Family Thanksgiving; Learning the Stories of our Past

Everything that is past is either a learning experience to grow on, a beautiful memory to reflect on or a motivating factor to act upon.
– Denis Waitley

It’s not unusual for our family’s thoughts and conversations to turn to those who are missing at our Thanksgiving table. A small family to begin with, it has become smaller through the years with the loss of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. And with the pandemic, we’ve intentionally shared an intimate meal with fewer numbers. So we appreciate all the more the family that we have and enjoy our being together. Thinking about your own mortality and the death of loved ones can add to your sense of gratitude finds leading gratitude researcher, Robert Emmons. We acknowledge that time is precious. We focus on the moment at hand and the experience of spending time with the people we love. This led me to think about our ancestors. How much do we really know about them and their stories? Is it important for me as a parent to explore our family histories with my son to contribute to his sense of identity?

Thanksgiving in Owensville

In fact, my research into these questions proved that it is indeed important to all family members including our children to explore our past for multiple reasons. Robert Emmons explains that understanding the trials and difficulties of generations that went before us can help us appreciate our current circumstances. Further, researchers in Berlin and Munich have shown that children who spend a short time thinking or learning about ancestors actually performed better on intelligence tests. They dubbed this the “ancestor effect,” the idea being that thinking and learning about the multitude of adversities our genetic lines had to overcome makes us feel empowered, more competent and in control. It gave students a sense of grit, or persistence to stick with problems. If their ancestors could deal with hunger, poverty, war, discrimination, injustice and more, certainly they could manage their current reality. We also feel a sense of belonging and connection to a line of people who stayed strong despite their struggles.

Many schools recognize the benefits of students learning about their families’ stories and understanding history from multiple cultural perspectives. Some engage programs such as, Facing History and Ourselves and integrate learning about historical events with understanding who students are today and how the past can inform their present and future. This particular program has demonstrated outcomes in improving students’ critical thinking skills, their sense of ability to contribute to the world, their social awareness, and their connectedness to their school community.

There are ways to combine this background knowledge with the practical aspects of hosting or attending a Thanksgiving celebration. Involve your family members in the following project and let them lead questions with grandparents and other relatives to uncover stories from the past. You need do very little to prompt this engagement but it could lead to rich sharing amongst young and old over your turkey dinner.

Miller Ralich Trail
Smith Woeste Trail

Set up materials for kids to create. Put out colored construction paper, pencils, markers or crayons and scissors. Have kids trace their shoe on the paper and cut it out. Be sure to have enough supplies available that if grandparents or others want to add information to the cut-out feet, they have their own patterns to write on. Have some pictures and maps available to look at former generations and the places from which they came.

Brainstorm what is known and what questions you have about family members that lived before you. For example, I know my son’s great, great grandmother was Navajo but I am unsure of her original name (it was changed as an adult) or where she came from. So on one foot pattern, he’ll write “Great, great grandma – Navajo.” He can write the questions, “What was her name? Where did she come from? What do we know or can we learn about the Navajo Nation?”

Create an ancestral trail. Designate the family lines with signs (see picture right). Kids can line up the ancestral path on the floor perhaps leading to the doors of the house. They can engage in conversations with each adult at your Thanksgiving gathering to see who might be able to contribute to the stories that are forming.

Share together. Perhaps after the feast is over and your tummies are properly full, follow the trails made together. Also use the maps to get a sense of where in world your ancestors lived. Read through, comment and see if there are any additions to the information shared. Or are there questions unanswered that you want to explore?

I am looking forward to this exploration into our family history this Thanksgiving. Cultivate gratitude for the people who have gone before you by exploring their stories and honoring the past. Surely, it will deepen your appreciation of the present.

For child-friendly photos and brief descriptions of the clothing worn, food eaten and typical daily life of those who were present at the first Thanksgiving, check out Scholastic’s “The First Thanksgiving.” Or watch a video to experience the indigenous people, the Wapanoag Nation.

If you celebrate Thanksgiving this year, may it be healthy, safe and connecting!

References

Emmons, Robert. Gratitude Works! A 21-Day Program for Creating Emotional Prosperity. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Fischer, P., Sauer, A., Vogrincic, C. & Weisweiler, S. (2010). The Ancestor Effect: Thinking about our Genetic Origin Enhances Intellectual Performance. European Journal of Social Psychology. DOI: 10. 1002/ejsp.778.

