by Michelle Bodwell, LMFT, ATR
Fall is here. School has started again, and the wonderful freedom and chaos of summer has come to an end. As a parent, I do my best to embrace the fullness of each summer season. The loosening of the scheduling belt, the extended bedtimes, invitations for play and rest, and the messy, frivolous fun. But to be honest, by the tenth week, I’m ready for it all to be over. For the routine to resume, the schedules to be set, and for the intensity to diminish. Often for families of gifted children, the summer can be a time of great learning and exploration, or it can be a season of increased emotional intensity, boredom or frustration for parent and child.
With the passing of each season, and the beginning of each new year, I am reminded of how parenting is a long-distance journey. Sometimes it feels as if I am just “surviving” each passing season, while experiencing the fullness of life and living from a place of intentionality eludes me. My deep desire is to live each season of my child’s development being engaged, present, and intentional. This is far from being a “perfect parent,” and includes giving myself permission to not necessarily like each challenge and struggle that my child and I face. Rather it is about making sure that I show up and be present with and for my child. To be able to attain this desire, I have to regularly practice awareness of my own strengths, resources, and most of all, my own needs.
As parents we are so diligent in preparing our child for their future, making sure that their academic, relational, and physical needs are met. Additionally, parenting gifted, 2e, and intense children can pose a unique strain on our personal and internal resources. Yet, as parents, we often neglect our own needs for connection, renewal, and personal growth. We’ve all heard the saying before, “Put on your own oxygen mask first before assisting another person.” Tending to our own physical, emotional, intellectual, relational, and spiritual needs is vital for our own health and well-being, but also for our children’s. Daily, our children are seeing a model in us of what adulthood looks like. How we tend to our health, growth, or relationships can set a valuable example to them that
they may emulate in their own lives.
For me, the beginning of a new school year has become a time to reevaluate my own life and needs, and set new intentions for the season ahead. This fall, I encourage you to take some time to reflect on your own life. I like to call it a “life inventory.” Reflect on the five domain life areas and which ones you tend to favor or nurture, and which tend to be forgotten or even dismissed. Ask yourself the sustainability question: “How long could I go on this way, and what would be the results?” Sometimes the answer to that question can be fairly revealing or shocking. After taking inventory, set some intentions for yourself to develop some of your more tender areas. This isn’t about packing your schedule with more “to do’s” or activities for yourself. It’s about listening deeply to your life, and recognizing what changes you need to pursue to bring about more intentionality, meaning, and wholehearted living. Not only will you be refueled for the continued journey at hand, but I fully believe that our children will benefit from us modeling a life well-lived with purposeful engagement and authenticity. Wishing you a wonderful fall season, and may we all never stop learning and growing!
For those readers in the Pasadena/Los Angeles area, beginning on September 26th I am leading an eight week parenting support group for mothers raising children with high emotional intensity. This unique group provides a place to share with other mothers, give and receive support, and to reflect on yourself as a parent. If you’re looking for an opportunity to grow in your own awareness and move towards intentional parenting then go to www.michellebodwellmft.com/mothers-group/ to learn more.
Michelle Bodwell, LMFT, ATR specializes in providing individual and group therapy for women in all seasons of life. Her goal is to provide each woman with a safe and therapeutic place to explore their feelings, be supported, find creative solutions to problems, and to become a more fully integrated whole person. She is a mother to two amazing gifted sons, who have been by far, her best teachers in life.
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