Dr Shelja Sen lives in Delhi with her husband, Dr Amit Sen (Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist), and two vibrant children, Nishat and Anya. She is a child & adolescent psychologist and family therapist. She loves children and believes that more than professional training, the children – hers as well and those of other parents – she has worked with for over two decades, are the ones who taught her about life.
Shelja has co-founded Children First, an institute for child & adolescent mental health and she also practices there. She holds workshops and writes regular columns on parenting. Her passion pushed her to write this book “All You Need Is Love” in which she shares the five anchors of parenting. Shelja also loves the outdoors and enjoys listening to music, watching movies, baking, dancing, reading books and writing.
Let’s uncover some mindful parenting tips with her and raise a new generation of conscious folks!
Thanks a lot for your time Dr Shelja, we can’t wait to know about your newly published book “All You Need Is Love”, what is it all about?
As parents, we foist our dreams and aspirations on our children, push them to be more than we could ever be. But do we have the courage and honesty to look within ourselves and ask whether our parenting is driven by our own needs or those of our children? Just as importantly, are we able to accept them and respect them for who they are? “It is not about teaching but about learning from our children. This is a book of strategies, tools, reflections and anecdotes for twenty-first century parenting. It will help you connect to the immense wealth of wisdom that is already present in you.
What inspired you to write this book?
My children are my inspiration. As I like to joke, I was most confident as a child psychologist and parenting before I had my own children. My children are my teachers and have taught me so much about acceptance, true meaning of love and living mindfully. I believe that parenting and life is a daily practice. This book has helped me to have deep faith in my own convictions even though they might be different from the dominant discourse in parenting.
Can you shed some light on the format of the book?
In my book I have highlighted the five anchors of parenting as separate chapters. They are all interlinked and flow from one to another. Connect is the foundation- laying down nourishing soil replete with love, worthiness, joy, recognition’s and positive energy. Coaching is about building necessary life skills in children through an understanding of their unique wiring. Care is about nurturing ourselves for a more wholesome life. Community is about building caring ecosystems for children to thrive in. Commit is about sustaining the courage and compassion for our whole-hearted journey.
Can you share your favorite excerpt from the book?
I believe that parenting is not about the techniques but our philosophy of life in general. It’s not about our children but about our growing up and becoming more aware, mindful, sensitive and conscious human beings.
Connect is the essence of any relationship. It is the core, the heart of what makes a relationship work. It is the deep, pulsating, positive energy that flows between people. It is about the bond that we create between our heart and the child’s. It is our ability to connect to the child’s essence at a cellular level. Connect is not about teaching or doing, it is about just being and celebrating the child as she is. It is not about the child you wished you had or the one you hope you can have but the one in front of you. ‘I love you as you are and not as I wish you were!’
I know it is not as easy as it sounds. You do not have a baby and declare, ‘I am going to love you just the way you are’ and pronto, you find your Connect and live happily ever after. I like to believe that Connect is a direction and not a destination. Connect is not a switch you flip on and let the juices of love flow. There are times when it flows, at times it spurts and at times it is just a little trickle that you squeeze out of your weary soul. It requires grit and gumption to hold on to it at every step.
We would love for our readers to know some quick tips on Mindful Parenting?
Parenting is an inside job. For that we have to calm our chattering mind and connect with the deep wisdom within. This can only happen through mindfulness, which is about slowing down our minds and freeing our mental space. It is about being present to ourselves and to our children in the here and now.
When we are less mindful and more mindless, parenting can become a knee-jerk reaction. However, when we are more mindful, we create the inner space to reach out to our own wisdom and respond with clear thinking, understanding and acceptance of ‘what is’. I have observed that my mindlessness hooks my children’s mindlessness. However, if I stay mindful, it immediately has a similar effect on them. Therefore, as I mentioned earlier, keep track of your mindfulness through what I call the ‘parenting mindful meter’. It is mindfulness that helps a parent become aware and navigate through her own inadequacies, non-acceptance, stress, fixed social narratives, negative life experiences and her own hurtful language to build a genuine connect with her child. I do firmly believe that mindfulness is a necessary pre- requisite to meaningful parenting or, in fact, any meaningful relationship.
Just stop here for a moment and reflect on your mindful meter. Where are you right now on a scale of 0 to 10?
If it is a number lower down on the scale you might experience scattered, stressed or antsy feelings. Take a deep breath and become aware of your own feelings. Label these feelings like this:
‘I can see I am feeling really annoyed right now.’
‘Ah, here comes my old friend worry, wonder what it has to say today.’
As you become aware of these feelings, see them slowly fade away. Take a deep breath and focus your mind on something that gives you a feeling of immense pleasure, love and a sense of gratitude. Amp it up till you start feeling it in every cell of your body. It could actually give you a tingling sensation. Enjoy that sensation and then go back and check your mindful meter again. Do not give up if you feel that it has not gone up very high. Mindfulness is also a skill that takes time to develop. Carry that mindful meter with you and you will start noticing the difference. You could use certain cues to help you initially – every time your mobile rings or the number of times you stop at a traffic light. Whenever I am interacting with my children (I do slip ever so often, I must admit) and sense an irritation or annoyance in myself, I try to put a check on my mindful meter. As soon as I label my feeling, I see it slowly dissolve (most of the times) and I am ready to be present to them more mindfully rather than just react mindlessly.
What are the positive core beliefs you think kids should have?
The core beliefs a child should have:
“I am worthy as I am right now”
“I belong and I am welcomed as I am”
“I am unique”
“I can put in effort and grow in any area I want to”
How can readers buy this wonderful work?
All You Need is Love – The Art of Mindful Parenting (Harper Collins), Shelja Sen
Link To Buy – http://www.amazon.in – All You Need Is Love
Loved the interview? Do share your valuable takeaways from this post in the comments below 🙂