Helping kids with empathy

News of the shooting in Newtown, CT. is vibrating through my body.  I can feel the weight of it: the suffering, fear, shock, desperation, anger, and grief.   It shows up in me as real, physical pain:  stomach ache, headache, tension in my neck, jaw, abdomen, crushing chest, and a feeling like boiling blood I know well as anxiety.  I live on the opposite side of the country and yet I am connected to those parents, teachers and kids at Sandy Hook Elementary in a very real way.  When I was a kid, and heard tragic news like this, I didn’t know how to handle my emotions.

Whether the scary stuff on TV was real or imaginary, as a kid, it felt the same.  I was afraid, but I didn’t know what to do with my fear.  It seemed the right thing to do was to “feel bad” for others.  My big, empathic heart couldn’t handle the guilt, grief and fear.  This wasn’t my pain or my problem, but somehow I thought that if I suffered, I could alleviate the suffering of others.  If I joined them in grief, if I carried the burden with them, I could lessen it.  I was wrong.  All this got me was decades of chronic pain, anxiety and a fear of bad things happening. I tried writing notes and donating money, but it never felt like enough.

Tragedy’s, like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School, are opportunities to teach our children healthy ways to deal with their emotions.  It can be hard to notice if your child is reacting in these ways but asking them what they feel, and what they do with that feeling, is a good place to start.  Many kids (and adults) will cope by….

  1. Worrying, pulling-back from life, living small and fearfully, breathing shallowly, just in case a threat shows up.  Constantly staying in fight or flight, when there is no immediate danger, is horrible for your emotional and physical well-being and does nothing for those suffering. You can read more about my results of living this way. This adds more fearful energy to the world, which causes us to do things like horde weapons of mass destruction and maintain the right to bear arms against our neighbors and classmates.
  2. Get Mad – We can be angry at the shooter, the NRA, video games, the president, the lack of care for mentally ill, anyone.  For many people, anger is more comfortable than fear so they stay here, hoping it will lead them to productive action.   This is the “fight” response, in action.  It feels good to use it and get the energy out, but adding more of this angry/fearful/fighting energy to the world is just going to result in more violence.
  3. Get Tough- Many times, big hearted kids (and adults) will grow tough exteriors to mask the really deep feelings and negative thoughts they think about themselves.  They ignore, act cool, like they don’t care, deny their own dark side, and try to act perfectly, sometimes even self-righteous. (The emotion will be looking for a way out so don’t be surprised if they explode at a dead cat in the road or missed soccer goal).
  4. Guilt/Sadness – Somehow we get the idea that if we suffer along, it helps alleviate the burdens of others.  When I feel sad and guilty, that just adds more suffering and depression to the world.  Instead, feel the grief and guilt in your body and transform it into love.  Hug your kids, appreciate your life, but do it from a place of love, not fear.   (You’ll know the difference because love feels expansive, fear feels graspy and scarce).

In order to send love to Newtown, Connecticut, you have to feel it in yourself first.  The first step for all of us is to acknowledge and label their emotion.  When a big, scary, yucky feeling gets named, it diffuses it and makes it easier to manage.  Ask yourself, “What am I feeling?” or “What am I trying NOT to feel?”  Is it anger? sadness? guilt? fear?  Then acknowledge that no one is perfect, nor were we meant to be.  We all have the potential for darkness, given the right brain chemistry and environmental circumstances.  Look for something you have done or said you feel bad about and forgive that part of you.  (Notice where you feel the guilt in your body and what color it is, then breathe into it and relax around it until you can transform it into a color that feels like love, seems weird but it works).  Once you can forgive yourself for your shortcomings, you can fill it with love.  From this place, you can then send gratitude and love out to the world, the victims, the troubled soul of the shooter, everyone.  Pet your dog, sing Christmas Carols, cook something delicious, make a list of things you love about yourself and your kids.  Do whatever you can to shift to the state of gratitude and peace.  The world doesn’t need more suffering.  The world is hungry for love.  Take this opportunity to role model for your kids how much power they have to feel and send LOVE.

