Signs of Grandparent Alienation

grandparent alienation

If the parents of adult children don’t have healthy relationships with their kids, it can be hard for those grandparents to have healthy relationships with the grandkids. After all, the grandparents have to go through their kids to have access to the grandkids. This can lead to grandparent alienation.

Grandparent alienation is about power and control. The parents have the control. They use the grandkids as instruments to wield it. This can be a way to “punish” the grandparents or manipulate them to do things the parents’ way. Here are some examples that can suggest that this is happening.

  1. Parent withholds or limits contact with grandchildren via phone, Facetime, or face to face.
  2. Creates strict rules around when, where, and how contact can happen.
  3. Ties contact to the parents’ needs or desires, such as babysitting, the child’s need for transportation, or money to pay for something for the child such as school, sports, or other activities.
  4. Avoids including the grandparents in things like holidays, birthdays, or school functions.
  5. Parents don’t allow the grandchildren to speak lovingly of the grandparent.
  6. Parents subtly teaching the grandchildren to treat the grandparents poorly.
  7. Lack of appreciation or acknowledgement for the grandparents’ positive influence in the grandchildren’s lives.
  8. Criticizing the grandparents in front of the grandkids.
  9. Lying to justify the parents’ behavior.
  10. Blaming.
  11. Telling the grandchildren about adult issues that don’t concern them.
  12. Refusal to have a conversation based on the issues.
  13. Ignoring the grandparents.
  14. Grandparents feel that their child is “brainwashed” by the spouse.

This is unhealthy for all parties. Although the grandparents love their grandchildren, many disengage because they fear that the damage to the grandchild is made worse by their involvement. There is no one size fits all solution to this problem. If this is impacting your family, you may wish to speak to a therapist to find your way through it.

Healthy Boundaries for Grandparents

healthy boundaries for grandparents

It’s holiday time! Lots of stress can happen when expectations are high, time is short, and buttons are pushed. Old family issues can rear their heads making this an unpleasant time for some people. Here are some guidelines for healthy boundaries for grandparents that may help.

The Parents Rules are Your Rules

“The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.” That means that the parents get to decide what are the rules for their children. Consistency matters. It helps to create stability. So, defer to the parents when it comes to bedtime, diet, discipline – everything. This doesn’t mean you have to ask how to do every little thing. Observe how the parents do things and keep the rules the same when the kids are with you. It shows respect and confidence in your kids’ ability to parent. This will go a long way with the parents and the kids.

Don’t Pass the Baby!

Times are different. The previous generation did a lot of things that today’s moms don’t do. One of them is pass the baby. Babies have undeveloped immune systems. Passing the baby to many different people can make the baby vulnerable to infections. Let people admire the baby from afar. If mom wants baby to be held, let her pass the baby to others.

Don’t Ask About (More) Children

Today’s adults are having fewer children or even no children. Trust that if they want kids, they will have them when they are ready. It’s not “wrong” to wait, be childless, or stop at one or two. Infertility is also on the rise. The inability to get pregnant could be a sensitive topic. Avoid talking about it unless the subject is brought to you.

Don’t Let Your Grandkids Run Amok

It can be tempting to be the “good time” grandparent and let your grandkids just run wild. Unfortunately, you don’t have to deal with the temper tantrums later. Kids need discipline. If a child gets away with being sassy, messy, undisciplined, you’re teaching them that’s it’s worthwhile to manipulate and have temper tantrums. It’s much healthier to show them how to make amends, be pro-social, and cope with disappointment.

Don’t Sneak the Kids Treats

Lots of grandparents want to treat their grandkids. Back in the day, that was often done with sweets. Many of today’s parents are more food conscious than in the past. We have a lot more food-like substances and foods with sugar added than in the past. Many people have struggled with emotional eating, too. So parents may not want their kids to associate sugar with rewards. Follow the parent’s guidelines.

Don’t Pump Your Grandkids for Information

Grandparents may be concerned about how things are going. Asking the grandkids for information is not the way to get it. Let your relationship with your children dictate what is shared. Don’t go through the backdoor to get information.

Don’t Use Guilt or Manipulation to Get Your Way

Guilt and manipulation are never the way to improve relationships. They are power plays that create a winner and a loser. If someone loses, the relationship loses. Approach the parents with respect. Allow them their dignity. Respect their power. Parenting is a huge responsibility. They need support. Give it to them.

