In this episode Aleah interviews Nan Coosemans, Teen Whisperer and Family Coach, about the importance of conscious parenting and safe attachment. By understanding what children truly need and giving it to them, we actively help them growing up feeling resilient, worthy, lovable and self-respecting. It’s crucial for them when it comes to finding healthy love later on in life. Nan will also talk about the do’s and dont’s of conscious parenting and what it takes to truly bond with your children. Children have so much to teach us, if we truly listen and self-reflect on how we show up when parenting them, whether that is your own child or not.
Listen to the podcast here:
Conscious Parenting And Safe Attachment With Nan Coosemans
Welcome back to another episode on addicted to love. Today I’m going to have an important and super interesting conversation with an incredible woman. She’s a teen whisperer and family coach called Nan Coosemans. I met her a couple of years ago on my personal growth journey somewhere in Ibiza, where I was already taken by her positive energy and I wanted Nan to come on the show because conscious parenting is so important. If we want our children to become safely attached, conscious parenting actively contributes to them finding healthy love later on in life. Parents do have a tremendous responsibility when it comes to bringing up self-respecting emotionally healthy children. And for this to happen we need to understand what our kids truly need in different stages of their life so they can grow up to be who they truly are, feeling grounded, resilient, self-confident and lovable. So this is a very important discussion to have. Even if you do not have children, by listening to this episode you will help spread this important knowledge wherever you go. This is not just about parents giving that to their children. It is us human beings contributing to making our children feel safe and loved. Whether that is your god child, your niece or your friend’s son or daughter. So let’s welcome Nan. Thank you so much for coming on the show!
Good morning. Thank you so much for inviting me!
You are welcome! Will you take a moment to introduce yourself? What is it that you’re doing and why are you doing it?
Well that’s a long story. You know what I do today is really an experience of my own life. When I had quite a challenging youth. So, with my parents I had to go out of the house when I was 14 and I entered into a life of an adolescent with a lot of fears and a lot of background.
I went to live with two people and they brought me into their house. They always called me the little sad bird. I was really completely closed, and I was totally not myself. They helped me to bring out the light I had inside and they kind of brought life out of me. I remember all the things they did with me and just talking was very easy and very loving. I understood something there, I understood that I was very strong, and I was very conscious, but I was afraid to bring it out. Or not even afraid, but I put my own mask on and I was very strong. Of course, it wasn’t the real me. I stayed with them for a year.
I went to live by myself in a house with eighty-five students. I was sixteen or fifteen or something like that. And I had to take care of myself and of course my parents helped me and everything, but it was not the being of my parents, it was more material stuff. So I worked and went to school. And so I lived in an adult world when I was very young. So when you come into that world there is a lot of fear, as there are a lot of things you don’t understand. It’s the little things you do because your brain is developed in a different way when you are an adolescent.My biggest thing as a mother has always been working on self-reflection Click To Tweet
So, the fears you feel are not really real, it’s pure emotion. You live on emotion. So what happened in those years is that I just lived. I was a good girl, I worked very hard and of course I felt a lot of things like a bit confusing, but with their help and entering in that personal development world I got so much help and so many tools that I said, when I’m older I’m going to create something for adolescents because I think the most important thing is to remain conscious. It’s about consciousness about what you do. Also if you have parties, also if you fall down, also if you make mistakes or whatever.
So this is how my company grew. The thought of it was when I was I think 16 and at the end of 2010 we developed it finally. Then slowly my partner came in and a lot of other people. We developed younite (www.youniteonline.com) where we work with teenagers, especially with teenagers and families. The families came a little bit later because I wanted to keep up the experience for a little while.
So this is how it started, and my biggest mission is to bring consciousness and awareness to the youth, to understand that it’s ok when I fall down, it’s ok when I feel bad. It’s just how I can handle those kinds of situations. So instead of taking drugs, I can do something else or instead of not understanding my thoughts, I can find other ways and it’s completely ok not to feel okay. We teach them to welcome those kinds of thing as out of confusion can arise more answers.
This is what we do since eight years and we mostly work in Holland and in Italy. We do a lot of things with the families together, or only with the parents, or only with the fathers or mothers and so on. It’s a big mix of development, but especially building awareness is key. Then we also opened our school to become a family coach where we train people who are interested in bringing more awareness to adolescents.