I need money and I need it now

“I need some money and I need it now. I don’t care what I have to do, just please hire me. I’ll do anything.”

Does that make you want to hire me? If so, help-a-holics anonymous might be your next stop. Most people are turned off by desperation. Just like that kid sophmore year that wouldn’t stop calling & following you around, desperate energy repels people.

Whether you are looking for a job, a partner, a babysitter, or a contractor, never do it from desperation, hate, or fear.
“I can’t stand my job and I just need to work for someone who isn’t an ass.”
It’s really hard to help you with that.

Joy sells. Confidence sells. Love sells.
“I love what I do, I am ridiculously good at it, I’ve made people very successful by doing it and I’d love to come and do it with you.”

“I am super organized and love to plan down to the smallest detail. I’ve gotten high praise for my ability to bring things and people together in a collaborative way. And what really makes me come alive is using these talents in a way that not only improves the environment, but improves the way people experience and play in their world.”

This gives me a clear picture of who you are and I WANT to help you find more JOY and LOVE. I also want to help your potential co-workers, customers, and the environment by introducing you to them.

“I’m looking for a babysitter who isn’t an idiot and maybe even cleans up their crap once in awhile.”

Hmm, I can think of about 2,000 people who fit that picture but I don’t want to call any of them for fear that you’ll say the same about them.

“I’m looking for a babysitter who loves being with my kids. One who can keep my home clean and organized but lights up at the sound of my children’s voices and uses her time with them to express her own creativity and unique self.”

The perfect person just came to mind, I’ll message her right now!

“I am looking for a kind, open-minded partner who likes to be active outdoors. Someone who sees the silver lining, but also likes to delve deeply into serious topics.”

I don’t know that person yet but I have the picture in my head so as soon as I meet him/her, I’ll call you right away.

People naturally like to help. We like to connect our friends and share our wealth of knowledge. When you are descriptive like this, it gives us a vision, a picture of what you are looking for. It brings someone to mind that I can immediately connect you with.

“I just want to be with someone who isn’t a cheap, lazy bastard.” Makes me think maybe it’s good to be single for awhile.

You are worth more than “just someone kind” or “just a job you don’t hate where you feel respected.”

Dream bigger, imagine with perfect details, then tell us, all of us, about your dream. We all want to help make it come true.

Here’s my dream: I am loving my phone/internet class called Leading Your Teen:  Live Your Best Life So Your Teen Will, Too.  I love it so much, I’d like to teach it again in March, but I’d also like to expand and teach a class for parents with 1-5 year olds.  I’m looking for Moms who love their kids and want to do what’s best for them, but without sacrificing who they are in the process.  I want Moms who err on the side of “over-parenting”.  It doesn’t matter if they are working or at home, but that they are interested in support for shifting out of worry, getting the most out of their life, and watching their children thrive.  If you know anyone who wants to create a more peaceful, purposeful relationship with their kids, please connect us so I can put them on my interest list.  Thanks for helping me make my dream come true!

Who were you meant to be?

When you were little, you knew EXACTLY who you were and what was right for you.  You were on a mission: you were alert, focused, intent, but your body was relaxed.  If someone tried to keep you from accomplishing your goal, you screamed.  In fact you didn’t let anything or anyone stand in your way.  You worked hard all day, but it felt like play. 

This is exactly what my clients are yearning for:  connection, passion, love, play, belief in their abilities, joy and meaning.  This is what it feels like when you are living your best life and doing what you were meant to do. Whether we call this your essential self, your original genius, or your inner wisdom, it is how we are meant to live.

Not once, while trying to master your block tower did you think to yourself, “I really should be learning to walk.  I see Kylie is walking already.  Sam is talking up a storm and his Mom seems so happy about it.  Maybe I should focus on building my vocabulary?”

