Facilitating Relationships: Holding the Space


As my older Unschooled children grow, I am seeing that  do not need me to facilitate their learning in the same way as they did when they were younger. At this point in the journey, they have learned how to learn through the many resources that the world offers. I am joyfully anxious to contact mentors, sign them up for workshops, drive them to the city, arrange meet ups and be a sounding board or audience at any time. I feel that I’ve got that part of my role as a parent down very well.

My children have a larger need at this point in their lives, for me to help them navigate the complicated relationships of growing older. This is an aspect of Radical Unschooling and peaceful parenting that I feel that I want to share with you all. It is the facilitation of healthy relationships and supporting our children when these relationships grow and change that is just as important to learn about. There is an idea that we must let kids and teens “work things out for themselves” when they are having problems in personal relationships. I have witnessed the challenges, confusion and misunderstandings that often occur between young people, without the support of the parents due to uncertainty of their role or what is truly possible when partnership and connection is on the forefront.

I believe that there are many reasons for the parental non-involvement in relationships that their children trying to foster with others. One is, the idea that this approach to parenting is respect based, and it isn’t respectful to get involved with those having disagreements. I feel that this belief is partially due to the false idea that involvement with children’s relationships is unhealthy or controlling in some way. It’s no wonder we feel this way, because it is all that most of us experienced as children ourselves. Either the parents of our friends were controlling, dictators or they were emotionally unhealthy, trying to be cool but were permissive and neglectful of their children’s true needs. I am here to share a new, powerful example of how we can be connected, involved, respectful and model healthy relationships for our children. First , however, I need to share where I have gone so wrong in my own personal relationships. I am being totally vulnerable here, which is new for me, but I feel ready to share every aspect of my personal journey to help you on yours.

Over the years, I have had many friends, acquaintances, and people come and go in my life regularly.  As a child, with insecurities, fears and intense sensitivities, I had a hard time being discerning in my life with others intentions. I have carried this into adulthood and have allowed myself to be hurt, exploited and taken advantage of. On the other side, I have been deeply loved, accepted and supported. Being open-hearted, I have welcomed many people into my life – anyone willing to accept me, actually. Although I thought this was loving, it was actually lacking of the most important love of all – self love. When we are lacking self-acceptance, we tend to let anyone in who is willing to show us our greatness, when we are unable to see it for ourselves. This dysfunction runs deep and I have spent years of trial and error in relationships learning this. Over the last year, I have learned discernment and clarity on others intentions in wanting to be close to me. Learning this skill has changed my life for the better on so many levels.

Have you ever asked yourself why some your relationships end so badly? I did the same, for years, in fact! We don’t know, until we know. Being an Empath, or being highly sensitive to others emotions, coupled with a crippling fear of judgement and pain, when someone in my life was exhibiting unhealthy behaviors or suddenly showing a side of themselves that I wasn’t in alignment with philosophically, I let them go, quickly. I guess you could say that I would throw them away. At least, I am sure that was how they felt. Once I knew for sure that the person(s) were unhealthy for me, I was quick to take action and shut them out of my life. I thought this was the healthiest and best thing for me to do. In fact, I knew it was a lot healthier than what I had done for years, which was to let them stay in my life, wreaking havoc in my reality due to fear of letting them go. I had evolved in a sense by swiftly letting go of the relationship – but it wasn’t the kindest and most peaceful way to let relationships go. I know this now. One the journey of peace and personal growth, we climb higher and higher up the ladder of awareness. This is the process for most of us, and it feels exhilarating! When we grow from the shackles of cultural conditioning, we are more free.

In relationships, standing in the space of others pain in ending relationships was something that I could not do until only recently. This was never ill-intentioned or coming from a negative place within me. As someone who feels others emotion intensely, sometimes, even more than my own, it was too much – excruciating really, to bare the pain of ending relationships and feeling the sadness that others feel as a result of me ending things. However, not having this skill has led to much negativity and anger toward me which I have had a very hard time processing and understanding over the years. Fear is powerful. Fear of pain is even more powerful and is lives in us all. Until it doesn’t.

