The Real Talk

Conscious Co-Parenting vs Parental Alienation with Mihaela Plugarasu, M.S. & Founder of Parenting Made Conscious

Episode Notes

In episode 21 of The Real Talk, Raquel Ramirez interviews Mihaela Plugarasu, the founder of Parenting Made Conscious. They discuss the topic of co-parenting and conscious parenting, specifically in the context of divorce and broken families. Mihaela shares her insights and offers support and training for parents navigating co-parenting relationships. The conversation sheds light on the importance of open discussion around this often-taboo topic and highlights the potential for successful co-parenting in challenging circumstances. 

Tune in to learn more about the challenges and tensions that arise in co-parenting relationships, emphasizing the need for conscious parenting and personal growth.


[00:01:12] Co-Parenting Success in Broken Families.

[00:06:23] Personal Responsibility and Healing.

[00:15:32] Impact of Divorce on Children.

[00:31:52] Parental Alienation and its Effects.

[00:40:51] Emotional and Mental Health.

[00:47:21] Empathy for Older People.

[00:53:00] Parenting and Happiness.

[01:00:11] Loveless Marriages and Consequences.

[01:03:26] Teaching Children Life Skills.

[01:08:06] Limits and Child Development.

[01:16:51] Transforming Relationships Through Personal Growth.

In this episode, Raquel Ramirez and guest, Mihaela Plugarasu, emphasize the importance of educating ourselves on how to support and show compassion for our children's mental health. They highlight that children may express their mental health struggles in various ways, such as self-harming, acting out towards others or objects, or showing a lack of interest in schoolwork. It is crucial for parents to be aware of these signs and educate themselves on how to respond effectively.

Furthermore, the episode discusses the importance of play in a child's life. Mihaela mentions that parents often get caught up in the drama of daily life and may neglect to prioritize play. However, play is an essential tool for connection, containment, and healing. She also explains that true play involves taking on a less powerful role, following the child's lead, and allowing oneself to be silly and make mistakes. By creating a carefree and contained space for play, parents can support their child's emotional well-being.



Raquel Ramirez




Mihaela Plugarasu





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Episode Transcription

Raquel Ramirez00:04 - 02:19

Welcome to The Real Talk. I'm Raquel Ramirez, your host and real estate professional, here to bring you insightful conversations, expert advice, and powerful stories about what really goes on in life, love, divorce, and real estate. Are you ready? Let's get real. Welcome to The Real Talk. How are you doing, Mihaela? Hi, Raquel. Thank you so much for having me. It is my absolute pleasure to welcome you to today's episode. After learning a little bit about you, your story, how you got here and what you do, I think I told you already, but I'll remind you and I'll tell everybody I am incredibly impressed with you, your journey and what you're doing to help parents. To let everybody know, I am speaking with Mihaela Plugarasu. She actually is in a very unique space. She deals with the topic of co-parenting, but more specifically, parenting in a conscious way. In fact, the name of her company is Parenting Made Conscious. I believe you've written a book and you provide a lot of support and training for parents who are struggling with co-parenting say with an ex-spouse and I can't wait to get into this topic today because for two reasons really. Number one this is a topic I think that is a little taboo most people don't really talk about and I think now that there's more awareness, let's say, about the divorce process and about how co-parenting can actually be a success in broken families. I also, I come from a broken home. You know, my parents were divorced. I'm divorced myself. My significant other is divorced. We, let's say, co-parent, even though my parenting, you know, Not let's say not my parenting stuff on my parenting involvement is different because there are two parents who are actually there are three parents in this equation. But there's a lot that comes into that. And I know that a lot of people don't necessarily talk about it, but I feel they need a lot of support in that in that realm. So I can't wait to talk about it before we get into the topic. I'd love to know a little bit more about you and how you came to this space of being a conscious parent and helping your your child through his development.

Mihaela Plugarasu02:21 - 09:11

Thank you so much again. I just want to say how honored and privileged I feel to be on the podcast with you, Raquel, and your listeners. Thank you for creating a public space for this conversation. I agree with you, although there are coaches and counselors on the topic of conscious co-parenting, it's not a widely spread concept or practice. So the way I came into this This work is, of course, from my own story, my own pain, so to say. I am also raising my son who is turning 12 this year. Wow. I am raising my son with his dad. So, uh, in a co-parenting relationship, we've been doing this for 10 years today. Um, so it's been a long time and I had to learn a lot in the process because my son was very young. And when two people get to the point of separation or divorce, um, We know for a fact that the separation or the divorce did not happen overnight. We know that usually it takes a woman, a mom, about two years before the decision, before she puts it into action. So what we can draw from this fact is that the child has a previous of two years within the marriage before the divorce actually happens to witness and to assist and to absorb the tension in the family. So we have those minimum of two years. Sometimes it takes up to four years for someone to make the decision. when children are involved, and then the divorce happens. The separation of the two homes starts to be executed. The child has to divide himself or herself between two different homes and two different sets of rules and expectations. And that's all within the context of very high tension between the parents in most cases. I've only met one person in my life whose divorce and co-parenting happened seamlessly, seamlessly, and they are best friends. So let's say... That's not common. Exactly. So it can happen if that's someone's situation, then maybe this conversation is not for them. But for the majority of us, when we reach a point of a divorce or separation and therefore co-parenting, raising our children with our ex, it means that there was conflict. It means that there was hurt. It means that there is still a lot of pain and a lot of personal emotions that belong to the parent, to the adult. So for me, the journey and my goal all along, starting 10 years ago, was how Do I equip myself? My focus was on me. I knew I was the object of work. The work was not on my son. My son had nothing to do. Right. And I've always asked myself, what tools, what instruments do I need? Number one, to be able to heal whatever was unhealed until now. Because if I am in this situation, in the situation of a divorce, separation, that means that that relationship could not be successful because I've also contributed. to the so-called failure. And I'm saying, quote unquote, failure because I don't believe divorce is a failure. Not at all. But that's a different conversation. I just want to say that my questions to myself was always, where do I have to take personal responsibility? Not in the sense that I've done something wrong or that I am broken as a person, but where is it that I need to do my work for myself so I can be able to show up in the relationship with my son So he's not the one who pays the price of two adults not being able to stay on friendly terms for sure in the beginning. Co-parenting is really, really hard the first five years, I would say, let alone first year, let alone first two years. So in the process, I equipped myself with a lot of tools, a lot of knowledge, I trained, I'm a certified parenting instructor with hand in hand parenting, which is an approach to parenting called parenting by connection. So we look at the science of connection from the lenses of early childhood development and neuroscience, which basically means the brain development, but also attachment needs that a young child has. And then Currently, I am in Dr. Gabor's year-long training program called Compassionate Inquiry for Professionals, because I've always wanted to understand more the impact of trauma on the human being, on the individual. Because no grown-up, no person wants to walk around wanting to hurt people. However, it happens every day. We get hurt by others. We hurt others sometimes. And there is no relationship with higher stakes than parenting.

