life process. This inevitably limits the parent’s ability to tolerate the child’s full process.

At school, our education system further reinforces a contained way of living and being, without a lot of room for those who don’t fit into the system. Schools single out children who are well-behaved and can perform based on standard metrics, versus those who don’t thrive in the classroom setting. Schools are still not set up to grow the full potential of children with its large classroom sizes, one-size-fits-all learning templates, and lack of emotional or trauma informed connection. This all makes perfect sense when we look back to how the modern education system was designed to prepare children for success at the factory.

What I’ve discovered in my work is that most children require space and considerably more emotional support to integrate what they are actually learning. 

To develop their true potential, children would ideally be allowed to express many versions of their nature, without reprimand. Conventional rules of childhood contribute to the growing confusion children feel in exploring life freely, and engaging in creative solutions. 

Energetic consequences

When children feel their own natural intelligence isn’t to be trusted, they learn to hide their emotions, which keeps energy trapped within their bodies, energy that was meant to be processed in the moment and released. The interruptions in energetic flow not only congests their thinking, but their biological function. Children often become emotionally handicapped at an early age due to others not understanding them more fully, and so, they remain immature in their ability to connect to others responsibly as they age. 

Without honest connection, children are forced to find alternative ways to connect to something fulfilling – hence the growing dependency on screens, junk food, etc. 

Not surprisingly, repression in childhood shows up in adulthood in somewhat predictable ways: workaholism, perfectionism, inability to connect, self-esteem issues.

The patterns developed in the first seven years of childhood can stay with us for a lifetime. Truly.

Making the ‘true potential’ shift

So, that’s the landscape but thankfully, as a society in 2021, we’re now at a turning point. We have never had such safe passage to collectively choose a different path for how we raise our children and navigate our adult lives.  More than ever before, we all have access to safe communities, accessible practices, and women who are more empowered to use their voices and gifts more freely than ever before.

So how do we do this?

Well, if you are reading this, you are likely already on a path of conscious living. It all starts with learning to love ourselves so that we can love the children in our lives.  Knowing, the  process of healing is a gentle and gradual one. We all have our own timing on the healing journey. As do our children. Knowing this allows us to relax more fully and actually follow our own intuition more soundly, without feeling the pressure of needing to figure life out right away. Our children inevitably feel the pressure we put on ourselves, and take on some, if not all, of our worries. So the starting point is self love, and self compassion. 

To support your journey to self compassion, here are some contemplations that you can journal about, which will  support your child’s fuller potential, too.

  1. What are your top 3 values? Do you make decisions based on these values daily? Have you asked your children what they most value in life? 
  2. What does your heart most desire that you are not giving yourself permission to do? Do you carve out time regularly to play? To be creative? To sing or dance freely? To connect with your friends?
  3. Do you allow yourself to feel your feelings fully, without holding anyone else responsible for how you feel? How comfortable are you with your tears? Your anger? Your sadness? Do you have healthy ways to release your feelings? 
  4. What is your greatest fear in raising a child? Was this fear present in your own childhood? How did it show up in your relationship with your caregivers? 
  5. What expectations do you carry for your child? Are they expected to give hugs to relatives? Smile when they feel sad? Pose for family photos when they don’t feel comfortable? Go to bed at an exact time when their bodies are not tired? Eat food that they don’t enjoy? 
  6. Do you notice that your child is shut down emotionally or verbally, or reactive, at any specific time of the day – ie. During the morning rush to get to school, upon pick up from school, on weekends with the family, or around specific people? Is your child given space to move at their own pace? What can be done differently to have them feel more seen and heard during these times? What can you do to share that it is safe to express how they truly feel? 

We are at a time of collective change, growth and healing, as many of us are deciding for ourselves and our families whether we want to continue as we always have, or create change that will better suit our true nature. I’ve seen many families change their work and take a break from traditional school systems. Creating change is uncomfortable, for sure, yet, taking a step back and considering all of your options is a great way to invite real contemplation in, and gradually adopt whatever it is that will ultimately better serve your authentic life, and your kids’.

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If you’re a parent who’s feeling called to a more balanced, connected way of being with yourself and your children, take a peek at the Playground of Life, a virtual membership for both children + parents. This is a monthly membership that offers daily sessions for children with mentors from around the world, diverse workshops and home play exercises for $33CAD/Month. Wondering how much your own childhood is affecting your current life and parenting? Take this quiz