I want my children to learn from my mistakes – or life lessons, as I like to call them. When the fog clears and you finally understand how and why relationships end badly, you can pass this knowledge on to your children and others. I feel that my choice to live out loud, and the responsibility that I have to help others is my calling in life. My mistakes in relationships are certainly not just mine alone. They are cultural, historical and hereditary. They are the result of conditioning, fear and control. These are problems that reside in many of us and we can help one another by becoming aware of our mistakes and challenges in relationships without blame, guilt or regret.

Devin recently ended a two year relationship with the love of his life. It was a time of intense emotion, tears and dark pain.  Devin was swimming in sadness, loss and mourning. I held my son as he cried. She wanted desperately to speak to him about it after his initial decision. It was a pinnacle point in Devin’s life and time stood still for what seemed like hours.  I was faced with the decision to repeat history and turn away out of fear, or connect them through the pain. My sweet son cried in response to her desire crying, “I can’t! I can’t!” Memories of attending births as a Doula listening to women crying the very same same words flooded over me. Holding the space for women in labor, trusting their abilities while they were  going through self doubt seems so  natural. I realized this wasn’t any different. The memories of my own relationships ending badly unwound in my mind. The answers to my one burning question exploded as beams of light and awareness overtook me as this enormous block of knowledge came through. The missing piece – the answer to how and why things went so wrong for me, so many times….

I knew, right then, that Devin needed to hold the space of her pain and feel it with her- deeply.

I encouraged him, sharing that he could in fact do it. I heard my own unspoken words all of these years in his… He thought he would drown, and not be able to handle his own sensitive heart in her pain. I told him to put his feet on the ground, breathe, and focus on his heart center. I encouraged him to open his heart space and feel hers in her pain. By never doing this myself, it was powerful, healing and surreal for me to guide him in this way. He said he was finally ready, and he called her over Skype. They looked into each others eyes and spoke from the heart about their feelings. They connected in their pain, listened and truly heard what the other was feeling. Even though it was hard and it would have been easier for him to take the easy way out, like I had done for all the years by just ending it and running, he did it peacefully, kindly and lovingly. I shared with him that doing so meant that he could maintain the relationship, and honor her in the way she should be honored  – in the way that I should have honored my past relationships, but wasn’t able to.

My life experience has allowed me to support other teens who were having relationship troubles recently. This isn’t something I force, coerce or push on anyone, either. This is something I gently offer. At a conference that I ran this week, something challenging transpired, where a few of the teens were struggling in some intense emotions in a relationship together. I offered support, mediation and insight. It was accepted and I feel that being there, holding the space for these girls was helpful and paramount in them feeling heard and working things out. This is a big missing piece in Peace advocacy and it’s time has come. Our children and teens only need to work things out on their own if it is what they truly want. I have found, however, that most would love information and support navigating through relationship with others when things get challenging emotionally. This support isn’t controlling or judgmental. It is lovingly holding the space…

It has only been a few days since Devin’s relationship with his Love has ended in the way that it once was. However, they are still connected with love, because no one was thrown away.  I connected with her and heard her feelings. She even told me that talking with me helped her through the early days of it greatly. The love and respect that I have for her is incredible. Through it all, their feelings were heard and supported, although it was very painful. Pain is part of being human and when we are able to be present face and feel one another in our fear, pain and loss we can stay in a more loving space, no matter where the relationship goes. Anger, resentment and hostility never needs to come into the picture. There is a better way to navigate changing relationships that everyone involved deserves. Facilitating healthy relationships with others is part of our role as parents striving for peace and love in our lives and the lives of our children. It all starts with our own awareness, healing and willingness to see our mistakes are learning opportunities. I will forever remember Devin’s bravery, open heart and kindness that he demonstrated to his first Love as he held the space for her through her pain. He mirrored for me, my own personal growth. We we cried and held each other close. I was at a new level of peace in my soul and set free.




  1. That was beautiful, Dayna. Coming to know those two as a couple since Devin stood on that rock in Wife Swap really makes this personal, and it is so insightful that you saw their needs and found a way to help them both so lovingly and through holding the space like that for all in turn.

  2. yeah -thanks for writing this.. u said u cried writing it.. i cried reading it… i threw someone away about a week ago… not feeling good about it.. wanting to help her feel less discarded… uncared about… so thanks.. really nice words.

  3. This was beautifully written. Thank you for your vulnerability, it is inspiring and the journey resonates deeply. <3

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