Kindred Media Sharing the New Story of Childhood, Parenthood, and the Human Family Wed, 01 Jul 2015 21:13:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How Childcare Policies Are Undermining Our Children’s Capacity To Love Wed, 01 Jul 2015 21:13:58 +0000 Its a strong title:  ‘How childcare policies are undermining our children’s capacity to love’.  Its likely to put fear into the heart of every parent who reads it.  That’s the last thing I want to do. Yet how do I communicate what the science is telling us?  What words are most effective for me to […]

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Its a strong title:  ‘How childcare policies are undermining our children’s capacity to love’.  Its likely to put fear into the heart of every parent who reads it.  That’s the last thing I want to do.

Yet how do I communicate what the science is telling us?  What words are most effective for me to use?  How do I get the attention of the government and policymakers, so that they understand that the implementation of recent policies are doing that scary thing:  undermining the ability of many of our children to trust love?

Loving takes resilience. That’s one way to describe the key message of attachment theory. To love fully as an adult, you not only have to be open and vulnerable – you have to do that in the knowledge that you could lose the person you love. They might die; they might get mad at you and storm out; they might break up with you; they might disappear and you would never see them again. Our mind hates even the idea of that loss. It makes us feel sick and panicky and hopeless. In fact, some people hate the idea of loss so much that they give up on loving fully. It’s just too scary to risk that sick, apprehensive feeling. That’s why the blogger Ann calls pain the “underbelly of love”.

Attachment theory helps us to see that what we are aiming to do in the earliest years of life is build up children’s resilience. We are trying to pack their brains chock full of the neural pathways of hope and reassurance and trust. We are trying to grow physiological triggers that will allow feel-good hormones to flood in when the going gets tricky. And it will get tricky. That’s inevitable. To be an adult human being is to know loss.

Resilience is a kind of emotional muscle. It is the capacity to get back up when loss has knocked hope out of you. It is the capacity to crawl out from underneath the duvet, when you’d rather stay where it is warm and dark and safe. When you’d rather stay there forever.

Its true, loss and disappointment and hurt won’t kill you. You can survive from underneath the emotional duvet. But you cannot THRIVE from underneath the emotional duvet.

E4DCF234-546D-4B47-9C10-E9847B37CA95If we help children to have experiences of safety early on, then we build the strongest emotional muscles possible. Conversely, when we give them experiences of deep loss early on, we weaken those budding emotional muscles. That’s another way of describing ‘insecure attachment’: people who have had their resilience compromised early on. Loving openly and trustingly is harder for insecurely attached people. Loving requires more energy from them, carries more risk. They stay under the emotional duvet for longer when knocks come along. Some never really manage to come out from underneath it at all; its too scary. The best they can manage is dreaming of being loved.

The stories I am hearing lead me to fear that our latest governmental childcare policies are undermining young children’s resilience in ways that are totally unnecessary – and unintended. The financial streams that have been set up are causing parents to move their children to new childcare providers, and thus to break the existing relationships in children’s lives. All we would need is some different governmental financial streaming, and those heartbreaks would not be necessary.

Let me share one story that illustrates my concern:

Last week, I had a conversation with a childminder whom I hadn’t seen in a bit. When I asked her how things were going, she replied, “I’m about to be out of business.” “What?” I replied, in total surprise. She explained: “I’ve lost all my children. It’s the increased government funding here in my local authority in Scotland. Its only being applied to nurseries. The funding doesn’t cover childminders. All my parents got places in nurseries, so the children are leaving. Even the youngest ones, who are only two years old. And there’s no new ones coming in to replace them, for the same reason.”

0094aSTEPSWhat a wrench for the kids. I recalled the stories I had heard this childminder tell, of outings to dance classes in the local gym, of looking for bugs in the back garden, of making sandwiches together. Her eyes always danced with delight. The children would be losing that joy. That would be replaced by a sense of loss, for some time to come. That permanent parting would leave a scar in their budding emotional muscles. In fact, if those children, who had experienced such shared joy as bugs and sandwiches on a daily basis, never see her again, then effectively the funding policy will have created for them a bereavement.

That’s a strong term: bereavement. We don’t usually apply it to professional childcare arrangements. Yet it is accurate, from a child’s point of view. If a childcare provider has been working in a way that promotes secure attachment, as practice guidance encourages, then the child will naturally have come to love that provider. That’s what’s supposed to happen for children, when they spend all day long with someone they feel safe with and have fun with. They are supposed to come to love them.

That’s another word we don’t typically use in relation to childcare: love. We don’t use it because it makes many adults feel uncertain, threatened, confused. Love is something that happens in personal relationships, and childcare in Western societies is usually a professional one. What is the place of love there? Parents easily end up worried: ‘If my child loves the childcare provider, and she spends more hours in the day at childcare than with me, then might my child love that person more than me?”

If that last question sounds a bit extreme to you, start talking to parents. Tons of them carry that secret fear. I know; some of them whisper that fear to me, asking for reassurance that their child will still love them even if it is someone else giving them cuddles during the day, someone else’s perfume on their child’s jumper, someone else sharing their child’s first steps. It is understandable that parents would feel anxious. That is why, when researcher Jools Page has tried to tackle this difficult topic, she devised the term professional love’, in order to explicitly separate this from ‘parental love’.

We need some strategy that enables us to look at this stuff. When we adults are scared, it blocks us from being able to see our children’s fears. The worries about terms like ‘love’ and ‘bereavement’, which I’ve been using here, come from an adult perspective. From a child’s perspective, loving, and thus loss, and thus bereavement, make perfect sense in relation to childcare.

Young children don’t think of the people with whom they spend their day as ‘professionals’. Children’s brains are wired for relationships. Their brains assume that the adults are in that setting because they want to be, that they are there for the fun of it, that they are there out of love for the children. Children intuitively think of staff as ‘Auntie Emma’ or ‘Uncle Mark’. Even if that terminology isn’t allowed in a setting, and the custom is stick to more informal names like ‘Janet’ or formal labels like ‘Mrs Cousins’, young children’s brains still function at the personal level. That is inevitable. That is how young human brains are wired: for relationships, for love.

So when children have to be parted from people with whom they have bonded, it hurts. Its painful. It’s supposed to be painful when you have to say goodbye forever to someone you love. Even if you can’t conceive of ‘forever’, your brain quickly realizes you are missing the sound of their voice, and how they smell, and the feel of their cuddle, and the way they smile as they hand over a plate of cheese and biscuits. As an adult, we’d call that heartbreak.The same parts of our brains are engaged when we are in emotional pain, like heartbreak, as when we are in physical pain.

When we ask a 3-year-old to cope with heartbreak, we ask more than their budding emotional muscles are really able to cope with. We create a rip, a tear, a wound that will leave a scar. That’s what studies like the ACE study are trying to tell us: that relationship traumas early in life leave lasting scars.

ACE Study Pyramid

I am guessing that, by this point, some readers will be thinking: ‘Are you serious? The ACE study doesn’t talk about nursery provision. It deals with serious stuff, like abuse and drugs use and divorce. You want me to think of changing childcare provision as a possible trauma?? But that’s ordinary. Kids do it all the time.’

Precisely. That’s my point. We adults often move children across daycare providers fairly casually. We do that for a host of reasons that are legitimate and important: because we changed jobs, because a new setting opened up closer to our home, because the government made funding available that would help our family budget.

It is easy to make that move without giving deep thought to the emotional impact on the child. We may sense there will be a bit of short-term confusion, but it may never occur there could possibly be any long-term impact. The common use of adult-centred language only strengthens our culturally blinkered perspective: ‘childcare arrangements’, ‘professional’, ‘transition’.

What happens when we try out the child-centred language of ‘love’, ‘heartbreak’, and ‘bereavement’? How does that simple shift impact on our awareness – and on our decisions about how to help our kids THRIVE?

I do not want to make any parents or childcare staff anxious. What I want is to compel us all to be more curious, more reflective, more aware. The trouble is that the depth of children’s emotions is often uncomfortable for us to fathom. It causes us all sorts of conflict:

I think of the young mum who wrote to me because she was thinking of foregoing the free childcare hours funded by the government. She wanted to leave her child with his existing provider, because she thought he was happy and settled there, but that provider couldn’t offer government subsidised places. This was causing arguments with her husband, who thought she was wasting money by being over-protective.

What I would like most of all is for local and national governments to ensure that, as parents are offered financial advice about childcare options, they are also offered emotional advice about attachment.  

Then more young marriages and young emotional muscles might be protected from this source of distress.


I’d love to hear your own thoughts on childcare arrangements and emotional connection – whether you live in the UK or beyond.

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Touch Is Where We Meet Wed, 01 Jul 2015 15:50:51 +0000 Join Michael Mendizza on a Parenting As A Hero’s Journey Virtual Retreat! We don’t need to go to an ashram to become enlightened. Experience resonates throughout the brain and body like solar winds shimmer in the northern sky. Watching and feeling Carly Elizabeth unfold each day is like that; brilliant, exponential, utterly appropriate, perfectly age […]

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Join Michael Mendizza on a Parenting As A Hero’s Journey Virtual Retreat!

We don’t need to go to an ashram to become enlightened. Experience resonates throughout the brain and body like solar winds shimmer in the northern sky. Watching and feeling Carly Elizabeth unfold each day is like that; brilliant, exponential, utterly appropriate, perfectly age and stage appropriate, never the same, not even for a second. What a miracle. You and I are that too if we are sensitive enough and quiet enough to notice. Carly is a good teacher whenn it comes to sensitive, quiet attention. As good as it gets.

Can you believe it? Eleven months young, wanting to touch, explore and experience – everything. The key to her unfolding light (and yours and mine) remains. Empathic appreciation, caring and profound respect for what my dear friend and mentor Joseph Chilton Pearce called Evolution’s End, reaching for the stars, the very tip of billions of years of evolving complexity. How far will she reach? How broad and deep will her understanding and compassion be? What undreamed of possibilities will she uncover, savor and develop? Or will fear, what others think, tether her to a conformist post, repeating the same old, again and again?

