Staying optimistic in a negative world

After spending time at my vision board party last weekend, and the march for human rights this weekend, I am filled with positivity and optimism for the future. But just like anytime you feel really joyful and happy, that little doubt-filled, scary feeling shortly follows. As I was walking the streets with a crowd oozing with love and support for all people, I couldn’t help but think, “Why couldn’t we have done this sooner? Why didn’t I show my support before the election?”

Staying in positive emotions is hard for many of us. Brene Brown calls it “foreboding joy”, the immense love and joy we feel with our precious newborn baby, followed quickly by the fear that our baby could stop breathing and that love could be taken away at any moment. Happiness and love makes us feel vulnerable. Appreciating what we have and dreaming about a positive future makes us feel naive or ignorant. We worry about being blindsided by something bad happening. The fear of “getting the rug pulled out from underneath us” keeps us on alert. Instead of enjoying all the wonderful things we currently have, we “wait for the other shoe to drop” so we can at least say we saw it coming. Or, if you are like me, you go to feeling guilty for not doing enough.

But here’s the thing, foreboding joy DOES NOT WORK! Worrying about something does not keep it from happening. Feeling guilty does not motivate positive action. Getting mad at yourself or others only creates more anger and an avoidance of love and positivity.

Sometimes we use negative emotion to motivate like calling oneself fat and lazy to get ourselves to the gym. If you get stuck in negative emotion try asking yourself “What immediate action step can I take today?”  If you are angry about the steps our new President is taking, call a Senator, join an organization, or donate to support your cause. If you feel guilty, forgive yourself. If you are worried about your health, make a dr. appt. If there isn’t a clear action step to take, then it’s not helpful and it’s time to let it go.

Love casts out fear, but it also motivates you to take positive action. What motivated you to play with your adorable one year old? LOVE! What motivates our young athletes to sweat in a stinky gym and get beat up by their peers? Love of the game! What motivates us to throw cutely themed birthday parties for our toddlers who won’t even notice or remember? Love! Who would you rather hire to babysit your kids: A worried, stressed out perfectionist who feels guilty if she does something wrong, or a joyful, loving person who adores your cute kid?

Love gets you hired. Love draws other positive people to you like a magnet. When you raise the bar on how much joy you can tolerate in your life, country, and planet, it shows other people how to do the same. My clients and children need me to stay in joy and optimism, but not denial. I don’t watch the news or listen to our new president talk, because it’s not helpful or productive and it makes it too easy to fall into fear. I maintain a positive Facebook feed and surround myself with kids and uplifting adults. This optimistic state allows me to coach my clients, inspire my children, support organizations I believe in and create a vision of a positive future.  When I slip into “not doing enough” guilt, or fear and anger, I catch it and coach myself on it, so I don’t have to go into my bubble and hide. Listen to your body and let it show you what actions are healthy for you, and which are toxic. If all you can think is what you DON’T want, it’s time for a negativity detox.

If there are certain topics or people you can’t listen to or tolerate, or if you are stuck in negative emotion, it’s worth taking the time to “clean it up”. Our country is going through quite the evolution and we need as many carriers of “love and light” as we can get. Schedule a life coaching session with me today, www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/work-with-me

This video helped me focus on creating a vision for our country I’d like to see. Someday, I’d like to see an advertisement like this for the United States. Enjoy!

The hardest blog I’ve ever written

How one racist comment changed me for the better, and hopefully this election will, too.

When I was about 10, I was playing a game at a neighbor’s house across the street. My friend Maria named her character Xiang Xiang, after a few rounds, she asked me why I wasn’t including her character in the game. I said I didn’t like her because her name made her seem like a “ching-chong-chang”. She burst into tears and ran out of the room. I ran after, trying to explain that I wasn’t talking about HER, just her character. (I didn’t know this was a racially offensive statement. I learned it from a friend’s house who would say it every time our local reporter, Connie Chung came on the news channel and the family would laugh.) Despite my pleas of innocence, I was sent home devastated, guilty and have never been the same.

