Change Your Movement, Change Your Life! with Eve Kodiak and Linda Ugelow, principal dancer with Libana, comes April 17-19 to Rowe Camp in Western MA for a whole weekend workshop of reflex integration, guided movement to world music, discussion, reflection, walks in the woods and excellent meals.
Children are not separate from their parents. A baby is carried in the womb, then carried in arms, then walked by the hand, and finally carried in energy and thoughts and feelings for ever after. Whether or not the child has literally been born to the mother, that child’s attachment to parents – and to siblings, and grandparents, and to any hands-on caregivers – is constant and real.
Through years of working with children, I have discovered that the determining factor for progress is whether or not the parents keep pace with it. Parents desperately wish for their children to grow and heal and thrive. But unless the parents are willing to grow and heal and thrive with them, it is difficult for the child to progress – or to maintain the level of integration they do achieve.
Children are specimens in the petri dish of family. It is really hard for a child to go through a profound change in my office – and then go back into the waiting room, and meet the exact same energy and expectations for their behavior. They tend to revert, because their identity – and survival strategy - is based on fitting into their niche in the family, no matter how disruptive or difficult that might be.
This same problem exists one concentric ring outward when the child goes to school. Schools and teachers can be slow to notice changes and adjust to support the growth a child is experiencing. They tend to be “conservative,” and stick with the routines and curriculum they’ve already established. They are afraid to give a difficult child the latitude he or she needs to exercise the growth they have experienced.
What happens is that the message the child can receive from the parents, family and school is: “Don’t change. Just make our lives easier.” And this is not a recipe for development. It usually ends up being a recipe for despair.
But it can be hard for the parents, the siblings, the extended family and the school to recognize or support the changes when they do not experience them along with the child. This is why I often ask the mother, or father, or both, to come see me privately for a session. If they can drop the stories they are carrying about their children, the children have the support to drop them, too. When children seem damaged to us in some way, and especially when there are challenging behavior patterns to deal with, dropping the story requires a leap of faith. But there is no place for skepticism when working with children and families. The energy of doubt sends the whole system right back into the complex of behavior and attitude and even illness that brought the family to seek help in the first place.
Not every child makes it into my office, and even fewer parents do. But there are many kinds of opportunities open for parents to grow on their own. To do personal work for themselves. Parents who would do anything for their children often refuse to do the same kinds of things for themselves. It feels selfish to them. Or irrelevant. They don’t see the connection. They think that if the child changes, then they can have the space to change.
But actually, it often works the opposite way. And whoever begins the process of change, both the child and the parents – and sometimes the siblings and grandparents and caregivers and teachers, but especially the parents – need to continue that process together.
One of the reasons I created an adult personal growth workshop called Change Your Movement, Change Your Life! was thatI knew that adults need reflex integration work just as much as children do. Sometimes more, because we are carrying the stress of many more years in our bodies! And when we release the unconscious stress patterns we carry, we create in ourselves exactly what we wish for our children. We can let go of the restrictive stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, and live in the moment. We free up our bodies and our emotions to be present for ourselves.
And when we do that, our children get the gift of us.