You NEVER thought, “What’s wrong with me?  I used to love trains and now I hardly play with them at all.  Why can’t I just stick to one thing?”

You didn’t question your own instincts.  “Everyone else seems to playing on the slide.  I wonder what’s wrong with me?  I just want to tinker with my toys, maybe I should be more like the others?”

You complained loudly when you didn’t get to do what you wanted, but you never thought, “When am I going to get rewarded?  I’ve been working my ass off on this macaroni necklace, why isn’t anyone noticing how great it is and compensating me for my time?”  It never even dawned on you to ask “What’s in it for me?”  You just did the work you knew you were meant to do.

Your Original Genius knows when to rest and when to move on.  It doesn’t wait for people to give you permission to do what you KNOW you want to do.  It’s driven, passionate, and full of purpose. You KNOW what you love, what your purpose is, and it’s still inside, whispering to you all the time.

Where does this passion and certainty go?  Often, it gets left behind at middle school. Adolescence is the time parents see their child’s essence fading into “group think” and “shoulding” (as in, I should be more than I am). It’s normal to want to fit in and be accepted by peers, but as parents, it’s important to help our kids stay connected to the essence of who they are.

Tom went to medical school and was told Primary Care is the wave of the future.  Everyone should go into General Medicine, it’s the most responsible & secure choice.  Being a responsible guy, Tom complied.  Only to find himself miserable wiping noses and diagnosing ear infections all day.  Any interesting case that came through his door, he had to refer out.  Anyone that knew Tom’s essence, knew he was a specialist.  He loved to go an inch wide & a mile deep.  Think of the time and money he could have saved if his parents had steered him towards his essence, instead of what was safe & popular?  After 5 grumpy years, he went back to med school and is now a brilliant pediatric anesthesiologist and thank goodness!  If people are putting my child under the knife I sure as heck want them to living their purpose and doing the job best suited to who they are meant to be.

Imagine a world where EVERYONE is expressing their wisdom, their essence, and their original genius.  Your waitress is thrilled to serve you and help you enjoy your dining experience.  Your babysitter thinks your children are amazing little creatures and joyfully shares every detail of her time.  Your dentist loves inspiring you to take great care of your teeth and creates a relaxing environment you and your children look forward to going to.  This is the world I want to live in.

Want to help your teen make good choices, while helping yourself at the same time?  Join me on my FREE phone class Tuesday, October 30th at 12noon, PST.  Leading Your Teen:  Live Your Best Life So Your Teen Will, Too!

Parents Feel Peer Pressure, Too

“Don’t forget about the showcase on Friday, it starts at 10am.” I hear every morning as I drop my daughter off at a week long cheerleading camp.  Summer is here and I am pining for “me time” like a love-struck teenager longs to be back at summer camp with her first love.  My 8 yr. old loves cheer camp but the 2.5 hours per day is hardly enough time to do the things I want to do.  I want to write, plan and teach classes without my daughter.  I want to exercise and run the errands she hates but summer is here and things have changed.I really don’t want to go to “the showcase” this Friday.

I’ve watched her do cheers all week, about 6 hours a day.  I feel confident that I won’t  be deprived by not seeing her perform with the other camp cheerleaders.  I have great friends that will send me videos if I want.  I didn’t go last year, and the world did not crumble.  My husband misses this stuff and doesn’t blink an eye.  I really don’t want to give up that extra hour on Friday, when I get so few as it is.

Yet here I sit, on the bleachers, watching “the showcase”.  And apparently, I’m not the only one.

Sometimes we succumb to peer pressure, just like our kids will.  We decide to do things that we may not really want to do.  Breast feeding, work meetings, kid birthday parties, family gatherings or class reunions.  Peer pressure is just as real for adults as it is for kids so as I waited for “the showcase” to begin, I decided to take my own advice.

