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Parenting superpower series – the gift of listening partnerships

Embracing our powerlessness is the most empowering experience we will ever have. 
The gift of sharing

If we can share, support and join each other in our experience of powerlessness, we can heal and find our strength. Parents caring for a child with a medical condition experience powerlessness and loss. Loss that we did not receive the healthy child we hoped for, loss of a normal birth experience and oftentimes many more losses after that. Being able to grieve these losses without judgement in a supportive and understanding environment is a gift. One of the gifts Listening Partnerships for parents can bring. 

The gift of regaining our strength – Parents

Another gift of Listening Partnerships is the ability to find support when we need it most. Just when we are in the hospital with our child again, confronted with another situation we did not expect, confronted with needing to make decisions and needing to advocate for our child. Feeling the burden of these decisions and the responsibility and our helplessness and fear. What if I make a mistake, how could I possibly know what to do? Being able to step away for even just a few minutes and find an understanding, compassionate listener over the phone can become the key to regaining our strength, to processing the overwhelming feelings and to gaining confidence in our own competence as a parent. Nobody knows our child as well as we do – nobody. Nobody understands as well what they need and what is best for them. Regaining a bit of that inner center by allowing ourselves to feel the deep powerlessness and insecurity with an accepting and caring listener who believes in our ability to find our own solution is a wonderful gift. This gift is also helpful to our child and the medical professionals who will interact with a parent who can be a strong partner in the treatment process. Hand in Hand offers a global community of parents who support each other with the power of just listening and trusting that we can find our very own solutions. 

The gift of allowing hard feelings to be present – Medical Professional

​Imagine medical professionals who have a regular Listening Partnership group where they can process the painful feelings they have to suppress in order to get the job done and save little lives and needing to overpower them in the process on a daily basis and seeing them suffer. Nurses and doctors also deserve a safe space to process the hardest parts about treating children to maintain and regain their compassion for the humans they are trying to help.

The gift of processing old hurts – Adults living with a Rare Disease

And finally, when we, the children with medical conditions grow up, we deserve a safe space with other adults to process our childhood and learn to integrate these difficult experiences into ourselves without having to fight the hard parts off and tuck them away, but by embracing the hard times and accepting them for what they are, a part of our colourful life experience.

The gift of a valuable life skill

And lastly, Listening Partnerships develop a skill like training a muscle. We learn to realise when we find ourselves with a person who just needs us to listen without answers and solutions, but just compassion and understanding. This can be a gift we can give in all areas of life.

Listening Partnerships 

Set the stage :

  • Adults exchanging equal time of listening to each other
  • In person, phone, video chat etc.
  • Set a timer for each person
  • End the meeting with something you are looking forward to​
​Person Sharing
  • Start with something going well
  • We can use this time to talk about anything that is hard in our life
  • Look back: what does this situation remind me of from your childhood?
  • Showing emotions by crying or getting upset is very welcome
​Person Listening
  • 100% Confidentiality
  • Don’t ask questions
  • Don’t give advise
  • Give your full attention
  • Listen with respect and warmth
  • Trust that the other person can find her/his own solutions
  • Ask a refresher question at the end: “what ingredients do you like in soup?” or “tell me three round things you can see.” – anything to get the other person out of the emotional space.

If you want to dive deeper into using these tools: I offer parenting classes and individual consultations for parents, caregivers and medical professionals. I present at conferences, write articles, produce video content and am very interested to work with hospitals and patient organisations.

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