Assume the Best

People are different. Generations are different. There are bound to be differences in values when it comes to how your kids are rearing your grandkids. Assume that the parents want the best for their kids and are doing their best. Unless the kids are being abused or neglected, it’s all going to be okay. Even the most well-meaning parents make mistakes. Most of us turn out okay.

Grandparents can assume that being a grandparent gives them certain privileges and rights. When children grow up, they become sovereign beings who guide their own lives. They may decide that their rules for themselves are different than those that they were brought up with. That’s okay. Everyone is healthier and happier when their boundaries are respected.

When Is It Time to Walk Away From Your Relationship

walk away

Relationships are tough! It take a lot of bravery to enter into one and even more to walk away. So how do you know when it’s time to walk away?

Why Relationships Are Hard

Relationships are hard because we tend to be drawn to those who fit our into comfort zone. We like people who inspire us to be our highest and best selves, love us the way we want to be loved, and help to maintain our shadows. This last piece keeps us in our dysfunction unless we grow. And if we do grow, then that person is no longer a match.

For example, if our pattern is to find comfort in taking care of others, we choose partners who need that care. If we feel inferior, we may choose a partner who puts us on a pedestal. If we have a lot of shame or guilt, we may choose someone who either validates that by putting us down or someone who accepts us as we are. Either way, the partnership keeps us in our shadow.

When we begin to grow, if our partner isn’t growing with us or in the same direction, we grow right out of the dynamic that brought us together. So, it can often feel like we have to choose between what’s in our best interest vs. what’s in the interest of the relationship. If we choose the relationship and stay the same, a part of us dies.

When To Walk Away

So, when is it time to walk away? Well, there is no right or wrong answer. What is “right” for one person won’t be right for another. It’s not black and white. So, the guideline is to know yourself. Know what your deal breakers are. They are times when the cost outweighs the gains. Here are some possible deal breakers.

Safety Issues

I put this one first because I hope that we all agree that where there is no safety, there is no relationship. I refer to physical, emotional, and spiritual safety. We all have a right to sovereignty. Our bodies are a sanctuary. Our thoughts and feelings are also precious. They are ours. We have a right to them. If they are invalidated or violated, we cannot thrive. We all owe it to ourselves to choose situations that allow us to be our highest and best selves.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that our partner agrees with us or caters to us. It does mean that we are free from harm, coercion, and judgment.

Children Issues

Children are forever relationships. They are non-negotiable. If one of you wants children and the other doesn’t, it’s a deal breaker. Forcing someone to parent who doesn’t want to parent is a recipe for disaster.

If you already have children and the children don’t accept the new partner, the relationship will endure unbearable stress. You may be able to help the kids feel more secure in time. So, this could be more of a “let’s slow down” thing than a “we need to break up” thing. If the children perceive it’s a choice between them and your partner, someone is going to lose. It’s best for all if things move at a pace where everyone can feel loved and like they have a choice.

If your partner’s ex makes co-parenting with you impossible, that could also be a long term hassle that is just not worth the cost.

The other common issue with children is when partners have a radically different parenting style. Believe it or not, money and children are the top two reasons that couples argue. When one is too lax and the other is too strict, this can be a deal breaker. Parents care about their kids. They want them to be healthy and happy. When parents have different ways of achieving that, it can feel invalidating.

In-law Issues

Compatibility is a balance between sameness and differences. The things that are the same provide us with a foundation for commonality. Our differences keep things exciting so that we grow. Compatibility looks at things like socio-economic status, age, religion or spirituality, education, intelligence, recreational preferences, political ideology, sexual likes and libido, etc.

Unfortunately, one of the things we often overlook is our families. We say, “I’m marrying you, not your family” when in actuality, it’s a package deal. We might get away with not seeing the in-laws often, but if there are kids, the in-laws become aunts, uncles, and grandparents who are now a part of their lives and your family. If they are inappropriate, violent, aggressive, disrespectful, or have radically different ideas than you, you can only go so far away. Separating your partner from her family isn’t a reasonable request. Separating yourself from your partner’s family isn’t very unifying either.