And that’s so important. I mean thank you for doing this work because I actually think, adolescence is such an important stage, no? If we leave them run through that challenge on their own, it’s a mess. I mean I remember my own puberty. It was such a a mess really…
It is a mess, especially – well puberty and adolescence are two different kinds of things – because in puberty you have the changes of your body and your hormones. Adolescence, especially the time of ten years until twenty-five, your brain is re-developing and re-modeling, such as the frontal cortex, it’s in the whole very complicated. But people don’t understand it and adults don’t understand it so they get into those dark moments, they get into negative days as those hormones are going wild and they don’t understand what to do with it.
So, adolescence is very important, especially the age of ten eleven twelve because that’s when they’re very pure and the big step that we don’t learn at school is to handle the youth of today. Part of being a child and becoming an adult, that step is enormous, and we work especially on that because I think that it’s the most important age where you can work on those kinds of things. I think it’s a really important mission, for me especially now also because the generations changed. We have a lot of social network. We have another kind of friendship, as the friends are on the smartphone. It’s not real.
Can you talk a little bit about conscious parenting for our listeners? Maybe pointing out the differences. Maybe talk about what is in the way of being conscious when we parent our children?
I think the most important thing that we have to remember is when we are becoming a parent, we are not born to be parents. We become a parent at the moment that you give birth, or even a little bit before of course, when you get pregnant. There’s already a process where we have to be a little bit more conscious about what we do, but also the choice we make becoming a parent. I think that’s a really important choice. Often when I do workshops and I ask parents “why did you become a parent?” Was it for the hot story? Or were you aware that you chose to become a parent because you choose to transform yourself into something else?
Parenting brings the biggest period of growth
Of course, you remain always yourself, but there’s more to it. You get another role in your life and it’s the biggest period of growth for yourself. When I became a parent the first time which was 15 years ago, of course I was very young, I was twenty-three. I was still an adolescent, but I was really focused on what I want. I think my strength has always been working on self-reflection. Really thinking about what’s going on. Why is he triggering me? Why is this so difficult for me?
It’s not like “oh I am becoming a parent, so let’s read a book!”. It’s the most profound process you can do as a human being. And I work a lot on self-reflection, because I think if you’re a mom and you’re a wife and a partner and a business owner, it’s many roles and you have to find the time to come back to yourself, every day for a little while to reflect on what is going on for yourself.
The Importance Of Self-Reflection
There is also a lot of discussions about the fact that women cannot have a job and be a mother which is an old belief system really. You know you cannot separate one from the other, but the most important thing is that you are aware of what you’re doing. Take your time to reflect within yourself and understand where you are at. What’s happening often is that when we are born until the age of six or seven, there are a lot of experiences stored in our brains on an unconscious level.
As an example; I was in a pool in Holland when I was very young, and I had a very negative experience, where I got totally afraid. So, I went back with my children to the pool two years ago and I saw myself how I wanted to say: “watch out!!”, as I was acting from the fear that was instilled in me all those years ago. It’s these kinds of things that we do, if we do not self-reflect. If we talk about conscious parenting, we need to understand, how much fear and how many things we give over to our children on an unconscious level based on our own experiences. And that’s so interesting, to just ask yourself: “why do I act like that?”
Why is my child triggering me? This for me is very important to be conscious about. Then you are a conscious parent because then you don’t react out of your own fear, or out of your own frustration but you can hear the bell ring and chose to act differently. In this way you understand what’s going on and you can give your child the space it needs, to grow by herself.
Do you understand what I mean?
Yes. Absolutely. I have to reflect on what am I doing. Why am I doing it and why does maybe something trigger me in my interaction with kids…
Yes or, another example: When I was growing up there was quite a lot of violence. So what are you going to do now? Are you going to treat your children the same way or are you going to do it completely different? You see that sometimes with dentists, one has black teeth and the other one has perfectly nice teeth.
If you never understand what happened to you, your personal story, why your parents treated you in a certain way, it will be difficult to make conscious choices. Will you give it over to your children or not? So, I think that conscious parenting is really a way to reflect on yourself and understand “ok, how can I treat my child so he can be free to develop his own life and become who he or she wants to be?”
Yes, because it’s also really hard to see my child for who they are, if I’m wearing the glasses of my conditioning. We need to do the appropriate healing work to be able to actually look at it from another perspective.