In my “You Can Talk to Me” class for 9-12 year olds and their parents and my “Getting What You Want” summer camp for girls 12-15, we talk about how to stand up to peer pressure.  Before you take action, you first want to link to your values.  In this case, I value my quiet time, especially during the summer months, but I have decided to go anyway and I don’t want to feel resentful.  I value connecting with other parents.  I value arranging play dates for my daughter with the other Moms (more quiet time!).  I value using life’s everyday challenges to help other parents, live more purposeful lives, ie. write a blog about it.

Anytime you are doing something that’s not your favorite activity but the societal, peer, or family pressure may be too much for you, link to YOUR values!  Maybe you dread spending your meager time off at your spouse’s family reunion?  If so, find a way to link it to one of YOUR values:  spending time in nature, finding a new recipe to try out, talking about a book you loved, mentally plan a trip you’d like to take, sketch something, etc.  Before you’ll know it you’ll be having a good time, on your terms, because you decided to.

Bev felt pressured to put her boys into classes like the other Moms: soccer, music, foreign language, gymnastics. She longed to socialize with these other Moms but her boys just wanted to stay home and play in the dirt. She could either force her boys to cope with classes they hated to make friends and feel a part of the crowd, or listen to her boys and her instincts and let them stay home. She decided to linked to her values, hired a sitter to stay home with her boys, and took classes of her own.  Bev got out of the house to socialize by taking art and exercises classes, something she always wanted to do.

Living deliberately, on purpose, gives you so much power. Notice when you feel peer pressure (and talk about it out loud if your kids are old enough).  Listen to and respect your inner voice, make the choice you want in a way that reflects your values, & then make the most of it.  Acknowledging peer pressure and modeling how to make your own choices is an awesome skill to teach to your kids.

I’m not the only one

I believed the propaganda

I confess.

I believed it.

The soft focus, the clean & pretty Mom, the happy baby, the dream that my life would soon be filled with love, peace & contentment.  And it was.

And it wasn’t.

I loved being a Mom and I LOVED my baby.  But suddenly, that was all I knew.

I wanted to do everything right.  I valued my new role and took my responsibility seriously.  But my baby wasn’t cooperating with my vision.  He was fussy, sensitive, cried a lot and slept a little.  I felt lost and confused.  I had no way of validating that I was doing a good job.

And I couldn’t stand the not knowing.

So I read.  Parenting book after parenting book.  Searching for validation.  I wanted someone to show me, prove to me, I was doing things right.  I wanted to know that I had taken this precious little human and not screwed him up.  I hated when people talked about “maternal instincts”.  What the &*%$# is that?   I had none.  I wanted a report card.  A job description with a checklist so I could make sure I was doing things well.  But I didn’t have one, so I decided to worry.  It seemed like worrying was something a good parent would do.  It felt conscientious, diligent, and productive.

From the outside I looked confident, but I was working hard:  reading, worrying, researching, studying for a final exam that never came.

On the inside, I had lost the ability to relax, or even take a deep breath, this is what I now call, “The Land of Crazy”.  Perhaps, your “crazy” is different than mine?  Maybe the loss of spontaneity or predictability drove you crazy?  Maybe your crazy came from arguing with reality?  “This should be easier”, “My child shouldn’t act this way” “My husband should help more”.  Maybe you never felt crazy, just full of peace and joy all day, in which case stop reading this! For me, the realization that there is no report card or professional review to tell me whether I am meeting or exceeding expectations was a terrifying concept.  I had spent my life following rules and using other people’s expectations to determine whether I had value and success. The most important job I will ever have and no one is here to tell me if I’m doing it right?  What the hell kind of craziness is that?

The best kind.  The kind we can learn from and use to bring us closer to the truth.  The truth that only WE get to decide if we are good, successful parents.  That every temper tantrum,  every power struggle can be an opportunity to grow closer to our authentic self.  I learned little by little, a yoga class here, a supportive friend there, teaching parenting classes (might as well put that research to good use), taking time by myself, learning to trust other caregivers.  I learned that WE have the power to decide what kind of day we are going to have, and how much joy we choose to take from our experiences.  I learned the long, hard way, but I am thrilled to have a short cut to share with you!