Addiction Issues

If we’re creating a trend, it’s “deal breakers are anything that make you choose between yourself and something or someone else.” In this case, it’s addition. Lots of people in a relationship where their partner has addiction issues say that it’s like having another person in the relationship. The person with the addiction seems powerless over it. So you never know when the next shoe is going to drop. Maybe the next surprise is a financial hit, an affair, a medical issue, or a legal one. It often feels like a betrayal. You know it’s coming, but you don’t know when, what, or how. So, it’s like waiting to exhale.

Dishonesty

There are all kinds of ways to be dishonest. They range from telling withholding the truth, telling “white lies”, half-truths, bold face lies, and gaslighting. (Gaslighting is deliberately manipulating to make the other person question their sanity). Relationships are based on trust. Anything short of honesty undermines trust.

It takes two to tell the truth. One to speak it and the other to hear it. If the fall out for telling the truth is not worth it, then perhaps the relationship is not healthy enough to sustain itself. It’s like a choice between “Am I going to maintain my integrity for me, or am I going to sacrifice it to stay in this relationship?” And if you choose the latter, is it a relationship that you want to be in?

Works in Progress

We’re all works in progress. We make mistakes. All relationships go through growing pains and challenges. Sometimes we go through period of the problems above and we can work it out. Sometimes we compromise our integrity or comfort for a while out of love for our partner. That’s not a bad thing. Commitment is often lacking in our modern world, so it’s commendable. Only you can choose when enough is enough.

If you’re going through this process, I suggest you ask, “What is staying costing me? Is this a price I am willing to pay?” Then proceed mindfully. Accept the consequences and cost. Look at the growth opportunities for you and allow the situation to take you out of your comfort zone and into a healthier place. Whether you stay or go, you will come out healthier, so it’s a win/win.

 

Two People Can’t Be in a Crisis At the Same Time

When parents lose a child, it often ends in divorce because two people can’t be in crisis at the same time. Each is in a place of need and the other isn’t available to give because they are also in need. This leaves both feeling alone and unsupported. 

Losing a child is a pretty extreme example. Here are some others that show how this can happen in less extreme ways:

  • When someone has an affair, the Betrayer is dealing with the events that led to the affair, the fallout, and potentially the loss of the new lover. The Betrayed is dealing with the betrayal. They are not in an ideal place to help each other because they are the source of a lot of pain. They are also in a space of overwhelm. We can’t help from that place.
  • When each partner in a relationship has a mental health issue, each can escalate and get lost in their own needs. They then become unavailable to help the other because they are overwhelmed. For example, if A needs to feel connected and B needs to get away to feel safe, A can chase. This is the exact opposite of what B needs. B can then blow up to push A away. This often makes things worse as well.
  • If a couple uses the Hero-Victim-Oppressor triangle (codependency), and one of them steps out of their role, it can feel so alien and scary that the other behaves in such a way to make them go back to the dysfunction. This sustains the status quo and prevents them from moving to a more healthy way of being.
  • When there is a new baby, mom can be tired because of the time and attention that the baby demands. Dad’s not sleeping so he’s tired. He’s also frustrated by losing mom’s affection. Neither has anything to give the other so both can feel neglected.
  • Or more simply put, two overwhelmed people can’t help each other. They don’t have any juice to give to the other.

The Giver & Taker

We all have a giving side. Some of us live there. We all also need to receive. Some of us are great at receiving and being taken care of. Others not so much. Often Giver and Taker find each other because this feels like a comfortable fit.

The healthiest way to function is to have healthy Giver and Taker energy within us. We can give and receive from others, but we primarily do this for ourselves. That is what makes us sovereign people. We rely on ourselves for what we need but lean on others for connection and meaning.

What to Do When Crisis Hits

When we’re in crisis, the first priority is getting out of the crisis. You can’t take care of others. You’re in fight or flight. That’s what crisis is. It’s hard to think when we’re overwhelmed. It helps to have a plan beforehand. Here are some ideas:

  • Have a list go to people you can call to talk to. Include hotlines if you don’t have people you can trust.
  • Create a comfort box that contains things that help you be grounded. Some suggestions are tactile squeeze toys, photographs of happy times, coloring books and crayons, music, and hard candy to suck on. It can hold anything that distracts you in a happy, calm way.
  • Create a safe place and go there. This can be a corner of a room, a tree in the park, or your car. Sit there, away from the stimulating thing, until you feel calm again. Breathing helps.
  • Have a mantra or practice that helps you to stay grounded in your body. For example, you can say, “I am safe now” or practice tightening and releasing different parts of your body. So you can squeeze your eyes shut as you inhale, then exhale as you relax the muscles. Do this all over your body.