Raquel Ramirez09:12 - 13:35

I bet. Yes, that is a very true statement. I want to go back to what you were talking about so that it's clear to some people who are listening. When it comes to divorce, it happens a lot. And I think I mentioned this to you in our conversation earlier, which is that as parents, sometimes knowingly or unknowingly, we alienate our children from other parents, from the other parent, let's say your ex-spouse or even their grandparents or siblings. Um, and what I think you're trying to say is that a lot of times we do that, let's say in the unknowing space, let's say you don't even realize it. And it's usually because you're carrying a lot of pain, a lot of hurts. You might be upset about what happened. Maybe it's not quote unquote, your fault that, you know, you had to go through the separation or this divorce. You may be very angry. You may be very disappointed. You may be very hurt. And those are all. normal responses, valid feelings to have. You are a normal, you're a human being and you are within your right to experience those things. But we have to be very careful as parents not to transmit that over to our children. And I really like what you said about marriage not being a failure in and of itself because I had this conversation, actually, it was one of my earlier episodes in this podcast series that I spoke to a doctor of psychology and I said to him, you know, I'm actually very pro-marriage. I think we should work very hard to maintain a relationship. They're not easy. Even in the best of circumstances, sometimes you may want to light your spouse on fire. And I mean that with the utmost respect for my significant other in my life. The truth is that there are times where, yes, calling it quits is in the best interest, even of your children. Some people stay together in a loveless marriage, right, for 10, 15, 20 years, thinking that it's in the kid's best interest, quote unquote. And really what you're showing them is how this marriage works without love and intimacy and respect and so on and so forth. So your children are going to grow up seeing that as an example and quite possibly following in your footsteps. It's OK, yes, to get a divorce if it means your safety, your sanity, your emotional stability, because it would also mean that for your children. But when we do separate, when we do have that divorce, when we do have to break the home, we have to remember to maintain an honest and safe and loving relationship with our children. And we should be mindful that that relationship with our children is also going to show up some way somehow in their relationship to your ex-spouse. I know that there are toxic relationships out there, and it's a sad reality. There are more toxic relationships out there, I think, than we would care to admit. And sometimes it's toxic because two people just can't see eye to eye, and it doesn't mean much more than that, and it just causes a lot of resentment. And in other cases, there is abuse. And that abuse also, like you said, is absorbed by the children. No matter how young or old they are, They see it, they interpret it some way, somehow, whether it's a skewed interpretation or not, but they are absorbing that. And a lot of times it's reflecting, let's say, if you will, in how they react or interact, say, with other people, their friends or in school, with their caretakers and even with their own parents. And I'm sure you have a lot to say about that, but I just, I wanted to almost mirror what you were saying from my perspective. And again, I respect a lot what you do. And this is a very heavy topic, even for me, because I'm a step-parent. I'm a step-parent and I'm also in the divorce niche. So I talk a lot about this. I talk a lot with psychologists, with psychologists, life coaches, divorce coaches, and even clients themselves who will confide in me some of the struggles that they're experiencing and their journeys and trying to get out of, say, a toxic relationship or trying to mend relationships even with their own children. So please continue to tell us a little bit more about your experience and how you manage to see how conscious parenting actually makes a difference in the lives of families.

Mihaela Plugarasu13:35 - 14:41

Sure. I'm going to hit on a few points one by one really, really quickly. So the first the first point I want to make is our conversation today is for moms and dads and parents in general. who may be in difficult situations, maybe they are considering divorce, maybe they're just in the middle of it, right at the end of it, and they're transitioning. However, it's for those parents who are not in physical danger, who are not in situations in which one of the partners is physically abusive and their life is in danger because For those situations, I want to say this principles and this conversation is not enough. For those situations, we want to acknowledge that they need legal help, they need police help, they need safety and protection first.

Raquel Ramirez14:41 - 14:42


Mihaela Plugarasu14:42 - 17:57

Now, for the rest of the majority of listeners, the other point that I want to make is, Yes, a child absorbs everything in his or her environment. This idea that I'm going to stay together in my current relationship for the sake of the children, I know it has roots in millennia of religion, based education and other cultural influences and beliefs and systems. However, from a psychology development standpoint, We know, and we know from research, that what affects a child's development is not if parents are divorced or not, but it's the dynamic between mom and dad, either married in the same household or divorced. The legality of the relationship and the logistical setup of the relationship has nothing to do with optimal childhood development. Actually, there are a lot of children who thrive post-divorce because now the tension in the home is removed from the environment. So when I say environment, I'm talking about mental and emotional environment. So the tension is removed and ideally if the two parents can can come to agreements for co-parenting where the interest of the child is first and foremost. And in many situations, parents manage to do that once the legal marriage is over because now the tension is reduced and they can both focus on the interest of the child. That child will thrive And I know from research that it's not the divorce that impacts optimal development. It's the dynamic between the two parents. And this dynamic only accentuates, in many cases, during and post-divorce. But I know a lot of married couple who are parallel parenting or they do oppositional parenting one has a totally different style of parenting than the other or here comes the parent the one parent who overrides what the other parent has in place and we have a much more difficult environment for a child to thrive than if we have two co-parents who are very matter of fact.

