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HOW YOU CAN BUILD YOUR COMPASSION “MUSCLE”

old hands of the elderly giving a red heartAlthough February is associated with valentines, chocolates and romantic love, it is also the ideal season for deciding to and actually open our hearts and become more compassionate to others, yes, even those we love but don’t always enjoy.  POParenting can be challenging in ways that we least expect.

The demands placed on those of us “sandwich parenting,” that is caring for children AND aging parents, on those of us working several jobs — some unpaid — on those of us working on shifting our roles and expectations can sometimes leave us feeling at our wits’ end.  Just as when we’re parenting our children, we need to remind ourselves of the bigger picture in POParenting.

How can you build your compassion “muscle?”  How do you not get sidetracked by the various stumbling blocks that may present themselves along your way?

In honor of this very important topic, Jane wishes to share with you a longer than usual piece from her book.  It is an exercise that you can work on to strengthen the qualities of compassion and patience which you will definitely want to have when you’re doing POParenting, no matter which end of the POPcycle you’re at.

POPLAN #13: BECOMING THE PARENT YOU ALWAYS WANTED — TO HAVE AND TO BE!!

What you have here is a healing tool designed to expand your compassion and forgiveness. Give some free reign to your imagination: it will help if you can let go of the logical left-brain and access your more creative right-brain in a relaxed manner. Even if you’ve never been a parent or a stepparent, you can still answer all the questions below. If you’re stumped because of your lack of life experience on some questions, just write down the answer that comes to mind and let it be. If you raised no children or stepchildren but had a kid sister you had to take care of, thinking of her will help you answer these questions. Or maybe you never had siblings, children or nieces, but spent a lot of time taking care of animals. You can even use that to help you formulate your responses to these questions. It may also help to ask yourself how others – your brother or daughter — might answer the same question about you.

Should answering these questions incline you to want to make your parents wrong for their inadequacies or for hurts they may have caused during your childhood, don’t “hang out” there too long. This technique is not about that. It is about moving through old hurts to arrive at a place of serenity and wholeness.

Seat yourself in a quiet and restful environment, detach from your phones, computers and other distractions. Allow yourself time and space to remember, dream and heal. Then ask yourself:

* What would I like to have done better when I was parenting my children or stepchildren? How can I use that information now to “do better” as a POParent to my aging loved ones? What if anything is standing my way?

* Do I have regrets about my relationship with my parents and wish they’d treated me differently? If so, what can I think, do or say that will allow me to release those feelings today or soon? How can I turn those memories and emotions into more positive ones so I can forgive them and embrace my compassionate nature? If I can do that, will doing POP become more manageable for me and will I be more loving? What if anything is standing in my way?

* How can I become the kindest and most compassionate POParent I’m able to be? What if anything can I think, say or do to enable me to show those feelings to my parents now? What if anything is standing in my way?

* When I was a child, what actions, words or feelings did I miss and most want to receive more of from my parents? Is there any way that my parents may also be yearning for those things now? Could I “pay it backwards” – rather than pay it forwards — and give, do or say to my parents the very things I missed the most during my childhood? What if anything is standing in my way?

* When I was a child, what did I get too much of from my parents and what did I want less of from them? Is there any way that my parents may also be overwhelmed with too much of some things I’m doing now? Could I “pay it backwards” – rather than pay it forwards — and avoid doing those things to my parents now? What if anything is standing in my way?

* When I was a child, what activities and joyous times did my parents and I get the most pleasure from doing together? Is there a way to recreate some of those with them now? What if anything is standing in my way?

If you like what you’ve read here and are interested in reading more, buy the book, “Oh My God! We’re Parenting Our Parents: How To Transform This Remarkable Challenge Into A Journey of Love.

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