On Benchmark Education’s Blog… “Exchanging Heart Language: Moving Families and Educators from Acquaintances to Partners”

Grateful to Nicole Kavanaugh of Benchmark Education for involving me in their recognition of National Parent Involvement Day TODAY, November 18th. This article focuses on how we can authentically build, nourish and sustain our learning team – students-parents-teachers – that is so necessary in order for our children to learn. Hope you’ll check out the full article. Here’s how it begins…

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, it goes to his heart.”  — Nelson Mandela, Lead Liberator of South Africa

“If culture was a house, then language was the key to the front door to all the rooms inside.”  — Khaled Housseini, Afghan American Author

The seismic changes in schools and in families ushered in over the past few years have shone a bright light on the role of parents and caregivers as essential teachers and partners in education. Teachers were dependent upon parents to get their students online and in a conducive learning environment during remote learning. As students returned to their buildings in person, parents and caregivers remained deeply invested in their success. Many students had experienced trauma as a way of life before the pandemic, but now all students added layers of trauma from the consequences of a global pandemic, creating a unique uneasiness as parents and caregivers sent their children back to school.

You could say these are hard times or you could say these are heart times — times that unmistakably, undeniably involve our hearts in showing up, in accepting and managing challenging emotions, and in growing and sustaining our nourishing relationships. READ THE FULL ARTICLE.

How Can We Raise Confident Kids? Let’s talk about it this Sunday…

I’m excited to be talking with parents and caregivers about children’s social and emotional development and how we can become confident parents raising confident kids! I’ll be speaking on FB Live this Sunday, November 14th at 1:00 p.m. EST (12 CT, 11 MT, 10 PT) and we’ll have plenty of time and space for dialogue so bring your ideas, challenges, and questions!

If you’ve not heard of Moshi, it’s a sleep and mindfulness app for kids and parents and the number one app of this kind in 60 countries! I love their offerings to support children in going to sleep or calming down during the day with sleep stories, meditations, and more!

Want to learn more about Moshi? Check out their site!

Sunday, you can join the live stream on the Generation Moshi FB Page!

Hope you’ll join me!

Open-Hearted Dialogue; Tackling Difficult Topics While Making Meaning Together

The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger – but recognize the opportunity.  

–  John F. Kennedy

When E was between the ages of two and three, he adopted the very developmentally appropriate habit of running away from me. He thought it was hilarious. I thought it was downright dangerous. The first few times it happened, I envisioned a similar scenario by the road or a steep staircase in which he would take off running on his wobbly, not yet confident feet.  When I moved toward him with an impassioned “Stop! Don’t go there!” he moved in the direction I was moving – toward the dreaded danger – not away from it. After a fall down our staircase (it’s a miracle kids survive these ordeals!), I reflected on how I needed to change what I was doing. After all, it was a critical moment and I was not responding in a way that changed his behavior. And so I stopped and thought about how I could change my behavior in order to change his.

Skip ahead to a tween-age eighth grade daughter whose best friend has been trying to get her to return to school in the Fall when your family is concerned about safety and choosing homeschooling. Your daughter is crying about not wanting to lose her best friend and also not getting to see other friends and while you comfort her, you try and figure out the right thing to say.

Fast forward to a fifteen-year-old son who has been repeatedly threatened by a group of other boys in the neighborhood. Though it’s been going on for some time, this is the first time you are hearing about it and you fear for his safety. And finally, envision your first extended family Thanksgiving gathering in awhile since the pandemic separated us last year. Some people are vaccinated, some are not. Some are angry about their schools’ response. Some are scared of getting a breakthrough infection. Some are eager to just get along. Difficult topics abound and the way we manage them helps educate our children on how they can navigate those complicated moments.