Raquel Ramirez17:57 - 17:58

And on the same page.

Mihaela Plugarasu17:58 - 22:54

And on the same page. And we will never be exactly on the same page with an ex when it comes to parenting. But if we can bring ourselves to be on the same page for the bigger things, for the things that matter, and then each of us has room to negotiate certain things, that's also much more desirable than staying together for the sake of the children. So that was my second point, and then I'll just make one more. A third point is When I talk about tools I think this is really important because Parents come to me and the first thing they ask me is what do I do? Okay, it's okay. You gave me The theory you gave me the understanding. I understand where it's coming from. I understand the dynamic Thank you. Now. What do I do? when my child comes home from the other parent after a long weekend or sometimes just one night and it takes me two days to reconnect with my kids because they reject me, they are cranky, they're upside down emotionally because the transition is so difficult from one home to another. We forget how much we ask of children to be okay with the situation. Well, just adjust. Well, you adapt. Well, you're a child. Children are flexible. They adapt easy. Well, yes, they do because they have no choice. But we forget how hard it is, how much brain energy it takes. So the third point I'm making is The tools that I'm talking about, I call them tools to contain the child. We can also say tools for connection. Because what the child needs on a daily basis, and it doesn't matter what your co-parenting schedule is, if it's one week, one week, two weeks, two weeks, two weeks here, every other weekend over there, every Monday, it doesn't matter the setup. The truth is transition is hard. Going from one home to another is hard that child knows a day before two days before When they just settled in and got comfortable in your home with your routine They already know I got a switch. I gotta flip the switch because i'm going to my mom's house i'm going to my dad's house, right? and To contain the child means I need to know it's my responsibility as an adult. To be able to allow the child to express all the range of emotions from raw anger. Raw when I say raw, I mean heavy. Real anger. anger with mom, with dad, with life, with family set up, with school, with teachers, because how can someone not feel anger when their roots are being disrupted every few days and every few weeks? So from raw anger to despise and hate and disgust and then sadness, and wanting to give up, where do these emotions go? A lot of parents want to pretend that they're not there, but they are. And when a child is not allowed to express it, they repress it. And they can do that for a very long time. And I tell parents who tell me, oh, no, no, no. My kid is so good. They adjust it right away. I have no issues. They follow instructions. They do homework. They don't say a word. Oh, it's been three years. No, no complaints. Everything is good. And I say to them, call me when your child is 12 or 13 because those emotions have to be repressed.

Raquel Ramirez22:55 - 22:57

And they'll surface at some point.

Mihaela Plugarasu22:57 - 27:14

They will surface at some point. So my goal when when I was in this process with my son and he was very young. And because when they're very young, they don't under seven, they do not have the capacity to filter how they feel. They just show us how they feel. Now, if we are wise enough and our children are under seven, We learned these tools for containment so we can allow them a safe space to express it and let it go. I'm referring to emotions. If your child is older and they are attempting to express some level of emotion, uncomfortable emotions, and the parent is not ready for that, it's not equipped for containment, an older child will quickly learn, oh, this is not safe. I better keep it to myself. It's not because they're doing well and they adjusted well. It's because they learned very quickly it's not safe. So I'll take it somewhere else for now. And that somewhere else could be depending on the personality, the family context. It can be inside. They start self-harming. It could be outward. It could be towards the other kids in class. It could be for objects. It could be against school, not caring about homework. Somewhere they will be expressed. So coming back to my point number three, we have to keep educating ourselves. What tools do I need? Do I need to learn how to listen well? Do I need to learn how to show compassion? do for my child? Do I need to learn how to show compassion for myself? Do I need a support system around me? We cannot be in this alone. Yeah. My support system is a full circle of people and each and every single person in my circle has a role and a function of support from a professional therapist all the way to close friends and informal friends. And then mental health, my mental health, how do I take care of that? How do I take care of play in my life? Does my child have enough play? Because we tend to be very caught up in the drama of things. very true and and we we get depleted and exhausted and how can i show up playful but one of the tools for connection with kids and containment and healing is play but play is not let's go outside and throw a ball that's not play right please don't tell me you played if that's what you did There's a whole science of play in which I take the less powerful role. I follow the child's lead. I allow myself to be the silly one, the one that doesn't really know. And he's showing me some stuff. Right. And I make mistakes. In play, so play has to be a carefree, but contained healing space, right? So one of the tools that hand in hand parenting teaches parents and I teach parents is, uh, play, uh, play it's called play listening, but the roots of play listening is in what Dr. Larry Cohen in the early nineties, uh, coined as playful parenting. And I recommend everyone to read the book, Playful parenting. It's rooted in brain development.

Raquel Ramirez27:14 - 27:16


Mihaela Plugarasu27:16 - 27:19

I have so much more to say, but I'll stop.