Yes, alsothe older they become. Also, when they’re young and your child falls down. What happens? Will you think and say: “oh poor child!” or will you first check if he is actually hurt or if he is okay? Is it bad? Should he get up by himself or should I help? Do I react from my own fear or my own emotion or am I able to see that I need to give something different for him or her to be able to grow?
And especially in the time of adolescence as well. I always ask the parents what is your goal with your child? Because he is already 15 and you still fold all his clothes? Do you feel that this helps him to start living a life on his own? Rather than still taking care of him in such a way, maybe you find ways and tools to show him and teach him how to do it and then you leave it alone. So we have to teach them responsibility. If your child doesn’t pass the school year, then what happens to me inside of myself?
What does truly serve your child?
Do I feel like I failed as a mum? These are the things that we can feel as a parent. My parents said that I always had to sit straight and eat my whole plate. Why? Yes, maybe sitting up straight, but why does your child have to eat the whole plate if she’s not hungry? It’s those kinds of things? Sometimes we don’t think about it because we’re aware of where we are coming from.
Right. So what does safe attachment mean to you and how do you personally further that in your child. What are the dos and don’ts?
I think the most important thing is to be in a position of love. I have to love my child unconditionally, and that’s very easy to say. Of course, I love my child but being there present and seeing your child, especially as an individual is harder than we think. Everyone is completely different. It’s important that we’re always connected with our children. They have to understand that whatever happens, they can always come back to their mother. And you’re there, fully there.
Are you running after your child or do you give him/her space to be free?
I see a lot of parents running after their children because they’re afraid that they will do things that they do not approve of, instead of giving them more trust, leaving them a little more freedom. Having clear values is another thing. The child needs to be able to see what values the family has. Otherwise the mother and father have completely different kinds of values which lead to divorces and the child starts feeling pretty unsafe.
I always tell my son that if something happens, you can always come back to me, no matter what. That connection is also important if your child is leaving to another country for example. So, also on the distance level, we have to remind ourselves, even if your child lives his own experiences that you are there with your pure love and your pure connection.When your child comes home, make sure that at least at home, she can be who she really is Click To Tweet
For me the do’s and the don’ts also depend a lot on your own values and on what you want for your own child. It’s very important that my own children become their own men, but they’re all boys. Of course, they are most happy when they can be themselves. And that is really difficult in this society, really difficult.
I can though, at least when they came home, let them be their selves and they don’t have to pretend to be someone else. That’s the most important thing because I saw it in my child when he went to high school. Within three months he was another child. Not so much in our house, but outside of the house he changed his clothes, the hair and his way of talking too. But for me it was important that when he comes home that he feels ok.
Also now with the little baby. I’m not running after him all the time. I feel into my intuition to see: “Ah it’s okay!” or “oh, this is very dangerous, so I better go check on him.” If the situation is okay, I leave him there, because he knows I’m there, I see him walking and when he turns around and he looks at me, he’s like “ok, you’re there, good, I am safe!”
The Importance Of Communication
If we talk about attachment, the thing that’s really important is your way of communicating with your child. In Italy for example, parents so often say: “bravo!” So the children want to show the parents how much they’re “good”. That makes them want to be good for someone else instead of for themselves. It’s the same when a parent says: “I am proud of you” or “you can be proud of yourself!” or when they are older, I say to my son: “I have a lot of respect for you!” Everybody wants to be respected by his parents.
My son answered: “Ah yes? Why is that?” and I responded: “Well because you’re only 15, you are a dancer and it’s challenging, because you’re a boy, there is only limited opportunities and I see you put in all this effort, it’s really wonderful! So really, I have a lot of respect for you!” In this way you get a different kind of conversation with your child. And you see it in the response of your children that it’s a completely different level.