Whether we are communicating with a preschooler, a fifth grader, a teenager or family member with opposing views, it helps to think through how to have an open-hearted dialogue when those important moments strike. The New York Times Bestselling book, Crucial Conversations; Tools for Talking when Stakes are High1 gives significant insight into how to think about and handle those conversations to move toward compassion and collaborative problem solving even when the moment turns intensely heated. The authors of Crucial Conversations claim that the people they’ve observed that are effective at opening up dialogue in those critical moments are those who create a safe space to share personal visions and contribute to shared meaning. In that space, they make it possible to “solve the problem and build relationships.”

pool of shared meaning venn diagram 001

The writers describe dialogue as “a pool of shared meaning.” Those who are effective in high stakes conversations contribute to the pool of shared meaning and open it for others versus typical fight or flight responses like using aggressive language, trying to cram one’s own agenda into a conversation or employing the “silent treatment.”  I’ve taken some of the book’s most important steps for “crucial conversations” and added my own developmental spin for parents who are talking to children. In addition to the steps below, the book is well worth reading for any critical conversations in your life.  The skills involved are not some magical blend of personality and temperament. They are indeed learnable skills. We need not try and escape or avoid. Try the following the next time you are tackling a difficult topic.

Pause a moment and calm down. Your emotions, whether you are aware of it or not, will be mirrored in your child so take a moment to breathe before proceeding. That short centering pause could mean the difference in your child or another adult listening or shutting down.

Move to eye level. For most of us with children, that means sitting or kneeling down at a child’s level. In the case of a teenage son or adult, that might mean sitting so that his taller presence is more on level with your own.

“Start with the heart.” Voice your genuine emotions in the situation. With a child, you might say, “You know I love you and want to make sure you are safe but I also know it’s important to you that you have the independence of walking or biking in the neighborhood.” Own your role in the situation since you are the only one you can control. “I know at times I seem overprotective but my goal is just to work with you so that both of us feel you are proceeding safely.” With an adult, you might say, “I’m feeling uncomfortable because I know we have differing views and you matter so much to me.” Open yourself to discover their heart. What are they feeling? (not thinking) How can I empathize with their feelings?

Be direct.  With little ones (toddler through early elementary), use as few words as possible. In the example of a toddler running away, back up to create space for him to run forward instead of away.  You might get down on her level and say, “Danger. Follow me.” Beckon to follow and move away from the street or staircase. (Don’t turn it into a chasing game which only fuels the fun and excitement of that developmental desire for independence and boundary testing.) For older children, they need to exactly what you are concerned about in the simplest terms. Avoid attempting to manipulate your child’s attitude or behavior since children can sniff that motive immediately. If it’s an emotional topic for your child, they may only hear or connect with a fraction of what you say. So make it short, authentic, and to the point. With an adult, you might say “I want to make sure I feel safe so I am working toward that end. I care about what you feel is important too.”

Articulate “mutual purpose.” In the example of the eighth grade daughter, she is focused on her friendship and the fear of losing it. You are focused on her academic performance and integrity. But finding and articulating your mutual purpose will help you find a common ground from which you can seek solutions together. In this case, your mutual purpose could be to help her sustain friendships and be successful in school while playing by school rules. Patterson et al. (2002) write that those skilled in facilitating dialogue do not see “either/ors” but find an “and” in any situation. Explain that she does not have to choose between friendship or integrity. But how can she find a way to maintain both? With an adult, you might say, “we are both here to reconnect and appreciate getting to see each other in person.”

Show “mutual respect.” Children will retreat and not be open to a conversation in which they feel a sense of blame from you. “YOU didn’t do your homework! We need to talk about this.” And your child shuts down. And it may take a while before you can reasonably revisit the conversation and get anywhere with it. If you see your child is not listening or backing away, they are likely not feeling respected. Address it directly. “I trust your good judgment. I know you are a good student as evidenced by all of your hard work in the past year. I just want to help you through a difficult situation. I think if we work together, we can come up with a solution that you’ll be happy with.” Adults require the same consideration.

Offer the “contrasting” view. Sometimes you need to say what is not true or not your purpose in order to allay any fears on the part of your child. Often in challenging, emotionally charged situations, our minds create a more inflated story than is the actual reality. In fact, teenagers are known for this trait. Saying what the situation is not will help eliminate those worries. “I’m not saying that your friendship is not important. I absolutely know it is. I like Cynthia. But I think she will still be your friend and may even respect you more if you make a choice that is good for you and her.”

