Only Mothers read Mother’s Day Blogs

Only Mothers read Mother’s Day Blogs!

Well, it’s true, isn’t it?  I doubt a spouse, partner or kids who are not parents themselves are taking the time to read any of the hundreds of blogs, social media posts or news articles about motherhood and honoring mothers.  At best, they mostly serve as a reminder to these folks that they dare not forget the day.  So, if you’re a Mom, Grandmother, or someone who has parented/supported a child, this is what I would like for you to know.

You are enough!  Yep, you heard me correctly, you are enough.  You don’t have to try harder, do more, be more, give more.  You are enough.  It’s been quite a year and all the parents I have worked with (let me say the majority have been Moms) have become increasingly aware of their limits.  I say, bravo!  Now you can start to make changes to take better care of yourselves.  But this thought never seemed to occur to the Moms I spoke with this past year.  They instantly defaulted to “I’m not good enough at parenting, the job, homeschooling, or the relationship with my spouse or partner.”  They felt defeated and as if they were falling short in all areas of their life.  If this is hitting home to you, then get a big thick marker and a piece of paper and write “I am enough” and tape it everywhere.  You’ll know the “I am enough” feeling when you can go to bed at night and tell yourself you’ve done the best you can and you can do no more. 

Ask and you shall receive!  Giving to others and sacrificing is what got us this special day along with a heap of stress.  Why do I somehow think that a day was designated for Mothers to appease us and ease the guilt of the beneficiaries of our efforts?  Lucky us, we got a whole day!  The truth is we do get to have more than one day a year off.  You’ll notice I didn’t say “deserve,” because, we are enough by just being, remember?  Here is how to find more time for yourself.  Consider making this Mother’s Day the start of opening the door just a crack to asking for and receiving help.  This is the best form of self-care that you will ever do.  This might be asking your child to pick up their dirty laundry; your spouse to put the kids to bed; or your son-in-law to change a light bulb for you.  It truly doesn’t matter if they do it or not, the point is to practice asking and be ready to receive with an open heart.  It’s been my experience that an over-giver is an under-receiver.  I was such an over-giver that my receiving muscle atrophied.  So, then I started small, asking people, when my arms were full, if they could please open the door for me, or a quick ask of a tall person in the grocery store, would they mind getting a box of macaroni and cheese from the top shelf.  Success, I was batting 1000.  I then moved on to observing people who I thought to be selfish and noticing how excellent they were at receiving.  I clearly was in foreign territory; however, these receivers soon became my role models.  Slowly but surely, I got my giving and receiving into a healthy balance and surprisingly my “enough-ness” grew stronger too.

You have the power!  Yes Dorothy, those ruby slippers you’ve had on this whole time, truly are powerful.  That person who is enough has always been there squawking to get us to come back home to our true selves where can see our enough-ness.  Instead of a tornado, we got a pandemic.  So now, you have the power to decide how you want to be post pandemic.  While you’re thinking about it, put your feet up, open your heart wide and receive the wisdom that the best way to love your child, is to love yourself. 

Teacher Appreciation Week 2021

For Teacher Appreciation, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty!

If, in this past year, you recall a moment when you thought, “I don’t know how teachers do it,” “thank God for teachers,” or maybe you had a flashback of a former teacher who was there for you, then please read on!

This is Teacher Appreciation Week (May 3-7).  Parents across the country are busy sending notes, flowers, and gifts emblazoned with a shiny red apple.  Expressing thanks to teacher, I am sure, does more than we will ever know, so I am delighted there is an official week to pay tribute to and show appreciation for teachers.  If teachers had time to keep track (which they don’t), I am certain that over a school year they hear “thank you” many times.  However, while in the busy day to day focus on the task at hand, it’s hard to reflect on the words and gestures of appreciation. 

This year I say let’s really get down to the “nitty-gritty” for Teacher Appreciation week and when expressing thanks, let’s say specifically what we are grateful for.  Just a heads up, this is going to require reflection and vulnerability on your part, but I know you can do it.  

Let me share my “nitty-gritty” example.  Just this past week, I watched a teacher, social worker and principal become a circle of support for a little second grade girl whose anxiety was on the rise.  They also included in that circle of support the little girls’ mom who was beside herself with worry.  What I noticed while observing the tender loving care they gave to the little girl and her mom, was that when a child hurts the teacher hurts.  The irony was not lost on me that this is one of many things parents and teachers have in common.  When our children hurt, we hurt.  While I knew this, I don’t think it would have resonated so deeply without this close up observation.  If it hadn’t been teacher appreciation week, I probably would not have taken the time to reflect and stay with the vulnerable feelings long enough to write a note of appreciation.

Since the pandemic hit, it would be hard to find someone who says teaching is easy.  By now, we all recognize and can appreciate the special gift a person has if they can teach.  But this profession goes way beyond helping a student learn their ABC’s or geometry.  Educators embrace the whole child and they excel at getting down to the nitty-gritty of how students learn and what keeps them from learning.  This is why they have a hard time not taking their work home with them.  They put in a lot of thought over how to reach their students.  So how about this week, we collect our thoughts, get down to the nitty-gritty and thank a teacher for something specific that you observed, admired and are grateful for.  This authentic, heart-felt expression of gratitude will be one of the greatest gifts a teacher can ever receive.