Like an Olympic gymnast, her eyes on the gold, walking upright is the goal de jure. Flipping over and crawling was the last big breakthrough. Now, for several months Carly has been crawling, exploring cupboards, opening and closing bottle tops, drawers, jars, putting things in and out. A master of our wooden staircase she stands in the middle of the room, arms outreached, balancing, then one step after another. Seven steps is the best so far. My eyes are as big as hers. I am constantly amazed at her effortless drive, attention, intelligence and resolve. By effortless I don’t mean without effort. I mean that Carly’s expansive resolve is without inner conflict. There is the concentrated effort and learning of complete attention and there is the stress of moving forward with the breaks on. They are very different.

It is difficult for the adulterated adult mind to experience directly without abstract concepts imposing between sensation and action. One of the nearly infinite gifts that true innocence offers, and Carly is that gift, is opening a window in the adult mind to the wonder of quiet direct seeing, listening and action. Attunement demands that we experience and relate to the child as they are rather than how we want, need or expect them to be. In this way being with Carly is a meditation. One becomes still, quiet, words and the thoughts words cast become transparent, whispers instead of freight trains roaring. The shared meaning of this experience and the next becomes obvious, clear. Appropriate action flows like Fred Astaire dancing with Ginger Rogers. Carly trusts this quiet but very active attunement. The foundation of our relationships is built on trust and the play this trust invites.

Touch is where we meet and I touch Carly Elizabeth every chance I get. I rub her feet, play and sing Itsy Bitsy Spider with my fingers on her tummy, hold her close when we walk. Friend and colleague for over twenty years, James W. Prescott, PhD, impressed in all our conversations, and strongly, the importance of affectionate touch and movement. ‘Pleasure is the glue that binds human relationships,’ he says. It is the absence of safe, playful touch (sensory deprivation) that leads to addiction and pathological violence. Swinging, rolling on the ground, rocking as she drifts off to sleep; today I placed Carly on a big pillow and pulled it like a spinning magic carpet on the living room floor, she laughing with delight. Touch, movement and quiet but dynamic attunement is where we meet.

I’m in no hurry for words and Carly Elizabeth will be walking when it is the perfect time for her, not me or the neighbor next door. In a very short month Carly will be one year-young. It is a miracle. We have learned so much together. I can’t believe it has been almost a year and we have only just begun.

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American Government Wipes Recent Vaccine Injury Data From Public Website Tue, 23 Jun 2015 19:24:49 +0000 Many are not aware that in the US there is a federally operated vaccine injury compensation program (VICP) that Congress created under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act. The US Court of Federal Claims in Washington DC handles contested vaccine injury and death cases in what has become known as “vaccine court”. The VICP is […]

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Many are not aware that in the US there is a federally operated vaccine injury compensation program (VICP) that Congress created under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act. The US Court of Federal Claims in Washington DC handles contested vaccine injury and death cases in what has become known as “vaccine court”.

censorshipThe VICP is a “no-fault” alternative to the traditional civil court lawsuit and was established in 1986 after a string of high-profile lawsuits had slammed vaccine manufacturers.

At the time, parents were suing vaccine manufacturers after their children were brain injured or died following federally recommended and state mandated DPT (diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus vaccine). There were several DPT injury lawsuits against the vaccine makers in the 1970’s and early 1980’s that resulted in multimillion dollar jury verdicts.

At that point the vaccine manufacturers threatened to stop producing DPT, MMR, and oral polio (the only childhood vaccines at the time) if the civil litigation continued. Rather than raising safety standards and compelling vaccine manufacturers to  ensure they are producing the least toxic vaccines – Congress passed the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, and shielded the vaccine makers from most civil liability related to their products.1

The American Public – Not the Vaccine Makers – Pay the Costs of Compensation

The federal VICP compensates vaccine victims not from a fund paid into by vaccine manufacturers, but through a federal trust fund that collects a 75-cent surcharge on every vaccine given (the combination MMR vaccine, for example, has a $2.25 fee tacked on to it because that shot contains three vaccines). So not only are drug companies making big profits from selling mandated vaccines to government and vaccine producers, they are also held legally blameless for both vaccine injuries and deaths and don’t have to pay a cent to those injured by their vaccines.

The VICP contains a Vaccine Injury Table that lists vaccine side effects that are known to be caused by vaccines. In order to win uncontested federal compensation for a vaccine injury, a person must prove he or she developed certain clinical symptoms and medical conditions on the Table within a certain time frame of receiving a certain vaccine, and that there is no more biologically plausible explanation for the vaccine-related injury or death.

If a clinical symptom and medical condition is not on the Vaccine Injury Table – or developed outside of the accepted timeframe, the vaccine injury claim is contested by the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the US Department of Justice and is adjudicated in the US Court of Federal Claims (“vaccine court”). In Vaccine Court, the vaccine injured plaintiff must prove, usually via medical records and statements from a medical expert, that the vaccine could have caused the injury.

NPR detailed the story of Lisa Smith, a woman who was healthy until she received a flu shot and, a few days later, realized she couldn’t walk and had developed severe pain in her legs.2

Lisa had developed Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), an autoimmune disease of the nervous system. GBS is in the process of being added to the official Vaccine  Injury Table. She only learned of the VICP after a friend told her about it. She filed a VICP claim and was awarded a settlement of an undisclosed amount.

Many People Are Not Aware of Vaccine Court

In 2014, there were 542 vaccine injury compensation claims filed in the VICP. Of the claims, 365 were compensated for a total of $202 million, with settlements ranging from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars.3

What you’ll notice is that very few of these claims are publicized or disclosed to the public in any way. It is obvious that the government does not want to publicize the existence of the VICP because the more Americans learn that there are vaccine injuries and deaths  – those that have been vetted and compensated in a court of law – the more they may start to question the safety and of vaccines.

There is a government VICP website, which is run by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

It maintains vaccine injury claim statistics that have historically been updated monthly – until the government mysteriously removed more than a years worth of data earlier this year…

US Government Removes Vaccine Injury Court Statistics from Public Website

According to investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson, in March 2015 the US government removed the latest vaccine injury court statistics (data from 2014 and 2015) from a publicly reported chart.4

HRSA stated they removed the data in order to sync up with data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is only current through 2013 and details the number of vaccine doses given in the US.

However, Attkisson noted there had been a sharp uptick in VICP awards for children and adults filing vaccine injury and death claims and the data was no longer included on the HRSA websites “adjudication” chart, which distorted the reality of what’s happening in vaccine court. As Attkisson reported:

Since January of 2014, the number of flu vaccine cases conceded by the government is more than double the previous eight years combined. The adjudication chart only reflects half of the current number.

Concessions won by flu shot victims since 2006
Chart shows (through 2013): 42
Actual number (through April 2015): 88

Also on the rise is the number of vaccine injury cases the government has ‘conceded:’ up 55% in a little over one year. As a result of the recent website changes, neither of these trends is reflected on the current ‘adjudication’ chart.”

In addition, the HRSA website has been altered to make VICP stats harder to find. The adjudication chart used to be the first item on the statistics page, but was replaced by language stating vaccines are safe and effective.

Since 1998 through June 1, 2015, HRSA reports that 14,812 claims were filed in the VICP. The total paid out to vaccine victims was about $3.1 billion. While 4,121 were compensated,  9,904 have been dismissed. Further, the majority of vaccine injuries never make it to vaccine court. According to Attkisson:5

Only about one injury case for every million doses of vaccines is compensated in vaccine court. Adverse events occur more frequently, according to vaccine warning labels, but rarely end up in the little-known vaccine court.”

Getting Compensated Through Vaccine Court Isn’t Always Easy…

While the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) was originally set up to give vaccine-injured Americans an expedited, non-adversarial, less expensive administrative alternative to a civil court lawsuit, today it is the “exclusive remedy” for those seeking compensation for serious vaccine injuries.

Many vaccine victims are left waiting without support and financial assistance for years on end, while their case snakes its way through the federal governments red tape. Some VICP claimants even say they felt “attacked” by the government that was supposed to help them.

Another problem has been a lack of public awareness that this program even exists. Reportedly, federal officials operating the VICP have vowed to publicize the program, promising to improve the website to make its literature to make it easier to understand.

They’ve also stated they will seek to increase awareness among health care providers, parents and expectant parents, older adults, Spanish speaking adults, as well as civil litigation and plaintiff attorneys.6

What actually happens remains to be seen. Several years ago, a comprehensive consultant report about publicizing the VICP was created at a cost of $300,000.  However, few recommendations were ever implemented.7

Moreover, VICP directors didn’t begin taking action on publicity until after a congressionally requested Government Accountability Office (GAO) inquiry began last year.

Public outreach has also been largely ignored since the programs inception. The Associated Press also claims it found evidence suggesting that “the government seems intent on keeping the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program’s public profile low.”8

How Common Are Vaccine Injuries?

When the VICP was first created, if the injured party was denied compensation or was dissatisfied with the amount of the award, they could then proceed with a civil lawsuit with certain restrictions, depending upon the case.

Unhappy with this partial liability protection, drug companies kept pushing for complete liability protection and, in 2011, convinced the US Supreme Court majority to rule that federally licensed and recommended vaccines are “unavoidably unsafe” and that the VICP should be the “sole remedy” for all vaccine injury claims.9

I think it’s worth repeating, in case you just glossed over it: The reason you cannot sue a vaccine manufacturer for injury or death is because vaccines are “unavoidably unsafe.” At this point, vaccine manufacturers have virtually no incentive whatsoever to ensure the safety and effectiveness of vaccines that are recommended by federal health officials and mandated by state health officials.

The question you’re probably wondering is, so how safe, or unsafe, are they? The answer is, no one really knows, as appropriate safety studies haven’t been conducted.

It’s important to understand that ALL vaccines carry a risk for provoking an immediate acute adverse reaction, such as anaphylactic shock, fainting, or having a seizure, which could be truly life threatening if you’re driving a car or crossing a street, for example.

Further, vaccines can impair and alter immune system responses and can also cause brain inflammation (encephalitis or encephalopathy) that may lead to permanent brain damage.

In addition, as Institute of Medicine Committees have pointed out in published reports, some individuals are more susceptible to suffering harm from vaccines because of biological, genetic, and environmental risk factors but, most of the time, doctors cannot predict who will be harmed because there are few scientific studies that have evaluated vaccine risks for individuals.10

Problems with a One-Size-Fits-All Vaccine Program

It’s now known that the microbiome influences our health and that an individuals gut microbes may help determine their immune response to vaccines. For instance, infants that responded to the rotavirus vaccine had a higher diversity of microbes in their gut, as well as more microbes from the Proteobacteria group, than infants who did not mount the expected immune response.11

Further, there has been little scientific research into how vaccines affect your genes and it’s likely different for every person because no two people are identical in terms of inherited genes, environmental exposures, or epigenetic influences that contribute to biodiversity.