Making my friend Maria cry was the worst and best thing that ever happened to me. To see the extent of pain I could cause another human being by repeating such a casual remark opened my eyes and helped me become a more compassionate and loving person. If she had been in middle school, she probably would have held her emotions in and acted un-phased. She might have gotten angry and lashed out, or retaliated in some passive aggressive way. Instead I had the privilege to see the real, authentic grief that my comment had caused, teaching me to never make a racial slur again, and also, to stand up to others who do.

This sums up how I've been feeling since the election.
This is how I’ve been feeling since the election. My nephew Alex says it all.

Having our country elect a racist, misogynistic bully has shaken me to the core.  As I watch him assemble his cabinet, I feel anger, fear, grief and I know that these emotions are not the place to take action from. Fear and anger is how Trump, Pence and Fox News became so popular in the first place. I want to prevent the suffering I inflicted on Maria that day, and prevent the suffering I caused myself for the following 15 years, beating myself up for hurting someone so deeply. For now, I am taking time, allowing myself to feel my feelings and getting coaching on my negative thoughts. I’m trying to use this pain to connect to other racist, misogynistic Trump supporters who feel they are better than others. I get it, I think my way is better, too! I imagine there are many white, Christian Americans who feel their patriarchy and status are threatened in our changing world. Perhaps they are feeling the same way I am now are relieved to have others sharing their pain. As I do my work to heal this part of me, I like to think I am helping them heal their fear and anger as well.

What I know for sure is that if Hilary had been elected, I would have remained complacent. I know that emerging from this election, I will be a stronger, more outspoken pusher of peace. I will continue to practice loving all God’s creatures and creating a peaceful world, but I need to step up my game when it comes to creating the change I want to see in the world.

When my summer camp girls tell me they can’t stand up for themselves because no one else is doing it and they are afraid of backlash, I will teach them how to change themselves so they can change the culture. (and hope I am also empowering women who vote the way their husbands, churches, and social media channels tell them to, without doing any of their own research).

When I see Moms at the playground afraid to discipline another person’s child, I will show them how to do it with kind authority. (and hope I am also empowering Moms to stand up to any mistreatment they encounter so kids learn that there are certain behaviors that are unacceptable by everyone in our culture.)

When my daughter wants to pretend like “everything is fine” instead of dealing with friendship conflicts or school injustices, I will role play with her until she knows how to advocate for herself.

When my son encounters racism, sexism, and white superiority (as he does everyday at his privileged high school) I will teach him that it’s his civic responsibility to protect and be a voice for those who are vulnerable. (and hope that people of color, our LGBTQ community and women of all ages can trust a caucasian man to use his privilege to protect the rights of others.)

I will join and participate actively in groups who stand for the things I believe in. I will donate to organizations that support the causes I believe in.

I will not take action from fear because I know no good will come from it. I will not take action from sadness because this is not the time to be weak. I will not take action from anger, but I will use anger to fuel my passion to make the world we live in a kinder, more loving place.

The moment I made my friend Maria cry with my racial slur, I became determined to never cause or create suffering for another human being.  My intention for this election is to be grateful to it for creating the most powerful and loving generation of men, women and children our country has ever seen.

When bad things happen to people you know

There are have been some recent tragedies in my community lately and it’s always hard to know what to do when people you know are suffering. Instead of pretending to be an expert, I’ll share what I have learned from experience NOT to do when people are suffering. Whether it’s divorce, diagnosis, death or another life changing event, here are a few ways of coping that I suggest NOT doing.