We want our closest partners to be there for us when the chips are down. Sometimes they can’t. When you’re both in overwhelm, it’s just not a realistic desire. Remember “Two people can’t be in crisis at the same time.” When this time hits, take care of yourself first. Insist on it.

Don’t expect your partner to hear you or even recognize that you have a need when they are overwhelmed too. Maybe he or she can, but it could be at the expense of his or her own health. It’s a lot to ask.

It’s okay to lean on family members or friends who aren’t in crisis. However, if the source of your crisis is your partner, don’t share that part with others. They may take sides and this can make the relationship worse. You don’t need others to agree that your situation is hopeless. You need people who will help you get back on your feet.

Recap

When you and your partner are in crisis:

  • Focus on getting out of the crisis first.
  • Prioritize yourself and meeting your own needs.
  • Take care of yourself.
  • Ask for what you want.
  • Lean on family, friends, a hotline, a therapist, but not someone else who is in crisis. Don’t add to their overwhelm.
  • Stay close and connected to your partner. Witness their struggle, but don’t attempt to help if you don’t have it to give.

This probably doesn’t feel very satisfying. We all want a lot from our partners. It’s really risky rescuing a drowning person because they often take you down with them. It’s the same as getting involved in someone else’s crisis. We can’t help if we’re depleted. Accepting it for what it is helps it to sting less.

Why Defensiveness is a Relationship Destroyer

defensiveness

If someone says something that we perceive as “You’re bad,” we generally respond in one of two ways:

  1. You’re even worse (attack).
  2. No, I’m not! (defense)

Both of these are relationship destroyers. Most of us know that attacking leads to fighting and away from connection. In this article, I will discuss why defensiveness is a relationship destroyer. I will also let you know what to do instead.

When two people are connected, they play off each other. If you zig, I zag. So, when someone gets defensive, it puts the other person in the position of being the attacker – whether they actually were or not. Both attacking and defending sends the message, “You’re the bad guy!” This sets up the hero, victim, oppressor triangle. There are no winners here. This pattern can last forever with no forward movement, only hurt for all players.

So what do you do instead? Here are some skills to help.

Observe

The first thing that has to happen is that you notice that your buttons have been pushed. When our buttons are pushed, that alerts us that we have buttons. Buttons are growth opportunities. It’s not about what the other person did or said- even if it truly was hurtful. It’s about how we responded to what they did or said that made us vulnerable. So this step is about noticing that we were tweaked and now we’re in a vulnerable position.

Take a Moment to Pause

Slowing down gives us a chance to respond with thoughtfulness. Our impulses may get us in trouble. Take your time. Step back and breathe.

Achieve Clarity

Think about what really happened. What observable data do you have? Are you jumping to conclusions? What does this situation look like if you remove all the judgment? If you are unsure of what you heard, saw, or interpreted, ask for clarification.

Be Effective

When choosing your next move, be effective. What is your big-picture goal? For many of us, our immediate goal is to feel safe again. This is why we attack or defend. Resist that impulse and lean into the problem. If your big-picture goal is to retain connection with this person, think about what will get you there. Think about the data you just got from getting clear.

Did this person really communicate that you’re a bad person or was that your past training creeping in? If this person really did attack you, was he playing out some past issue? Can you bring it back to the real issue? If you feel safe enough to do this, go vulnerable. It’s a really easy way to neutralize conflict when you’re dealing with someone who cares about you.

Let’s look at an example to make this more clear.

Guy: Are you wearing that?

Sheila:

  1. Look at what you’re wearing! You’ve got some nerve asking me about my wardrobe. You’re not exactly fashionable yourself. (attack)
  2. What’s wrong with what I have on? Are you calling me fat? (defensive)
  3. Yes, I love this outfit!
  4. Oh! Do you think it’s not a great choice? I really care about your opinion. What prompted your question? I feel pretty when I wear this. It’s one of my favorite outfits.