There’s really no way to predict which genes will be affected, but the US government recommends, and many states mandate the same vaccine schedule for every American.

Yet, each individual will have a unique response to any given vaccine based on their age, current health status, and microbial makeup. In addition, we’re also epigenetically predisposed to respond differently in terms of the vaccine side effects we might develop.

The fact is vaccines appear to cause mild or no reactions in some people but clearly can cause devastating reactions in others. Here are just some of the ways vaccines can impair or alter immune responses and brain function:

  • Some components in vaccines are neurotoxic, including heavy metals such as mercury preservatives and aluminum adjuvants; residual toxins like endotoxin and bioactive pertussis toxin; and chemicals like formaldehyde and phenooxyethanol
  • The lab-altered and genetically engineered viruses and bacteria in vaccines may impair immune responses and do not stimulate the same kind of immunity that occurs when the body responds to an infectious disease
  • Foreign DNA/RNA from human, animal, and insect cell substrates used to produce vaccines may trigger serious health problems for some people
  • Vaccines may alter your T-cell function and lead to chronic illness
  • Vaccines can trigger allergies by introducing large foreign protein molecules into your body that have not been properly broken down by your digestive tract (since they are injected). Your body can have an allergic reaction to these foreign particles

Protect Your Right to Informed Consent and Defend Vaccine Exemptions

With all the uncertainty surrounding the safety and efficacy of vaccines, it’s critical to protect your right to make independent health choices and exercise voluntary informed consent to vaccination. It is urgent that everyone in America stand up and fight to protect and expand vaccine informed consent protections in state public health and employment laws. The best way to do this is to get personally involved with your state legislators and educating the leaders in your community.

NVIC Advocacy poster


National vaccine policy recommendations are made at the federal level but vaccine laws are made at the state level. It is at the state level where your action to protect your vaccine choice rights can have the greatest impact. It is critical for EVERYONE to get involved now in standing up for the legal right to make voluntary vaccine choices in America because those choices are being threatened by lobbyists representing drug companies, medical trade associations, and public health officials, who are trying to persuade legislators to strip all vaccine exemptions from public health laws.

Signing up for NVIC’s free Advocacy Portal at gives you immediate, easy access to your own state legislators on your Smart Phone or computer so you can make your voice heard. You will be kept up-to-date on the latest state bills threatening your vaccine choice rights and get practical, useful information to help you become an effective vaccine choice advocate in your own community. Also, when national vaccine issues come up, you will have the up-to-date information and call to action items you need at your fingertips.

So please, as your first step, sign up for the NVIC Advocacy Portal.

Share Your Story with the Media and People You Know

If you or a family member has suffered a serious vaccine reaction, injury, or death, please talk about it. If we don’t share information and experiences with one another, everybody feels alone and afraid to speak up. Write a letter to the editor if you have a different perspective on a vaccine story that appears in your local newspaper. Make a call in to a radio talk show that is only presenting one side of the vaccine story.

I must be frank with you; you have to be brave because you might be strongly criticized for daring to talk about the “other side” of the vaccine story. Be prepared for it and have the courage to not back down. Only by sharing our perspective and what we know to be true about vaccination will the public conversation about vaccination open up so people are not afraid to talk about it.

We cannot allow the drug companies and medical trade associations funded by drug companies or public health officials promoting forced use of a growing list of vaccines to dominate the conversation about vaccination. The vaccine injured cannot be swept under the carpet and treated like nothing more than “statistically acceptable collateral damage” of national one-size-fits-all mandatory vaccination policies that put way too many people at risk for injury and death. We shouldn’t be treating people like guinea pigs instead of human beings.

Internet Resources Where You Can Learn More

I encourage you to visit the website of the non-profit charity, the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC),

  • NVIC Memorial for Vaccine Victims: View descriptions and photos of children and adults, who have suffered vaccine reactions, injuries, and deaths. If you or your child experiences an adverse vaccine event, please consider posting and sharing your story here.
  • If You Vaccinate, Ask 8 Questions: Learn how to recognize vaccine reaction symptoms and prevent vaccine injuries.
  • Vaccine Freedom Wall: View or post descriptions of harassment and sanctions by doctors, employers, and school and health officials for making independent vaccine choices.

Connect with Your Doctor or Find a New One That Will Listen and Care

If your pediatrician or doctor refuses to provide medical care to you or your child unless you agree to get vaccines you don’t want, I strongly encourage you to have the courage to find another doctor. Harassment, intimidation, and refusal of medical care is becoming the modus operandi of the medical establishment in an effort to stop the change in attitude of many parents about vaccinations after they become truly educated about health and vaccination.

However, there is hope.

At least 15 percent of young doctors recently polled admit that they’re starting to adopt a more individualized approach to vaccinations in direct response to the vaccine safety concerns of parents. It is good news that there is a growing number of smart young doctors, who prefer to work as partners with parents in making personalized vaccine decisions for children, including delaying vaccinations or giving children fewer vaccines on the same day or continuing to provide medical care for those families, who decline use of one or more vaccines.

So take the time to locate a doctor, who treats you with compassion and respect and is willing to work with you to do what is right for your child.


Photo by Shutterstock/djmilic

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Birthkeeper Summit And Protest Video Sat, 20 Jun 2015 15:59:26 +0000 The ACOG ‘action’ was part of the Birthkeeper Summit which took place in Berkeley April 30th – May 3rd 2015.  The protest at ACOG’s Annual Meeting was on the last day of the Summit. What is a BirthKeeper? A Birthkeeper is anyone, anywhere, who feels called to guard and protect our most precious birthright, that of being […]

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The ACOG ‘action’ was part of the Birthkeeper Summit which took place in Berkeley April 30th – May 3rd 2015.  The protest at ACOG’s Annual Meeting was on the last day of the Summit.

What is a BirthKeeper?

A Birthkeeper is anyone, anywhere, who feels called to guard and protect our most precious birthright, that of being born healthy and loved into a sustainable  and just world. We respect and protect the relationships that support the life-giving capabilities of mothers. Mothers who are birthing the future generations of humans. We Honor our primary relationship to  Our Mother Earth who sustains and nourishes all life.
Motto: Healing Birth is Healing our Earth
Archetype/model of living: MotherBaby MotherEarth is our primary, immutable relationship.

The BirthKeeper Summit

The BirthKeeper Summit, was held at Berkeley City College, Berkeley, Calif., from April 30 to May 3, 2015, to launch a grassroots social movement for a paradigm shift which brings a maternal focus of care and compassion to life and birth systems. Attendees discussed and promoted our most precious birthright: being born healthy and loved into a flourishing and just world, which honors women and protects the life-giving relationships of MotherBaby MotherEarth.

The BirthKeeper movement strives to move forward efforts to build health and wealth equity with frontline groups who are recipients of the bulk of the social inequity now seen in the care of mothers and babies. The BirthKeeper movement understands the relationship between the health of the environment and the health of future generations of life. It also understands the necessity of supporting the Primal Period of human life — from before conception to a child’s first birthday, including birth –as a human rights issue. The BirthKeeper movement will hold annual summits and public actions in support of its values. Sunday, May 3, BirthKeepers will hold a public action in front of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Annual Clinical and Scientific Meeting in San Francisco, Calif.

The BirthKeeper Summit is building coalitions with aligned social change organizations. We are inviting BirthKeepers from diverse grassroots movements, including human rights activists, environmental health and social justice advocates, spiritual leaders, wellness promoters, birth and midwifery activists, and birthworkers. Those in the continuum of prevention will be joining us: environmental and reproductive health, social and rights activists, and those working in healing services: therapists and medical professionals to lifestyle segments: parents, fathers, women, youth, grandparents with a global, regional and local emphasis. A few affiliated organizations are: Association of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and HealthCalifornia Indian Environmental AllianceCenter for Environmental HealthIdle No More SF Bay AreaWorld Organization of Prenatal Education AssociatesPhysicians for Social Responsibility- SF Bay Area.

Featured speakers included:

  • Katsi Cook,aboriginal midwife and environmental activist for health and reproductive justice· Loretta Ross, authority on human rights, reproductive justice, hate groups, racism, and violence against women· Dr. Michel Odent, author of Childbirth and the Evolution of Homo Sapiens· Robin Lim, midwife activist and CNN Person of the Year, 2011

Program tracks of speakers include: Clear: dealing with internal and external oppression; Embodied: how biology is being changed; Social: cultural influences and how to change current harmful systems. There will be plenary sessions, workshops and open opportunities for interaction and learning, as well as celebration of art and music. Affinity groups will be given space and time to self-organize. Exploring the local resources of Berkeley for meals and entertainment will be included in the schedule. Over 300 attendees are expected from across the globe including Australia, Uganda, England, and North America.

Discounted tickets to: activists, organizers, birth professionals, couples/parents, self-employed, freelancers, non-profit employees, and those in need. Subsidized tickets to: youth, students, pregnant mothers, single mothers or fathers, and speakers. There are 15 volunteer work partial scholarships available for$50 for those who can work for the entire summit. We are strongly encouraging women of color and doulas of color to apply.

Child care will be provided for a nominal hourly fee. Lapbabies are always welcome!

‘Woman is the first environment. In pregnancy, our bodies sustain life. At the breast of women, the generations are nourished. From the bodies of women flows the relationship of those generations both to society and the natural world. In this way

the earth is our mother, the old people said. In this way, we are women are earth.’ — Katsi Cook

The BirthKeeper Summit was inspired by the Institute of Feminine Arts and Sciences and Jeannine Parvati Baker, and a portion of its profits will go to training future midwives. Schedule of speakers is subject to change.

What if MotherBaby MotherEarth was the first consideration? Vandana Shiva, Indian environmental activist and anti-globalization author’s response:

‘We would substitute profit and greed and power and control with love, and sharing and caring. They would become the predominant expressions of what it means to be human. As a result of it, we would stop the violence against the earth, and we would stop the violence against women, and we would stop the violence against children. We would put back in the equation that which creates health and well-being for all, for the earth, all her beings, as well as all future generations.’

