‘Keep Swimming’ when parenting gets tough

Do you ever find that the challenge of parenting feels like swimming in a sea that’s rough?

I was on a call with some parents in one of the most recent classes I’ve been teaching, and I was talking to them about how what we see on the SURFACE with our child’s BEHAVIOR is not the whole picture.

To build connection and trust and to avoid the cycle of head-to-head battles, we need to get below the surface behavior and understand what the FEELINGS and NEEDS lie beneath the behavior.

This got me thinking, and I realized that a great metaphor for this was that the behavior was the choppy and murky surface of the ocean and if you went beneath that there was the beautiful blue with all the gorgeous underwater life in full technicolor, swimming around. It was like a happy scene from ‘Finding Nemo’.

This got me to thinking about the movie and the key theme of family connection that I noticed when I watched it.

In the plot of the film, Marlin the clownfish is trying to find his son Nemo and Nemo is trying to escape from the dentist’s fish tank to try to get back to his father, Marlin.

Neither knows that the other is searching and hoping to be reunited.

A parallel to this, is when you feel really separated from your child by all the fights, shouting and battles that have been going on in your home. The slammed doors become like walls and there’s no sense that you are searching for each other.

You’re lost at sea.

Is it possible that the truth, the beneath the ocean truth, is that you are both searching desperately for more connection and just don’t know how to make that happen?

Is it possible that your child wants to be deeply connected with you, even though their behaviour makes it seems like anything but this?

Your child needs you and they need you to swim the ocean to find them. (Stay with me on the metaphor here. You don’t actually need to go swimming.)

That’s the work I do, helping parents swim across oceans of disconnection, to be reunited. I’m a bit like Dory in the film, but less forgetful. 🙂

Dory’s refrain throughout the film is to ‘keep swimming’.

So first step, look beneath the murky and choppy ocean surface. Get curious not furious and find out what’s really going on for your child. Find out what their feelings and needs are.

You’ll find the blue waters of greater clarity. You’ll see what’s actually going on for your child and with that clarity can come a more informed and understanding response.

When you can give that kind of response, it has the potential to change everything. It even has the potential to change behaviour patterns that are so ingrained they’re like shipwrecks at the bottom of the ocean, deeply stuck in the sea bed.

Then ‘keep swimming’ and even when the parenting waters get choppy or stormy believe that it’s possible to be reunited.

It’s possible even if you are separated by oceans of different views, unmet expectations, raised voices, threats and slammed doors.

You can have your happy reunion.

Wishing you peaceful parenting,


P.S. Watch out for next week’s email. I’ve got some parenting lessons from the Pixar movie ‘Coco’. Until then ‘keep swimming’ and if you get tired and feel you’re starting to sink, reach out for the help you need.

About the author

Lisa Smith

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