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

Blog Post Parent Action for Healthy Collage Collage of Educational Photo

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.