Mother’s Day is a Cruel Trick!

Mother’s Day is a Cruel Trick!

If you are mother, grandmother or a person who supports children, you are a powerful group of humans and have my highest respect.  Being a mother for 41 years and a grandmother (Barbie) for 8, the enormity of the role is overwhelming.  It is even more so for Mothers today than it was for my generation.  From my long view of life, I believe the growing burdens placed on mothers today are totally unacceptable. 

As I contemplated what to write for Mother’s Day this year, I struggled over what to say.  In my more than twenty years in business, I have worked with the entire demographic of mothers.  And, I am embarrassed to admit that it took COVID-19 for me to witness upfront and personal these unnecessary burdens that mothers carry.  Let me offer my most sincere apology for this egregious oversight.

I would feel disloyal to write anything that would encourage mothers to believe that they should carry on making so many sacrifices for their family, especially at the expense of their own health and wellbeing.  While society is quick to tell mothers “To put the oxygen mask on first,” it is in all truth the most contradictory statement of all times.  Hence, this is why I am here to say that Mother’s Day is a Cruel Trick. 

My experience tells me that the “oxygen mask” statement, like Mother’s Day, is really a decoy that distract us.  These little crumbs of attention along with a sprinkling of guilt are tricksters that give us enough energy to get back in the game.  This is trumpery at its best.

I was an adolescent in the middle of the feminist movement.  The uproar over the movement was extraordinary.  Men were threatened and women of my mother’s generation too fearful to end the loyalty to the patriarchal system.  When I started to use the title “Ms.” instead of “Miss,” I was told by the matriarchs in my family that I am a Miss or a Mrs. but not a Ms.  The societal pressure was real and progress in the feminist movement was slow but steady.  The movement advocated for three things for women; freedom, equal opportunity, and control over their lives.  That was sixty years ago and tragically equal, free and in full control is not close to being realized.

So, do we deserve a day of honor?  You bet we do but let’s be mindful of the terminology.  We certainly deserve a day of honor, but it is our right to have freedom, equal opportunity, and control over our lives.  I have two daughters, two granddaughters and countless numbers of young woman I am blessed to know and to work with.  This is my message to them and to you, these are your rights, not something you have to earn or prove. 

I have coached many women through quiet moments of despair these last few years. Many so desperate, they just wanted to run away.  What I say to them and to you is to welcome these moments, don’t fear them.  Use this time to get reacquainted with your unique and powerful genius and you will rise with a conviction to use your power for your greatest good. And of course, let’s not forget that necessity is the mother of invention. 

To all mothers, I stand in awe of you.  Let this Mother’s Day be the moment you step into your power and shine your light so brilliantly that it blinds those who expect you to yield.

Parent Action for Healthy Kids - Barb Flis

Barbara Flis,
Founder Parent Action for Healthy Kids

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Do you feel “ghosted” by parents? Maybe it’s the Experts’ Curse!

Do you feel "ghosted" by Parents? Maybe it's the experts curse?

Do you feel “ghosted” by parents?  Maybe it’s the Experts’ Curse!

You have dedicated, passionate staff doing incredible work with children and adolescents, but there appears to be silence on the home front except when an issue or emergency arises. It can often feel as if you are being “ghosted” by parents, abandoning you to go it alone.  You might not be totally off base. Ghosting has a lot to do with a person’s comfort level with communication (yours and theirs). Humans will do anything to avoid feeling uncomfortable or the feeling of not being enough, not to mention the fear of confrontation.

Communication flows easily when we like each other, and have something in common.  The more we know each other and the more we have in common, the easier it is to be ourselves.  Being authentic is where real connection and communication begin. It’s understandable to think that the child’s well-being should be enough commonality to get the communication flowing, but it is not. 

There are a couple of reasons for this. First, we forget a parents’ confidence level can be a roller-coaster, it slowly climbs up and quickly plunges down. The fear of judgment and the feeling that they are not measuring up as a parent becomes a demotivator for engaging in any form of communication. 