  1. Say Nothing – I always had a fear of saying the wrong thing so as default, I often said nothing and did nothing. Also, my inner perfectionist would rear her head and tell me my small gesture wasn’t enough so I would create bigger and bigger gestures in my mind and then never follow through on any of it. What I realize now is that when people are suffering, they need witnesses. It helps them feel supported to know they aren’t alone and that other people see them, hear them and feel them. 
  2. Try to fix things – “I know a great book you’ve just got to read!” “My friend went through something similar and THIS saved her.” “Here’s what you need to do ……”  We mamas hate this when we are trying to vent about our day and our husband tries to fix it, but then we forget when our teenager vents and we try to fix their problems. It’s hard to just sit and let the people we love, feel their negative emotions. Remind yourself that listening IS helping. Letting them talk about how they feel helps them process and move through the emotion.
  3. Jump in the well – I’m so grateful to my life coach training for teaching me how to “hold the space” for someone else. Before that, my huge heart would get the best of me and when someone (anyone!) was suffering, I thought the loving thing was to suffer along with them. I imagine someone sitting in the bottom of a well, and out of empathy and solidarity, I would jump in the well with them. They may feel better because at least they weren’t alone, but I would make their grief my own and then we’d both need help getting out of the well. What’s worse, is if they start worrying about me and trying to make me feel better! Now I see my role as sitting next to the well, maintaining a perspective of peace and well-being so that when they are ready, they can climb the rope and join me in peace. It’s a difficult climb and they won’t be the same person at the end, but it is their climb and not mine.
  4. The platitudes – If you want to make a grieving person’s blood boil, offering platitudes is the way to do it. “Everything happens for a reason” “God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle” “Jesus has a plan for your life”.  These sayings might give YOU comfort but it diminishes and denies the experience your friend is going through. It’s like saying “Maintaining my life’s philosophy is more important to me than what you are going through in this moment.” Imposing our positive outlook on others is a way of avoiding our own emotions. When we block ourselves from feeling sadness, vulnerability and fear, we also block ourselves from feeling love.

The worst thing that will ever happen to you is a negative emotion. Once you can feel all your feelings without pushing them away, you are free! You will know you can handle anything that comes your way. The best way we can help others with their difficult times is to get comfortable with feeling all our feelings. When something bad happens it makes us feel vulnerable. We don’t like feeling vulnerable so we look for reasons, blame, platitudes or anything to make sense of this unpredictable world. Remember that love is always an option. Even if you aren’t sure what to do or how to help, ask yourself “How can I best express love to this person?” or “What would love do?” 

Best of luck to you as you spread love through this unpredictable world. Blessings to all those going through difficult times. My heart is with you xoxo.

Lessons white parents can teach white kids about racism

If you are like most people I know, hearing about racial tension in our country makes you sick and disheartened. You love and enjoy people for who they are, not the color of their skin. You can’t imagine disliking, let alone hating someone, because they look different or come from a different culture. You worry that talking to kids about race will make them pay more attention to something that maybe they shouldn’t. It would be nice to protect kids a little longer from the horror and embarrassment that is racial injustice, racial inequality and racial discrimination. Rather than telling kids the wrong thing, many of us err on the side of not saying anything at all. 

Here are 4 things white parents can tell their kids about race.

  1. Value diversity. Encourage your kids to seek out friendships with people who look different. Look around at your own group of friends and see how ethnically diverse it is. Think about branching out and expanding your circle, not just to include people of diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds but different political, religious or socio-economic backgrounds as well. Learn to value diversity to expand your own horizons, buck stereotypes and show your kids how we are more alike than we are different.
  2. Allow your kids the opportunity to be a minority. It is really hard to know what it feels like to be a minority until you’ve experienced yourself. Find cultural festivals in your area and take your kids to them. Sign them up for a class or camp where they are the only one of their race, religion or gender. Talk about how it felt and how they coped with that environment. How would it effect their personality if they lived that way everyday? What could the other kids do to make them feel more comfortable?
  3. Watch out for fear. When you see scary things on the news, it’s natural to catastrophize and think the whole world is going to hell and we are not safe. This sends our reptilian brain into a tailspin looking for more things to worry about and evidence to prove the world is a dangerous place. What researches know is that fear leads to hatred. When we don’t feel safe, we look for someone to blame. We lose access to our higher selves and our logical brains. For those of us who find it easy to love people of all races, the most important thing is to keep our hearts open. If watching the news increases fear, don’t watch. Continue to believe the world is a loving and accepting place and act accordingly. If worries and fears have taken over your brain, read The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris, Phd, the best book I’ve ever read for decreasing anxiety and fears. 
  4. Teach your kids to stand up to racist humor. Tell them that saying nothing means you are saying racial discrimination is ok. I have managed to surround myself with people who know not to make racial comments or jokes around me but teenagers get a lot of it and they don’t know how to react. The “teenage experts” I consulted (currently in the back seat of my car) say the best way to teach other teens their jokes aren’t funny is to not laugh. When someone is trying to be funny and you give a serious look and say “that’s wrong” or “not cool” or something similar that changes the energy to a serious tone, they will get the message.