March Madness…Burnout, not Basketball!

March Madness…Burnout, not Basketball!

Good riddance March!  If you are a teacher, principal, school nurse, parent or provide any service to students or families, then let’s collectively give a huge sigh of relief that March 2021 is coming to a close. 

For these folks, lovingly referred to as “servant leaders,” the month of March has always been an endurance test.  But then, with the arrival of spring break, they get their second wind, knowing they are almost at the finish line for the school year.  But this year is different, way different.  Already having gone through a full year of pandemic, these essential workers feel like they are failing the endurance test and to make it worse, they see no finish line to motivate them to keep going.  But they keep going anyway hoping the finish line will appear, hence the burnout.  Why do they keep going you ask?  Because they are, well, servant leaders, and their goal is for humans to thrive, and in this case, little humans.   They are empathetic, humble, compassionate, caring, patient people and their heart-felt gifts have a long-lasting affect.  Are you a Servant Leader?  I thought so!

So, as I see it here is the madness.  There is no finish line in sight for Covid, coupled with the fear that our little humans will not thrive physically, academically or emotionally.   Not to mention the stress over the uncertainty of how much longer one can push through without breaking.

Whelp, with March Madness almost behind us, may I humbly offer you just two tips that will start to open the door for you to spring forward to a place we all desire.  That is a place safety, connection, peace and freedom.  Yes, that’s quite a leap, so it is crucial to take these tips in teeny tiny steps, then noticing the little gold nuggets along the way.  Teeny tiny steps and noticing the golden nuggets will motivate you to keep springing forward.   This is no April’s fools’ joke, it really works, but these are essential:

Be gentle with yourself – I am talking about the way you would be gentle with a new born baby.  The kindness, soft voice, gentile way one would hold and talk to a newborn.  We all have a strong inner critic warning of and wagging a finger at perceived screw ups.  We demand so much of ourselves, what if we lighten up just a little?  Many of us have acquired a belief that being tough on ourselves somehow prepares us better for some future unknown disaster.  Actually, the opposite is true.  The inner critic zaps our energy, sucker punches our self-esteem and shuts down any creative, out of the box thinking that benefits us, especially in tough times.  We can and should swaddle that baby in ourselves and lovingly lay him/her down to rest.  The beautiful thing about being gentle with yourself is that your gentleness with others will then flow freely and authentically.

Don’t believe all your thoughts – Yes, you heard me right, stop believing everything you think.  Not all our thoughts are true.  Besides, our thoughts can make our mind a living hell.  We all have a lot of clutter in our brain, and truthfully, it’s a bit seductive.  Often it makes us feel busy, important and helps us to avoid feelings.  We can choose which thoughts we want to believe.  Keep in mind, when we believe something, we act on it and put energy into it. Each of us are worthy and have a responsibility to ourselves to monitor how we use our precious energy.  The beautiful thing about this tip is you will soon become so positive, that you attract more of the same.  The negative Nelly’s in your life will start to fall away.

So, there you have it, just two tips to take in teeny, tiny steps and notice how much closer you are to that place of safety, connection, peace and freedom.  Thank you for your service in helping our “little humans” thrive.

If you would like more of these tips along with support, I invite you to join me in April for a “Mini-Retreat.” Servant Leadership – Serving Ourselves First is a series of four one-hour sessions to take steps on the path back to your true nature.  Now more than ever, our world needs the gifts of a Servant Leader, the world needs you.  I hope to see you in April!

Parent Action for Healthy Kids - Barb Flis

Barbara Flis,
Founder Parent Action for Healthy Kids

Well parents, this is uncomfortable to talk about!

Well Parents, This is uncomfortable to talk about

There was a time long, long ago, when the infamous “girly” magazine could be found stashed between a teen’s mattress.  That was uncomfortable, even startling at times, but frankly, not super scary. 

Holy cow!  Fast forward to 2021 and oh my, how much and how quickly times have changed.  A peek at a rather seemingly benign “dirty magazine” has grown exponentially into a gargantuan, highly profitable, cyber business. 

Yep, I told you it was uncomfortable.  Thinking about sexually explicit material and how easily accessible it is to the world, but especially our children, tweens and teens is frightening.  We can think and hope it will never impact our family, but the truth is, the role of pop culture and pornography does impact our kid’s development.  The first step of “getting informed” is hard, but the next in knowing what you can do is a little easier.  Parent Action for Healthy Kids has connected with an expert that will cover both and we want her to share her expertise with you in a safe and supportive space.

Parent Action for Healthy Kids invites you to join us on March 24th from 6 – 8 pm as a part of our Talk Early & Talk Often Parenting Series.  The March 24th event is FREE, and the topic is Pornography & Teens:  What Parents Need to Know!  The featured speaker is Dr. Megan Maas an Assistant Professor in Human Development & Family Studies at Michigan State University.  In our time together, Dr. Maas will help parents prepare themselves to assess and address pornography with your child; suggest multiple talking points to keep the conversation on-going; and looking at the tech environment in your home.

Please join us, March 24th from 6 – 8 pm for this FREE event.

You can click here to learn more about the event and to register. 

Parent Action for Healthy Kids - Barb Flis

Barbara Flis,
Founder Parent Action for Healthy Kids

Parents, are you concerned about cyber-safety? You’re not alone!

Parents, Are You Concerned About Cyber Safety?

You're Not Alone!

Cyber-safety has been a top concern of parents for more than a decade.  Thinking about our kid’s safety on social media can throw us into a fear frenzy, which is exactly the worst place to be when raising children.  Fear puts our brain in survival mode.  I know survival mode is often what it feels like when raising children and especially tweens and teens, but being there for too long is not healthy for anyone.  It keeps your brain in a fight, flight or freeze status, then you can’t think calmly, make a plan, or put things into perspective.  All you can see is danger looming.  While awareness and concern about our kids’ cyber-safety is critical, equally important is keeping your feet grounded, your brain calm and trusting your parental instincts.  It is from that place where you are then able to gather information and form the best strategy for keeping your kids safe while teaching them to become savvy and empowered navigators of cyberspace.

 

So, tell me, what appeals to you more, to be an askable, approachable parent or to be a well-meaning George Banks, (Steve Martin’s character in Father of the Bride) using all his energy preparing for disaster while the precious opportunity to connect with his family is passing by.

 

Of course, you want to be in the moment and present for what your child needs most, your calm, grounded attention.  We are here to support you in that effort.  Please join us for a special Talk Early & Talk Often about Cyber-Safety on March 10th from 6-8 pm ET.  The program is free and open to all parents and supportive adults. 

For more details and to register click here:

 

Parent Action for Healthy Kids - Barb Flis

Barbara Flis,
Founder Parent Action for Healthy Kids

We are experiencing a massive “pandemic of family time” – What gems have you learned about being a family?

We are experiencing a massive “Pandemic of Family Time”

What gems have you learned about being a family?

I love playing with the definition of words and broadening my thoughts around the ways a word can be used.  For example, for the next several decades, we will be quick to associate the word “pandemic” with the COVID-19 virus.  However, because my work is to support families, and because turning a negative thought into a positive one, just feels a heck of a lot better, I choose to think about the word pandemic as it relates to the amount of “family time” that has been given to us.  Think back over the time since your kids were born.  How often did you say or think, “I wish I could have more time with them”?  Well, as the old saying goes, “be careful what you wish for.”  Who would have guessed your wish would be granted. We have had an overabundance of “together” time with our family.  We can all, no doubt, attest to the phrase that there is “too much of a good thing.” 

Because of COVID-19, families were thrust from a scarcity of family time to an abundance in just 24 hours.  Watching Moms in particular navigate what had been thrust upon them, reminded me of the days of watching my daughter play basketball.  Their ability to step with one foot while keeping the other foot at its point of contact with the floor, in this case, their family, was worthy of the MVP award.  Parents have learned a lot that is worthy of reflection.  More than they realize, they are not only a parent, but a teacher and a student too.

Because of its importance, Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) for students has come to the forefront in schools.  However, the real lessons on SEL over the last ten months have been a “lived experience” in households everywhere.  From my virtual time supporting families, I assure you it is an SEL extravaganza full of gems.  The skills parents learned from the pandemic of family time, are worthy of reflection and attention.  What parents have told me of their experience taps into every SEL competency taught in the classroom.  See if it sounds familiar:

Self-Awareness – “I have it hard but others have it worse”.  “I feel bad for teachers, this is so hard for them”.  “Health care workers deserve more”. “I have had enough screen time.”  “I’m exhausted.”

Self-Management – Wow, this was a biggie!  “I am feeling sad for him, I have to pull it together right now”, “I am worried but I need to be strong in this moment”, “What are we going to do”, “Is it safe, should I say yes or no”, “I am trying really hard not to punch him”.

Social-Awareness – “I’m feeling worried, sad, afraid, hopeful, exhausted.”  “I can do this.”  “We’ll get through this”.

Relationship Skills – Cooperating and offering grace to others was abundant.  Speaking and listening came into balance.  Asking for help became more frequent.

Responsible Decision Making – Weighing consequences and making decisions that put the best interest of their family first was a daily occurrence, as well as taking into consideration their ethical standards, safety concerns and social norms.

Talk Early Talk Often Sex Education Program Family Engagement Services for Vendors

For fifteen years we have been helping families connect with their teens with our Talk Early & Talk Often workshop.  Since last March, our now virtual workshops have become an even more intimate “gathering space” for parents to support them in raising a family during COVID-19. We have several Talk Early & Talk Often workshops coming up in February and March.  If you are a parent, I invite you to join us.  The workshops are free!

The brilliance that surfaces from parents when they are given time to reflect is awe inspiring.  We all learn from each other.  They have struggled, survived, felt pride and despair, have given and received inspiration and welcome our strength-based support.  This is why I love and support parents! 

Parent Action for Healthy Kids - Barb Flis

Barbara Flis,
Founder Parent Action for Healthy Kids

Exposed & Vulnerable

Exposed, Vulnerable, PArents, Teachers, Covid19, Homes, UnderStudy

Exposed & Vulnerable

Yep, this pretty much describes how a multitude of parents and teachers are feeling right now, exposed and vulnerable.  Virtual schooling has pulled back the curtain on classrooms and living rooms across the country leaving parents and teachers feeling very weak and very helpless.  The pandemic has caused most of us to feel off center, and certainly not on top of our game and yet for parents and teachers, ready or not, it’s virtual “showtime.” 

Can you imagine what it must be like to perform before an audience without a rehearsal or two and no supporting cast?  That’s exactly what the actors in this virtual showtime are doing.  To say they have anxiety is an understatement, worse though is the relentless and harsh inner critic; the voice in their head telling them they’re not good enough.  We would never say that to our children/students.  We allow them the space to learn, problem solve and experiment.  Most importantly, we provide them with a supporting cast to guide them in their academic, social and emotional journey. 

But where are the understudies for parents and teachers?  There aren’t any and never have been.  For decades society has exerted relentless pressure in their demands for an academy award winning performance from teachers and parents without having any skin in the game.  Educating children requires a team of supporters who are invested in the outcome.  For too long parents and teachers have been acting “as if they can handle it all.”  They can’t, the curtain has been pulled back, and it’s no shame on them.  But the energy reserves are wearing thin and soon to be exhausted.  With kids, we only get one chance to get it right.  Parents and teachers get this, its time to get everyone else engaged in the performance.

Here’s an idea!

  • What if parents and teachers became the understudy for each other, that is to support and help each other? 
  • What if parents and teachers together, told the story to the village about what it takes to raise a child.

  • What if, at the final curtain call (the end of the pandemic) in a unified voice we say, no more short-changing families, education, and most importantly, no more short-changing children. 

Then our audience of children, will be giving us the standing ovation that we have always deserved. 

Gathering, Space, Event, Family, Parents, Teachers, Administrative, Funding, Action, Healthy, Kids, Virtual, Meet, Greet, Talk, Fireside

P.S. – Our Gift to You!  Here at Parent Action for Healthy Kids, we love teachers and we love families and we are here to support you.  Every Wednesday in December we will be hosting a virtual event to support those who are giving their all for children. 

The cost is minimal and all proceeds will go to Gleaners Community Food Bank. 

Parent Action for Healthy Kids - Barb Flis

Barbara Flis,
Founder Parent Action for Healthy Kids

Parents and Teachers Need Recess Too

Recess Relieve Relax Blog Post Educators Teachers Kids Parents Children Social Emotional Learning

Parents & Teachers: Need Recess Too

Recess for most of us and for kids today, was and still is one of the best parts of the school day. It’s time to get a break from the classroom, run around, play, climb, socialize, or just sit under a tree and contemplate.  Over the last two decades, recess has been shortened, cut back, and in some cases, cut out completely to give way to a more rigorous schedule.  Its only savior has been the research revealing the undeniable benefits recess has for improved focus, academic success and overall physical and emotional well-being. It’s an interesting social phenomenon that we’ll take a stand for and insist on for our children but won’t insist on it for ourselves.

As I work with parents, teachers, and school leaders, I always come away with a jaw-dropping list of topics to blog about.  How lucky am I to bear witness to the love, care, and determination so willingly given to make it work for students under quite unworkable circumstances?  My vision is to raise the important work of families and schools and bring attention to the uniqueness of their roles.  Unique because they don’t do it for the financial gain (quite the contrary for parents), they do it for the moral compensation which can’t be measured.

Today, my heart is heavy.  I can’t bring myself to offer an ounce of encouragement to “stay with it” or to say, “keep going, you’ve got this”.  The behind the scenes view is troubling.  The 24/7 grind is showing. No matter who I met in recent weeks, parent, teacher, building principal or superintendent, they looked bone-weary, dare I say physically and emotionally bankrupt. So, with things so dire, taking a break, going out for recess seems like a logical thing to do, but then why isn’t it happening?

As dubious as it sounds, its guilt, and there is an outpouring of it!  And let’s face it, honest to goodness self-care just isn’t popular! Not to mention the unfounded shame involved.  We perceive that setting a boundary to take care of yourself and saying, “I need a break,” will cause judgment to be cast upon us.  It might appear that you’re not doing your job or you’re not keeping pace or worst of all, you don’t care. No doubt, that perception is accurate; however, the logic is skewed.  When we by-pass our exhaustion and our feelings, we pay a price and, spoiler alert, the kids pay a price too.  Think about it, we’re modeling for our children that it’s not who we are that matters, it’s what we do that reigns supreme.  Yep, Big Ouch!!! 

There is a cure for this pandemic of self-neglect, but it takes courage and most important, baby steps.  Parents and educators have been generous in granting grace to each other, now it’s time to extend that same grace to ourselves.  Can you find five minutes a day?  Good, use the five minutes to try these three simple things:

      • Take a deep breath.  Stand up, get your feet on the ground. Close your eyes and take a deep breath and hold it until you feel the tension, then release.  Do this three times.  This will help you ground yourself.  The exhale will help you release and rejuvenate.

      • Draw an imaginary arm’s length circle around you.  This is your boundary. The space you take up in the world.  It is what you have control of and the knowing of what you value.  This boundary helps you to feel safe and protect what is important to you.

      • Get quiet and notice one sound in the room.  This is your sacred time to come back to yourself, the wise, unique you.  Allow and notice all of your feelings. Don’t ignore the vulnerable parts, like the fear, worry, anxiety, confusion, anger.  We spend a lot of energy pushing away feelings rather than honoring them.  This quiet time heightens your intuition which is always there and paying attention.  It is what helps orient you to change.

    •  

I have seen countless wise teachers, stop instruction because the kids desperately needed to get out on the playground and move.  The school bell is ringing for the caretakers. Let’s grace ourselves with a five-minute recess.  If I haven’t convinced you, then let me just say this, the best way to love your child is to love yourself. 

Here is to a happy, healthy and memorable school year!

Parent Action for Healthy Kids - Barb Flis

Barbara Flis,
Founder Parent Action for Healthy Kids

Yours, His, Hers, Mine & Our: Journey with Education

Yours, His, Hers, Mine & Our: Journey with Education

When my kids started school decades ago, I found September to be more of a milestone for me than their birthdays.  Because my educational experience was less than ideal, I was apprehensive about whether I was going to be able to hold up my end of the educational deal between teacher and parent. Each year, I felt like I was climbing a higher mountain in their educational journey.  Briskly moving from simple colors and letters in kindergarten, to high school physics class, fear became a frequent visitor. 

I truly don’t know what parents are going through today raising and educating a child during a pandemic.  But I do know the fear and doubt that are ever-present as a parent.  Rather than give you sympathy and be a co-conspirator which only serves to feed your fear and doubt, I am going to offer you something much better, hope. Hope along with the opportunity for social and emotional learning for both you and your child that will last long after the pandemic is over. 

What saved me from plummeting down the K-12 education mountain were the teachers.  Thankfully, my fear forced me to crack open the door just a little to admitting I needed help; and there, standing by willing and able, was a teacher.  I have hung around teachers for decades and one thing I know for sure, they’re suckers when it comes to teaching.  They are educators to the core.  They helped this frightened little Momma and showed me the way.  So much so that when my oldest daughter graduated from high school, those same teachers told me now it was my turn. “You are one smart cookie, go back to college, and get your degree.”  This smart and still frightened little cookie listened and soon thereafter ensued a bachelors and masters degree and my twentieth year in business connecting parents and teachers.

I urge you to get your hiking boots on and climb this mountain one step at a time.  When reflecting on my journey here is what I can pass along for you to consider:

Here are a few things you can consider:

      • Know who is responsible for what. You are the parent, not the student. As a parent you’re job is to make sure structures are in place so learning can happen.  Your child is responsible for learning.  The teacher can’t assess how students are doing if the lines get blurry.
      • Be comfortable asking for help. Let the teacher know what you are struggling with and what your child is struggling with.  This goes for personal circumstances that can interfere with learning as well as academics.  The teacher won’t know how to assist or correct things if she/he doesn’t know the backstory.  Hey, it’s also great modeling for your child in identifying and solving problems.
      • You’re always going to be afraid, so rather than resist it, make friends with it. Fear is there to sharpen your instincts and intuition.  It might be telling you to reach out for help, or challenging you to learn something new.  This is the same self-management we want our kids to learn.
      • Make curiosity a part of the journey. It’s not “can I do this,” but, “how will I do this?”  Goal setting and perspective-taking is empowering as well as motivating.
      • Be playful, laugh often, especially at yourself. The gift in laughter is that it breaks open the brain to lots of possibilities and creativity.  The inspiration and insight that appears will astound you. This is why you will hear teachers say “learning is fun.”  Besides it’s impossible to have a positive thought and a negative thought at the same time, so why not go for the positive.

I was with a group of teachers last week, and I can tell you they are feeling all of the same emotions that you are.  As is the case for everyone, life has been flipped upside down.  What came through loud and clear however was a “can do” spirit in each of them.  They are determined to create an environment where students can learn.  They will do the heavy lifting which will be made easier with parents by their side.   

 

Here is to a happy, healthy and memorable school year!

Parent Action for Healthy Kids - Barb Flis

Barbara Flis,
Founder Parent Action for Healthy Kids

Parents and Teachers: We’ve got to stick together!

Parents and Teachers we have got to stick together

Parents and Teachers: We’ve got to stick together!

Nobody knows more about the heart work and hard work of raising
children and what they need, than parents and teachers.  That’s why we belong together and now more than ever!

There’s a lot of talk in the news and on social media about the importance of family as well as the consequences of not providing a quality education.  The opinions and advice are varied and plentiful, but have a pitifully low amount of action behind them.  Parents and teachers don’t have time for the rhetoric, we’re too busy rolling up our sleeves trying to make the best out of a horrific situation and saving our babies.

For too long, parents and teachers have been undervalued and without the supports in place to provide all that children need.  We have been expected to make miracles and from the way I see it, we have.  Teachers are doing their very best to meet the ever increasing academic, social and emotional needs of children as funding has decreased and criticism increases.  Parents desire time with their children and have a vision for their family, but lack support like affordable quality daycare, accessible community health and mental health services and an equitable education system.

Parents and teachers are getting close to raising the surrender flag. The miracle workers have been depleted. This time around, we are fresh out of miracles.  Something’s got to give!

Ah, but there is a solution!  How about parents and teachers all get in the boat and row in the same direction. Let’s stop scapegoating each other and use our collective voice for children. Can you imagine what a powerful force we can be?  Together we can be the biggest and brightest lobbying group for children.

Hey, we’ve never gotten this much attention, EVER!  
Parents and teachers are on the national news every day. Let’s use it to our advantage. 

Here are a few things you can do:

Schools – Commit to frequent and transparent communication with school staff, families and community.  Keep it simple but yet comprehensive. They won’t know the full extent of the dilemma you are facing if you aren’t vulnerable and tell them.  Provide a crash course for school staff, parents and community on funding and mandates.  Don’t assume that everyone understands how education is funded, the mandates that are attached, and the harm to students when funding decreases.  Equally important is how decreases in funding is related to having and maintaining the necessary support services that directly effect students. Lay all the cards on the table, and then ask for help.  Make sure everyone knows ways they can take action to support their school and community. 

Parents – If there isn’t already a parent group, consider forming one.  If there is, make sure parents needs are heard and there is someone monitoring and reporting on legislative issues regarding families, children and education.  One call to community, state and federal officials and legislators makes a difference but it’s impact is greater when it comes from a group of parents with a direct and strong ask.  Call your school superintendent with any questions you have about education and services for students.  Ask what they need and how you can help.  Once you understand the situation, share the information through social media.  Let’s stop talking about the problems and get talking about the solution.  Enlist the support of community organizations and city officials and build a community coalition for children.  Schools can’t do it alone and families need more than education for their children.  They need quality affordable childcare, health and mental health services and you can fill in the rest.

I know this is a scary time, but as my favorite principal Mrs. Goetz says, “this is not our forever” and it isn’t.  But while all eyes are on us, let’s use this attention as a bargaining chip so that our children’s future days will be brighter, better and more promising than ever before.

Barbara Flis, Founder Parent Action for Healthy Kids

I am a mother, a Barbie to my granddaughters, lover of family and teachers.  I attribute any success I have had in life to family and teachers…what goes around, comes around!  #ValueFamilies

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Parents, I trust you!


Right now there is a barrage of information on the topic of returning to school. Some of it appears to be well-intended, helpful information while some of it self-serving and even divisive. Because it’s about the well-being of our kids, the emotional charge of it can get us off balance and cause us to doubt ourselves and our ability to make the right decision for our children.  Don’t bite the emotional hook, you know what’s best for your kids.  For the last forty years I have been a parent, I hang with parents and I advocate for parents.  I trust you, you are my people, believe me when I say, you’ve got this!

My decades of work have been at all levels (local, state and federal).  What I have seen time and time again is that the people in the community are the experts.  They know best what they need, and they have skin in the game.  So trust yourself and trust the power of community.  These are your people.  

Let me give you a great example.  Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the pediatrician, professor, and public health advocate whose research exposed the Flint, Michigan water crisis; why did she take the time to review all of her patients cases, collect data and stick with it in the face of government officials who tried to discredit her?  Because she trusted herself, cared about the children in her practice and in the community.  She was part of the community, she had skin in the game.

If you doubt your ability, let me take you back to earlier this year when schools shut down due to Covid-19.  Parents and teachers did an extraordinary job pivoting.  At first we were under the impression it would be only a few weeks, then weeks turned into months, but together parents and teachers did it. It was remarkable to see the compassion parents and teachers showed for one another.  It would be a shame to slow the momentum of building those important relationships that are proven to benefit kids so much.  

Whenever you’re feeling emotionally triggered, I encourage you to hit the pause button.  Acknowledge the emotions, they will only last a few minutes.  Then look for your people, the ones who have skin in the game.  Most importantly, take care of yourself, your kids need you!

We all need a Mother right now!

When my first child was born, my mother hand-made a pillow with this cross-stitched verse;

Cooking and cleaning can wait till tomorrow
For babies grow up we’ve learned to our sorrow,
So quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep,
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep!

There’s just no escaping the nurturing feeling one experiences when reading this verse.  When we’re most troubled, especially when feeling alone or abandoned, we instinctually yearn for a Mother’s nurturing which embodies unconditional love, connection, reassurance, counsel and safety.

This year, we are all in need of the arms of a loving Mother who will comfort us. And feel in the embrace of her loving arms the gift of grace to understand, accept and look for the meaning in the present moment.

This Mother’s Day, we have the freedom to pay homage to all Mothers past and present and to those who may not officially hold the title, but who nurture and protect.  We can do this by living in a place of grace and extending open arms of love to everyone.  The collective energy of living in this place of grace will shower love and nurturing across the globe.  We can do this because every moment is precious and “our babies don’t keep!”.  

Happy Mother’s Day!

Homework Assignment: Find a teacher and say thank you!

Yes, go find one, right now. It can be your kids teacher, your former teacher, a relative, friend or neighbor who’s a teacher. Track them down and thank them for what they do. It’s hard to understand why it took a pandemic to get everyone to notice what a daunting profession teaching is. Perhaps a better word would be “vocation,” a calling.  As parents who were thrust into homeschooling will agree, not everyone can be a teacher.  The task could bring a Wall Street executive to his/her knees faster than a recession.  One can only hope during Teacher Appreciation Week, you will reflect on the enormity of impact that teachers past and present have had.  They are the original essential workers.  Every essential worker today, from hospital, EMS, law enforcement, service industry, researchers and scientists, economists, local, state and federal government, everyone, all got to where they are because of the original essential worker, the teacher.