Return to “safety.” If at any point during your important conversation, you see you are losing your audience – your child is losing focus, looking away or an adult is getting defensive -, focus solely on safety. They are feeling a lack of respect. They are feeling misunderstand or blamed and are pulling out of the “pool of shared meaning.” Quickly create safety by articulating their competence, autonomy and belonging – their ability and track record of making good choices. “When you were faced with a backlog of homework last year, I know that was so hard for you. But you took the challenge head on, worked hard and got through it. I know you can do it because you have already shown you can.” With an adult, you might say, “I am grateful to see you and hear what going on that’s important in your life.”

Open-hearted dialogue around tough issues takes courage and thoughtfulness for everyone. Try playing out a conversation that stresses you in your head using these strategies. Try it out on your spouse. Maybe there is a lower risk situation in which you can get some practice. As you do, the strategies will feel right and more natural to you so that you will be able to regularly use these skills in critical moments. Being a skilled dialogue facilitator can mean the difference in successful problem solving with work and family challenges. And aren’t these the moments that help define and model character for your child?


1. Patterson, K., Grenny, J., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2002). Crucial conversations; Tools for talking when stakes are high. NY: McGraw-Hill.

Practicing Perspective-taking, Dealing with Fears and Cultivating Parents’ Self-awareness…

Check out the Best of CPCK’s Halloween Posts

The Hidden Treat of Halloween; Practicing Perspective-taking

Though fear may abound with kids worrying about spooky specters and parents worrying about COVID, nut allergies, and cavities, there is more to the Halloween experience than just candy and frights. Children are encouraged to be someone or something else for one night a year. They are not only permitted but emboldened to become a character from their imaginings. Halloween gives them a chance to think and feel from another perspective. The skill of perspective-taking is one that has been found to assist in problem-solving, communication, multi-cultural understanding, empathy and academic performance. Learn how you can hone this skill through Halloween fun.

Check it out here!

Darkness, Monsters, and Snakes — Oh My! How Parents Can Support a Child Dealing with Fears

Understanding fear and how it impacts our children can help us be more responsive and empathetic parents. We can learn how to raise kids who are courageous. Fear is experienced differently by every person. There is no predicting what particular fears your child will have or develop. The key is to pay attention to fears and work to understand them. This article provides a simple process for helping your child deal with his or her fears that has been shown to work even among with children with severe phobias.

Check it out here!

Fear and the Case of the Disappearing Parent

Have you ever found fears eating away at your most intimate relationships? Were anger or irritation masking what was just below the surface? And when you actually examined the fears, did you discover their origins went as far back as your own childhood? That’s the premise of this fictional adults-only ghost story, the only fiction written for this site to date! It may spook you but it also may hold some truths about ghosts in your own life you are ready to confront.

Check it out here!

Happy Halloween!

Annual Halloween Cooperative Games

…Imaginative Fun and Skill-building In-Person or at a Distance

Perhaps you volunteer in your child’s classroom and are helping plan the annual Halloween party. Maybe you are a teacher looking for ways to both entertain, celebrate, and build skills on the holiday. Or you could be planning an indoor celebration with siblings or a small friend group with rain threatening trick-or-treating plans. Whatever your role or goal, the following ideas are sure to make your little ghouls or goblins laugh with delight as they collaborate with their peers, approach scary characters in an entertaining way and build social and emotional skills. I’ve listed which ones could be used over Zoom for an online classroom or group experience. To ensure a fun time, go over Zoom rules first including muting yourself until it’s your time to speak and using hand signals like raising a hand or using the sign language for clapping so that all are prepared to contribute. Check out these games appropriate for eight-years-old and up!

Monster Back Story

Materials: Monster masks, or construction paper, glue, markers and large popsicle sticks (to create monster masks)

Gather on Zoom or in-person. Hold monster masks up to your face. You can either create them together as a craft at home prior to the event or ask children to bring any mask they might have to share. The leader can introduce one monster at a time. “This is Dracula. He’s a vampire who survives by sucking peoples’ blood. But he wasn’t always as he is today…” Then go around the circle and ask each child to provide a detail from his childhood explaining why he came to be the person he is today.

Be sure to offer the “pass” option if a child cannot think of an addition to the back story.