Raquel Ramirez27:19 - 32:56

This is, I mean, it's, it's fascinating. I, I do have a question for you, maybe that you can help to elaborate. And I'll tell you a little bit and I'll try to be, as forthcoming as I can be or as I should be. As I mentioned, you know, I am a step parent, I have four stepchildren. They come from two different homes. And it's been a real challenge for me, I'm going to be very open and honest in saying that it's been a real challenge for me. Number one, I didn't have children of my own. So I didn't have the advantage of practicing, say, with smaller children or children that I connected with at any point in time. I was the youngest in my family for a long time, too, so I didn't even grow up around children. So, you know, as you can imagine, they're, you know, the parents in this situation, you know, they do co-parent. And I would say that at this point in the timeline, they are able to co-parent. In a good way, you know what I mean? I'm sure they had their ups and downs, as you say, especially at the beginning of the first few years, maybe up to the fifth year. But I can absolutely agree with you in the whole uprooting situation because I do and I did and they're a little bit older now. They're the youngest is 13 and the oldest 20. But at some point, you know, they were five and the oldest was 12. So I did see them grow up at, you know, at different timeframes. Of course, they each had their own journey and they each have their own personalities. But that said, I did notice that change in them when they would come back home. And at first I didn't understand that, you know, and of course, it's hard for me to think back to because I came from a divorced home. I was only two years old, so I don't even remember my father in the home. I remember the situation where I would go to his his place for a couple of nights and then I would spend the rest of the time with mom. And then I had one or two days of the weekend. And, you know, I remember that transition and I remember always wanting to be at mom's house. That's where I felt the safest. Of course, in my situation, my father was significantly older. He wasn't necessarily always emotionally available. So, of course, I felt safest at home with my mom. And those are things that I try to draw on when I try to figure out how my stepchildren are feeling in certain situations. But of course, it's not a perfect measure. And I do struggle sometimes in trying to understand where they might be coming from. I know that there are instances in which I personally, if I was in that situation, I would feel very upset because sometimes we share a day in the middle, which I think can be very disruptive, especially during holidays. So I, of course, have an opinion on that. I don't necessarily think it's the right opinion. I don't necessarily think it's the wrong opinion. It's just an opinion. But I do think that too much of this back and forth, you know, is very disruptive. And I can see how that could be frustrating, especially in your teenage years when you're going through hormonal changes and there are things that you want to do and things that you don't want to do and places you want to be in places you don't want to be in. And I often thought about that. What can I do to. Honestly, and this is, again, I'm gonna be very blunt. What can I do to protect myself as an outsider? Because like I said, I'm not really a co-parent. I'd like to consider myself that to some degree because I do share a certain level of responsibility and I do care for them and I do provide as much as I can. And this has been a very long journey for me too. But I know that I, as an adult, was getting hurt a lot in that process. And I often wondered, What is happening on the other side that they're being exposed to that might affect my relationship with them when they come into my world, into my space, into a space that we all share? So that begs the question, right, when we're talking about this situation and about parental alienation, and we're talking about uprooting their environment, because yes, the way they live in one place isn't the way they live in another. And as you said, the rules are different. The landscape is different. The feeling is different. The energy is different. Everything is different from one place to the next. You're talking about co-parenting pretty much in just that context, but how much more difficult is it for children when they are faced with a parent who purposely alienates their children for whatever their reason, good or bad? What happens or how much more difficult is it in that situation where a parent, let's say, says something like, you see, your mom is always late. That should say something about you or something about her or your relationship with her. Or you see, your dad is always telling you this, but in reality, it's that. And it could seem harmless. But while a child is developing and trying to determine their place in the family, their place in their parents' lives, how damaging can it be to a child to receive that kind of information and then go to that space where their father or their mother just said something negative about that other person?

Mihaela Plugarasu32:56 - 32:56


Raquel Ramirez32:56 - 33:02

Yeah. Yeah. That has to be so damaging.

Mihaela Plugarasu33:02 - 33:38

Absolutely. And You said it earlier, you said that you have a lot of experts access, right? I mean, any psychologist that that you would talk to, any psychiatrist that you would talk to, any experienced psychotherapist that you would talk to, the literature and research, everyone converges into validating the damage that this does.

Raquel Ramirez33:38 - 33:39


Mihaela Plugarasu33:39 - 33:52

Well, there is no no debate about that. OK, now the damage is different for every child. It depends on the context and the dynamic and.

Raquel Ramirez33:52 - 33:54

Their personality, I'm sure.

Mihaela Plugarasu33:55 - 40:14

Yes, the age of the children, when this starts, when this ends, you know, doesn't start in toddlerhood, whole different game than if it starts in teenage years. So there's no debate about the enormous damage that that this does. Children, the younger they are, when they are exposed to such parental alienation, the younger they are, the bigger the split is. I mean, if we look at almost any mental health illness, any disorder, if we look at almost any It all goes back into early childhood childhood. Oh, yeah And and this is when I highly recommend to everyone the work of dr. Gabor mate Any of his books, right? Um any of his youtube videos, I mean the latest uh book the myth of normal that he Published I recommend it to everyone because he looks at a comprehensive meta-analysis of the toxic culture that we all live in, which is rooted in trauma. Now, trauma, we can look at trauma in terms of cultural trauma that is systemic, and it's multi-generational, and it's perpetuated and maintained. Then we can look at trauma At the individual level, what happens in a family with a mom, a dad, and a child, or two children, in which it's enough for one parent not to be emotionally healthy. So we don't use any diagnosis. Let's just say not emotionally healthy. And everything is connected. we cannot look at the individual level trauma, let's say an alcoholic parent, or let's say a parent who is using the child as a revenge tool to get to the other parent. alienation, anything in between. Let's take that for a second. We cannot look at this example of this individual in isolation. We have to look at it culturally and multi-generationally, because that parent, I guarantee you, in therapy, if they go, hopefully they do, They come from a family in which someone has done something to them, or they witnessed it as a prime witness. And then we go back to the generation before, it happened there too. So we say all this not to excuse unhealthy parents, not to excuse parents who are consciously or unconsciously using children to get to the other parent to show them who's boss, right? Right. We say all this not to excuse anyone, only to bring awareness that all of us, even the healthy parent in the relationship, have work to do, has a responsibility towards his or her own self-awareness. So I can use the word healing, but I am not esoteric. I'm science-based. Let's talk self-awareness. Let's become purposeful and intentional about asking questions about why did I choose that person to have a child with? Let me go back to the origin of the story because I made some decisions along the way also. When I say I, of course I mean all of us. We all have responsibility. We all play a role. Depending on the severity of the situation, I know that in the legal space, there's a lot of proactive movement and advocacy to stop and to minimize parental alienation in our judicial system. So if it's a severe case, of course, we need legal support and justice in the court of justice. If it's not at that level, and it happens in smaller doses, then I go back to one of my five principles of conscious co-parenting, which is the only parent I have control over is me. So then I bring the mirror back in my court. So where is my work? When I interact with this person, which is the other parent, how do I react? When I come back home, what do I bring home after that interaction? I start looking at uncovering my own mental landscape because one of the other principles in my free course for listeners called Five Principles of Conscious Co-parenting One of my other principle is the other parent is your mirror.

