On our recent visit to Rome, my husband and I were greatly assisted by the Google Translate App. It was so helpful when we were ordering tickets to the Vatican Museum, knowing which direction to the ride the Metro and figuring out the difference between cream or milk in the small market near our Airbnb.
I was thinking that we sometimes need such an app to help us in our communication with those we love. Of course, an app cannot convey emotion or communicate from the heart. But often, our words to our children and other family members don’t relay the true intention of our heart even when spoken in our native tongue.
When was the last time that you said to your child, “Where were you? Do you know what time it is?” The intensity of your voice probably didn’t communicate that you were so worried and didn’t know what you would do if something happened to your child.
Or how about when you exclaimed with a furrowed brow several pitches higher than your normal voice, “What are you watching on your phone/tablet/ TV? Did you finish your homework yet?” The translation of this might be “You have so much potential. I want you to have a great future with unlimited possibilities and being responsible in school helps make a foundation for that.”
Have you ever said, “Don’t be so lazy; you have to work hard to amount to anything” when what you really meant was “I want you to be better than me, to have more opportunities than your father and I did. We want you to have an amazing life.”
Although there is not yet an app that can translate our true heart, there are some steps that we can take to help us as parents. My friend and author, marriage/ relationship educator, Bento Leal III says in his new book “4 Essential Keys to Effective Communication” that we need to start with empathy as the essential relationship ingredient in communicating with others.
Mr. Leal says, “Empathy is a powerful state of mind, but it’s not something we try to pound into ourselves, it’s something we want to cultivate and let out—it’s our capacity to have compassion and concern for ourselves and others.” His book gives practical tools on how to work on developing empathy and includes steps for a 12-Day Communication Challenge. Check out Mr. Leal’s book here: tinyurl.com/y3g58aqy
Other things I suggest are:
• Write a gratitude list for all things that you appreciate about your child/ren
• Write a note or a letter to express some of these appreciation to your child/ren
• Make time to sit down and talk with your child. Make a date to spend time with him or her one-on-one. Do more listening than talking.
• Say “I am sorry.” If you blow it, explain that you were too intense, what you really meant to say was….
• Practice modeling what you want your children to inherit by saying, “I am really upset right now. Let’s talk about this later when we are both calmer.”
“If you want to get good at anything where real-life performance matters, you actually have to practice that skill in context. Study by itself is never enough.” Josh Kaufman
In his book “Tribes” Seth Godin tells the story of the Balloon Factory and the Unicorn. The people who work in the balloon factory are timid and afraid of pins, needles, porcupines and other sharp objects. They don’t like sudden changes in temperature either.
It wasn’t a bad place to work except when the unicorns show up. Usually, the balloon factory folks shush the unicorn and are able to shoo him away. But sometimes, the unicorn wanders into the factory anyway. That’s when everyone runs for cover as explosions occur right and left.
Godin uses this story to talk about change—the balloon factory is the status quo and the unicorn represents the impetus for change. However, I think that this story can be applied to how we deal with our emotions. Most of the time, we go through life trying to be nice and helpful, keeping our anger, frustration, fear and sadness under wraps. But sometimes, someone says something, and we pop just like a balloon.
In the world of therapy and healing, this is referred to as getting triggered. Triggers are anything that reminds a person of a previous trauma or painful situation. In more extreme cases, it is referred to as PTSD or posttraumatic stress disorder and usually involves experiences from wars, disasters, and horrific crimes.
However, Greg Baer, author of “Real Love and Post-Childhood Stress Disorder” says that most of us suffer from a form of PTSD because we experienced numerous traumatic events through our childhood and beyond. From early childhood, our brains are literally molded by love and when we are misunderstood and not loved unconditionally, Dr. Baer says we gather many minor hidden wounds. Most of the time, we are initially blind to the injuries they cause within but overtime, they can become troublesome and even unbearable.
Recently I became aware that I have a trigger around not being acknowledged. Somehow, as a child, I did not feel recognized for my own unique gifts and talents. My parents were loving parents who were overwhelmed with trying to balance work, church, community and family and as the oldest, I felt that I had to play the role of the responsible daughter who downplayed her own feelings, ideas and wishes. How many times have I reacted badly--allowing my balloon to pop--with my husband, my children, my friends when I didn’t feel appreciated or acknowledged without recognizing that I was connecting back to childhood pain?
