Nevada County mom makes it her mission to help mothers with children who face behavioral challenges
What You Seek Is Within
A regular “Meet Up” support group for mothers of “spirited children” meets monthly at Valentina’s Organic Bistro and Bakery, 841 Sutton Way in Grass Valley.
1 to 3 p.m., April 22, May 6 and June 10.
Facebook: What You Seek is Within
Before Cynthia Soszka had kids of her own, she would often see strong-willed children “misbehaving” in public places while their parents seemed to simply turn a blind eye. She was shocked.
“I couldn’t understand why the parents were ignoring them,” she said. “I wondered why they wouldn’t try to get them to calm down.”
Today, Soszka profoundly understands that mothers all over the planet face daily struggles when it comes to parenting their “spirited children,” many of whom are longing to bring joy and stability back into their families. In 2011, Soszka’s two sons, now ages 9 and 11, were diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD. The condition is thought to be caused by developmental differences in the brain that affect the parts controlling attention, concentration, impulsivity, activity levels and memory.
As the years of daily parenting challenges increasingly took a toll on Soszka, she struggled with her own mounting depression, anxiety and anger. The hyperactivity, defiance and tantrums she saw in her sons was wearing her down. She realized the parents she’d seen long ago ignoring their children were simply taking a momentary break from a seemingly endless battle. She was eager to be the parent her sons needed her to be and desperately afraid she was falling short.
“I felt completely alone — no one understood my struggle,” she said. “Motherhood doesn’t come with a manual. I knew I was in for a few surprises, but nothing like what I was given.”
Years before a real diagnosis was assigned to her boys, Soszka read every parenting book she could get her hands on. She took parenting classes and studied Ayurveda at the local college. She saw pediatricians, naturopathic doctors and Ayurvedic consultants in an effort to take care of herself and help her boys. There had to be a way to keep her boys out of the principal’s office and keep her own sanity. Working full-time compounded the issue, as after school care was not an option due to behavior issues, and nannies never lasted very long.
“I became what I call a ‘seeker,’” Soszka said. “After the boys’ diagnosis in 2015, I doubled my efforts. I began to study mindfulness, meditation and positive psychology. I took them to sand tray therapy, taught them meditation and practiced their emotional ABC’s with them. I started them on supplements, which made a small difference, but it wasn’t enough. I eventually broke down and tried traditional stimulant medication, which initially helped one of my boys, but not the other. Eventually, it stopped working altogether, so I decided to go back to natural methods.”
Out of desperation, Soszka decided to significantly modify her sons’ diet, and the results stunned her. The negative behavior of her youngest son decreased as much as 75 percent and her oldest by at least 25 percent.
“Finally — something that made a remarkable difference,” she said. “As the dark cloud over our family began to lift, I realized I wanted more out of my work. I wanted to do something fulfilling that really helped other mothers like me.”
In 2017, Soszka quit her full-time job and began to work part-time. In addition to finally being able to pick her boys up at school, she launched a website, WhatYouSeekIsWithin.com, where she sold jewelry and art featuring her signature mantra, “What you seek is within,” a message designed to be a motivational reminder to mothers facing similar challenges.
She didn’t stop there. She began blogging and reaching out to similarly-challenged mothers via social media. She started regular “Mindful Mama Meet Ups” at Valentina’s Organic Bistro in Grass Valley to help create a support system for those parenting spirited children. At the ongoing meetings, which generally take place monthly, Soszka continues to teach the key concepts and tools she has discovered during her long road of ongoing inquiry, stressing it’s now become a true passion.
She has also begun to offer free 45-minute one-on-one consultations and has created a Facebook group with weekly exercises. More recently, she has developed a six-week “Serenity Warrior Training.” Armed with a degree in environmental and resource sciences from U.C. Davis, Soszka does not claim to be an expert, but she is known to review and comb through the latest research with an extremely critical eye. But it’s also about tapping into one’s own inner resources, she emphasizes.
“Stephanie” of Nevada City, who does not want to use her full name for her child’s sake, said she remembers feeling burning embarrassment and judgement in play groups when her child was not acting like the others.
“Instead of hugs of support I would get moms who cut out articles with parenting advice, making me feel like I was doing something wrong,” she said. “It was a very scary and lonely place. Meeting Cynthia helped me to feel normal. She listened, and she shared a lot of information that I would not have gleaned myself because I can barely keep up with what I’m doing daily.”
“I don’t have a lot of time for an outside life — most parents facing this are overwrought and tired,” Stephanie continued. “Cynthia doesn’t claim to be an expert, but she has compiled an amazing amount of information and research that she is willing to share. She is so generous and eager to help — she has a genuine passion for the family unit and helping others become their best selves.”
Many of the mothers who have come to Soszka say that simply being heard and supported has made a profound difference.
“Mamas who attend the meet ups and connect with ‘What You Seek is Within’ will hopefully learn how to heal their bodies, train their minds and feel their spirits,” said Soszka. “My goal is to help at least 500 mamas bring the joy back into their families this year. I want to teach them how to look within for what they need.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.
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