Social and Emotional Skills Practiced: Collaboration, Empathy, Perspective-taking

Witches’ and Wizards’ Charades

Materials: Index cards, marker, stick or wand

Gather on Zoom or in-person. For Zoom, create slides with each of the magical enchantments below. If in-person, make index cards prepared with the illusions listed below, one per card. Ask each participant to bring a stick or better yet, a wand for casting spells. Explain the rules of the game. One person is the witch or wizard and they get to select a card from the pile. They also hold the wand and cast the spell. The students seated directly to their immediate left and right will serve as their team. They read the card together and whisper a plan for acting out the illusion. No talking aloud or sounds can be made just acting. They continue to act out the illusion while the rest of the group guesses what they are doing. The person to guess correctly first is the next wizard or witch.

For the index cards, here are the magical illusions to be acted out: levitation, or a floating person or object; invisibility, person or object disappears; grower taller; shrinking; growing longer hair; changing from a person to a toad; flying on a broomstick; making it light and then, dark; making limbs disappear; disappearing in one part of the room, reappearing in another, charming a snake.

Social and Emotional Skills Practiced: Social awareness, Active listening, Collaboration, Negotiation, Problem-solving, Nonverbal communication

Cooperative Ghost Story Telling

Gather on Zoom or in-person. The leader establishes the rules to get the game started. Let the group know that each person will have a turn to contribute one sentence to the ghost story. Pass around a talking stick and let participants know that only the one who possesses the stick may talk. The others must listen carefully in order to build upon the story. The leader can begin with the classic line, “It was a dark, stormy night and…” This requires no setup and no materials. Kids will delight in the creativity and imagination involved. This is also a wonderful transition game that can be used on the spur-of-the-moment when waiting for a next class or activity.

Social and Emotional Skill Practiced: Collaboration, Creative Thinking, Active Listening

Robbery Report

This is a great one for Zoom or in-person. This one was created for Classroom Conflict Resolution Training for Elementary Schools in San Francisco, California and reprinted in the A Year of Student’s Creative Response to Conflict curriculum. It has been used effectively in classrooms. Children love it!

The parent relays a robbery report and children must remember the details of the report by listening to it. Say it once and see what they can remember. Then, read it a second and perhaps, third time and see if they’re listening improves.

Parent: “Please listen carefully as I have to go to the hospital right away. I just called the police from the gas station on the corner. Wait here and report the robbery to them. I was walking into Johnson’s Convenience Store and this guy came running out and almost knocked me over. He was carrying a white bag and it looked like he had a gun in his left hand. He was wearing a Levi jacket with the sleeves cut out and a green and blue plaid shirt and blue jeans with a hole in the right knee. He had skinny legs and a big stomach. He wore wire rim glasses and high top red Converse tennis shoes. He was bald and had a brown mustache and was six and a half feet tall, probably in his mid-thirties.” 1

Social and Emotional Skills Practiced: Active Listening

Enjoy engaging in one or more of these games with your family, friends, or students. Happy Halloween!

References:

1. Nia-Azariah, K., Kern-Crotty, F., & Gomer Bangel, L. (1992). A Year of Students Response to Conflict: 35 Experiential Workshops for the Classroom. Cincinnati, OH: Center for Peace Education.

#Halloween #Parenting #SEL

In The Washington Post… “Is Crowdsourced Parenting Eroding Confidence?”

by Jessica Runberg

Journalist Jessica Runberg interviewed Jennifer Miller of Confident Parents, Confident Kids on the role of the internet in parenting. “Should we listen to the advice on social media? How do we not feel overwhelmed by conflicting opinions? Who should we listen to?” were some of her important questions. Check out the article in today’s The Washington Post in the “On Parenting” section.

It begins…

Babies don’t come with instruction manuals, yet countless people assured me that I’d know exactly what to do when I became a parent. They were mostly right; my parenthood badge unlocked an internal compass.

But there’s also been a lot of Googling, group texts, calls to my mom and panicked posts in my neighborhood moms’ Facebook group when I couldn’t get my toddler to stay in her crib or wondered which swim school was best.

The phrase “it takes a village to raise a child” takes on new meaning for millennial parents who turn to their peers online for counsel, as well as influence others’ parenting choices through this solicited advice. When your village is the Internet, that’s a lot of (often conflicting) advice, and that makes me wonder: Is crowdsourced parenting eroding our parental confidence?

