The Need for Community and Connection

Hello Friends ~ I just led a parent workshop this morning about “Dealing with Bullying (or how to empower the victim)”. I had put a lot of effort into preparing for it and the fruits of my labors were so satisfying this morning. I find when I am well prepared and then let it go and trust myself, amazing things happen. Maybe it’s like the runner that gets into “the zone” and suddenly effortlessly floats down the path. I often feel that way when I’m leading a parent workshop. Something within me takes over and knows what to say at the right time, and the group and I together create an amazing, fun, interactive, meaningful workshop beyond anything I could have planned. I know there is a spiritual dimension to this that I cannot describe in words and my little mind cannot understand, but I know it’s a big part of what happens in these workshops, these relationships of connection and the building of community around the most difficult and important job we’ll ever do…. parenting another human being.

So we talked about how we all think we’re victims and someone else is the bully. For example, whenever two people are angry at each other, doesn’t each person believe they’re the victim and the other person is the mean, abusive, bully? In fact, counter to what you might think, the most dangerous bullies are angry victims who want revenge.  I stressed the importance that we teach victims how to think and respond differently so no one can bully them for very long. It’s really like in all relationships, if you feed the fire, you get more fire. If you get all defensive and angry when someone says something that offends you, who has the power? The bully. You see, what we don’t realize is that it’s when we believe what they say, that we give our power away to them. Afterall, it is just words. It is we who let others “make” us feel mad. It is my trigger, my anger and in that knowledge I can free myself if I choose a new attitude and begin to practice a new way of being in relationships.  It is possible. I’ve done it. But it takes lots of practice, over and over and over again. It’s not about becoming perfect. It’s about continuing to grow and learn for the rest of your life.

And this is precisely why I love leading parenting workshops. We are all growing and learning together on this journey of parenting.  It’s hard work and it’s worth it. Now that my two kids are pretty well grown (ages 22 and 17), I look back and realize what a huge part of my life (raising children) is over. However, at the same time, I am so grateful for all I have learned with them, especially from the difficult times. It is out of the most painful times, that I am now able to pass on what I learned to other parents and more importantly I am able to empathize with the pain that parents experience with their children and in their marriages as well.

Life can feel like a crucible, especially when you are raising children. I love my kids dearly and I’m glad I am a mother, don’t get me wrong.  My kids have brought me tremendous joy and fulfillment. But no one prepared me for how difficult it can be to keep your center in the midst of constant, on-going demands to give of yourself physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.  You find out when you are a parent how strong you are and how much you need connection and community with other parents in order to raise these kids.

That’s why I say to parents “Don’t do this alone.”  Find at least one parent you know you can trust and call each other when you need support.  It can make your life a lot more sane just knowing you’re not alone and you’re not the only one who struggles with how to raise a healthy child.  These connections are often made in my parent workshops.

I think community and feeling connected with others is one of our deepest human needs. Isolation and loneliness often lead to addictions to numb the pain of our disconnection. And we also need time for solitude, time to be alone with ourselves, to connect with who we are.  Life is such a balancing act and it pushes us to learn balance if we are to be happy.

Caring, Communication, Connection, and a sense of Community, of belonging, ultimately, of being loved, is what we all long for.  And it is through parenting our children, as hard as it can be some days, that we are led (or maybe pushed) to walk the path that leads to knowing our True Self, where love resides…. deep down inside of us.

May you find your path and walk it.

“The journey of parenting is the journey of self-discovery.”

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About Linda Marten, MSW

Linda Marten is a California Credentialed Parent Educator since 1998, a former LAUSD parent educator & teacher advisor for 14 years, and a Member of the California Teachers Association (CTA) . She holds a Masters degree in Social Work from University of Washington and has extensive experience teaching and training parents and teachers. Linda leads interactive, informative workshops for parents, youth, and teachers from diverse socio-economic, racial and cultural backgrounds focusing on numerous issues related to parenting as well as helping youth who want to stop being bullied. Ms. Marten is a "bully expert" and has had great success teaching youth the "Bullies to Buddies" method developed by Izzy Kalman, school psychologist. Linda provides private sessions by appointment. She is also the mother of two children.
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