I recently engaged in an online conversation about sheltering children from life’s “harsh realities.” As a Simplicity Parenting coach, I firmly believe in the value of “filtering out” the adult world to help promote the sacredness of childhood. I think, however, that most adults forget that the benefits of filtering information/experience extend to themselves as well – when they remember to do it.
What is “Filtering Out”?
In the Simplicity Parenting circle, “filtering out” the adult world is the concept that author Kim John Payne uses to describe the practice of removing adult-topics from our children’s experience. It takes varied forms – not having or not watching TV, not listening to radio “news,” having discussions about challenging topics (e.g., troubles in parents’ marriage, financial worries, climate change, war, abuse) when children aren’t present. By keeping this type of information away from our children, we help them have a childhood free from adult-level stresses. Instead of “toughening” them up for the “real world,” we “filter out” that which they’re not actually fully capable of processing.
“You may believe that you are responsible for what you do, but not for what you think. The truth is that you are responsible for what you think, because it is only at this level that you can exercise choice. What you do comes from what you think.”~ A Course in Miracles
How does “filtering out” benefit us?
For children, the concept of “filtering out” is primarily a way to help nurture the innocence and carefree-nature of childhood. It’s not my child’s job to “fix” the world or worry about what’s going on, so I want her to have the unreserved joy of childhood for as long as possible. Secondly, by sheltering our children from adult-issues, they get to focus their energies on the problems they can solve and thus develop confidence and competence that will prepare them for the next level of real-life challenges they’ll encounter. As parents, “filtering out” the “news” often reduces the amount of fear we have about our child’s well-being. There is therefore more peace in our home and it’s a haven to be in when our daughter is struggling with the normal stuff of childhood (e.g., a friend not wanting to share, a parent saying “no” to something that our child really wanted to do, etc.). Finally, as a family, we’re strong and resilient because we’re consciously choosing where to focus our energy and we’re not just being pulled into the collective (un)consciousness. I “know” that wars go on and people commit horrific acts against one another, other beings, and our planet, so I actually don’t need to be told about it more. I personally like to focus on the “good things” that happen so that I will both remember that this too is possible and that I am an agent of this change and every choice I make brings this reality closer to being. There are more thoughts from another mother about “sheltering” children on the Simplicity Parenting Blog.
“Filtering Out” for ourselves
The benefits of “filtering out” extend beyond guarding the innocence of childhood – when we remember to do it for ourselves too. 🙂 As adults we often believe there are things we should do or ways we must be. “Good citizens” are well-informed. Conscious people are fully aware of the state of world affairs. Dutiful (adult) children listen to all their aging-parent’s tales of woe. Supportive people allow their co-workers to complain about the boss’ unfairness. Saddled with these demands, we refuse to build boundaries around our own hearts and spirits, and we thus make ourselves sponges to the ills of those around us. This, in turn, affects how we see the world, what we believe is possible, and even what we perceive as reality.
I don’t advocate shutting ourselves off from the exterior world. I do believe, however, that many of us would experience more peace and joy, and even be better able to do our part to change the world if we did more to “filter out” information/experiences that are “too much” for us.
How to “filter out” in your life
- Determine what is “too much” for you (or your children). For instance, if you personally get very worked up about the relationship drama of your extended family, this topic might need some “filtering out.” If your child is a real animal lover, some shows on AnimalPlanetTV might need to be off limits. If you have a hard time feeling positive about your day after listening to the morning “news radio,” a media fast might be called for.
- Put some protective practices in place to “filter out” the information/experience you want to reduce or remove from your life. If TV is a source of the unwanted information, keep it turned off at key times, stop watching certain programs, limit the amount you watch, or ditch the set altogether. If the sagas a close family member relates are your challenge, avoid having conversations when you don’t have the emotional support or objectivity to offer. You might also limit the amount of time you spend talking to him/her or, learn some new skills like nonviolent communication, if you want to be able to hear him/her without feeling emotionally drained afterwards.
- Pay attention to how “filtering out” is benefiting you and adjust your filters as desired. For some people, taking a week-long semi-annual “news media fast” is enough to diminish their anxiety. For others, a radical relationship change may be needed to free them up. For others a filter is needed to break them of old thought patterns, but then new habits are essential to keep from falling back into those once-familiar behaviors.
“Filtering out” information/experience doesn’t mean we have to hide away from our world. It is simply a decision to more consciously choose the amount, intensity, and type of information we let into our experience. Like a person allergic to dogs limits their exposure to canines for their health, a person can choose to limit her exposure to anything else that she deems doesn’t support her own well-being.
Discuss: Do you “filter out” certain information/experience from your life? What helps you create this boundary? Are there areas you’d like to give yourself more “protection” from but can’t think of how to accomplish this?