I can imagine. Yes! And also this thing about the reward and punishment. I mean save attachment for me is also really loving them through their mistakes. Instead of withdrawing your love, you help them make it better next time. They also have to feel safe to fail and make mistakes.To instil a deep feeling of trust in our children, we have to love them through their mistakes Click To Tweet
Consequences Vs. Punishment
Yes and especially, often it has more to do with the parent than with the child. If he makes a mistake it’s more our feelings such as “Oh my child made a mistake! What will they say about me?” or “am I not a good enough mom?” or something else that has actually nothing to do with the situation. I don’t like punishment. I like consequences; to teach my children: if they want to do something and they make a mistake it’s fine. Maybe he lied to me, maybe there was a reason why…
Of course, there have to be consequences but not in a form of punishment, because some of it doesn’t even link with each other. Consequences teach them to do it differently next time. Because we are here to teach them! It’s the same with time management. We cannot expect that a child is ready to study five hours a day. That’s also what Dr. Dan Siegel says. It’s impossible that a child can study more than 40 minutes straight. And yet, at school, they are there all the time. The results could be better, only that the school system is not adapting, but that’s a whole different story.Consequences vs. punishment: the old parenting style uses punishment/reward system. Consciously applying consequences are much more efficient Click To Tweet
So what are the biggest challenges our children face, in your opinion, going through different stages in their life and what is it that they need in these stages?
There are a lot of stages of course, and I think, if I can talk especially about adolescence. Most of the adolescents we work with come to me and ask me: “I want to be more secure of myself. I want to be more self-confident. How can I do that?” That’s what they really worry about!
Society’s Unhealthy Strive For Perfection Makes Children Feel Unworthy
We are so used to fit in a package, to be how society tells us to be. We see Barbie as a role model when we all know that if we put Barbie here in real life that she would totally die because it’s not possible to have those kind of measures or measurements or whatever. As a boy we grew up with Superman. Everything seems perfect. So, a child is growing up with this kind of vision. I have to be like that! I have to be in a certain way. Everything is photo-shopped, everything is filtered. In this way, they cannot accept themselves and neither respect their own uniqueness.
We work a lot with kids on that, because they always find something out of their own box and say “he’s better than me and she is more beautiful than me!” Instead of accepting their own being. I think in the today’s society with social networks, with Instagram and co., we often filter ourselves and show ourselves with a mask instead of taking it off and let others see who we really are. I think it’s the biggest challenge in this moment.
We have groups sometimes of 50 kids they say after maybe one day: “Oh funny, I can be myself. It’s so beautiful!” At first it’s difficult for them, but if you just ask the question, when they connect with their selves – and we do that also through meditation – they can feel it very fast. They create a connection, it’s incredible. And what we tried to do as well, is to bring this into schools, to show them it’s ok to be yourself, exactly how you are.A lot of the kids do not talk to their parents because they don’t feel listened to in the first place Click To Tweet
You wrote the book “what our kids don’t tell us” in Italian, so what is it exactly that our kids aren’t telling us?
Well especially, what teensdon’t tell us and what they don’t tell is a lot! Because the biggest problem for them is the communication with the parents. The biggest issue children have with their parents is that they don’t listen. When you read the book there’s a lot of different kinds of stories. So it’s like a teen-diary. A teen for example something about “I love that boy, what should I do with this?” But also about bullying, or sexual abuse, also a lot of things that they never told their parents because they don’t feel listened to.
The advice I can give to parents is, if you’re with your child, actively listen to them. If you think about the research that’s been done on this subject then you know that parents listen to their children like eight minutes a day, the mother maybe eleven. If you think about it there’s not even an hour or an hour and a half in a week dedicated to listening to our children.
The Power Of Active Listening
Really listening is to understand, not to answer within a solution. It’s just being there, and this is really what they miss. In the book you find a lot of stories where they cannot express themselves because they get judged, because there is a parent who said: “oh well, we found a solution for you!” They are not listening what the child truly says, and this is what is the biggest problems with teens and parents. So, they go into conflicts because the parent is just reacting out of his own fear, is reacting from an unresolved experience they had themselves.
That’s again, where self-reflection comes in. That’s what we do in the book. We also explain the more technical part, what is behind the development of the brain and how can they react differently. I think listening, real listening with your pure heart, with your heart open without judgment. When kids are being judged, they will be afraid and not tell you things. We also have to understand that we can cry in front of our children and fight. That’s ok. It’s important to see that you can say “I’m sorry!” and it’s important to talk with your children about it.Active listening is not about immediately providing a solution but truly hearing what the child has to say Click To Tweet
So, if you’re a man, you can totally cry, because you are showing your emotions. What I see with children, especially with boys is this idea “I have to be strong!” If you as a parent can just cry if you’re sad, you are also approving of the sadness within your child. Don’t say_ “Oh it’s nothing!” Otherwise, you’re totally neglecting their feelings. In this way they can say: “okay, I can feel pain and I can show my emotions. I think this is one of the most important things today and when they grow up they do the same thing. Otherwise they will grow up not understanding their emotions. They won’t understand what is going on in their mind and they don’t ask themselves what they feel.