Do you see the difference? The first two are probably going to lead to hurt feelings. The third doesn’t show any signs of buttons being pushed. It’s assertive and creates no conflict. In the fourth, a button was probably pushed. It acknowledges the hurt feelings, asks for clarification, and shares the speaker’s perspective. It’s much more connecting and honest than the attack or defensive answer.

Defensiveness is one of the Gottman’s Four Horsemen that predict relationship failure. Chances are, if you have one, you have more than one. If you want healthy relationships, you have to know what kills them and what nurtures them. Removing defensiveness as a coping strategy will help you grow with people instead of away from them.

Argue For Your Limitations and They Are Yours

mindset
Have you ever said, “I can’t because…”
  • the economy is bad
  • my boss doesn’t like me
  • my parents were mentally ill
  • I’m too (insert adjective such as short, tall, young, old, etc).
  • my mom didn’t love me
  • my dad was an alcoholic
  • I’m not (insert adjective like good, smart, worthy, or clever) enough
“Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they’re yours.” ~Richard Bach
Your mindset is powerful! If your self talk is repeatedly reinforcing your limitations, you will continue to be limited. You are the most powerful part of any change work, so if you aren’t open to a new possibility, it can’t happen. Belief and expectation are powerful. When we believe and expect that nothing will change, nothing changes. If we are open to the idea of change, the door opens. Let’s look at what I mean.
“Sheila” wants to be able to drive over bridges without fear. Her fear started seven years ago when she was in a boat that nearly capsized. Anything that could result in her being in water has her terrorized. She has tried a few things to get over it, but it didn’t help. She now believes that it never will.

Sheila’s fear started in an instant, didn’t it? It wasn’t something that developed slowly or painfully. The brain is really clever like that. It can do things instantaneously to change your reality. For Sheila, this meant that she instantaneously developed a fear of going over bridges to keep her safe from drowning. If Sheila’s brain can work that fast to program her to fear bridges, it can work that quickly to undue the fear, right?

If you look around, you will see people who have the same story as you who don’t have the same limiting beliefs. How many people find financial success in a crippling economy? How many people prevail despite a boss who doesn’t like them? Don’t we all know someone with parents who weren’t the greatest that used that childhood as fuel to do better? What we are and what we do is never about outside influences. It’s always about what’s inside – your mindset.
The fabulous thing is, you get to choose your mindset. So pick ideas that are affirming, encouraging, growth oriented, and open. Let new ideas in. Be curious. Wonder, “What would happen if this were true?” When we entertain ideas like a child, we can have the miraculous growth of a child. We can achieve success. Maybe instantaneously, maybe in small steps, but change not only becomes possible, but probable.

Boiling Mad? Schedule an Anger Date

anger date

When it comes to anger, there seems to be two types of people who get all the attention- those who have no problems spewing anger everywhere and those who feel it’s best to never display anger. I have a suggestion for the second group – schedule an anger date. 

What’s an Anger Date?

An anger date is a scheduled period of time where you talk about in all the things that make you angry. You could do this alone, with another person, or with a crowd of people. However many are participating, you just let it rip. Yell, scream, cry, be demonstrative. The only restrictions are that you can’t hurt yourself or anyone else, you can’t take your anger out on anyone else, and you must stop when the time is up. 

Let’s take a look at what this might look like. Say you’re going to do a solo anger date this evening at 6:00 p.m. Maybe you prepare by writing some quick blurbs down so you don’t forget certain things. As the day goes on, your list gets longer. You start to even feel a little excited about it.

At the appointed time, you set an alarm for fifteen minutes and let her rip. You speak your anger into the world. You say how hurt you are and how you didn’t like what happened. Maybe you punch a pillow or two. After a while, you look at the clock and notice that only four minutes have passed so you wind up again. You want to be sure to use all your time. So, you go back over the same ground. 

This time maybe it’s even more intense because you had some practice. Or it could be less intense because you let off the first round of steam. However it works is okay. Just keep going until your time is up. If you have to rev the engine to make it go, that’s okay. If you have to fake it  little, that’s okay too. Maybe you reach back into ancient history to get enough fuel to keep it going. That’s perfectly fine. 

You set aside this time for your emotional expression. It’s a gift. Use it. 