Raquel Ramirez40:14 - 40:17

That's right.

Mihaela Plugarasu40:17 - 40:26

So if over time I am not able to make any progress in my reactivity levels, it means I'm not doing my work.

Raquel Ramirez40:26 - 40:29

Yeah, you're not contributing.

Mihaela Plugarasu40:29 - 43:16

And then the last piece to this is because I know that the only control I have over is myself, Therefore, my primary focus has to be on my relationship that I'm building with my child. Because my long-term vision for that relationship is the emotional and mental health of the child. Not to change the other parent into being a better person. So for that, as I said earlier, we need tools to be able to be better listeners with our kids. We need a lot of tools for self-regulation because most adults. Are illiterate when it comes to self-regulation and dysregulated, right? We need tools to be able to hold space for the child when their emotions run very high. When they start saying awful things to us, when they start rejecting us, when they say terrible things to us, when they slam the door, when they throw things. We need tools to be able to hold space for that, to make sure that they don't hurt themselves or us, but also to send them the message that the emotions are OK. Whatever is going on for you emotionally, this is a safe space for you to bring them to surface. Let's make emotions a friend, anger included. Because when we make space and we make it a friend, then it doesn't take over in other ways later. And coming back to brain development, a child cannot self-regulate. I want to make this point. If your child is under 10, don't even tell me or yourself that they can self-regulate, that we send them to their room and say, when you come down, you come and talk to us. No, their brain is not capable of doing that. A child's brain will regulate in the presence of a self-regulated adult. That's it. So let's make sure we are that adult.

Raquel Ramirez43:16 - 43:16


Mihaela Plugarasu43:17 - 44:27

So self-regulation means I am here with you. I can see you're going through a tough time. I acknowledge your pain. And I am not afraid to stay with you in the pain because I'm not running away from it. We'll stay in it together. It doesn't mean I take your pain. It doesn't mean that it means I am witnessing your pain. And I'm going to hold this space because I have faith in your own inner system, body and mind and nervous system, that you can go through it. Right. Because the only way out is through through. Mm hmm. And we help children go through their big, scary emotions like that. And that's how they build resiliency and self-awareness. That's by us shutting that down and then giving them a long 30-minute speech or sending them a TED Talk on resiliency.

Raquel Ramirez44:29 - 44:34

That's funny. Here, why don't you watch this and regulate?

Mihaela Plugarasu44:34 - 45:31

Because a lot of parents, as soon as their children start talking, let's say two, three and up. Because they can now say a few words, they think that children will understand, understand. And parents will appeal only to the rational mind, only to the thinking mind, only to the prefrontal cortex. But a three-year-old child is still an infant from the perspective of prefrontal cortex development, which is abstract thinking, rationality, language, processing. I mean, we don't even talk about this until they're eight. But parents still, I see a toddler crying in the store and parents go and they say, tell me what's wrong. If you don't tell me what's wrong, I can help you.

Raquel Ramirez45:31 - 45:39

But they don't know, they don't have an ability to understand what's wrong and much less to articulate what is wrong.

Mihaela Plugarasu45:39 - 45:58

Exactly, because the body tells them something is wrong I need to cry it out or I need to I don't know what's wrong. Something is happening in my body that is so agitated. It feels wrong, right?

Raquel Ramirez45:58 - 45:59

It just feels wrong. Right.

Mihaela Plugarasu45:59 - 46:32

So they're going to start doing all kinds of dysregulated behaviors. Mm hmm. So I'm not blaming parents for this. Parents are amazing people. I mean, there is no more generous human being on this planet than a parent. We do so much, we give so much, and we love them so much. Intensely, yeah. It's just lack of education.

Raquel Ramirez46:32 - 46:32


Mihaela Plugarasu46:33 - 46:48

It's really ignorance in the best sense of the word. It's how can a person do something that they don't know? Ignorance is bliss. So my mission with my work is really education.