Yes, because when I was growing up, my biggest longing was to have my feelings validated. I just walked around with this ocean of feelings, having nowhere to go with it. It made me feel very unseen and unloved. I also think that inner conflict, that struggle makes children feel really hopeless.We can cry and fight with our children – it’s okay! What’s important is that we can say that we are sorry or whatever it is that needs to be shared vulnerably Click To Tweet
Yes, and that bomb explodes at some point. We explain it to children like that: “if you have like a big balloon and you put air in, and you put more air in, that balloon will explode at some point!” You see so many children who are so creative, but they cannot be creative, when they’re stopped by the outer world. And that’s such a pity because they’re so amazing. If we listened to our children, to what they want for their future, I think we can create amazing things. I think we have a lot of little Einstein’s who don’t have the freedom to express themselves.
And it’s the same with emotions, what we see with especially small children is that they take over so many emotions of the parents. I see it when they tell me: “I have fears!” And then I go back to the parent and they tell me, yes there’s the same fear in the family. Yes, exactly the same thing. The idea is that as a parent, you work on your own issues so your child does not have to take it over.
Oh yes, kids are super sensitive! They pick up every single change in the mother’s voice, the mother’s look, they’re like sponges, absorbing whatever is happening around them. So, the responsibility we carry as parents, doing our own proper healing work is huge. If we don’t want to give it or pass it on to our kids, it’s really really important.
It is. But, I have to say, I have to admit that it’s really difficult. Next to being a mother, you are so many other things. We make mistakes and it’s okay to make mistakes. We do not and cannot be perfect, if we even understand what perfect means. The most important thing is that we have a connection to our child. And that starts already, when you have your child in the womb. It’s indescribable, very delicate and important. I remember when my children were in my belly that I had special retreats with them, or how do you say, these special moments.To bond with your child, consciously connecting and being real with them is one of the biggest gifts you can give to your children Click To Tweet
Being a parent is not an easy thing as you don’t get a manual or something like that. Andalso, before you make that choice of becoming a parent, I think we really have to think well about whether we really want to do that or not.
Yes, so true! My last question to you is about some great tips for parent-child bonding. What can parents do to further the bond, that connection?
I think it’s the quality of your interaction, your presence and that counts. As I said before, show your emotions, be who you are. Show that it’s okay to do wrong or when you’re nervous. Show your realness. I think that’s the biggest example you can give to your own children. There are ups and downs in our lives and it’s not always perfect, it’s not always positive and I think this is the first thing we have teach our children. Have those moments of quality time, also if life is very busy.
Also, if you work a lot. Children really need that. Also, and especially, before they go to bed, because before they go to bed, they go into an emotional state which is very soft and very sweet at whatever age. I think those moments are very important to connect with your child. Ask them how their day has been. What made them happy or what was not so nice. You have to be pure in your questions, not do it because you have to. Do I really want to know this today? No? Ok. Then I don’t ask.The quality and purity of your questions makes the child want to respond Click To Tweet
Just be there. Especially with teens, avoid the solutions. Always ask. “So, what would you like to do with that?” or “How do you feel about that?” When they come home from school, don’t immediately ask them how it was. They just had 5 hours of school, they just want to relax when they come home. I always see my children when they come back on their bike and I see their faces to learn, okay it was not such a good day. So, they come home, they put themselves on the couch for 20 minutes where they do their own thing with their telephone or whatever. And then we get lunch and that’s when I try to talk to them. There are those little moments when the phones are not there, when there’s just us.
Your Presence Is Love
Sometimes we talk a lot and sometimes we don’t say anything. Those moments are really precious and I think it’s not about how much time you’re with them but really, the time that you are there, be totally present.
Wow! I feel really grateful that you have given so much consideration to this field because I can really feel how that has landed in you and how you’re sharing this with the world around you. So, thank you so much for all these nuggets of wisdom and endurance and the energy you put in this was really adding value to our listeners so thank you so much for that. Thank you. You too. And I want to give you the opportunity also to tell our listeners you know how they can find!
Thank you! For parents it is genitoriinazione.it, for teens youniteonline.com and my personal page is nancoosemans.com. This is where you find my book.