If you choose to do it with one other person, the person acts as a witness for you. You act as a witness for him or her. There is no judgment and no feedback – ever. When it’s over, it’s over.  The purpose is to be heard. That’s it. 

If you do it in a group, either the whole group can go at the same time or half can witness for the other half as they express their anger, then the other half expresses while the rest witness.

We need permission to express. Most of us are told as children, “Be quiet. Don’t do that” when we emote. So we learn to keep it in and be quiet. Everything wants freedom to be real and authentic. Your emotions do too.

Now this doesn’t mean that you get to go out and unleash on people. The Anger Date is about primarily getting things out in a controlled way. As you get better at feeling, you wont need to explode or set a date with your emotions. You’ll just feel and express appropriately as feelings arise. If you’re not there yet, you can try this technique and let me know how it works for you.

“You Saw Me!”

you saw me

One day I was in conversation with someone who suddenly burst out crying and said, “You saw me!” In that moment it touched me how infrequently that happens. I was also struck by how important it is to be seen. How often do we give that to others? How often do we allow others to see us so that it can happen for us? Think about how much time we spend putting up a shield that says, “Don’t look at me!”

We hide behind our clothes and hair. We hide behind silence, false bravado, lies, distance, withdrawal, and busyness. Then we wonder why we feel so isolated, lonely, weird, and misunderstood.

People are social creatures. We don’t just need each other for division of labor, resources, companionship, and sex. We need to see ourselves reflected back to us in the eyes of others. If we project a false face, how are we supposed to get a real image back? How are we supposed to get that feeling when we think, “You saw me!”

So how do you get this for yourself? You start by seeing the beauty and love inside other people. We are so conditioned to judge and see problems and differences because we live in such a competitive world. We’re bombarded by advertising that tells us we’re too hairy or too smelly. We’re told that if we don’t have the best grades or wear the right clothes, we aren’t acceptable. And we believe it. So, we start to become self conscious of all our potential short comings and see them in others too.

Ooh, what a miserable way to live! It doesn’t have to be this way. What if we started from a place of gratitude, curiosity, and appreciation instead? What if, instead of defaulting to criticism and defensiveness, we approached people with, “Show me who you are in all your glory” and then opened our eyes to see it. If we did that, would they need to hide their faces? And if they felt safe with you, do you think you’d need to hide yourself?

Intimacy and connection starts with safety. When you give that to others, they are more likely to return it. It’s a win win. You get to be seen. They get to be seen, and everybody is encouraged to be authentic, real, present, and honest. Isn’t this what we are all looking for?

To the Rainbows in a Black and White World

authenticity

Hey, you beautiful, fully sensory creature. I see you. I just wanted you to know that. It can be tough for you to move through the world in a mindful, present, aware state and be surrounded by people who can’t see you, can’t connect, and don’t understand you. You’re not broken. You just speak a different language.

Sometimes there are no words for feelings. Sometimes that feeling is best described by a squeak, squeal, or sigh. So, you express that.

You intuit that words are sometimes too small to capture the intensity of something so you gesture, roll your eyes, and tap your fingers. We’re taught that that’s immature and unprofessional, but you just can’t contain yourself. You must express! “Use your words” just doesn’t cut it.

Somebody invented the musical because I think we all intuitively sense that it’s much more effective for Tony in West Side Story to sing and dance his anticipation than to say, “Something good is about to happen.” Those words just don’t convey the full import of what his body feels. When you have feelings that big, you want to share them in their entirety.

You’re not learning disabled. Your way of being is not a deficit. It’s just unusual. It’s big, tactile, full, and often bold. You’re probably a dancer, artist, healer, or bodyworker. If not professionally than as a hobby or in your heart. You need to experience the world with all your senses. So stand in your authenticity. Do it because it’s honest, it’s you.

Go ahead and laugh out loud, girl. Grunt, click your heels, lean in, making those eyes wide. Do what you do. It may not be well received or understood, but don’t let that be the reason you turn your rainbow existence into black and white. The world needs your color. We all need a bit of boldness to shake us up. You are the Inner Child that many of us have forgotten we have inside. Your fullness can be a beacon to bring others back home. Be the rainbow in a black and white world.