The things that mean the most to us (jobs, relationships, money, parenting) are usually the things that challenge our beliefs and make us feel a little lost and confused for a while.  Now I see that this is as our opportunity to create new beliefs that are truer and more aligned with our best, most authentic selves.  Instead of thinking “I have to do this right” or “My child should obey me” or other frustrating thoughts, I deliberately think thoughts that allow me to feel successful and parent from a place of peace and confidence.  “I choose how I behave” or “I decide if I’ve been successful today” are more empowering thoughts that we can actually control.  Some people sit on a mountaintop and meditate for hours, ME?, I use my daughter’s refusal to wear pants as my own path towards spiritual enlightenment.

I believe parenting struggles are a perfect opportunity for personal growth.  This passion we have to raise great kids, and our motivation to stay sane while raising them, is all the fuel you need to learn the tools to live your best life.

JOIN ME on an 8-week, life coaching program to learn to use your parenting challenges to create your most idea life.

The Parenting Club

Parenting can be an exciting time, but it can also be a time for anxiety and confusion as we adjust to new roles.  With support, information, and coaching, this can be the best time in our lives. Join me in this 8-week life coaching program and learn the tools you need to worry less and enjoy more.  You will develop confidence, clarity, and increase satisfaction in your everyday life.

  1. The Cycle of Change – Most people go through 5-6 major transitions in their lives and becoming a parent is certainly one of them.  We will learn about the predictable path of change and how to use it transform us into our best selves and live the life we were meant to live.
  2. Drowning, Choking, and SIDS, OH MY! – Along with becoming parents comes worry.  This class is about learning the difference between instincts and anxiety and how protect our children while not letting worry take over our lives.
  3. The Everybody – “Everybody says I should breastfeed”, “Everybody says I should stay home/go back to work”.  This week we will discuss who “everybody” is and how to listen to what’s right for you.  We’ll talk about the difference between your essential self and your social self and how to filter these messages in a positive way.
  4. “Why do I do all the work?” – Discussion of gender roles, distribution of labor, and tackling those household chores that just have to be done.  We’ll take a look at our families of origin to see how our expectations have formed and learn practical tools to make everyday life better for all.
  5. The Quest for Balance – What does it mean to live a balanced life and is it even attainable?  We’ll talk about transitioning back to work, settling into staying home, childcare and how to make life more fun with less guilt.
  6. Maintaining Healthy Relationships – Whether it’s complaints about husbands, in-laws, or girlfriends.  This is the time to work it all out and create the helpful, supportive tribe you desire.
  7. Developing Your E.Q. – Your child-rearing years will go much smoother if you increase your emotional intelligence to help you both navigate through the wild world of feelings.
  8. “When Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” – Why is it so hard to put ourselves first?  Understanding the challenge of self-reverence as we develop tools to celebrate our victories and take pride in our accomplishments.

Use parenting as your path towards personal fulfillment and creating your best life!  This 8-week journey is a great way to learn life coaching skills for you to use in your career, your money, your family and your life.

Sara says: “When I started this program I felt like I won the lottery!  These skills are just what I needed to take my life to the next level.  I felt pretty good before but I didn’t realize how much better I could be.  I feel in charge of my own happiness and ready for what lies ahead.

Tanya says: “Cheaper than therapy and lasts longer.  Practical tools that apply to all areas of life.  I loved feeling supported and understood.”

Anna says: “Oh my gosh! Feeling normal and sane, not to mentioned empowered, is invaluable! I would have paid 10x as much!”

Schedule a free discovery call to see if this program is right for you.

This 8-week coaching program is held over-the-phone, from the privacy of your own home, car, or wherever Mom’s can find some peace!  The calls are held once a week for 8 weeks with optional homework done over email, in between calls.

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