We think our kids will pick up on our open-hearted feelings but I believe it requires a more deliberate approach. Racism is a part of our past and our present, whether we like it or not. Honestly addressing it, and giving our kids tools for stopping it, will help all our kids feel like they helping it not become a part of our future.

Using chores to teach leadership skills

kids complaining about doing chores
Are you teaching your kids to complain about chores?

Summer is coming and it’s time to switch gears from academics to other learning opportunities for kids. What aren’t they getting during the year? How can I use this time to encourage their passions and round out their development? (or, maybe it’s more like “Isn’t May over yet? I can’t wait to stop making their lunches every morning!”)

The most important thing summer provides kids, (besides a more relaxed, happy Mommy), is outdoor, open-ended, self-initiated playtime. This is so key to their creativity and sense of self and well-being with life. But if they are spending more time on-line than off, have them do some chores. Chores are a great way to build competency, confidence, a sense of contribution, life and leadership skills.

During the school year, kids are asked to focus on future, intangible results while sitting still, indoors. Chores offer a great solution. Besides lightening our workload, they give kids real-life skills where they immediately see the results of their efforts. Not only are the results tangible, they require physical exertion and impact their lives right now (something hard to obtain at school). Chores, when done right, can teach kids how to accomplish tasks, how to motivate themselves, how to make things easier or more fun, that there are many ways to express their creativity and to celebrate their effort and achievement.

But here’s the problem: What do you think of when you hear the word “CHORES”?

Hard work, boring, obligatory, tedious, a source of arguments, difficult? The word itself means “a hard or unpleasant task”.

The way WE feel about chores has a direct impact on what our kids gain from the experience.

If we turn into mean-drill-sergeant-mommy, thinking “they should just do what I tell them.” our kids will learn to avoid us AND the chores.

If we think, “It’s easier to just do it myself”, we will raise incompetent kids who wait for others to take care of them.

If we see chores as an opportunity to teach leadership skills that will benefit kids throughout their lives, then we will approach it in a positive way that sets kids up for success.

Think about someone you admire, someone whose example you would follow. What adjectives would you use to describe them? Smart? Trustworthy? Passionate? Confident? Determined? Efficient? Is that how you approach chores with your kids? If so, you’ve got it covered so clean on, my friend.

If you are like the rest of us, your kids either run and hide as soon as you start cleaning to avoid the grumpy commander, or they sit in the same room, barely lifting their feet as you vacuum under them, asking for a snack, never noticing that you are doing all the work.

My next blog will cover the nitty-gritty of creating a successful chore chart. For today, notice your thought that prevents you from successful delegation and imagine what it would look like to delegate from a place of leadership? What would you need to believe in order to….

-teach your kids important life skills?

-trust them to complete the job in a certain time frame?

-allow them to do it their way?

-prepare for imperfection and allow them to make mistakes?

-be enthusiastic about their efforts and accomplishments?

 

If you wanted to feel efficient, confident, and passionate about chores, what thoughts would be helpful to think?

“I can teach my kids the life skill of task management.”

“I can find a way to make this fun.”

“I like having a clean and efficient home.”

“I’m the most qualified person to teach this to my kids.”

“Teaching my kids that they have the ability to impact their environment is one of the most powerful things I can teach them.”

“It’s good for kids to feel needed by their community.”

“This is a worthwhile place to spend my time and energy.”

“I have a good plan in place, I am prepared for imperfection and resistance.”

“I want my kids to know that what they do matters.”

Show your kids that bossing people around or complaining is not how to get things done. Good leadership always starts with our beliefs and the energy we bring to the task. We can create passion, determination and the results we want, by the thoughts we choose to think. Pick one, and repeat it ten times a day until my next blog. Notice how calm and positive your energy is, how solution oriented you become, and the ideas that can now pop into your mind. This is you, setting yourself up for success.