Raquel Ramirez46:48 - 53:26

Yeah, I would say. I absolutely agree with you, and I would add a point to that to say that If we're going to talk about these things starting generations ago, let's say, you know, parents were children at one point, and they had their own experiences, they've made their own decisions. And it's one of the reasons I typically empathize or sympathize with older people. I've always had a heart for older people. Since I was very little, there was something that I just understood very early on that said to me that by the time a person gets to be a certain age, let's say they're fortunate enough to live to be 80, 90, 100, whatever, they've gone through so much. They've made so many decisions. They've endured so much pain. They've encountered numerous challenges. They've been disappointed. And so they started off to be this little rock and by the end of life, they've been chipped at and they've been scuffed and they don't look, that rock that they started out to be doesn't look the same as they once did when they were infant or toddlers or children. So I typically, I have a heart for people because by the time they reach old age, they've been through a lot. That said, I think that as parents, yes, we have to be mindful of how we're interacting as adults. I think we have the opportunity to shift our mindset, to make decisions that require rationalization in order to offset or to compensate or to help your children regulate their emotions. But a lot of times I would say it's, I would say it's harder. Let me rephrase that. I think it's harder to do than it is, you know, in theory, I think it's much harder to do it. It takes a lot of practice. I think it takes, like you said, a lot of learning and a lot of work of, you know, with ourselves or our own journeys to do that. And a lot of times we become reactive based on our own pain, our own hurt, our own experiences, our own past. And so sometimes it's not as easy to do as it is, you know, in theory. And so we have to, I think, forgive ourselves a little bit in that regard, because we're imperfect. And we just have to keep in mind what it is that our goal is in raising our children, what our goal is in preserving those relationships. I'm keenly aware that what you choose to say to your children has a very a very palatable impact, let's say, because they wear their emotions on their sleeve. They are not very good at keeping things and hiding things. As we know, I think the joke, the running joke is, you know, the only two people who say the truth are drunks and children. And it's because they just, they don't have that filter. They don't have those inhibitions. And so, What we say on this end, let's say when we're talking about co-parenting and we're talking about two different families, what you say on this end is going to affect their relationship on the other end. And when we love our children, We want them to be happy in this space, in the other space, in the next space, with their friends, with their step-parents, with their teachers. We want them to be happy. That should be the goal, right? And so I think to add to the points that you made, I think we should be mindful that we're not perfect, but that this is a work in progress, that we have to be conscious about what we want to accomplish as parents and what we want our children to be like in the future because they're going to continue to grow and they're going to grow from these experiences, they're going to grow out of this energy that we are providing and that and that we need to just focus on the relationship we have with them here, making sure that our relationship directly to them is the absolute best and healthiest it can be, because it's going to show. We don't need to be concerned with how, you know, happy or unhappy or whatever necessarily they are in someone else's home, because that's not our problem. Our concern should be our relationship with them. If we're having a solid, healthy, happy relationship with them here, they're bound to take that with them to the next place, the next stop, whatever that may be. And so if we focus on that, I think we should be successful. And I think what you do is I think it's fantastic. There needs to be more of this. I would love to continue to promote your conscious co-parenting system. And I think that it would be a wonderful thing to introduce even to the collaborative process. I'm sure you know the collaborative process. And I think we need to talk about it more openly, more widely, to let parents know that there is support out there because, yeah, it doesn't change that if you have a terrible relationship and you had a terrible divorce that you're going to be hurt. I think you know this because we were talking about behavior. We're talking about all kinds of systems and life coaching, and there's all these new coaching systems out there. You really can't give from an empty cup. So if you're sad and depressed and hurt and angry, it's going to be exceedingly difficult for you to portray the complete opposite. So if you need to, you need to go and seek help from a therapist or a coach or whomever you think, your pastor, whomever it is that you seek help and guidance from for you to be able to heal so that you can be a better parent, a better partner, a better friend, a better sister, whatever the case may be. And in this particular case, of course, better parents. So I think that's something that we need to remind people that this is a work in progress. This isn't something that's going to happen overnight. You're not going to miraculously be parent of the year from one day to the next. Results like anything else don't happen within a 24 hour time frame. So it just requires consistency, dedication, commitment, love. understanding, awareness, for sure, awareness of the situation, awareness of your own struggles, your own feelings, and of course, then awareness for the feelings that your children may be experiencing. It's absolutely fascinating. Talk to me a little bit about the book you published, or if you have another point to make.

Mihaela Plugarasu53:26 - 53:53

Yes, I'll just quickly say a few things. Thank you for everything that you said, Raquel. I would say that our goal should not be for our kids to be happy. That's a good point. Because life will not keep them happy.

Raquel Ramirez53:53 - 53:57

That is absolutely true. It's unreal and realistic. Yeah.

Mihaela Plugarasu53:57 - 56:33

Yes. Of course, we want them to be well. Right and happy in in the sense of yes word that we use it culturally in the u.s Right sure but Conscious parenting for me is not the journey to keep my child happy Necessarily, right? um, so to your point about a long term, I wrote one of my articles on my blog at some point was Long vision, long-term vision. Parenting are a lot like corporate CEOs. You don't see a corporate CEO going into that business with the goal of making it on the Wall Street in the first year. They have a long-term vision. So parenting is exactly the same. And I did say, I think the title is parents are leaders because we are leaders. You are a biological parent, an adoptive parent, a step parent. It doesn't matter. As long as we are a caregiver to a young child, let alone more, we are leaders because we are the people that model to them what life is all about. Right. So to your point again, the way we show up in the relationship is the model. That's right. That's the matrix. It's the imprint. That's the template. Yeah. So stop lecturing. That's what I tell all parents. Please stop lecturing. They don't need lecturing from us. They won't listen. They won't remember. Model. They need examples. What do you want them to see? like, model that to them. That's right. And I would say, instead of us being so hung up in in the US culture with happiness, which is very toxic, by the way, this obsession for happiness is so toxic, because that's what leads us

Raquel Ramirez56:35 - 56:37

to have unrealistic expectations.

Mihaela Plugarasu56:37 - 56:59

Unrealistic expectations. Absolutely. Instant gratification. A hundred percent. And total disconnection from emotionality, body, total disconnection. We live zombified 24 seven. Yep. And let me not bring into the conversation the smart. Okay.

Raquel Ramirez56:59 - 57:02

Don't even get me started. That's another podcast.

Mihaela Plugarasu57:02 - 57:19

That's another podcast. So I would suggest and invite all of us to think in terms of well-being and resiliency.

Raquel Ramirez57:19 - 57:22

Resilience, yes, I was just about to say that.

Mihaela Plugarasu57:22 - 58:27

And authenticity. And when we are able to build this into our kids, and I would even correct myself and say, we don't need to build it. They come with this. They have the software built in for well-being, resiliency, and authenticity. We just keep taking away the wings. So the only job that we have is to ensure a safe relationship in which they can flourish within their own well-being, their authenticity, their resiliency. They have it built in. But again, we need to learn to listen more. We need to learn to accept their full range of emotions and contain that emotionality in them. It doesn't mean they have to act on the emotion. It doesn't mean we allow them to break a window because they're angry. Right.

Raquel Ramirez58:27 - 58:30

That's not what I do. Yeah. I'm glad you mentioned that. Yeah.

Mihaela Plugarasu58:30 - 59:03

Yeah. You know, emotion is one thing. Behavior. is another thing, but we should not focus on behavior being bad, but how can I contain my child so slowly, but surely he releases all this anger, then there is no behavior left. So it's a process. It takes time. It takes consistency, like you said, and our priority always has to be a safe attachment relationship.