I am realizing that being triggered isn’t something to be ashamed of or to keep hidden. Rather, it is an opportunity to become aware of my need to healing. I would like to conclude this post with an excerpt from an article by Becca Stevens, founder of Thistle Farm www.beccastevens.org/
“I would like to test the word ‘uncover’. Something happens that ‘uncovers’ something in me. That something awakens something I already knew deep down, and this something has allowed me to see what was lurking in the shadow part of me. This uncovering gives me the opportunity to see it. It has been uncovered for me. I can now choose to put it aside for a bit, I can choose to let it overtake me and ruin my next patch of life, or I can choose to look at it straight on and see it with all its fear, untruths, and destabilizing qualities that I carry like precious pearls. I then asked, “What other words are out there waiting for us to use them to aid in trauma healing?” Some of the great words that were offered were: disruption, stirring, alert, and awakening…It reminds me that as we do the work, we can reframe, rename, and redefine how we experience healing.”
If you would like support on your own journey of healing, connect with me here: Contact Me
Last week, I found myself in a multi-leveled parking garage at the MARTA station in Atlanta, walking around clicking my remote to locate my car. That morning, in my haste to arrive at my destination on time, I had failed to make note of which level and section I parked in. After 20 minutes, I heard the faint beep several levels below. I finally located my car!
Once in my car and on my way home, I began to think about how this incident applied to my own life. I am a doer! I thrive on organizing, making lists, accomplishing tasks, getting things done. On my healing journey, I have begun to realize that it is my way of making order out of chaos. It is my “safe place” where I don’t deal with feelings and emotions.
However, I am also learning this stops me from being present. Being a doer keeps me from connecting to myself, my family and my loved ones on a deeper level. How often in life am I not present to my impact on my husband because I am caught up in getting a project completed? When was the last time that I missed the cues in my son’s voice as he wanted to tell me more about the challenges of balancing work, life, family and the addition of a new baby? Wasn’t it just yesterday that I complained about the tension in my shoulders without realizing that I am not making enough time for self-care?
So, how does one undo years of “doing” and grow to be more present? First, it must start with being more connected to myself. For me, the awareness began a long time ago, but I fought it tooth and nail, always falling back into what I knew—the familiarity of doing. But just over four years ago, my husband and I moved to Georgia for his work and I found myself without all the “doer hats” that I had been wearing.
I struggled to find what I was supposed to “do.” I read “Who Moved the Cheese?”, “What Color is My Parachute?” and I did a bunch of crying, praying and meditating. Finding a nearby yoga studio gave me the opportunity to become more self-aware and taught me incredible lessons about being more flexible and letting things to flow. Joining a community band allowed me to reconnect with the love and joy of creating music with others while playing my flute.
Over the past few years, I have discovered my passion for working with others as they begin to heal their relationships and their families. Over and over, I am reminded that healing is a process of being intentional, takes being present and involves peeling back layer after layer to discover our true self. It takes a willingness to do the work.
“Recovery of Your Inner Child” is a book that is helping me to heal. The author Lucia Capacchione says, “For us to be fully human, the Child Within must be embraced and expressed…Inside every adult, there is a child crying, ‘Let me out.’” Look for more on this in future blogs.
If you would like support on your own healing journey, please go to my website and connect with me. www.coachmyrna.org
When I was a preschool and kindergarten teacher, I had a marble jar, often called the “Good Choices Jar.” The idea behind the jar was simply that I put marbles in when the students were helping each other, making good choices and cooperating together. When students were hurtful or mean, marbles had to be taken out of the jar. A filled jar of marbles meant a “Good Choices Party” that the students helped to plan.
In Brené Brown’s novel “Daring Greatly,” she shares a story of her young daughter, Ellen, coming home from third grade sobbing. Brené was finally able to figure out that Ellen had told some friends something in confidence but by the end of recess, the whole class knew. They were laughing and making fun of her. When her daughter announced, “I will never trust anyone again,” Brené was struggling to find a way to help her.
It turns out, her daughter’s teacher used a marble jar in her classroom, so she used the concept to explain how trust is built. She told her, “Trust is like a marble jar. You share those hard stories and hard things that are happening to you with friends who over time you’ve filled up their marble jar.” They talked about what marble jar friends look like:
Wouldn’t this be a great conversation to have with your child, youth or even young adult? We can guide our children in making friend choices and understanding the role that trust plays in those relationships. To see the whole Brené Brown TED talk on this, brenebrown.com/videos/anatomy-trust-video/
Trust is built one marble at a time.