Location:Berkeley City College, CA

Registration link


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Put Your Children To Work Thu, 18 Jun 2015 22:55:04 +0000 Summer is upon us and it is relatively quiet at my house. It wasn’t always that way. My husband and I raised four children–the oldest was thirteen when the youngest was born. Summers meant lots of activity and a full table for lunch every day. I was the stay-at-home parent and had no desire to […]

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betsy and luke onion harvest - BLOGSummer is upon us and it is relatively quiet at my house. It wasn’t always that way. My husband and I raised four children–the oldest was thirteen when the youngest was born. Summers meant lots of activity and a full table for lunch every day. I was the stay-at-home parent and had no desire to haul the kids around to keep them entertained. We had plenty to do at home.

I wanted my children to be productive members of our family and, from a young age, gave them opportunities to do that. They were responsible for keeping their rooms clean, picking up after themselves, bringing firewood up to the house in the winter as needed, and doing things when asked, such as setting the table or folding clothes while they watched TV. Those are the things I can think of off the top of my head (the youngest is 28 and the oldest is 41, so it’s been awhile). I’m sure they could add to the list. Actually, setting the table was usually the job for the youngest. When we moved to this house in 1984 I put the dinner dishes on a shelf in a low cupboard so that our daughter, age 2, could reach them and set the table by herself. I believe they were all grown before I got around to moving the dishes to an upper cabinet.

Summertime, however, was different. There was garden work to do, and plenty of it. I told them they had to give me an hour of their time each weekday—even the little ones. The first week after school was out (they went to the school that sent a yellow bus around every day), I let them sleep in and decide when they would put in their hour. Since the work was usually in the garden it didn’t take them the whole week to decide it was better to get up early and put in their hour before it got too hot. I remember someone telling me they were happy their children were on the swim team because it got them out of bed every morning to be at practice by 9. When a public pool was built nearby, we joined and our children went there, but not because of swim team. They all learned how to swim and, to this day, prefer rivers to pools anyway.

travis betsy and luke painting the fence - BLOGI would choose age-appropriate jobs for each of them. They would weed, mulch, and pick. They learned entomology when we identified insects in the garden, deciding if they were good or bad ones. In order to keep the Mexican bean beetles and Colorado potato beetles in check, I would pay them a penny for each beetle they picked off the beans or potatoes and a nickel for each egg cluster they smashed. Let me tell you, a child who struggles with math in the classroom has no problem adding numbers in his head to tell you how much he is owed under these circumstances. Sometimes their job was to paint the fence.

We were all in the garden at the same time, and it took some managing on my part to keep everyone at their job—happily (which was a requirement). By the time their hour was up, they had thought of enough things to do to keep themselves occupied for the rest of the day. Legos were a part of their lives, especially on hot afternoons, but they were also free to make things, spend time in our small woods, play with neighborhood friends, and when they got old enough, ride their bikes to Ashland—about 3½ miles away. Of course, those were the days before video games. The TV was turned on for shows like Reading Rainbow, Secret City (an art show), and sometimes they watched a cooking show.

travis and betsy juicing tomatoes -BLOGOn the days there were things to can, especially snap beans and tomatoes, they were expected to help with that. Sometimes it was in addition to the garden work, and sometimes it was instead of. We would all sit around the table and talk while we worked. I remember having a young one in the high chair with his/her own knife and cutting board. The work got done and it never required anyone ever getting any stitches. By the time the second oldest learned to read I would choose books from the library that the two oldest could read and let them take turns reading a chapter at a time while the rest of us worked on the beans. It gave the reader a break from the beans, honed his reading skills, and kept everyone quiet and interested. It was a pleasant time. With the tomatoes, they washed, quartered (more knife work) and sometimes worked the Victorio strainer.

One of the best things that came out of summers at home with the kids was the Summer Lunch Café and it wasn’t a work requirement. When he was about eleven, our oldest came up with the idea to make lunch, with the help of his brother, age seven. They had decided to play “restaurant” and, on their own, found all the choices in the kitchen for lunch and made a menu, which, among other things, included all the condiments in the fridge. When their restaurant opened, they seated me and their little sister and took our order. I don’t remember what we had that day—it could have been peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. What I do remember is that it was a nice break from me making lunch and we all had a good time.

The children continued to play restaurant whenever the spirit moved them during the summer, with the next in line moving up to either helper or manager as the older ones got “real” jobs elsewhere. By the time Betsy (third child and only girl) was in charge, with her younger brother as helper, the oldest (Jarod) had his own lawn business and would occasionally be home for lunch when he was working in the area. Betsy was the one who named it the Summer Lunch Café and would put a tip jar out if Jarod was there. Often he would ask her in the morning if the Summer Lunch Café was going to be open that day and was happy to enjoy what he had started so long ago.

This book by Cindy Conner
This book by Cindy Conner

Although it was often through garden work that my children contributed to the household each day, I would sometimes give them the choice of housework. They could choose to dust and sweep the living room or clean the bathroom instead of putting in their time in the garden that day. Cooking could be an option for your kids to contribute to the household. My kids came up with the Summer Lunch Café on their own and enjoyed watching the cooking show on PBS (I don’t remember which one). With the proliferation of cooking shows on TV, sometimes involving children, your children may be inspired to make dinner on a regular basis, or at least help, as their contribution to your household. Just like with me in the garden with all the kids at once, it would take some guidance and management on your part, but the skills they come away with will be with them forever.

When I started selling produce in 1992 I hired whoever was a young teen at the time to be my paid helper on market days. There was still the “one hour for the family at no pay” requirement on the other days. If you ask my grown children today, they will probably tell you that they had more chores than their friends did at the time, but they have no regrets. When they were old enough to get a “real” job they already knew how to follow directions and to keep at a job until it was done. I received good feedback from their bosses, who said that wasn’t always the case with young employees.

To describe those summers when our children were growing up as busy would be an understatement, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. I know times have changed and there are many distractions in this digital age, but I hope you take the time to arrange regular occasions to have your children do meaningful work alongside you this summer. You will get to know each other in a way you couldn’t otherwise.

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Innocence For Children – Beginner’s Mind As Adults Mon, 15 Jun 2015 00:57:02 +0000 Carly’s attention deepens, distills and expands. She doesn’t miss a thing, not a sound or speck on the floor, the tone of my voice, tension in my body or the ever-changing emotional expressions we share. The play look has taken root. In a glance the chase is on, laughing and rolling together on the floor. […]

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Carly’s attention deepens, distills and expands. She doesn’t miss a thing, not a sound or speck on the floor, the tone of my voice, tension in my body or the ever-changing emotional expressions we share. The play look has taken root. In a glance the chase is on, laughing and rolling together on the floor. The absorbent mind is what Maria Montessori called it, absorbent because it is not preoccupied. Her attention is like the wind touching, experiencing, indeed absorbing, creating new patterns of relationship with every leaf on every tree. The greatest challenge we face is steady attunement with this unfolding miracle. We are mentors and completely responsible, moment by moment, 24/7. That’s intense and it is a blast.


Innocence allows this absorbent attention to explore freely, without a center that fear creates, a phrase used by J. Krishnamurti to describe what he called a mind that is silent. Innocence means entering into this experience and the next without prejudgment, with what martial artists call ‘beginner’s mind.’ Carly Elizabeth is too young to be infected with a social-ego, an image of her-self based on judgment and comparison. That inner narrative will unfold with concrete language in less than a year. That is ‘the center’ that, once created by judgment, judges, anticipates, predicts and self-censors to win approval (pleasure) and avoid shame (pain). Carly Elizabeth is innocent and if my attunement is deep I too can slip into innocence with her. Can you remember what that means?

Is it possible to retain innocence and beginner’s mind as one grows into language and culture or is ‘the center’ a necessary defense, an essential copping strategy to navigate an increasingly narcissistic and self-centered world? Is it really a jungle out there, a dog eat dog, winner takes all world? How best do I prepare Carly Elizabeth to meet her future? What if narcissistic selfishness is an infectious pathology, a form of insanity? Is going even a little crazy an appropriate defense or does creating an effective self-defense compound the problem? I have actually wondered about these things for forty years.

Aikido is based on the insight that we are all brothers and sisters. As such, any act of violence is pathological, a form of mental illness. It is the compassionate responsibility of the Aikido Master to protect the crazy person from harming him or her, and of course anyone else including the Master until the insanity is replaced with a clear perception that harming another is actually harming one’s self. Explain that to the corporate-military-industrial-complex.

At the heart of Buddhist philosophy is the deep awareness that we don’t really understand what we actually are and how we are related to everything and because of this, our normal delusional state, we end up doing all sorts of crazy things that harm ourselves and others. Nearly all Buddhist practices are designed to dispel this delusion, the insanity that causes our violence. But is it possible or even desirable to remain innocent in a mad world? This is indeed an old question.


Innocence: from Latin innocentia; harmlessness, from innocēns doing no harm, blameless, simplicity; absence of guile or cunning; naiveté, free from moral wrong; without sin; pure: as innocent as a child, not involving evil intent or motive, not causing physical or moral injury; being harmless. Gee, I feel this way with Carly. Why not hold and expand this state to include others; Pixel the cat sleeping under my feet, friends, family, colleagues, the guy who almost ran me over texting while jogging? Being an Aikido Master implies an extremely well practiced state of innocence. It blossoms when the heart and mind are free, unafraid, quiet, sensitive, alert, attentive, full of energy, touching and being touched by this unique moment that will never be again. There is a feeling of care and kinship (with all things) when innocent.

Unconditional love and innocence are twins. But innocence does not exist in our comparison crazed, fearful, increasingly narcissistic, plugged in – tuned out world, and therefore unconditional love for most, most of the time is just a phrase. In the East there is a phrase called ‘a direct contact high.’ It means, being with another who is in the state of innocence resonates and we catch the joy and the bliss if we are not talking to ourselves. Being with Carly is like that when I shut up and just listen with all the senses. Krishnamurti described innocence in his Notebook:

Quietly, it came, so gently that one was not aware of it, so close to the earth, among the flowers. It was spreading, covering the earth and one was in it, not as an observer, but of it. There was no thought or feeling, the brain utterly quiet. Suddenly there was innocence so simple, so clear and delicate. It was a meadow of innocence past all pleasure and ache, beyond all torture of hope and despair. It was there and it made the mind, one’s whole being innocent, one was of it, past measure, past word, the mind transparent and the brain young without time.