And later…

“The inner should always inform the perception of the outer. In other words, have we deeply reflected on our core values? That’s something that comes from within. I think we always need to use that litmus test when looking outward for information,” says Miller, adding that looking outward is not inherently a problem.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2021/10/21/crowdsourced-parenting-advice/

Thank you, Jessica Runberg for selecting a topic that impacts all if not most parents now, for your accuracy and careful research and for the opportunity to contribute.

Embracing the Mystery

Acceptance In Uncertain Times

Excitement gets caught like a lump in my throat and won’t pass through,” said my husband the other day and I was reminded of the reflection my son offered this summer… “I don’t get excited about plans because I know they probably won’t work out.” I’ve been wondering about why after vaccinations abound, there seems more stress in the air – for myself and others around me. It seems we’ve not only grown weary of a pandemic and all of the restrictions that go with it, but now we live a strange and complex existence where we are sort of cautious, where the specter of illness stills looms, but we are back to school and work. We have new restrictions that govern our lives but there’s no real clear set of rules that define our daily choices – only complexities and at times, paradoxes. 

Making plans continues to frazzle the most unflappable of us as we attempt to go about our lives and nourish our relationships and yet continue to manage difficult choices and the resulting circumstances – “her daughter is sick. We don’t know if she’s been COVID tested. Should we keep our plans with their family?” “It’s raining and we were planning to meet at an outdoor patio. Now what?” And “Part of our friend’s family is vaccinated but there are a few who are not. How do we manage that situation?” There seem to be more illnesses whether its the common cold (it’s made the rounds in our family, how about yours?), more injuries, more deaths (whether COVID-related or not), more individuals who are dealing with serious depression and/or anxiety. And we are pairing those conditions with our inability to participate in the rituals of life that we rely on (oh, we didn’t realize how much!) for our social and emotional well-being including funerals (how do we mourn without our community around us?), weddings, and other important rites of passage.

One lesson that returns again and again is the idea of acceptance; of surrender; of embracing what is instead of expecting something to occur regurgitated from an old, outdated playbook.  This means that we have less control than we often expect. Our scripts have fundamentally changed and it’s not as easy to predict how life will evolve. When my son interviewed older family members for a history project last year about their times of hardships during war or civil unrest, one consistent theme among them that kept them strong was faith. And though they hail from various religious traditions, I think they were speaking to this acceptance of the mystery…that there are a number of factors outside of our control. And instead of feeling the victim to others’ choices or the changes in the weather, we accept that we are part of our bigger universe. We trust we have a purpose in being here. Our unique constellation of gifts is ready for our meaningful contribution. And that bigger picture is unfolding in complex ways we may not always understand. 

Synchronous moments — those joyful times in which things happen smoothly and beautifully — are when connections are made in harmony and beyond explanation or our meddling. These only happen when we are present to the moment and flowing with the changes around us and within us. So what gets in the way of our living every moment in this way? We attempt to control. We force and push and stop our feelings — what our hearts say to be true — because actually fully experiencing the feelings could be too painful. We fear fully feeling pain, rejection and disappointment. But we also fear fully feeling the good stuff too – excitement, joy and happiness because what if things change rapidly and our happiness is ripped away. How could we bear it? So our feelings’ prevention strategy – what we may call “coping” – actually removes us from the flow of life. And our active engagement in stopping our feelings creates anxiety and compounds those repressed feelings so that there’s a rumbling and a welling up of emotions that grows like hot lava inside of us and eventually, will surface and run over (and perhaps, not in a constructive way).

So what does it mean to feel all the way through the feeling? How do we know when we’ve allowed our feelings to emerge? I’ve asked this of myself many times and my simple answer is this… We know when we’ve fully felt our feelings when we’ve gone through the sensations, named them in our body, hearts and spirits and accepted that they exist. Often it also helps to answer the question: where did those feelings come from? What current conditions are creating those feelings and when did I feel those same feelings in the past? If we can ask these simple questions of ourselves — and our children — we can begin to take care of ourselves. To allow our feelings to flow. We can begin to dance with the universe (who is always dancing) and engage in swaying with each moment. 

