The Primal Home — When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Loving…

Dena picking fruit By Dena Smith

Coming from a typical dysfunctional family where abuse and unmet needs were standard fare, it took me nearly 40 years to articulate and verbalize my feelings and needs to my family and friends. Unfortunately, I didn’t have positive parenting role models growing up; however, my childhood did provide me with a very vivid picture of what I DIDN’T want to do with my own kids.

Navigating the immense ocean of parenting self-help books can be not only overwhelming, but also quite daunting. I have found a few instant classics over the years, such as “Connection Parenting” by Pam Leo that, upon reading, completely transformed my approach to childrearing.

I have always felt confident that I was doing my best as a mother with the knowledge, skills, and resources at the time. I would often reference my parenting books with the diligence of a culinary student, checking to be sure that I had the correct “recipe” for success. However, these days, I have a whole new approach.

In the last five years, I have finally learned firsthand that peace, love, and joy are not just dreamy holiday sentiments, or even emotions really…they are states of being. I first experienced true peace three years ago when I embraced and enforced my New Year’s resolution, which was “Speak My Truth, Live My Truth.” Little did I know that it would be much more than a resolution, it became a revolution.

I added a few more ingredients to the mix over the course of that year: a slice of empathy, a bunch of patience, a dash of gratitude, a dollop of surrender, and an endless supply of unconditional love. Suddenly, I found myself living in a state of Peace. Even amidst total chaos. I felt totally grounded, stable, and calm for the first time in my life.

Not that life was easy. In fact, my life became more tumultuous that year than it ever had. It was as if I was being challenged by the Universe to stay in balance. But I learned how to focus and stand firm. I felt stronger than ever. And the calmer I stayed, the happier and better behaved my children became. I found that the more I loved those around me, the more love was reflected back at me.

This led me to the next milestone in my journey: living in a state of Love. Rather than giving in to my feelings of “fight or flight” when things got challenging in my life, I chose to embrace all experiences – the joys and the challenges – as important learning opportunities and to receive them all with love and gratitude. This shift in my thinking and living finally has led me to the icing on the cake: living in Joy.

I have realized that when we run from our problems, we are really just trading one set for another because what we are really trying to run from is ourselves. Instead of running, if we can learn to embrace adversity with love, we can transform ourselves, the situation, and the world around us. And what better role model for our children is that?!

(Dena Smith Givens, who founded and ran Primal Parenting Magazine on the U.S. mainland, currently works out of Puna as freelance writer, motivational speaker, wellness educator, and certified health coach. To sponsor The Primal Home, email


1 reply
  1. Handyman
    Handyman says:

    Aloha Dena Smith Givens,

    I am enlightened by your experiences and found it rather familiar. I too came from a similar path and found peace and joy.

    My children are in their 30’s and have children of their own, of whom I am very proud of. As a single father, without a (“How To”) book to follow, I had many a difficult moment. But what I nurtured in my children, my children in turn, nurtured in me.

    (No one is too old to learn, therefore, no one is too young to teach.)

    It is with this simple philosophy that I found patience, humility, honor, integrity, love, respect, peace, humor, joy and wisdom to get past all the bumps in the path that I was on.

    My children have been my blessing, and I now find myself at the threshold of witnessing it unfold for them with their children.

    You are evidence, that one can find sanity and civility in the worlds chaos. May the power that be continue to bless you with the courage to over come your adversities and the wisdom to displace all doubt.


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