I set up Joyful Parents in memory of my stillborn son Ben. He died in 1996 after a very normal full term pregnancy. Because of Ben, I have known the deepest sorrow about being a parent. And because of Ben I have also known the deepest joy. Losing a child, it’s not something any parent wants to imagine. I know I have come a very, very long way in order to be able to confidently say to you that Ben’s death was one of the biggest gifts of my life and that event re-shaped me to become the woman and the parent I am today.
Ben’s gift to me was to make me explore, examine and dive deeply into the meaning of parenthood. A few years after Ben died my husband and I were subsequently blessed with two beautiful children. My deep desire was to raise them with joy. I believe all parents wish this. However, because of having a child die, I was constantly aware of how precious my children were. It was horrible and shocking to me when I felt I failed as mother, when I shouted, got angry or fed up. I would fluctuate into hating them or myself, I would wish I wasn’t a mother at all, and the sense of guilt from all that felt was overwhelming. So I shifted. I had to. I transformed because to remain as a nagging, shouting, stressed out mother was too painful to bear. I had to change how I parented, I could not remain angry, stressed and disconnected from my children. So I got help. I challenged my parenting beliefs. I discovered new ways of relating. Now I love to share with other parents what shifted and transformed in me and what I have learnt about raising children peacefully, consciously and joyfully.
During my art therapy training at University I first saw how actively creative children are. They are avid drawers and painters and creators of many worlds of the imagination. Their painting and imagination is a place where you can see into their world. With my own children I see such an amazing resource to simply pull out the paper and pens and paints over the dining room table and create and work together with my children, it automatically creates connection. In my work in schools with children,even children who have many challenges, I see how they so naturally love to paint and draw. Yet, gradually as we grow older our ability to express creativity in this way can become stifled. I have run art therapy groups for parents and children to help families keep this amazing ability to create alive. It is a powerful and wonderful way to build relationship in a non-verbal way. Art Therapy for parent and child can also be used to address many other issues a family may have.
Before I had children, my first degree was in Radio and Television Arts at Ryerson University in Canada. I have an interest as an ex- media person myself and parent who wants to watch closely the influence of screens of any kind, smartphones, computers, gameboy, TV and what effect is has on children and at the same time remaining open to explore how the media can be beneficial to families.
With a meditation practice that has been the backbone of my spiritual journey for over twenty five years, I also have, since 1999, a training in The Work of Byron Katie which gives such a solid foundation of inquiry, advaita and non-duality. This is what I believe provides the guidance and skill of parenting well; the “I don’t know” position, or “beginner’s mind” as they say in Zen is necessary for a parent. I have discovered that most of the problems parents run into, the difficulties in the parent child relationship arise are because the adult has assumed a position as the one who knows – that classic “Mother Knows Best”. At those times a fixed position can cause pain. To be able to do The Work on my parenting beliefs has left me able to respond freely in the moment to what is good, kind and true. It leaves me to be a naturally functioning parent. The Joyful Parents movment is recognizing that ALL parents have that innate capacity too.
I love yoga, and trained as a Sivananda Yoga Instructor in 2000. I have offered parent and children yoga classes. Parenting your children from your mind, body and spirit, creates joyful parents. This value of keeping parents healthy so they can make healthy choices for their family is fundamental to Joyful Parents. Keeping a connection to oneself on all levels: spiritual, emotional, mental and physical brings delight and happiness into the family. You know yourself that when you are not living in a healthy body with a healthy mind then the stress of that leaks into your family life. Whatever approach you have to stay healthy in mind, body and spirit, I believe that Joyful Parents can support you to stay well and healthy. To make this point, it’s good to remember the very wise words from the airlines “adults travelling with children, please put your own oxygen mask on first before attending to those in your care”. BREATHE – you’re a parent!
For two years I was on the board of our local Waldorf Steiner school. This gave me a window and understanding into not only the Steiner form of education, but children’s education in general. My interest is to discover, read and study what nourishes children not just intellectually but on all levels. When we parents talk about education of our children I believe it’s good to ask ourselves what is it REALLY that we want them to learn? You already know that you need to be responsible and understand your part and role in your children’s education. You are one of your child’s biggest teachers for it is not only school teachers who your children learn from. My training in Simplicity Parenting which gives a context for bringing rhythm and stability and for reducing the “noise” of modern life look at the home environment in a new way as a place of peace and nourishment. The Stanford University’s “Challenge Success” programme also showed me new ways to discover what it really means to “do well” at school.
Neuroscience developments and understanding about the brain and brain development has grown by leaps and bounds and scientists have discovered more about the brain in the last few years than in the last 300. It serves parents to know what the latest research tells you about the parent/child relationship. Through my own research into brain science I have discovered why some common parenting practices need to be challenged when you consider optimal brain development. Neuroscience helps you understand how your child is hardwired to imitate you and your way of being. We have what is called Mirror Neurons. Your child’s brain is set up to mirror what you say, do, think and feel and repeat it. Your child picks up your belief systems and acts from them. They pick up your shadow and bring it to light.
Since I was in my early 20’s I have always had an active meditation practice and since 1994 I have been part of The Findhorn Foundation Community in Scotland. This experience of living and working in a spiritual community and eco-village has received a solid spiritual foundation and training in group living and many life lessons on how to trancend the personal to look at the bigger picture.
I went to an International School when I was 16, I have lived in France, Spain, Canada and had many years in Findhorn which welcomes visitors from all over the world. Nowadays my world travels continue to give me the experience of working with different international groups. As my work takes me to many countries all over the world (Kuwait, Poland, Spain, Ireland, London, Germany, Switzerland to name some of my recent travels) I am in a privileged position of being able to facilitate and witness the transformation of many fellow parents journeying towards the truth regardless of their background or culture all parents speak the language of the heart.
All in all I am like you, a living, breathing human experience of learning, failing, laughing, crying and succeeding, and watching it all happening in love and peace and truth. Thank you for joining me and this passion for wanting to raise your children consciously, in peace and with joy.