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The Parenting Companion: Meditations and Exercises for Giving the Love That Heals

The Parenting Companion: Meditations and Exercises for Giving the Love That Heals

by Harville Hendrix

Harville Hendrix and his wife, Helen Hunt, brought their relationship expertise to Giving the Love That Heals, the acclaimed parenting guide with a groundbreaking premise: by healing past wounds to their own psyches, parents can nurture and encourage emotional wholeness in their children. Now, with this wonderful companion volume, you can achieve personal


Harville Hendrix and his wife, Helen Hunt, brought their relationship expertise to Giving the Love That Heals, the acclaimed parenting guide with a groundbreaking premise: by healing past wounds to their own psyches, parents can nurture and encourage emotional wholeness in their children. Now, with this wonderful companion volume, you can achieve personal transformations that will enrich the life you share with your children, regardless of their age.

Here are practical, hands-on exercises and affirmations that make the insights of Giving the Love That Heals a day-to-day reality. As you learn more about yourself and your own upbringing, you'll:

  • RESOLVE the "cycle of wounding" -- the handing-down of emotional wounds from parent to child

  • DISCOVER how the unconscious mind guides your search for a life partner

  • STRENGTHEN the parent-child bond for a lifetime

  • UNDERSTAND the influences that internally shape how you interact with your child

  • GIVE your child a sense of assurance as you present a model of your own healed self

Fulfilling the powerful vision of whole, healthy relationships began in Getting the Love You Want and Keeping the Love You Find, Harville Hendrix and Helen Hunt come full circle with Giving the Love That Heals, and with this step-by-step companion.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal - Library Journal
This parenting compendium reads much like a daily devotional, which might be an advantage for busy parents. Each month has a general theme, with each day focusing on concrete exercises or meditations. The authors, both family therapists, cofounded the Institute for Imago Relationship Therapy in 1984; Hendrix is a frequent talk show guest. Their emphasis is on how to stay healthily connected, both with children and with the other parenting partner. Another main tenet is that the child is a separate individual, not an extension of the parent. The impact of the parenting the parents received is also addressed. While readers will find it helpful to be familiar with the authors' earlier book (Giving the Love That Heals, LJ 10/15/97), a glossary is included that defines their main ideas. The examples and scenarios tend to be somewhat simplistic, and prayers and references to diverse deities may be off-putting to some. Similarly, the repetitive inclusiveness of different types of family structures becomes tedious. An optional purchase for public libraries.--Margaret Cardwell, Georgia Perimeter Coll., Clarkston

Product Details

Atria Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
1999 First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.46(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.31(d)

Read an Excerpt

From Chapter One: January


My dear brothers and sisters, we are already one. But we imagine that we are not. What we have to recover is our original unity.

We begin this first day of the year with a first truth: We share more in common with each other than not. We are connected in many seen and unseen ways, and when we feel these connections, our actions in the world are more loving and more patient than they would be otherwise.

A recovery of our sense of oneness can begin with an expansion of conscious awareness and a change of pronouns. We can stop operating so often from the "me" and the "I" and the "mine" and grow toward the "us" and "ours." As we establish kinship with others, we get closer to the truth of life as it really is. We come to know that we are brothers and sisters under the skin despite our occasional sense of being separate. We are united by our common human potential. And we are united to other living things on the planet through the simple recognition that we share life and the elements of life in common.

As our awareness of connection grows, so does our sense of interdependence. We are not so quick to separate ourselves from what we see as "different." Contemporary science has encouraged us in this view by explaining how interconnected systems in nature actually work, even when we can't observe the mechanism. And we've been able to borrow some of their vocabulary. Since the 1930s we've used the term "ecosystem" to talk about the way a community of organisms interacts with its environment. Recently, we have added to our understanding ofo of you. It can be as simple as sharing the same gender or as subtle as sharing the same facial expression or emotion. Let yourself feel the reality of the connection between you. Perception affects behavior. Enjoy noticing the difference that an expanded sense of connection makes in your life.


You may be writing, and the fullness of your heart will come to your hand also.

As you open the pages of this book you are beginning a new chapter in your life. You are allowing yourself to spend some time each day reflecting on your relationships with yourself, your domestic partner (if you have one), and your children. Instead of rushing through your days, propelling yourself from one person and task to another, you are giving yourself permission to slow down. You will be amazed at what happens. You don't have to go a lot slower to reap great rewards. Just a little will make a big difference.

Slowing down will help you see more clearly what is happening around you. You will be able to connect with your own feelings and integrate your experiences more fully. Your enjoyment of your family will deepen as you observe, record, and appreciate yourself in relation to the people around you. And you become a better problem solver when your family life requires it.

When you take more time with your life, you honor your life. An important way to express the value you put on your own experiences and your personal relationships is to record your thoughts and feelings in a journal. Getting to know yourself in this way is the most exciting adventure you can undertake. Through personal writin g, you not only provide yourself with valuable information, but you discover meaning in your life that might otherwise have escaped your notice.

