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On a Side Note: 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 – 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:

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

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

Pontiac Parents & Supportive Adults: Talk Early & Talk Often — Connecting with our Teens during COVID-19

Pontiac Parents & Supportive Adults
Talk Early & Talk Often — Connecting with our Teens during COVID-19

We are certainly in challenging times and families more than ever need as much support as possible, especially when it comes to helping our teens adopt behaviors that will keep them safe and healthy.  This gathering space will be a place to receive support, as well as a few strategies on keeping an open and loving connection with your teen.

The facilitator for the gathering will be:
Barb Flis, Founder of Parent Action for Healthy Kids. 
We hope you will join us!

Hosted by:
Honor Community Health & School District of the City of Pontiac

February 23, 2021, 10 – 11 a.m.

School District of the City of Pontiac

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