Raquel Ramirez59:04 - 01:03:25

That's a very good point. That's a very good point. I love what you talked about resiliency. And I'm glad I do want to point something out. Obviously you have an accent. So I'll, you know, that's the elephant in the room, right? Is that you're, you have an accent, so you're not necessary. I don't believe you were born here. I think you're Romanian, you said, which is great because you have a completely different, background you have, you come from a different culture, so you're able to look at the American culture or the culture that we have, say here in South Florida, and you're able to identify some of those things that we tend to overlook because we're in it, right? And yes, so there are a lot of words that we typically misuse. Resiliency, unfortunately, is one of those words that's catching a little bit of a popularity trend now. A lot of people use it, you know, to be resilient this, resilient that, but resiliency, is a beautiful word, and it is something that we should teach our kids to be. And I want to make this one point, and it may be just a little outside of the context of what we're talking about, but it is related. I had this conversation with someone not so long ago, and we were talking about something very similar. And I have this peeve about certain parents who do everything in their power, everything in their power to prevent their kids from experiencing the consequences of their actions. So no matter what it is that they do, whether it's they break the vase or they crash the car or they get in trouble in school, whatever it, they always, find a way to get in between their kid, their decision, and that outcome, because they want to make sure that their kid is happy, that their kid loves them, that their kid, I don't know, doesn't have a bad experience, but And also, in addition to that, when we were talking about those loveless marriages that they try to stay in the marriage just for the kids, when in reality, what all they're doing is displaying what it is to be in a loveless marriage, in a marriage where there's no communication and no conflict resolution. Those things don't prepare them, as you said, for life. At one point or another, whether it's 18, 20, 26, 30, whenever it is that they move out and move on to another chapter of their lives, you're going to be alone in the world, right? And by alone, I mean, they're going to be walking their own path, they're gonna be making their own decisions, and they're going to be facing the consequences of those decisions. And if you don't prepare them for that, they will never really learn what it is to be resilient, how it is they can face adversity and recover or make new decisions or change their course, whatever it may be to overcome those challenges. I say, and this is obviously a very personal opinion because I don't have any psychology degrees. I'm not a social worker. I don't partake in any of that, but I do love this particular topic of cognitive and social behaviors and things. If you are going to have a conflict with your spouse, I get it. There are some conflicts or in conversations that probably your children should probably not be privy to. But I wouldn't necessarily always shy away from that. The goal I think at that point would be have the conflict, show your children that you can disagree, hopefully it's in a respectful manner, and then show them what it is to make up, to apologize, to mend the brokenness, to show each other that you can recover from something that looks bad, but that there still is love. Show them that there is say a car accident and there are consequences to that but there are decisions that you can make to prepare yourself in the future and things you need to take care of and so on and so forth because that is really what's going to show them What's real? Anything outside of that is is not real. Nobody lives in the Truman in the Truman Show. Nobody lives in the Truman Show. So we're doing them absolutely no favors by bubble wrapping them only to release them when they're old or older and letting them, you know, into this world that now is going to show how gritty it can be and how unprepared they really are. Absolutely.

Mihaela Plugarasu01:03:26 - 01:05:33

I think we can do a full separate episode on very practical, very everyday situations in which we can teach children just that. You know, I mean, the one that comes to mind is I let my son take charge of his grades. I guide him, but if there's something with a teacher, I tell him please write an email. I can help you with the email maybe, but it has to come from you. For example, And that's just one little thing. But the thing with the conflict, and when we sugarcoat and mask it and put a show, and we are such good actors, right? The word here is repair. Repair. in any meaningful relationship either it's parent-child or it's parent-to-parent mom-dad or partner-to-partner in any meaningful relationship that we have there's going to be a rupture yeah And sometimes rupture means a full-blown conflict. Sometimes it's a silent rupture. It shows up in different ways. We know that. It's inevitable. I mean, who are we kidding? Yes. And it's very important. I have not read any psychology book on parenting and relationships that does not talk about the importance of repair. And it's, like you said, it's a life skill.

Raquel Ramirez01:05:33 - 01:05:35

That's right, a life skill.

Mihaela Plugarasu01:05:35 - 01:05:41

And I go back into please model repair.

Raquel Ramirez01:05:41 - 01:05:45

Yes. Lead by example, right?

Mihaela Plugarasu01:05:45 - 01:09:56

Lead by example. You know, we see this a lot in families with multiple children because siblings have a lot of conflict. And parents get very obsessed with, say sorry to your sister, say sorry to your brother, go apologize to your brother, go. And I laugh because I know it's not funny, but. It's not funny, but I want to bring up again, please. Let's model Yes, we are going to mess up a million times in our relationship with our kids. Yeah So let's be the one modeling the repair. Yes. Yes agreed, it's unidimensional, right? Parent to child. And then it's multidimensional. Everyone in the home witnesses among all family members. And then the last point that I want to make is around consequences that you mentioned. Again, I think we live in a culture in which parents lost their confidence in limit setting. And and consequences we can call them consequences. I don't mind the word consequence Kind of got a bad reputation lately that it's not good parenting But of course everything is a consequence. I mean the law of the universe is cause and effect. That's right, but I Know for sure that parents lost confidence in their ability to limit children to establish rules and regulations and boundaries and rules in the house and all of that. It happened over time. And I'm not talking about the old school limits where it's my way or the highway. It's not about that. Limits are very important in a child's life. Limits and rules and regulation. Actually, structure. A brain cannot optimally develop without the confinement of structure, because structure equals predictability. Predictability equals safety. for a child under 10. Very important. But limits got a bad reputation lately. Why? Because we don't know how to hold the child once the limit is set. How to hold them accountable? No, how to hold the space. We confuse limits with the child to have no reaction to the limit. In other words, oh, I'm taking your phone away, or you can't have the phone after this time. And that's the limit, right? That's the rule. And we expect the child to say, OK, sure. Yes, mom, no problem. Such a good idea. But the child is going to go against us. So now we have an emotional reaction to the limit. I see where you're going. Yeah. Yes. So we confuse the limit with the child's emotional reaction. And now we don't know what to do with the emotional reaction. So that's why I go back to let's educate ourselves, because in that moment, if the child gets aggressive, angry, it's not about the phone. that's only a trigger and it activates an emotional baggage that's been there for quite some time. So it's a beautiful opportunity. Let's sit and listen and help him go through it or her.