It might sound like I am delivering a “Go, girl” pep talk, but in fact there are cultures who experience the world in fully sensory aliveness all the time. Just look at the cultures that use pictures for writing such as the Chinese, ancient Egyptians, and Native Americans. What we might view as art is actually fully sensory communication that requires the knowledge of the writer, the natural world, and all your senses to deeply interpret. Most of us might see the symbol for “sky” as simply that while the writer could mean “that feeling that you get when it’s been rainy and cloudy for days, then you come outside at night and see a million points of dazzling light on a moonless night.” Does that mean the same thing as “sky.” Hardly!

So, give yourself a break, girl. If you have these moments when you’re feeling inarticulate, can’t convey what you mean, feel inadequate, or are judged by others for this, relax. It’s just your brain trying to reduce something huge into words that haven’t been invented to incapsulate all that you feel. Language grows with society. Be a part of that journey.

Understanding the Kinesthetic Learner

kinesthetic learner

The theme of the month is the challenges of the kinesthetic learner. I want to share because there are a lot of misconceptions about it that can be painful.

What is a Kinesthetic Learner?

There are 4 different styles of learning: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and auditory-digital. Visual learners experiences the world in pictures. They tend to speak in “seeing” words like “I see what you mean” or “Can I show you something?” Auditory learners experience the world in sounds. They can be really chatty, like music in the background, and can forget what they don’t hear. Kinesthetic learners are feeling people. This refers to what can be touched and also felt, like emotions. They are slower to process events and speak in feeling words like “I’m having a hard time grasping that” or “Let me get a feel for what you’re talking about.” The auditory digital learner processes data and turns it into language without really embodying it. They seek to understand and convey that understanding to others. These people appear logical or heady and can prefer to process internally, although they may use others as a sounding board to figure out what they mean or want. Reading and writing makes learning easy for these people.

Am I am Kinesthetic Learner?

Here are some tell tale signs:

  • Kinesthetic learners need to move. They wiggle, tap, swing their legs, bounce, and often just can’t seem to sit still. This can be confused with anxiety or ADD. They learn through their bodies and their sense of touch.
  • They have excellent “physical” memory – they learn quickly and permanently what they DO as they are learning.
  • Kinesthetic learners are often gifted in athletics, dancing, and other physical activities.
  • They are generally very coordinated and have an excellent sense of their body in space and of body timing. They have great hand-eye coordination and quick reactions.
  • They learn through touch. If they can put their hands on something, it clicks easier and faster.
  • Language can sometimes not come easily. Since they are slow to process, new ideas or things that are mainly felt are not easy to express in language that others can comprehend.
  • They can lose interest quickly and may appear ADD or ADHD.
  • Kinesthetic people have this need to touch things. Like everything!

Now let’s look at some of the challenges.

Kinesthetic Learners are NOT Dumb

A lot of kinesthetic learners either feel dumb or are treated as if they are dumb. A lot of kinesthetic learners had teachers who didn’t know how to teach to their learning style. The classical school subjects don’t involve moving or using the hands, like art, dance, theater or recess, so they may not have had a great experience in school. They may under achieve if they don’t realize that it’s not the problem of the learner, but the teacher.

Kinesthetic Learners are Often Misunderstood

It can be hard to put sensory experiences into words. Since kinesthetic learners live through their senses, this can mean that they either don’t speak or speak too much and ramble. This can lead to self consciousness, judgment, embarrassment, and shut down. Others can find kinesthetic learners awkward, stupid, or frustrating. This can make it hard to connect. However, when connection happens, it may feel more intimate than with other types of learners.

Kinesthetic Learners May Be Heady

Some kinesthetic learners feels ADD because they cope with not being understood and feeling dumb by going to their head space. They may have done this so long that it feels like their natural way of operating. They grasp for data to keep them steady and feeling adequate. However, when they move into their body and lead with their heart, they begin to flow. Once they learn how to empty their heads (this is very contrary to what we are taught to do!), they function much better.

Everyone is not the same. Being “average” or like everyone else may help you to do well on tests and fit in, but if it’s not who you are, you do yourself a disservice by trying to fit that round peg in a square hole. It’s just never really going to fit. So, if you’re kinesthetic, be kinesthetic. You don’t have to apologize for it. There is nothing wrong with you. Just live your sensuous life. Those who care will accept you as you are and you will give yourself space to thrive.

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