That’s good enough for me.

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Dr. Shefali Calls For An #EndShame Movement Sun, 14 Jun 2015 23:06:43 +0000 Read Dr. Shefali on Kindred. A Call to Action! Our Children Need Us Now! I invite you to join me in the #ENDSHAME movement. I hope you are inspired to share this message and change the way our children are treated on social media. Don’t forget to pass it on with #endshame. It is imperative […]

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Read Dr. Shefali on Kindred.

A Call to Action! Our Children Need Us Now!

I invite you to join me in the #ENDSHAME movement. I hope you are inspired to share this message and change the way our children are treated on social media. Don’t forget to pass it on with #endshame.


It is imperative that every parent and every social media user hears this message.

WRITTEN BY: Dr. Shefali Tsabary as heard in video message:

I am here to articulate how our children feel if they are shamed in public

Because if our children could express their feelings and make their voices heard, this is what they might say to the parents in their lives

Mom, dad, how would you like it if you made a mistake at work and your boss shaved your hair off and posted it on the company’s website?

Or your mom caught you smoking pot in college and made you wear a t-shirt of shame to be worn publicly for all to see?

Or if I took a video of you when you were yelling or screaming at me because you were tired and I sent it to all our friends and family.

How would you feel knowing that you had no control over how your parents treated you?
Knowing that the two people you trusted the most in the world could betray you so publicly?
Knowing that you were not allowed to make mistakes and still keep your dignity?


Am I not a human being just like you?
Prone to unconscious mistakes, bad choices and judgments just as you are?
Then why, why, are children not treated as human, like adults are?
Why are we treated as chattel, property, puppets and minions?

I am here to say I AM A HUMAN and I know I deserve dignity
I came to you so you could honor my soul, nurture my worth and preserve my spirit
Yet it is you who annhilates my very essence
In the name of parenting, in the name of love, in the name of teaching

I am a child and I am here to end the shaming of all of us
It is time for you, mom and dad, to now look in the mirror
To wake up, to grow up, and become the person you were meant to be
The parent
The guardian
The usherer
Of my Soul

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Children Of Infidelity—How They Hurt, And How They Heal Thu, 11 Jun 2015 02:35:00 +0000 The following is a chapter excerpt from the new book, After His Affair: Women Rising From The Ashes Of Infidelity, by Meryn Callander.  This is her follow up book to Why Dads Leave: Insights and Resources for When Partners Become Parents.  As a co-founder of the venerable Alliance for Transforming the Lives of Children and […]

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The following is a chapter excerpt from the new book, After His Affair: Women Rising From The Ashes Of Infidelity, by Meryn Callander.  This is her follow up book to Why Dads Leave: Insights and Resources for When Partners Become Parents.  As a co-founder of the venerable Alliance for Transforming the Lives of Children and an attachment parenting advocate, Callander addresses the very real and frequent issues of infidelity and divorce and their impact on children in her books.  You can join Callander to explore this realm of marriage and parenting in her upcoming Parenting As A Hero’s Journey Virtual Retreat.  The dark side of family life may be real, but, as Callander teaches, so are the many paths to healing.

Dandelion Seeds Sharp

The Legacy of Infidelity and Divorce

Infidelity—and the divorce that often follows—is a legacy passed from one generation to the next. As adults, these children of infidelity are more likely to be unfaithful to their own partner, and children of divorced parents have a higher than average divorce rate as adults.

After His Affair

Jennifer Harley Chalmers, Ph.D., Surviving an Affair, believes one of the important lessons children learn when a parent is unfaithful is thoughtlessness: “doing what you please, regardless of how it affects other people.”

Research by Judith Wallerstein, co-author of The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, shows that experiencing parental divorce during childhood has a sleeper effect. The worst symptoms often appear when children of divorce leave home and try to form intimate relationships and families of their own, but do so with much less ability to trust and little idea of what a lasting marriage looks like. Ana Nogales’s study, reported in Parents Who Cheat: How Children and Adults Are Affected When Their Parents Are Unfaithful, indicates that this sleeper effect applies similarly to children of infidelity.

In 2012, one quarter of adults under forty-five in the U.S. were children of divorce. This means that today, in the U.S. alone, many millions of people are struggling with the residue of divorce in their personal lives. Wallerstein questions what it may mean that a million new children a year are added to our “march of marital failure.” Now if we add the children of parents who separate, and children of infidelity, to those numbers…

Seeing more and more relationships fail or fall to infidelity reinforces the belief that failure is inevitable. Yes, adults have greater freedom and more opportunity than perhaps ever before, but there are hidden costs—and the costs are escalating. It is for each parent to determine the legacy they will leave for their children.

Marriage: To Be or Not To Be?

In a culture inundated with disposable items and the relentless production lines of new and improved models, when something doesn’t work, or doesn’t bring the satisfaction it initially did, people are ever ready to dispose of it. Relationships—like many things—are more easily disposed of than worked on. If a person’s car breaks down, what do they do? Do they take it to the junkyard or to the mechanic? What does it say of a person—of a culture—when their relationship is more disposable than their car?

Why Dads Leave Facebook AdThese dilemmas are exacerbated by the increased pressure we put on marriage. The expectations of marriage have grown as other social networks—with friends, extended families, neighborhood groups and so on—have broken down. In marrying, the expectation is that the couple will form a lifelong bond that is safe, nurturing, loving, financially stable, and exciting.

Andrew Cherlin, author of The Marriage-Go-Round, believes we have a “schizophrenic culture about marriage.” He explores the American habit of marriage “churning”—people divorcing and remarrying quickly. “We value marriage, but we also value thinking about ourselves—what makes us happy, what makes us most fulfilled. We think if we are not happy we have the right to end our relationships.”

On average, marriages end after eleven years. This raises the question: Have the past decades created such levels of narcissism that we will not tolerate a relationship that doesn’t give us unabating bliss? Psychotherapist Rachel Morris believes that our modern culture is counter-intuitive to sticking with marriage through the long haul; that to do so is totally at odds with modern messages of choice and freedom and ambition.

Despite the seeming incompatibility between marriage and modern messages of choice and freedom, growing numbers of young adults are saying they want a monogamous marriage, and growing numbers of Americans are disapproving of infidelity. Yet we are more likely to accept infidelity in our own relationships, rather than see it as the automatic deal-breaker we saw it as in the past—and more likely to confront it directly with the help of therapists and counselors.

It’s important to help people understand what it means to work on a relationship and to withstand periods of adversity, and to deeply reflect on what they—as individuals, as a couple and a family—lose when they leave.

While not all marriages can—or should—be saved, no therapist can save a marriage if either partner is not committed to working on the issues brought to the fore through the infidelity. Sometimes too much damage has been done, or reconciliation remains elusive, or the unfaithful partner is unwilling to leave the affair in order to work on the relationship. Couples who have a strong commitment to rebuilding their relationship and have the strength and determination to do so, have a high probability of staying together and renewing a relationship that grows in depth, honesty, and intimacy.

Many parents end their marriage prematurely, believing that the children will “get over it.” As reported in The Unanticipated Legacy of Divorce, by Judith Wallerstein, et al., the whole trajectory of an individual’s life can be profoundly altered by parental divorce. From the viewpoint of the children, divorce is a cumulative experience.

When the time comes to choose a life mate and build a family, the effects of divorce are exacerbated. Parental divorce affects the children’s personality, ability to trust, expectations about relationships, and ability to cope with change. Ana Nogales, Ph.D., Parents Who Cheat: How Children and Adults Are Affected When Their Parents Are Unfaithful, reveals a parallel pattern in children of parents who betrayed. While martyrdom is not a healthy option for children to carry into future relationships, ending a marriage because the grass looks greener elsewhere—or because they are running from conflict, or it just looks easier—says little of a person’s character. Ultimately children benefit from parents who show them how a conscious and loving couple can grow together, through good times and bad.


Children Of Infidelity—How They Hurt, And How They Heal

MARILYN: If two people are in a committed relationship, they owe it to one another to be honest. If they cannot stay committed, they need to extricate themselves from the relationship before pursuing other relations. The consequences of acting otherwise are tremendous—especially when children are involved. When a man is unfaithful to his wife, he is being unfaithful to his children as well. How will the children ever trust again? What kinds of relationships will they have? Will they bring unfaithfulness into their own relationships because that’s their experience in their own family and that’s what they expect?

Ana Nogales, Ph.D., author of Parents Who Cheat: How Children and Adults Are Affected When Their Parents Are Unfaithful, coined the term “children of infidelity” to identify children of any age whose parent or parents engage in one or more acts of infidelity. As permissive as society has become, most children are badly hurt by a parent’s infidelity because, like the betrayed parent, they feel betrayed.

More than 800 grown children whose parents were unfaithful responded to Nogales’s online Parents Who Cheat survey.

  • 88.4% felt angry toward the cheating parent.
  • 62.5% felt ashamed or embarrassed.
  • 80.2% felt that it influenced their attitudes toward love and relationships.
  • 70.5% said their ability to trust others had been affected.
  • 83% stated that they feel people regularly lie.
  • 86% reported they still believe in monogamy.

By and large, adult children of infidelity know, from experience, the extent to which a family suffers with a parent’s betrayal, and so do not want to follow in their unfaithful parent’s steps. A 2007 survey found 93% respondents rated faithfulness as the single most important component of a successful marriage.

Nogales’s survey confirms that children feel betrayed when a parent betrays a spouse. While the betrayed parent may not expect anything from the cheating spouse, their child is left with hopeful expectations as well as a host of fears. Children often find themselves in a nightmare that offers few viable options. One option is to accept the unacceptable: that they have been betrayed by their parent, and hope that by doing this they will ensure their parent’s love and attention. Another option is to express their outrage, and in doing so risk being abandoned by a person whose love they so desperately want and need. Whether six, sixteen, or twenty-six years of age at the time of a parent’s infidelity, these children are left with psychological issues that—unresolved—can plague them throughout their life.