Raquel Ramirez01:09:56 - 01:11:31

I imagine that's especially important when you do have a co-parenting situation because I believe there are a lot of parents when they're no longer sharing a home that they want to be known as the good parent, the fun parent, the loving parent, the anything goes parent. You don't want to necessarily be the disciplinarian because you're wondering whether or not they're having a better time or they feel better at the other home and It's a struggle. Co-parenting in and of itself is, parenting, let me rephrase that, parenting in and of itself is a big challenge. It's something that I seem to have known very early on in my life and was just the reason I never wanted to be a parent. That is a very personal decision of mine. I never wanted to undertake that challenge. I'd take my hats off to all parents. I remember my mom was an exceptional mother and I knew that she sacrificed even what she didn't have to give us the best, most loving and safest home possible, the best education, the best life experience she possibly could. And I know it took a lot from her. So I wish she was here today for me to be able to thank her and tell her that I was well aware of that. But regardless, parenting is a sacrifice. It takes a lot of us to be able to give back to our children. I thank you very much for what it is that you do and this information that you put out. You're a brilliant woman, and I know that you have a lot of resources out there. So before we conclude, I want you to tell me a little bit about your book and any of the resources that you have that might be helpful to other parents and how we can reach out to you if we needed help.

Mihaela Plugarasu01:11:32 - 01:13:06

Yeah, thank you. Thank you, Raquel. My book is called Conscious Parenting of Your Toddler. So this book is very helpful for parents with young children. It's okay, you can extend the word toddler. If your child is under 10, I highly recommend my book. It's called Strategies to Turn Discipline into Growth and Connection. The two things that we talked about today, personal growth and connection. So the book is on Amazon, available. And then other resources. I invite parents to visit my website, which we will link in the notes. And on the website, there is a blog. There is a ton of content there on everything we talked about today and more. I write a newsletter and I send it out every Saturday morning. So I encourage parents to sign up for my newsletter. When they're on my website, this will pop up. And then for your listeners today, I am going to make available a mini, mini, mini course. It's only about an hour and 15 minutes. Can you still see me? Yes. That's called conscious co-parenting, five principles.

Raquel Ramirez01:13:06 - 01:13:09

Is that the one that you had sent me that I had? Yes. Okay, that's what I was looking for.

Mihaela Plugarasu01:13:09 - 01:14:42

Yes, so everyone will have access to that mini course. There is a video recording there, but there is also a PDF that they can download. There is an exercise, there is a list of emotions, a triggers exercise. It's an entry point for everyone who is interested in this to go a little deeper. Also, of course, I invite everyone to follow me on Instagram, everything made conscious. But also, I invite parents to look into my program, which is called the Conscious Parent Accelerator. Once a parent becomes an active member, and it's an enrolled parent in that program, Then that's when the comprehensive support that I give parents comes in, because not only do they have a ton of content online, videos and PDFs and such, but I also do two coaching calls every single week live with the parents in my program. So they get continuous support from me because everything that we said today really revolves around this idea of, do you have a support system that is consistent? And do you do the work in a consistent modality? And that's what I provide with my program.

Raquel Ramirez01:14:43 - 01:14:57

That's wonderful. Now, you said that your book actually came about an article that you wrote on your blog and it was picked up by a New York City book publisher. Is that is that what it was?

Mihaela Plugarasu01:14:57 - 01:16:34

Well, the book that I wrote in 2020, the proposal from the publishing house came to me because they had found my blog. That's awesome. This is to say that we all can make a difference. I started by writing an article here and there at that time because I was so fascinated and also I was feeling so much gratitude for my own process. And for my parenting and the results that I was seeing in my own parenting relationship with my son, with his dad, because things only got better over time, and I felt the need to write about it, to share, to let other moms know that this is possible. It's not, it doesn't have to be all suffering. The co-parenting is an amazing opportunity for personal growth and for healing and for being a better person altogether. So yes, the publisher found me thanks to my blog and I wasn't even writing regularly but since then I write every single Saturday so there's a lot of content on my blog and if everyone who's listening if they have a message I highly recommend that they create content.

Raquel Ramirez01:16:34 - 01:18:13

Yes, I agree. I was just about to say that just goes to show how hungry you are for this type of information, because I think that our relationships could be better. And I want to tell you that I'm very grateful for you sharing your journey. I know that we cannot go into detail publicly, but I want the listeners to know that she is speaking from experience when she says that these relationships, number one, are important to maintain, and number two, they're not necessarily that easy, but it does require a lot of work. And she's perfected that to some degree by engaging very deeply into her own process, her learning, her growth, her own development and she was able to transform truly her relationship with her child who was a toddler at the time when that happened. And now I believe he's turning 12 years old and it's been a 10 year journey. And I can tell in your face that you must feel much happier and relieved. I think knowing what you went through, I can tell that you have had a change in your life because from what I heard, that was very, very, very hard on you. So thank you very much for being here. Thank you so much for sharing so much knowledge. Uh, you're an incredibly articulate, you are a brilliant woman and I support what it is that you do. I can't wait to see you in, in other places. I mentioned to you the national association of divorce professionals. I think it would be a great opportunity for you and for us to continue to learn from your program and to insert you wherever possible for other parents to benefit.

Mihaela Plugarasu01:18:14 - 01:18:18

Thank you, Raquel. Thank you. Thank you so much to you and your listeners.

Raquel Ramirez01:18:18 - 01:18:44

Thank you. I'll have you back for sure. I can't wait to see you. Anytime, anytime. Thank you, Mihaela. Bye everyone. Thank you for tuning in to this episode of The Real Talk. We sure do appreciate it. If you haven't already done so, be sure to subscribe to the show wherever you consume podcasts. This way you'll get updates as new episodes become available. And if you found value in today's show, we'd appreciate it if you would help others discover this podcast. Until next time.