Recently on a bucket-list trip to the Mediterranean, my husband Michael and I had the opportunity to experience the Sagrada Familia (Holy Family Church) in Barcelona, Spain. An icon of the city, the Sagrada Familia boast bold, wildly creative, organic architecture and décor inside and out and is still a work in progress. In fact, the term gaudy comes from the name of the initial architect—Antoni Gaudi.
Begun in 1883 under the guidance and direction of Antoni Gaudi, it is an unusual masterpiece that is set to be finished in 2026. Despite his boldly modern architectural vision, Gaudi was a traditional and deeply religious man who designed the Sagrada Familia to be a place of solid Christine values amid what was a humble workers’ colony in a fast-changing city.
When he died, only one section of the church—the Nativity Façade—had been completed. The rest of the work has been inspired by his vision, but he knew that he wouldn’t live to complete it—thus allowing space for others to bring their own inspiration and faith to the project.
I am reminded how we need this long view in our families. Investing in our children isn’t only for today. It is for who they will become, the families they will have, and the grandchildren that will be born and grow up.
We must challenge ourselves to allow the process to unfold, not micromanaging every detail and over stressing about the future. Rather, like Gaudi, let’s provide support, guidance, vision, inspiration and trust for our children, youth and young adults as we imagine the way they will impact the future.
In her book “Letter to My Daughter,” Maya Angelou writes about her mother’s long view. When Ms. Angelou was twenty-two with a young son, two jobs, rented rooms and very little money, she was also fiercely independent and didn’t want to accept support from her mother, Ms. Vivian Baxter. Her mother, a successful businesswoman, was supportive and encouraged Maya’s self-reliance. Once a month, they did have a standing appointment to have lunch at her mother’s lavish home.
On one such occasion, Ms. Baxter spoke the words to Maya Angelou that reached into the future and guided her towards it, “Baby, I’ve been thinking and now I am sure. You are the greatest woman I’ve ever met. You are kind and very intelligent and those elements are not always found together. Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, and my mother—yes, you belong in that category. Here, give me a kiss.”
I touch the future, I parent!
By Dr. Charles Fay, loveandlogic.com
Many parents ask, “Is it really possible to raise well-adjusted kids while at the same time trying to manage an incredibly hectic and stressful work and family life?” One mom described their situation:
We try to live a simple, frugal lifestyle. Even with keeping our spending as low as possible, both of us still have to work full schedules just to provide for the basics. With three young children things get crazy. The house almost always feels like a mess, and we have very little time and energy left over to spend with the kids. Both of us feel horribly guilty about this much of the time.
Some parents spend almost no time with their kids because they are addicted to work, addicted to buying extra stuff, addicted to selfish activities or all three. Many others, however, find themselves having to work their fingers to the bone because they simply don’t have a choice. Here are some words of encouragement… and some tips… for this second type:
• Many well-adjusted adults grew up with exceptionally busy parents.
The key seems to be this: As children, they were not shielded from their family’s economic struggles. Their parents were honest about the challenges and consistently modeled hopeful, positive attitudes. As such, they internalized the truth that they were deeply loved even though their parents weren’t able to spend as much time with them as they wanted.
• Remember that guilt often interferes with good parenting.
When we allow guilt to interfere with our ability to set and enforce loving limits and expectations, our kids suffer.
• Don’t be afraid to ask for help with supervision.
Kids of all ages need good supervision. Without it, even very good kids often get involved in drugs, alcohol, early sex, and other high-risk behaviors.
• You are doing a good and noble thing by taking care of the needs of your family.
This is wonderful modeling, and it sends a powerful message of love to your kids.
There is a secret hidden in plain sight for all parents of young children: the most important—and astoundingly simple—thing you can do for your children’s future success in life is to talk to them. The way you talk with your growing child literally builds his or her brain. Parent talk can drastically improve school readiness and lifelong learning in everything from math to art. Indeed, parent–child talk is a fundamental, critical factor in building grit, self-control, leadership skills, and generosity.
Dr. Dana Suskind, surgeon, pediatrician, professor and author, wrote her groundbreaking book “Thirty Million Words: Building A Child’s Brain” in 2015. Dr. Suskind says, "Every parent has the words, the language, the nurturance necessary to build their baby's brain. It's really about families understanding that they matter in their children's education and that they matter from the first day that their children are born." For more on her research and her book, link
Just how do you talk with a baby or toddler? Try the three T’s (from Thirty Million Words: Building A Child’s Brain):
Tune In: Notice what the child is focused on and talk about that. Respond when a child communicates – including when a baby cries or coos.