Responses to Parental Infidelity


Regardless of their age, children whose parents have been unfaithful often react with intense feelings of anger, anxiety, guilt, shame, sadness, and confusion. They may act out, regress, or withdraw. They may feel pressured to win back the love of the unfaithful parent or to become the caretaker of the betrayed parent. The bottom line is that when parents are role models of infidelity, their children can’t help but react—and they may have a particularly hard time finding their way through the challenging time of dating and marriage.

While every family is different, and each child is unique, Nogales identifies the following core responses experienced by children of all ages—from young children to adults—when they find that one or both of their parents has been unfaithful.

  • Loss of trust. When a child learns of a parent’s infidelity, they usually find it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to trust that someone they love will not lie to them, reject, or abandon them. They very often learn not to put their faith in love, and may also develop the belief that they are not worthy of receiving monogamous love.
  • A child may feel as if the cheating parent’s sexual transgression is a black mark against them and the rest of the immediate family. If the child has been pressured by the cheating parent to keep the secret of infidelity from the betrayed parent, the child is left with the added and unwarranted burden of guilt.
  • A child often draws the conclusion that marriage is a sham and love an illusion. Additionally, when parents stay married even while one or both continue having an affair, children are profoundly confused about the meaning of both love and marriage.
  • Anger and ambivalence toward the cheating parent. When infidelity partially defines a parent’s character, a child often feels torn between feelings of anger and yearning for their love.
  • Resentment toward the betrayed parent. Some children resent the betrayed parent for requiring them to be their emotional caretaker, for under-parenting due to preoccupation with the drama of the infidelity, or for not preventing the infidelity in the first place.
  • Acting out. Rather than confronting sad, angry, or confusing feelings directly, children may exhibit behavioral problems during childhood, sexual acting out during adolescence, and intimacy problems or sexual addiction during adult years. Issues of promiscuity may arise in an attempt to play out what a child perceived from their parents about the casualness of sex and the impermanence of love.

In an attempt to protect children from the realities of infidelity, a parent may fail to offer any explanation, minimize the situation by telling a half-truth, or simply lie—this then becomes a second betrayal. It is best when the parent discusses the infidelity in a way that is both honest and age appropriate.

The younger the children are, the less a parent needs to say about it. If the children have heard or suspect something is wrong, and are asking questions, then it is very important to recognize that a factual—rather than emotional—response is needed. It is worse for children to feel there are secrets being withheld from them, especially when these secrets are affecting them. When they have no idea about what has happened, it may not be necessary to tell them—even if they are adolescents. The caution here is that parents usually greatly underestimate what the child suspects or knows. It is best when parents who are separating agree what they will tell the children and then do this together, perhaps with the support of someone known and trusted by the family. It is easier on the children knowing that their intention is to continue to parent them together.

Nogales reports that when one parent betrays the other, a child’s inner world and sense of the world at large are shattered. The personal environment in which a child lives and from which she draws her sense of safety and security—namely her family—is fundamentally changed because the most important people in that environment have become unrecognizable.

When children learn that the most important people in their world are untrustworthy, their ability to trust others can be seriously impaired. They may be overly suspicious, emotionally distant, or refrain from committing to a relationship because they can’t trust the other person will act honorably and be there for them. Wanting to avoid being hurt in the same way they witnessed a parent being hurt, they may do whatever it takes to protect themselves from being emotionally vulnerable.

Learning to Trust Again

Is it possible to relearn how to trust? Nogales believes that trust is a need and a feeling, but also a skill that can be learned. She outlines a process whereby even when a child has been subjected to infidelity, she can learn to trust again:

  • Acknowledge the need to trust. We all need to trust and to feel safe, to develop and express ourselves, and to give and receive love. A young child learns to trust when there is someone she can rely on to provide structure and be there for her unconditionally. Without that sense of security, she is afraid and tentative. An older child and young adult needs to be able to trust in order to develop healthy relationships and the sense of security that allows her to fulfill her goals. Admitting to herself that she needs to trust others in order to be emotionally healthy, paves the way for her being able to do so.
  • Each person goes through the process of developing trust at her own pace. With time, a person can learn to make wise choices about who she trusts, and to what degree. Trustworthiness is not black and white. While it is crucial to have people in our life that we can trust, we hurt ourselves if we allow ourselves to trust everyone unconditionally.

Each of us needs to remember that we always have the option to trust, even when that trust was shattered by a parent. We don’t have to trust everyone, but we don’t have to mistrust everyone either. A person can decide to be trusting of those who deserve her trust. Being aware of how others demonstrated or failed to demonstrate their ability to make her feel respected, listened to, and safe will help her hone her skill at choosing who to trust.

Dealing With a Child’s Anger and Ambivalence

Nogales offers guidelines for parents dealing with a young child’s anger and ambivalence toward an unfaithful parent:

  • Be willing to listen to what your child has to say, even if it’s expressed with anger and hurt. Anger is a normal human reaction and, expressed appropriately, it is healthy.
  • Listen to your child’s angry feelings with respect, even if it means putting aside your own emotional distress.
  • If you are the betrayed parent and your child expresses understanding or longing for the other parent, allow them to do so without interjecting your own bias.
  • Listen to your child’s questions and respond with the truth, even when it may not be pleasant. Lying perpetuates the lies of infidelity. Be up front and direct—usually, details are not necessary.
  • There is no need to insist the child talk about what has happened, but being a good listener lays the foundation for your child’s questions and venting of feelings.

LINDA: What a horror it was for me to feel like I not only had to protect my son from the drama of my husband’s betrayal, but from overwhelming him with my own grief and anger. I remember my anger just grew realizing how my relationship with my son had been broken and contaminated by the whole sordid nightmare. I knew I protected him as a mother from the world, but it was a horrible feeling to realize I had to protect him from my own rage and sorrow. The only good news is that I did heal. 

Helping Adult Children of Infidelity Deal With Their Anger


It is important that adult children of infidelity feel able to share their thoughts and feelings with another person—be it a parent or trusted other—rather than hold onto any anger they feel towards the unfaithful parent. Often, expressing anger or hatred leads to deeper feelings of sadness, hurt, and fear. Working to understand the main issues they are facing and the emotional impact of their parent’s betrayal is an important part of the healing process.

A Native American story tells of a grandmother talking to her granddaughter. The grandmother said, “I feel as if I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is the vengeful, angry, violent one. The other wolf is the loving, compassionate one.” The granddaughter asked her, “Which wolf will win the fight in your heart?” The grandmother answered, “The one I feed.”

Dealing With a Child’s Sympathy For or Resentment Toward the Betrayed Parent

Nogales offers guidance for dealing with a child’s sympathy for, or resentment toward, the betrayed parent. In summary:

  • It is common for the betrayed spouse and children to stick together in the initial phase of the infidelity crisis. Once that time has past, children need also to relate to their own support system—friends, and extended family.
  • Both parent and child can benefit from counseling during the crisis. It is never the child’s responsibility, regardless of age, to take care of their parent emotionally.
  • Children of every age need to maintain a positive connection with both parents.
  • Never encourage your child to “take sides” or feel animosity toward the cheating parent—even though you may feel it yourself.
  • If you need to vent your feelings of anger and hostility toward your unfaithful spouse, do so with a trusted friend or therapist, not in the presence of your children.

REBECCA: I never thought that I would ever hate, or be disgusted by, the father of my children. But this is where I find myself. I am bewildered as to what to do. I can feel this way—my feelings are justified, but I don’t want my children to grow into adulthood and their own relationships with men, hating their father, or knowing I hated him. Or, maybe it’s healthy they do. Maybe it’s healthy that they know men cannot be trusted. I don’t know. I just know how I feel. I hate him.

One side of a woman may say, I hate him. I want to poison the children’s relationship with him, and for them to refuse to have anything to do with him ever again. I’d love to get even. The other side may know that the children need a dad, and that she does not want them to live with this bitterness in their hearts. And so she may worry, Will they be afraid to commit to intimate relationships of their own? Will this turn them against the world? Will they blame themselves for what happened?

In the face of a woman’s hatred for her husband, for her to open her heart and find the courage to make the children’s welfare—which includes supporting them in developing a healthy relationship with their father—the priority over her hurt, outrage, and desire for revenge, is no small thing. Questioning whether it’s healthier her child grow up not trusting men, reflects both a level of self-absorption and also a truth in that it is appropriate her children learn all people cannot be blindly trusted—this, however, does not mean it serves to hate them.

It is important for a child—and woman—to be aware that because she loves someone, does not necessarily mean that person is worthy of her trust. It is neither safe nor wise to immediately give yourself over to what is in the moment seductive, especially when entering a sexual relationship. Trust is cultivated over time, and through self-inquiry. Do I feel respected by this person? Are their words and actions congruent?

Advice for Older Children and Adult Children of Infidelity

Nogales advises older children and adult children of infidelity who are tempted to hold their betrayed parent responsible for the cheating parent’s unfaithfulness, to remember that they don’t know the whole story behind their parents’ marriage and what may have led to the infidelity. It is also important that they be assured it is not their role to offer their parent ongoing emotional support. They may be sympathetic and comforting, but an appropriate emotional boundary should always exist between parent and child, regardless of the child’s age.

Supporting Children in Facing the Impact of the Infidelity

What can parents do to open lines of communication with their children and help them face the painful truth of how a parent’s infidelity is affecting them? Nogales asserts that the unfaithful parent must admit wrongdoing, if only to win back some of the respect from their child. When a parent refuses to offer any genuine apology—for the betrayal, for breaking up the marriage—and to acknowledge his child was profoundly affected by the infidelity, it makes it very difficult for the child to come to any kind of healthy resolution. When wrongdoing is admitted, this may encourage children to open up and talk about their feelings surrounding the infidelity.

“Most parents don’t understand how severely their children are impacted by their infidelity.” —Ana Nogales, Ph.D., Parents Who Cheat: How Children and Adults Are Affected When Their Parents Are Unfaithful

Children need time alone to process what has happened, but also the opportunity to be together with a parent, even if the infidelity isn’t brought up. When children finally do speak out, they need to be free to talk without an adult’s commenting or judging what they say. Assure them that their feelings are valid, and that there is no such thing as a right or wrong feeling, and no shame in having emotions. When children bury their feelings, the rage, sadness, and confusion will spill over into other relationships without their being aware of it.

Jennifer Harley Chalmers, Ph.D., author of Surviving an Affair, likewise believes that when a cheating parent is able to end the affair and explain to their children how wrong they had been, as difficult and humbling as this may be, they are more likely to be able to alleviate to some extent the lessons they had taught their children.

Adult Children of Infidelity Forgiving the Unfaithful Parent

It can be easier for children to think of forgiving the unfaithful parent when they understand that forgiveness does not mean ignoring or condoning what the parent did. It means coming to terms with what happened, and allowing themselves to move through the negative emotions that they find themselves in the grip of.

Forgiving is not condoning. Nor is it an agreement to ignore wrongdoing. Forgiving is about accepting human frailty—even that of a parent whom they looked to as their primary role model. Nogales emphasizes that to come to this place of acceptance as an older child requires going through a process of understanding, expressing, and letting go of their resentments. This includes understanding how they and their family were affected by the infidelity, working through and expressing their feelings about it, and finally relinquishing their anger and resentment.

This requires confronting difficult questions such as: Can I accept that someone I love and trusted has breached my trust? Can I accept my parent failed to live up to his/her professed moral values? Can I accept that one parent deeply hurt the other?

Counsel with a skilled professional or wise and trusted other can be very important, as can journaling, or some form of expressive arts therapy. To the degree a child of infidelity is able to come to a place of understanding and acceptance, they will be free of the weight and the shadow of all those unresolved feelings that otherwise follow them into their own intimate relationships with others.

The Parents Who Cheat Survey

One of the most striking findings in Nogales’s Parents Who Cheat survey of more than 800 grown children whose parents were unfaithful, is that while 87% of respondents said they still believed in monogamy, and 96% said they don’t believe that cheating is okay even if one’s partner doesn’t find out, nearly half—44%—had been unfaithful themselves. Most of those who were unfaithful were so during the first stages of their relationship, after which time they realized that infidelity did not resolve their problems, nor did it fulfill their emotional needs.

Nogales is not alone in believing that the intense insecurity in children and adult children that being exposed to parental infidelity provokes, may create the need to resolve unfinished emotional business by engaging in the same pattern of behavior. Many adult children whose parents had been unfaithful repeated the same behavior as a way to act out, understand, and/or overcome what took place between their parents. So, although these particular statistics tend to indicate a contradiction between respondents’ attitudes and their behavior, it may be that their unfaithfulness was an attempt to work through their feelings concerning their parent’s infidelity.

Janis Abrahms Spring, Ph.D., in After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful, proposes that adult children of infidelity may have an affair to create a safe distance between themselves and their partner, so as to protect themselves from being violated again.

The Unacknowledged Legacy of Divorce—and of Infidelity


The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce by Wallerstein et al. brings to light the largely unrecognized and unspoken reality that when children of divorce become adults, no less eager than their peers who grew up in intact families for love, sexual intimacy, and commitment, they are badly frightened that their relationships will fail—just as their parents’ did. The strongest consequences of marital disruption do not appear until they confront the challenges of early adulthood. Now while Wallerstein is talking here of divorce, Nogales’s study indicates that children of infidelity struggle with psychological problems similar to those of children whose parents have divorced. And of course, many of the parents of these children separate or divorce.

Wallerstein writes that while the myths persist that children are resilient and resourceful, that “most of the kids in their class are from broken homes, they’ll get over it”—the fact is that they perceive the world as a far less reliable and more dangerous place because the closest relationships in their lives can no longer be expected to hold firm. One might think that the grown children of older couples who experience infidelity or divorce would feel sad but not devastated. After all, they’re adults. But grown children, too, are profoundly distressed and suddenly propelled into examining their own relationships and worrying what and whom they can rely on and for how long.

KRISTI: It’s important our children see that while our marriage isn’t perfect, that every relationship goes through its up and down periods, we can communicate and work on it together—even that we can get help when we need it.

Wallerstein found that the contrast between children of divorce and children from even moderately unhappy intact homes as they reached adulthood and went in search of love, sexual intimacy, and commitment was striking. Now while it is true that Wallerstein is talking of children of divorce, not infidelity, the parallels are clear and surely few would argue that the implications similarly hold true for children of infidelity. The children from even moderately unhappy families, as young adults, had an understanding of the demands and sacrifices required in close relationships—and memories of how their parents struggled and overcame differences. Adults from divorced families were at a greater personal disadvantage. Anxiety about relationships was the “bedrock of their personalities and endured even in happy marriages, as they lived in the shadows of their fears of disaster and sudden loss, of abandonment, betrayal, rejection.” Be they children of infidelity or of divorce, seeing the breakdown of one relationship after another intensifies the fear that their relationships will fall to a similar fate.

Denis Ortman, Cheating Parents: Recovering from Parental Infidelity, finds that many have only vague, if any memories, of that time and little insight into the impact on their own marital life. The impact will not be evident until they begin themselves to engage in intimate relationships.

In Chapter 2: The Nature of Infidelity, we saw that young adults still expect fidelity and loyalty between their parents, and that adult children whose parents cheated still want monogamous relationships themselves. In fact, 93% of them believe marital fidelity is the most important element in a successful marriage. Wallerstein reports that despite their first-hand experience of seeing how marriage can fail, adult children of divorce sincerely want lasting, faithful relationships. They believe divorce in a family with children should be the absolute last resort.

KRISTI: The frontal lobe region of the brain is not fully developed until twenty-five years of age, so much of our behavior before this age is driven by impulse. Children and young adults are constantly observing us, and learn so much from what we say and especially from what we do. Being healthy, positive role models is the best way we can support them in making healthy decisions.

Again, this is not to say that anyone should remain in an unhappy, unhealthy relationship. Rather, it highlights the importance of a couple realistically looking at what divorce entails for the family, and the importance of exploring every possible avenue—including counseling—before making the decision to separate. And of course, with respect to infidelity, it highlights the importance of being aware of the repercussions on the family—and doing what’s needed to protect the marriage.

We have seen, in many of the stories in this book, the struggles children of infidelity experience as adults in forming healthy and intimate relationships. The women here have emerged stronger for their struggles—but not without tremendous courage, pain, perseverance, and a willingness to learn from their own failed relationships. Many have gone on to form healthy relationships. Similarly, as reported in Wallerstein, many children of divorce have emerged eager to rewrite history, not repeat it. The women who have shared their stories of infidelity here would hope too, that their children may grow to rewrite, and not repeat, the past. They have chosen to do their very best to serve as healthy role models for their children.

Featured Photo Shutterstock/Patrick Foto

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Becoming Us – Eight Steps To Prepare As A Couple For The Parenthood Adventure Sun, 07 Jun 2015 02:15:31 +0000 JOIN ELLY TAYLOR ON A PARENTING AS A HERO’S JOURNEY VIRTUAL RETREAT!   In the days of the village parenthood was considered a rite of passage. Traditionally, this involves three main phases: saying goodbye to the old way of life, facing the uncertainties of the new and re-emerging into the community with a new sense […]

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In the days of the village parenthood was considered a rite of passage. Traditionally, this involves three main phases: saying goodbye to the old way of life, facing the uncertainties of the new and re-emerging into the community with a new sense of responsibility and social standing. In our modern day world, where parenthood is much more complicated, we give and get little preparation, guidance or support. You’ll likely find plenty of resources and courses for pregnancy and birth and just as many for parenting.

Parenthood is the gap in between.

As a Relationship Counsellor and a new mother at the same time, I found our lack of preparation for parenthood caused stretch marks between my husband and I. So, after over fifteen years of working with couples and researching parenthood (and stumbling through it ourselves), I have discovered eight steps on the parenthood path. I’d like to guide you through them.

Step One: Prepare for your Baby


Your relationship with your baby begins long before they are born. Even before they are dreamed about or conceived, the space for a child is created between a couple. It’s room that’s ripe with hope and possibility.

Pregnancy is known as a time of expecting, a time of waiting. But with changes on the horizon, you’re better served to use this time for exploring and preparing. If you’re using assisted reproduction or waiting to adopt, you have more time for this. The more preparation you do now, the less pressure there will be on you both afterwards.

As bellies ripen and grow, booties are knitted and nursery furniture assembled, you may also experience an evolving sense of self. As you prepare to farewell your life and perhaps your job as you knew them, it opens new space inside you, ready to be filled with new experiences.

You may have to let some things go to make room for the often unexpected gifts of the parenthood adventure: new priorities, clearer values, deepened spirituality, heightened emotional awareness and perhaps even a more well-rounded sense of self. Some find parenthood is the perfect time for women to embrace their inner strength and for men to embrace their inner softness. A new balance can be created both within and in between.

Aspects of pregnancy, birth and parenthood can change second or more time around. Facets that disappeared in the newness of the first time come to the foreground. You may circle back to old issues again, but you’ll have more insight and experience to deal with them and so the back again actually spirals you forward. Changes, especially big ones, can take time to consolidate and new issues emerge as a family grows.

As becoming a family gets closer, most couples are so preoccupied with the practicalities of parenting-to-be and the prospect of birth is so huge, it’s hard to focus on anything else. But as you both anticipate bonding with your new baby, be aware that the bond between you two is equally important–and it supports your baby too.

Your adventure awaits.

Step Two: Build a Nest

shutterstock_77496088Important changes are happening to each of you in your family’s first few months. Your baby is adjusting to life outside the perfect environment they’ve been growing in, getting used to light, sounds and sensations. They’re also getting used to being separate from their life-source. Some call this period ‘the 4th trimester’.

At the same time, you are adjusting to your new roles as a mother or a father, and as partners in parenting. As each of you begins a relationship with your new little person, you are also renegotiating your partnership with each other. There will be fresh aspects of your relationship, new decisions to be made and different points of view to consider. How you manage these between you begins to lay foundations for your new family and establishes the tone of the home, the nest, you will bring your baby up in.

You are becoming the new “us.”

Step Three: Adjust your Expectations

One of the earlier, but less obvious, ways becoming a family transforms you involves the adjustment between your expectations of what you thought life after baby would look like with the reality of it. You may expect certain aspects of the parenthood terrain will be challenging and be prepared for those. But most parents find that becoming a family can be challenging not only in ways you don’t expect, but that you may have never before, as a couple, experienced.

Expectations are powerful. They shape what you think and feel, how you cope and adjust. Realistic expectations are good–if you expect mutual respect, you will give and receive accordingly. But unrealistic expectations can create unnecessary pressure and hardship.

When you go into a situation with high standards or imaginings that are not met, you will naturally be disappointed. The higher and less realistic they are, the more disillusioned you’re likely to be.

Unmet expectations can cause confusion and distress, and for many couples, anger or resentment towards a partner. When expectations aren’t met, people tend to focus on the closest person to blame, rather than examine the expectations themselves. Reconsider them.

Expect to be learners. Expect that it will take time to find your feet and that each stage of your child’s growth will also require some adjusting. Give your partner and yourself time, space and support to grow into your ‘new normal.’

Take the pressure off.

Learning how to negotiate expectations with your partner reduces blame and resentment, brings you closer together and prepares you for the time when both your expectations will be directed towards your children.

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Step Four: Set up Base Camp

As your relationship with your new baby unfolds and as children go through their different stages of growth, you get to know what they need and how to meet these needs. So too, you are being introduced to your own emerging needs as a mother or a father, and the new needs of the relationship between you.

As parents, your needs often take second place to your baby’s. In the early weeks and months of family you are likely to be more dependent on your partner. For the time being, the balance of your normal sense of “us” will shift as your circumstances change.

By becoming aware of your needs, being able to articulate them to your partner and getting them met in a mutually supportive way, you begin to lay the groundwork for your family’s growth and at the same time build a platform for exploring the next stages.

Whenever times get tough, come back to base, rest and recover here.

Step Five: Embrace your Emotions

Here the adventure really begins! One of the things that surprises–or appals–many new (and plenty of not so new!) parents, is the strength of emotion that can wash over you like a tsunami. You may discover yourself capable of elated highs and depressing lows and everything in between. You can feel extremes: love until it hurts, protectiveness so intense you could kill if you had to, and that some days are so incredibly boring you could scream. You may find a level of patience you never knew you had, or joy so acute it feels like flying.

You might also be plagued with new insecurities. The awesome responsibility of caring for an infant can be overwhelming; the unending daily chores can leave you depleted and depressed. Physical exhaustion, sleep deprivation and the steep learning curve involved in every stage of parenting can leave you feeling the rawness of yourself. Perhaps for the first time, you’ll discover the rawness of your partner too.

New parents, mothers especially, but fathers too, are primed to be more sensitive. Your brains are adapting to be responsive to your baby’s emotions and their needs—which means you’ll also be more sensitive to each other. Most of us weren’t taught how to tolerate or manage strong emotions, either in ourselves or others.

With the expanded and deepened feelings that come with your new parenthood world, you also get to learn how to travel through it.

Your emotions are also what bond you to your partner. They bring life, richness and depth to your relationship. As parents, you are presented with countless seeds for expanded and deepened emotional connection. Connection is the life blood of relationships.

This is something your children will learn from you.

Step Six: Welcome Your New Parent Selves


This is where the landscape starts to get really interesting! Most of us expect having a baby will, in some ways, change our life. What most of us don’t expect is that having a baby will also, in some ways, change our selves. Our sense of who we are as a new mother or a new father, our levels of vulnerability and self-esteem, and how we feel about ourselves (or our partner), our parents and friends can shift. Our relationships can change when we do and vice versa.

That’s a lot of change.

As aspects of your life change, you may change aspects of yourself in order to adapt. You may feel expanded in some ways and reduced in others. Both take some adjustment. For some, parenthood can feel like a midlife crisis, a time where you re-evaluate yourself–or discover who you really are for the first time.

Having a baby is an opportunity to look deeper. Parenthood invites you inwards, to look at the innermost core of your being. To ask the questions: What’s important to me? What do I think, feel and want for myself? For my family? And while the asking of these questions may leave you a bit dazed and confused for a while, discovering the answers is empowering.

With a new palette of emotions and shades to your relationships, you may find a new richness in and between you. Being validated by those closest to us is a fundamental relationship need. When your inner self is not recognized, acknowledged and appreciated, it can become a quest. You may try to meet your need for validation in other ways, like buying the right ‘something’ or trying too hard to be good at something else. Your partner may do the same.

But the transformation of identity, probably more than any other, can lead you to being more connected with your partner. Because the closer you get to the core of yourself, and the more comfortable you are there, the more you can let your partner, and others, in.

If you can reveal your inner landscape to your partner, and them to you, it creates a sense of ‘us’, a shared world that in turn supports your individual growth, your partnership, and the emerging sense of ‘us’ for your family as well.

This transformation involves peeling away the layers that can build up over time, back to the essence of who you really are. A mutual sense of curiosity and wonder inspires sharing. Accepting and appreciating your truest self creates a deep sense of personal wellbeing. Accepting and appreciating the new-parent self of your partner creates emotional wellbeing for your family. It’s also good practice for supporting your child’s own sense of their unfolding self.

Becoming a parent is a journey of self-discovery. You’ll want your partner along for the ride.

Step Seven: Grow Together through Differences

This is the mountainous challenge for most parents. We grow up fighting. Tussling over toys as toddlers. Competing with brothers and sisters for attention. Arguing with parents as teenagers to be understood or to be different from them. As young adults we battle to prove ourselves, to separate and move away from our family, in proximity, in beliefs, values or life goals, and towards independence. In families where we aren’t allowed a voice, this battle is waged on the inside.

We go into our adult relationships knowing, in our own ways, how to fight. But a relationship with a partner requires a very different approach. You can’t fight to move away and become completely independent–if you go too far, you risk losing the relationship. But if you don’t fight to retain your unique sense of individuality, you might lose yourself.

When you become parents, exhaustion, broken sleep, a loss of freedom, new responsibilities, stronger emotions and steep learning curves are a recipe for conflict. There are also new differences introduced into your partnership. Conflict is a way of saying, ‘You are different to me and I don’t like it.’

Like most of us, you probably weren’t taught how to work through differences in close relationships so you may to react to them in one of two ways: you fight or you don’t talk about them. Either way, you end up on separate trails.

But here’s the thing: being able to share your ‘negative’ emotions, your whole self, with your partner is what builds trust between you.

Knowing how to deal with conflict brings you closer instead of pushing you apart–and while this can make a dramatic difference to your own partnership, the real winner is your child. Unresolved conflict or competition between you can undermine your ability to work as a parenting team.

Much of what you’re experiencing as parents will be confusing and difficult to put words to, but sharing your thoughts, feelings, preferences and ideas as they unfold reduces the potential for conflict that is increased when things are stored and hidden.

Parenthood is a time of considerable changes inside you and the adjustments you are negotiating inside yourselves also need to be shared with your partner so you can go up the mountain path together. This way you grow “us”. The ability to manage conflict is a real indication of the maturity of a relationship—and real practice for parenthood. Assertiveness and self-control are life skills your children are unlikely to be taught by anyone else.

Step Eight: Connect and Reconnect through Intimacy.

lovers-embrace-II-page2298Over the next few years you will scale many mountains, but if you’ve made it this far together, you’ll soon be at the top and from here you can see there are countless places for you both to plant seeds for your family’s growth.

Intimacy seeds hold a relationship together. Intellectual intimacy is sharing thoughts, ideas, opinions and beliefs; physical intimacy is spending quality time, giving and receiving affection and doing fun things together. Emotional intimacy grows as we share feelings, hopes, dreams and fears. Spiritual intimacy can evolve out of all these things: sharing the wonder of a waterfall, the peace of meditation, the reverence of prayer. Sexual intimacy sets our partnership apart from all other relationships we have.

Intimacy gives us our mutual sense of belonging together. Intimacy is an invitation, a revealing of yourself to another and having this glimpse acknowledged with acceptance and appreciation. Intimacy involves trust and reciprocation. Shutting down or shutting off in any of these aspects will affect the others.

On what levels do you connect? Would you like to connect more? With yourself? Your partner? Where might you, as a couple, grow?

Intimacy is the aspect of your relationship that probably suffers most as you become a family. Especially when one is at work all day and the other is at home with the baby, it’s easy to lead parallel lives and feel disconnected, like you have nothing in common any more–except your children, of course.

At a deeper level, you are both developing new aspects of your parenting selves and you may not know how to share these with your partner. There may be whole chunks of you that are newly unfamiliar to each other. This may leave you feeling anxious, lonely or adrift.

On the other hand, parenthood is a time of new connections. It can be a window into the depths of yourself and your partner and create multiple opportunities to become your new version of ‘us’, to create a relationship that’s stable, safe and secure at its foundation–but has potential for exploration and adventure–so you have done the groundwork for a fulfilling family life.

Babies teach you all you need to know about connection.

The ways you bond with your baby and continue to nurture them– holding them close, paying attention, gazing into their eyes, ‘reading their signals’ and responding sensitively, are the same ways you connect with your partner.

Reach out to each other and return to the same path even when your lives and roles are changing and you may sometimes feel worlds apart. Because here’s the secret: you can do step eight at any time.

Get ready to write, and share with each other, the adventure story of your lives.

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Surrender Is A Dirty Word – Pinky McKay’s TEDx Talk Fri, 05 Jun 2015 19:19:52 +0000 Read Pinky McKay on Kindred. “We push ourselves so hard in our work lives and this flows over into our family’s lives. And in my work with young families, I see the effects of this pressure and noise, and how it is getting louder and stronger. Surrender doesn’t apply to just our relationships to our […]

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Read Pinky McKay on Kindred.

“We push ourselves so hard in our work lives and this flows over into our family’s lives. And in my work with young families, I see the effects of this pressure and noise, and how it is getting louder and stronger. Surrender doesn’t apply to just our relationships to our babies, it applies to all of our relationships.” — Pinky McKay, TEDx Talk

Pinky McKay asks, how could it look for us if we stop seeing Œsurrender as a dirty word, as giving up or giving in?

In her work and personally, lactation consultant and author of ŒParenting by Heart, Pinky knows first-hand how the effects of increasing pressure to be busy and in control affect us all. With gentleness and humour she shows us how to surrender and block out the Œnoise so we can be present and strengthen
all of our relationships.

Pinky McKay specialises in gentle parenting styles that honour mothers’ natural instincts. Her ‘get real’ and no-nonsense approach, combined with humour, wit and wisdom, makes her a regular source for large TV networks and various international publications. She is a lactation consultant (IBCLC) and author of four titles, including Parenting by Heart.

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