Your assignment is due this week May 4-8, extra credit if you say thank you on Teacher Appreciation Day, Tuesday, May 5, 2020.

This Easter, let’s pretend!

 

 

For the sake of our children, let’s pretend.  Let’s pretend the Easter Bunny is real, and just for Easter Day, lets allow ourselves to pretend there is no Coronavirus.  We can do this for our children as well as for our own sanity.  If you haven’t gone to the land of pretend in a while, I beg you to give it a try.  In Latin it’s “praetendere” which translates to “stretch forth, claim.”  When we let go of the fear, our brain can think outside of the box, imagine and pretend. 

Hey, even Governor Whitmer of Michigan says the tooth fairy and the Easter Bunny are essential workers so why not give pretending a try?

I am not a writer of poetry, however, a couple of years ago I felt compelled to write this poem about being a child at play.  I guess I needed to connect to the child in me.  This holiday, we can allow our children to be our teachers and take us back to the land of pretend.  Play is what we all need right now.

Just for today…by Barb Flis

Just for today let me be a child at play
Fresh from a dream filled sleep 

Waking up with a smile
Overflowing with a joy that is mine to keep

Just for today let me be a child at play
Persistently questioning all that I see

Taking nourishment in the wonder
Shameless about my curiosity

Just for today let me be a child at play
Fearless about opening my heart

Heaping love on to others
With an absence of malice if they depart

Just for today let me be a child at play
Where no rush hour ever exists

A giggle in between every word I speak
Demanding more laughter is what I’ll insist

Just for today let me be a child at play
And in exchange I guarantee

Play will be my nourishment
To make sure I never forsake that child in me.

Parents, I’m Proud of You!

 

 

Yes, you!  I’m proud of you! Being proud of someone is the same as a trillion “likes” on social media.  That’s how proud I am of you.  More importantly, I hope you’re proud of yourself. I have yet to find a YouTube video for parents on how to juggle work, entertain and homeschool kids, manage extended family needs, and figure out how to stay afloat financially while maintaining sanity during a pandemic.  Don’t worry, you’ve got this.  You’re doing a great job, your children are in tender and loving hands.

There is no hierarchy based on who has it worse.  Parenting is a level playing field and parents; you get to wear a badge of pride, not only during a pandemic but every day.  Parenting is heart work and hard work.  While we are in a time that requires “social distancing” it does not mandate isolation. For far too long parents have felt invisible, not seen and not understood.  Parenting during “normal” times is a lonely endeavor. Now more than ever, parents would benefit from others support as well as the support of each other. 

Do you realize that the world is looking at you through fresh eyes and wondering how many more hats you can possibly wear?  They are becoming more curious about you and your life.  Whenever I get more curious than afraid, I find myself in awe and amazement at how well and creatively you forge through.  Seize this moment! Open your heart and be vulnerable.  Share your story of family life not only in the times of this pandemic but your everyday life pre-coronavirus.  In normal times, raising a family was hard but now it’s daunting.  Take comfort in the fact that you are not alone.  We are all responsible for building a stronger future for our children.  We’re in this together and I’m proud of you!

 

Adventures in Homeschooling!

 

 

Parents are being bombarded right now with tips and resources from school, educational organizations, parent groups and even grandma/grandpa.  While these are very well intended and useful, parents are feeling overwhelmed and pressured to continue the classroom in their home. And when they aren’t pulling off a well-structured day of “classroom” learning, while trying to “work from home,” a whole range of emotions emerge from frustration to feelings of inadequacy as a parent. Ugg, even shame creeps in!

In unprecedented times like this, the wisest thing to do is keep it simple.  If you are a classroom teacher, then be a classroom teacher and if you are a parent, then be a parent.  The lessons learned in the classroom and the lessons learned at home are equally important and have profound affects for our children’s future.  One way of learning is temporarily stalled, and that’s unfortunate.  However, in a weird turn of events, that loss can be a huge gain for children and families.  Families have a choice.  They can keep trying to be something they are not, or they can do what they know and be a family.  Look at this as an adventurous vacation – family time that is a roller coaster ride full of fun, a little scary at times and when its over a lifetime of great memories of being with family.  This I know for sure, love transcends fear every time!  

Teachers are feeling the love!

 

 

I am hearing from teachers and seeing posts of letters and pictures from students telling teachers how much they are loved and missed.  I guarantee you, the love is reciprocal.  Teachers are worried about their students and their families.  They are concerned whether their students will be able to keep up the progress they have made, and if they are anxious  because of ever present discussions and fear.  Teachers are concerned about how students are doing with a change in routine and how families are going to manage it all.  They are especially concerned for their students with trauma and other special needs.  

Here’s what I want to say to teachers, THANK YOU!  Thank you for all that you do, thank you for caring. Now, please take this time to rest and have some fun!  I’ll let you in on a little secret…It’s okay to be happy.  Does that sound odd or somehow not right? Being happy and being concerned about your students and their families are not mutually exclusive.  It’s okay to put the worry aside, take time to rest, have fun, enjoy your family, linger over a cup of coffee, take more than ten minutes to eat a meal, heck throw caution to the wind and go to the bathroom as often as you like!  These are all acts of love to yourself and when school is back in session your students will be all the better for it.  