Secondly, it’s important to remember we are asking parents to engage in an arena they know little about. This is where the “Experts Curse” comes in. We have so much expertise and are so skilled at navigating and functioning within our system, be it education or health, that we forget the need to translate the lingo and give some context to what we are trying to convey. The playing field of knowledge is definitely not a level one. Parents don’t have your unique content knowledge.

The majority of providers I have worked with really have given a good effort in communication. However, the “Experts Curse” gets in the way when we don’t sort out “need to know,” from “nice to know.” Too much information on unfamiliar content especially to a person with an emotional stake in it will cause a shutdown. An expert is like a website with lots of good information but the consumer can’t find anything because they “don’t know what they don’t know.”

Third and last, believe it or not, parents don’t feel their concern is something they should bother you with so they hesitate to reach out. Sometimes there is the fear of looking stupid, they think they should know the answer already, maybe they were told and they missed it; they hold your role in high regard and don’t want to intrude on your time, and sometimes their child/adolescent is begging them not to contact you.

In my decades of work helping to bridge the gap between parents and providers, I can honestly say that ghosting is a two-way street. I know with the hectic pace today, it is hard to ask people to slow down, but for our kids’ sake, we need to do just that. 

Take a few minutes to get to know each other first as people and trust that you will organically move from the delivery of a report to authentic dialogue. I guarantee you the “ghosting” will stop and both experts (provider and parent) will be seen and understood. 

Parent Action for Healthy Kids will be welcoming in spring by hosting two FREE webinars for parents.
I invite you to join us and see for yourself the high level of interest parents have in learning how to best support their kids.

Check out the events page for more details!

Parent Action for Healthy Kids - Barb Flis

Barbara Flis,
Founder Parent Action for Healthy Kids

You can listen to the blog too!

Parent Action for Healthy Kids is on soundcloud!

Three Tips to make Parent Teacher Conferences Worry Free

3 Tips to make parent teacher conferences worry free

It’s Parent-Teacher Conference time and everyone is wringing their hands worrying over how far behind students are because of the pandemic.  Worries and concerns are gobbling up a lot of our precious energy. Not to mention, it’s taking up a lot of headspace with its relentless doomsday story. What if just for Parent/Teacher Conferences we put the worry aside?  Then, what would we have more room for? Here are three tips that can help you park the worry and leave room to see a bright future.

I Like You, You Like Me – Say this to yourself right before conferences. Just repeating this to yourself will bring a sense of calm to the meeting. Our brain has mirror neurons that are always on duty. Your energy is mirrored to others and theirs is mirrored to you. Imagine the disaster when two worry-warts are mirroring each other’s emotions. The best way to help a student, is to help them feel safe. So, their safety net, parents and teachers, have to feel safe and secure so they can mirror that to each other and to the student.

Share the students’ strengths – If the teacher and the parent each share three strengths they see in the student, the foundation for a partnership for student success is well on its way. It also moves both parent and teacher out of the zone of their negativity bias. The brains of humans are wired to look for what’s going wrong in order to feel safe. The pathway of the brain that runs the negativity bias doesn’t know that it needs to check the “not applicable” box for parent-teacher conferences.

Play Offense not Defense – With all the stress and exhaustion these days, the conditions are ripe for being reactive and going on the defensive. A simple acknowledgment to yourself of your emotional state will lessen the chance of personalizing and reacting to what is discussed.

It might not feel like it, but we do have a choice here. We can continue to worry and send our kids a doomsday message that they will never dig their way out, or we can make sure they have the right tools, the adults in their lives, as positive supports, to get the job done.

Don’t forget to check out our events page for FREE Events for parents (and educators too).

Parent Action for Healthy Kids - Barb Flis

Barbara Flis,
Founder Parent Action for Healthy Kids

You can listen to the blog too!

Parent Action for Healthy Kids is on soundcloud!

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.