You might want to buy a notebook and a pen so you can begin the process of keeping a parenting journal or simply noting where you and your child are, what you are thinking, and how you are doing. This is not a requirement, but many people find it helpful when they undertake a program of personal change. If you do decide to make a written record of your thoughts, you can give yourself the pleasure of buying equipment that is just right for you.

Take your time to choose a pen that feels comfortable and writes fast. And spend some time in a stationery store or bookstore so you can choose a notebook that feels right and fits your needs. Don't choose something that feels too "nice" or too formal, because it will make it difficult for you to be free and unself-conscious about your writing. You don't want to feel pressured to produce; you want to be free to play, experiment, try things on, daydream, and vent. In this way, you discover who you are. The personal exploration you are beginning will be for your eyes only, a record of your journey and of yourself as a work in progress. As Natalie Goldberg says, "Think about your notebook. It is important. This is your equipment, like hammer and nails to a carpenter. (Feel fortunate -- for very little money you are in business!)."

The new year has begun, and you have started the process that will lead you into more conscious parenting and more enjoyment of your children.


Writing can be a road map into the invisible geography of your feelings, enabling you to chart their hairpin turns or see unexpected sideroads.

Whether you intend to keep a parenting journal or not, there will be times during the next twelve months when it makes sense for you to write about your thoughts and feelings as they evolve in connection with these meditations. Through the act of writing, you demonstrate to yourself that you and your children are worthy subjects of your careful and loving attention. You matter and they matter, and the writing helps you see how both of you matter together.

There is no doubt that the best way to establish a new behavior is to do it every day, preferably at the same time and in the same place. When you make it a regular part of your life, connected to your other daily activities, your energy flows into and out of the writing easily and naturally.

We also know that the writing doesn't have to be sustained, and it doesn't have to be elaborate to serve the purpose. You don't have to be a "good writer." You are keeping a record for yourself as a way of helping yourself clarify your own thoughts and experiences. You are finding out what's inside you and becoming more aware of what's inside your spouse and your children. For some of you, writing will become a ritual, an activity that you repeat that carries meaning for you.

In addition to writing, there is another ritual we would like to suggest to you now. This one occurs at bedtime and involves each parent spending some minutes with each child in close conversation before the child goes to sleep. We have found this to be a most illuminating and bonding experience. Our children have the chance to speak with us about intimate and heartfelt matters, and we have a chance to respond with full, loving attention. This is a time for the gentle exploration of feelings and affirmations of love and esteem. In this setting children feel safe and relaxed and can more easily discover how they feel about an issue or a problem and express it openly.

Both writing and bedtime sharing can help you learn more about yourself and your children and lead to discoveries that will help you become a more conscious parent. Rituals of caring bind you to each other as you begin this journey of discovery.


A teacher visited me during this difficult time, and I remember her saying to me, "When you have made good friends with yourself, your situation will be more friendly too."

The next time you are in a difficult situation, make the effort to become a good friend to yourself. You'll notice that Perna Chödrön doesn't suggest making an effort to become better organized or more controlling or more communicative. She suggests that you turn your attention to yourself in the spirit of gentle inquiry and concern, the way a friend might. Among other things, this means that you drop the mask, let go of the defenses and the self-delusions, and stop trying to manipulate the situation you are in. You will soon find out what you don't need to hold on to and what is indestructible and central in you.

But there is something you need to do first. Before you can befriend yourself, you have to know who you are. You have to be in tune with yourself enough to know what you think and how you feel and what you want. For m ost of us this kind of self-focus was easier before we had children. After all, one of the sacred duties of adolescence is self-discovery. If you listen to teenagers talk, you can hear how often events in the external world become excuses for self-investigation and self-revelation. Even the first years of marriage seem emotionally self-indulgent compared to the parenting years.

As parents we can become so busy responding to the needs and desires of others that we break the connection we have to our own inner lives. For some of us this connection is so weak it's hard to reestablish after the children are grown. Twenty years later we have to learn who we are all over again.

It's so much better for us and for our children when we are able to act from the knowledge of who we are. At the same time we can help them find out who they are. The more self-aware we are, the better parents we will be. When we live authentically, from our center, we are more likely to interact with our children in ways that preserve their innate wholeness and promote their development. When we lose contact with our deepest selves, our reactions are always unconscious, often inadequate, and sometimes harmful.

Reestablishing connection with yourself is easier than you might think. Start by sitting quietly for just sixty seconds every day. Find a time and a place when you are not likely to be interrupted and simply quiet your body and your mind. And then see what happens. Notice your feelings and your thoughts, without trying to hold on to them or change them into something else. Notice and accept them. Feel what you feel. Worry what you worry. Think what you think. Isn't it interesting how these things come and go?

Startin g today, you can also practice a mental exercise for increasing self-awareness by finding two or three opportunities to ask yourself how you feel in response to some experience in your life. Ask yourself why you feel that way. School starts again after the winter vacation and you feel anxious. Why? The snow crunches when you step on it and you feel flooded with happiness. Why? Why do you feel like listening to sixties rock music instead of Bach? You have the opportunity to get to know yourself better than any other person on earth. This is one of the deepest and richest of human experiences.

Copyright © 1999 by Harville Hendrix

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