We are socialized to think that when there is suffering, a crisis or tragedy, we feel selfish if we take care of ourselves.  There is this either or thinking that says, “This is serious, I have to be worried, I’m not allowed to be happy”.  Yes, it is serious, but you are allowed to be happy, in fact it will ease your worry and be a great model for others.  If there was ever a time to practice self-love, this is it.  From what I see, your students are showing you lots of love, the least you could do is believe you deserve it!

#ValueFamilies  #PublicHealth  
#TeachersRock

The importance of including families in decision making

 

 

 

Let families weigh in on school closures!

For the sake of public health, let families weigh in on school closures!

If ever there was a more critical time for families and schools to work together it is now!  When considering K-12 school closures due to the Coronavirus, it’s imperative for school districts and families to connect so schools can hear from families how a closure will impact them.  This action needs to go beyond checking in with just a few of the involved parents, but casting a wide net out to all families, such as a district wide survey (on line surveys are free and easy to do).  

Here are five compelling reasons to hear from families:

  1. Some students will not get a nutritious meal.  Students who live in low income households or the homeless population will suffer.
  2. Many families who don’t have the luxury of missing work and don’t have the means to pay for childcare will rely on grandma or grandpa (the at risk population).
  3. Families who are able to be home with their children may be inclined to take “stir-crazy” kids out to public places such as mall play areas. Restless teens will hang out at coffee shops, fast food restaurants and malls. Information about self-quarantine and why its important will have to be communicated to families in a way that they can personalize it for their family.
  4.  A break from academics and social interaction combined with a steady stream of news about the impact of the virus will increase anxiety among children, teens and their families.  Those students and families that are currently struggling with mental health issues will be adversely impacted.
  5. Thirty-eight percent of nurses in our county working in the medical community have kids in school.  Who will take care of their kids?  

Many families don’t have the financial means to keep two weeks worth of food and medications, and a quarter of Americans don’t have the luxury of paid sick leave or adequate health insurance.   Asking families how closing school would impact  them is authentic family engagement and a sign of respect.  A district may just discover that keeping kids in school may be the least risky place for them to be.  This simple and thorough inquiry will create a community of schools and families working together to keep everyone safe and healthy.

I found this interview with Michael T. Osterholm, PhD, MPH an infectious disease expert and professor who holds an endowed chair at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health helpful about the spread of the virus and how it differs with children. 

#ValueFamilies  #PublicHealth  #SocialJustice  #HealthEquity

 

Covid-19 & Social and Emotional Learning — A teachable Moment!

With the onset of the Covid-19 virus, education, public health and families have a unique opportunity to partner and rally around for the enhanced health and well-being of children and they can do it using Social and Emotional Learning (SEL).

While young people don’t appear to be at risk for Covid-19, this is a teachable moment for them to learn and practice healthy habits for themselves and their community.  Schools are teaching SEL across multiple contexts every day.  Now we can use SEL on this very important public health issue.  Here are the five SEL Core Competencies and how they can be put into action in the arena of public health:

  1. Self-Awareness – Being aware of their emotions around illness; knowing the adults who support them; and demonstrating personal responsibility such as washing hands, and covering their mouths when they sneeze.  
  2. Self-Management – Identifying and calming any fearthey may have about illness, and demonstrate integrity by staying home and not going to school or events if they are sick. 
  3. Social Awareness –  Show compassion, kindness and support for those who are at risk of infection or are quarantined.
  4. Relationship Skills – Use positive communication and social skills when speaking with others who are ill, having a tough time remaining calm or not practicing proper hygiene.
  5. Responsible Decision Making – Act responsibly by taking care of their healthand being a positive role model in school and in the community.

By teaching and more importantly role modeling these competencies on this current public health issue, we will enhance the health and well being for future generations. 

For the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), please visit: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

February’s Month of Love Topic: I am Okay!

The term “okay” is highly underrated.  I have a dear friend I’ve known since high school.  Every time I called her with a big problem whether it was something with my kids, my health or some other life predicament she would very quickly but calmly say, “it will be okay, it will be okay.”  Her words felt so reassuring to me, that I was able to experience a moment of tranquility.  I’ve made those emergency calls to her so many times that I finally developed the skills to self-soothe.  So whenever I am feeling afraid, I channel her voice and repeat in my head, “it will be okay, it will be okay.”  Sometimes that’s all we need is a nanosecond to feel down to our core that it will be okay and to trust that I am okay!  

Call me hokey for blogging about love in February, I don’t mind.  How can I not spout off about it when love surrounds me.  It’s in the squeal of delight when I surprise my granddaughter at school; it’s in the stories from teachers I’m with each week as they beam about the progress made by their toughest students; and love is ever so evident in parents doing their best and making the sacrifices necessary to raise and provide for their family. 

So here’s the hard question.  Do you see and feel the love all around you?  If you struggle to say “yes,” then may I suggest you try this:  Place your hand on your heart and say “I am okay.”  Start with you.  Take care of you.  Love you.  What we practice grows stronger, so practice being okay with you.  There is magic in practicing the art of loving you…love self, love others, accept love from others…it’s magic!