My year starts with this Japanese proverb: ‘If you love your children, have them travel,’ 可愛い子には旅をさせよ’
On the 1st of January, my 19 years old son Luca, and his 2 best friends have left for a 5-month journey in Latin America. I was so excited for them and proud as they have budgeted and planned for this trip for over 1 year. Youngsters have lived through tough times during pandemics and I strongly felt they have the right to live and to experience their own lives far from it, and far from parents as well. (We were locked in for over 2 years together … that’s more than enough for anyone’s sanity.)
I wish the boys a wonderful year 2022 full of new experiences, discovery and so grateful they are able to live this amazing travel in these uncertain times. That being said, I had a challenge overcoming parental fears, having faith in my child, and allowing my child to learn responsibility and to feel capable.
I am also thankful to my parents who encouraged me to travel extensively. This was the best education I’ve had in my young years.
It’s been almost 2 months since my son left for South America. After visiting beautiful Columbia, he is now in Peru. Looking at the amazing pictures of his trip in the Amazon, swimming with pink dolphins, eating maggots, and other delicacies of the jungle, and seeing his shining face fulfils me with happiness.
Some parents have asked me if I was not afraid of letting him go away to places that are considered less safe, compared to Switzerland. Sure, I’m a parent and I love my child so I do worry. However, these are my own emotions that do not belong to my son. I also think my fear should not impede his own choices and from living his life. I also believe most people are kind and good. When you travel and meet kind people wherever they are from, it’s wonderful and priceless. Your mind and heart are open to the world. Fear brings trouble when it is not helpful. It does not protect you if the danger is not real. I heard once that only 8% of your fear is based on real and concrete danger … so basically 92% of your fear is just in your head based on a belief … hum.
In Positive Discipline, we have a tool that says, ‘Letting Go‘: ‘Letting go does not mean abandoning your child. It means allowing your child to learn responsibility and to feel capable.’
If letting go and not worrying excessively is hard for you, this can take some time and practice. Take small steps in letting go. Take time in training with the support of your friends or other parents and then step back. For instance, one mother shared her feelings and she let her son go, bit by bit, so she got used to it as she practiced. I had her walk, run, do new things and also getting a life back after years of child-raising only.
Pampering is the Enemy
Parents make a mistake when they pamper or rescue their children in the name of love. Pampering is probably the greatest opponent in a child’s development. Pampering creates weakness because children develop the belief that others should do everything for them. Children feel capable, encouraged, motivated and alive when they learn they can survive the ups and downs of life. And so do we as adults. I remember when I finished my first Olympic Triathlon. I was scared, hardly slept, and drove alone, very early in the morning in the rain to get to the place. Many times did I ask myself if I should not just go back to my warm bed and pretend I overslept? Well, I did it and I was the last finisher, escorted by a friendly policeman with a broomstick on his motorbike, haha. It is still one of my highlights and I never felt so good in my life. I continued with other races but this is the one which I remember most.
It made me think of another quote that I share here with you.
‘The greatest stimulation for a child is to expose him or her to experiences that seem to be out of reach and that are not.’ Rudolf Dreikurs
So what are your fears? Are they real or just a belief? If they are not real, where do you feel them in your body? Changing habits starts from building awareness and working with the body as well as the mind. Brain science says you cannot control the brain with the brain. You can control your brain with your body. So here are some tips which may help.
When you feel frightened or seriously anxious, your mind and body work very quickly. Below are some examples of things that might happen:
- Your heart beats very fast – maybe it feels irregular
- You breathe very fast
- Your stomach churns or your bowels feel loose
- You find it hard to concentrate on anything else
There are some simple breathing techniques which can help as breathing slows down your heart and helps connect to your executive functions in your upper part of the brain where you can use your reason and logic. There is plenty of research done on this fascinating topic. You may find solutions that may help you or have a coaching session.
I’ll continue sharing my reflections whilst following my son’s travel. Let me know your thoughts too!
‘Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it solely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner or the earth all one’s lifetime.’ Mark Twain