One of my favorite poet/philosopher’s Mark Nepo wrote:

Honoring the mystery means staying open to the many things that invite us or force us to widen and deepen our sense of unity and reality…we are called to live from the center, trying to bring our inner lives and outer lives together as a starting point from which to enter our days. For we access a different sense of wholeness when integrated than divided.1

So what does embracing the mystery have to do with confident parenting? In short, everything. As stress runs through the air waves like wi-fi — invisible but ever-present — our children feel their own set of stressors from school, friends, social media and the complexities of their development along with a heaping dose of the stress from all of the significant adults – caregivers, teachers – in their lives. Yet for children, though they feel that adult stress, they can’t always name or understand what it’s concerning. And they are unable to reflect on the causes of the stress contagions they feel. If we are to bring presence, intentionality, and confidence to our parenting (or educating), then we have to work on our trust in the universe. Yes, it will take a good workout from our social and emotional skills including:

  • Self-awareness – What am I feeling? Why am I feeling it? Are my desires coming from impulse or ego? If so, can I quiet my mind enough to listen to my inner knowing? What thoughts or stories am I holding on to that are fear-based or destructive? What new stories can I tell that are growth-led, love-oriented and constructive?
  • Self-management – How do we allow the feelings we fear? How do we fully accept the messages from our hearts? And when we allow those feelings, how can we experience them in growth-filled ways that do no harm and allow for deeper reflections?
  • Social awareness – How can we view others pain and suffering with empathy and compassion without taking on their suffering?
  • Relationship skills – How can we dance with others in collaboration and in co-creation? This certainly will mean power must be shared between partners including our children. It also requires trust and faith in others, the ability to let go of controlling outcomes, and engaging in a dialogue that is unpredictable and uncertain.
  • Responsible decision-making skills – These skills have gotten an exceptional workout within the last year. Though we must think ahead to consequences for ourselves and for others before making essential decisions, there remains the element of uncertainty as we, for example, navigate a virus that is unpredictable in its effects and patterns of influence. We do the best that we can in making choices that align with our deepest values as we proceed in the flow.

We have fundamentally shifted as individuals as our world has fundamentally shifted. And the race to adapt to the rapid changes can be the very definition of anxiety unless we become intentional about how we want to show up in this moment – for ourselves and for our children. As I dealt with a health crisis with my mother while my son was home sick this past month, I was reminded that I couldn’t think about tomorrow. I needed to focus on the moment at hand to be helpful to whoever I was with at that time. Flowing with the moment helped me fully commit my attention to the person who needed my support. The way through and beyond was trusting that the universe is bigger and moving in mysterious ways that I cannot always fully comprehend. Surrender no longer represents a tragic giving up but a courageous “yes” to now.

References:

Nepo, Mark. (2005). The Exquisite Risk; Daring to Live an Authentic Life. NY: Random House: Three Rivers Press.

Setting Up the Physical, Social and Emotional Environment for Learning Success at Home

Last year, I offered three different webinars to help parents and caregivers with setting up a caring, supportive learning environment at home. In this school year, some students, classes and schools continue to be engaged in remote learning. Additionally, it’s critical that we all work to create conducive learning environments for our children and teens at home as they attempt to do homework, group projects, and more in our homes. Check out the following to gain ideas and support:

How to Set Up the Physical Environment for Learning Success

What can we do with our physical spaces at home to ensure our child is properly set up to learn? Check out this webinar to learn more!

How to Set Up the Emotional Environment for Learning Success

Are there ways in which we can boost our child’s motivation to work hard? Particularly in times of great stress, how do we create the sense of safety and care with our children’s hearts necessary for learning to take place? Watch and learn more!

How to Set Up the Social Environment for Learning Success

How can we promote healthy relationships when learning at home? How can we teach our children to be responsible online? How do we help them deal with cyberbullying? What about getting along as a family? The social environment at home has an impact on our child’s ability to learn so watch this video to learn how you can become intentional about creating a safe, supportive environment.

What Is Social and Emotional Learning Anyway?

Check Out the National PTA’s Podcast Series with CASEL’s Karen Van Ausdal

We’re excited to share that our friends at @NationalPTA have released a new #BackpackNotes podcast focused on Social and Emotional Learning. (SEL)! Karen Van Ausdal, Senior Director of Practice at the Collaborative for Social and Emotional Learning is their featured guest. Listen in to learn about SEL and how you can practice it as a family. Tune in wherever you listen to podcasts or at www.pta.org/PodcastEp46

Here’s a sneak preview!

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