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SEL – Exposed & Vulnerable

Exposed & Vulnerable Revisited

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. 

An illustration of a mom measuring her childs height with chalk

Struggling with Transitions?

You can learn more about strengthening your social
and emotional muscles at a free virtual pop-up event Navigating Life’s Transitions – You Are Not Alone, Thursday, October 14, 2021, 7-8pm ET.  

Grab your spot here:

Parent Action for Healthy Kids - Barb Flis

Barbara Flis,
Founder Parent Action for Healthy Kids

SEL: The Heart Work and Hard Work of Transitions

Social Emotional Learning Title Card of Barb Flis embracing a happy kid

SEL: The Heart & Hard Work of Transitions

Back to school was always a hard time for me. It catapulted me into the reality of how quickly time passes and forced me to once again face another transition.  I confess, I was never one who moved through transitions very smoothly.  I kicked into control freak mode while presenting an outwardly calm facade.  It never got easy, leaving my screaming three-year-old with the preschool teacher or dropping her off, a very frightened college student, 700 miles away from home. 

An illustration of a mom measuring her childs height with chalk

The dilemma I now realize as a parent of adult children is that there were actually two transitions going on, mine and my child’s transition.  If I had been aware of all the feelings that I cleverly tapped down and controlled, I could have tended to myself in a loving and compassionate way, and been able to bring a more grounded, calm, confident parent forward to support my child in the changes she was experiencing. 


I confess, my social and emotional muscles were weak and, in all truth, I don’t think they were ever fully developed, that is until bigger transitions were at my doorstep.  Transitions whether voluntary or in-voluntary are hard. After all, we are stepping into the unknown which is scary.  No one escapes them.  Our kids move out, go to college, get married, babies are born, there are job changes, relocation, promotions, breakups, divorces, illnesses, second marriages, we lose friends, parents and siblings. It’s frightening to boldly look at all the emotions that come with these changes. They all have endings and beginnings exactly in that order. As much as we may resist, transitions are an opportunity to grow. It takes heaps of courage to let go and allow our children their own journey of growth and even a bolder step to be vulnerable and face down our own. 

An Illustration of a Family Embracing their child

When we know better, we do better.

It’s hard to admit, but underneath that heart-wrenching good bye as my screaming three-year-old clung to my leg begging me not to leave her and then as an 18-year-old saying, “mom, I don’t think I can do this,” were lots of feelings.  The powerlessness of seeing her so scared to take this next step, the second guessing myself on whether this was the right move for her, and where does all this leave me?  As ridiculous as it sounds there was also the thought that perhaps it was easier to have her close so we could both be less scared. Rather than taking a pause and letting those emotions come forward, I skipped right over them, defaulting to my most familiar avoidant strategy, control. The lines of whose feelings were whose were definitely blurred.

In reflecting back, I realize that in all the transitions with my children from birth to being a grandparent (a Barbie), I often stunted my personal growth.  I was so excited to see them experience their first step. I naturally stepped back and cheered them on. The courage it took to get up on two feet, wobbling, then after many failed attempts and lots of perseverance they were off walking. The first step of many. Oh, the dismay in my realizing now that my child’s first step was a metaphor for how to raise my children.  They’re the ones doing the walking, not me.  My job was to step back and let them do the work and do the learning. Allow them to walk through life, don’t carry them.  Stand by, be their best cheerleader.  As painful as their journey is to watch, it was selfish of me to rob them of the opportunity to grow and it was cruel to deny myself personal growth.

Being my own judge and jury, I am guilty as charged.  I carried them more often than I care to admit.  It’s the seemingly innocent stuff like doing the chores they were supposed to do, over involving myself with their homework (okay, I admit I did the entire 4th grade project myself), doing their laundry when they came home from college, or doling out cash in support of their dreams.  If only I had had a huge dose of social and emotional learning.  With that muscle developed, I would have been more aware, made more responsible parenting decisions, sought support from trusted resources, and managed my emotions and relationships much more gracefully.  A constant pattern of placing their dreams ahead of my dreams was a recipe for disaster for me and my children.  My day of reckoning came (better late than never) when we both were struggling to know what we wanted to be when we grow up. That “what’s my purpose” thankfully is the underlying feeling that keeps popping up.

I suspect I am not alone. In fact, I know I’m not.  Every day I coach parents, grandparents and great grandparents who are coming close or have hit that day of reckoning.  The best gift we can give our children is to do the hard work and heart work of our own social and emotional development so we can know what we are feeling and face our vulnerability with loving kindness. I am here to say, I have lived it to give it, and once we put this into practice, we will start to develop a more fearless heart space for our children. It is this heart space where they too can become the socially and emotionally healthy people that we desire and that the world needs.

Struggling with Transitions?

You can learn more about strengthening your social and emotional muscles at a free virtual pop-up event Navigating Life’s Transitions – You Are Not Alone, Thursday, October 14, 2021, 7-8pm ET.  

Grab your spot here:

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