Talk More: Narrate day to day routines, such as diaper changes and tooth brushing. Use details: "Let Mommy take off your diaper. Oh, so wet. And smell it. So stinky!"
Take Turns: Keep the conversation going. Respond to your child's sounds, gestures and, eventually, words – and give them time to respond to you. Ask lots of questions that require more than yes or no answers.
Other tips for supporting your child’s developing language are:
Finally, let me encourage all young parents out there: to the exhausted mom who is reading The Cat in the Hat or Goodnight Moon for the fourteenth time after a long work day, to the dad who gets up early on Saturday morning and heads with his kids to the library instead of playing golf, I salute you. Keep up the good work! Because someday, after many years of reading to them, they might start reading to you.
Most young children are aware of death, even if they don’t understand it. I remember vividly my first personal experience with death--my neighborhood friend’s dog was hit by a car. We were standing on the sidewalk and it seemed to unfold in slow motion right in front of us. I can still connect with the helpless feeling I had at six years old—there was nothing I could do about the horrible outcome of the collision or for my friend as she sobbed uncontrollably.
Death is a common theme in cartoons and television, and some of your child’s friends may have already lost a loved one. But experiencing grief firsthand is a very different and often confusing process for kids. As a parent, you can’t protect a child from the pain of loss, but you can help her feel safe. And by allowing and encouraging him to express his feelings, you can help him build healthy coping skills that will serve him well in the future.
Other points to help your child process the death of a loved one are:
If you know children who are dealing with a big loss, these books can encourage them to talk about and work through their sadness and cherish the special memories they have. For more on helping children deal with loss and grief:
Did you know the average North American child now spends about seven hours a day staring at screens and mere minutes engaged in unstructured play outdoors? Yet recent research indicates that experiences in nature are essential for healthy growth. Regular exposure to nature can help relieve stress, depression, and attention deficits. It can reduce bullying, combat obesity, and boost academic scores. Most critical of all, abundant time in natural settings seems to yield long-term benefits in kids’ cognitive, emotional, and social development. Of course, spending time outdoors is important for adults as well!
Growing up, Scott Sampson—the paleontologist and CEO of Science World in Vancouver, Canada — went on annual camping trips to the Rocky Mountains with his family. However, he said in a recent TED talk, “This was not where I fell in love with nature. That happened close to home — looking for rocks in the backyard, playing kick-the-can in the neighborhood, bushwhacking in the local forest.”
Sampson recommends three steps we can take with our children to connect with nature.
Sampson also wrote a great book on the same topic www.amazon.com/How-Raise-Wild-Child-Science/dp/0544705297?tag=teco06-20
As many families are preparing their children to start a new school year, I would like to share this article with parenting advise on how to help your child get off to a good start. As a former teacher for 25 years, I totally support the ideas and insights presented here.
Love and Logic Parenting, by Dr. Charles Fey, www.loveandlogic.com/
Centuries ago, I presume, a tradition developed whereby parents felt compelled to provide a tangible expression of their gratitude toward teachers. The original motivations for this tradition are unclear. Some may have been prompted by genuine appreciation; others may have been spurred by guilt and attempts to atone for the unruly classroom conduct of their children; some may have darker motivations where it was hoped a small payoff would “grease the wheels” a bit toward a better grade for their child.
While I’m sure that most educators truly appreciate the gesture, I’m not sure how many apples an average person can eat. I wonder how many of those cute little picture frames, paper weights, plaques, and other cute thingies eventually get regifted.
Of course, all of us dedicated educators want to be appreciated for our hard work, long hours, and willingness to be exposed to every germ known to humankind. It’s nice to be appreciated for the fact that we choose to love kids even when they behave badly and produce noxious fumes. It’s great to be appreciated for the fact that we take classrooms full of kids with different needs, abilities, behaviors, and troubles and turn them into high-powered learning teams.
Great teachers are amazing!
The best gift we can give them involves our own parenting. The most wonderful display of our appreciation is to send them students truly ready to be respectful, responsible, and eager to learn. No doubt this gift also benefits our children, who will rise to the top when equipped with such character attributes.
Listed below are just a few things you can do: