Q&A with Dr Shefali Tsabary

 

Dr. Shefali Tsabary is an author, clinical psychologist and TedX speaking alumna, who uses a combination of Eastern philosophy and Western psychology to help parents and educators probe a very specific question, “How can we strengthen the connections between parents and children?” Dr. Tsabary will be appearing as part of the Dalai Lama Center’s Educating the Heart series on February 28th. You can find out about ticketing here.

 

Dalai Lama Center: What does it mean to you to take part in the Educating the Heart lecture series?

Shefali Tsabary: It is a great honour to be invited as a guest speaker for this series. It has particular personal significance as His Holiness The Dalai Lama prefaced my book, The Conscious Parent. The series promotes the awareness and understanding of heart-based practices which are essential for emotional growth and maturity.

DLC: You spoke at a TedX convention last year. How was the response?

Shefali Tsabary: The response has been quite overwhelming. A lot of people have responded positively to the video but more than that, I have received a lot of personal and heartfelt feedback about transformations parents have made in their lives upon listening to my speech. As you can imagine, these personal stories of change and growth are always the most gratifying.

DLC: Can you describe Conscious Parenting ? Why do you feel this is an important concept for parents to embrace?

Shefali Tsabary: This philosophy turns the spotlights away from “fixing” the child to the awareness that all solutions - and problems - manifest within the parent. The child is never the problem; it’s always the parent’s inability to meet the child’s needs that is. The degree to which parents are conscious of their own emotional baggage from their own childhoods is the degree to which they will be able to parent their children without the imposition of their own agendas and fantasies. A parent who becomes conscious of how their past is impacting their present will be able to be attuned to their children with mindfulness and present-moment awareness. In this manner, the parent will be able to respond to the child’s emotional needs fully without the contamination of  past emotional legacies.

DLC: You once said that, "the parenting paradigm needs to shift." What led you to this observation?

Shefali Tsabary: In my practice as a clinical psychologist, I have observed how hierarchical, dogmatic and traditional our parenting paradigm is. Children raised in the traditional way are often trained to forgo their authentic voice to fall into a place within a family system that is claustrophobic in its pressure to conform. Unable to express their true selves within the family, these children find abnormal means of self-expression, such as cutting school, bullying, falling prey to early sexualized behaviours, addictions, crime, and a host of other problems. This model of parenting is archaic and needs a 360 degree revolution.

DLC: What steps must society (as a whole) take to see that this shift occurs?

Shefali Tsabary: We need to move from the dark ages of parenting where corporal punishment and other harsh means of discipline are still rampantly used to an enlightened era where children are seen as the gurus they truly are. It is only when we realize how the majority of the world’s problems stem from a faulty parent-child relationship that we will wake up and make changes. Society as a whole needs to support families in their efforts to spend more time in the home, by changing laws around family leave, maternity support, lesser homework pressures, etc - all of which will ease the stress families have to undergo and thereby allowing them to spend more quality time with each other.

DLC: From the media gaze, it would appear as though children and young adults today have it far worse than the previous, recent generations. (Obesity, anxiety, cyber-bullying, tougher economic issues, etc.) Is this viewpoint mistaken?

Shefali Tsabary: It appears so, but I believe this is an illusion. It is so tempting to compare today’s world with yesteryear. This is a human tendency; to hold onto what was and glamorize it in some way. Today, problems seem more acute because we have a greater capacity to communicate around them, disseminate information about them and have a greater understanding of their dynamics. Problems have always existed and will continue to do so. The problem does not lie in the problem, per se. The problem lies in our interpretation of the problem. None of these problems are created by an enemy force. They have all been co-created, by each one of us, through our habits, our mental states, and our behaviours. Reality is what we create. Forces come into manifestation only when there is a collective energy around it, otherwise it would not take form. The fact that we have the crisis we have today is not by accident. It is an outcome of generations, and is a reflection of the degree to which these generations have been mindful or not. The only way to make changes is to transform on a personal and internal level. The focus always needs to be on ones own mental processes. This is the seed of all our problems and the hotbed for all our answers.

DLC: We are all children to someone. Does conscious parenting apply to parents of grown children too?

Shefali Tsabary: Every parent needs to exercise mindfulness in the present moment, no matter how old their child. Mindfulness simply means the awareness that we come with our emotional issues that we need to keep in check so that they do not spill over onto another human being. With this awareness comes a growing ability to tolerate one’s emotions, especially the difficult emotions of life, and detach from their volatility.

DLC: What sort of resistance do you meet, if any, to those ideas that come from a spiritual or psychological basis? Is there a way to make Conscious Parenting appealing in the most general sense?

Shefali Tsabary: The resistance I get from parents emerges out of fear. As much as parents dislike labelling their children as the problem, they abhor having to label themselves as the problem even more. Parents are afraid to look into their past and unearth the unresolved issues that lie lurking in the shadows. Often, this is a painful process for many - one that many parents prefer to suppress and deny. However, once they realize that these issues are affecting their children, and in fact, perpetuating the problems they are experiencing with their children, they are more open to exploring the roots of their own emotional illiteracy. Conscious parenting is a new movement that is gaining steam as more parents realize that the way they were raised was largely unhealthy and perhaps even toxic.

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