Livin’ the dream

Teachers and educators,

You have to admit that this time of year, we really love our job! No alarms. Long lunches. Time to read new books. Working in the garden. Sun. Time and energy to exercise. Friends. Vacations. Sleep! -Time-.

It’s our rejuvenation time. And, as a mom, I love it. Tons, and tons of time with my kids. No camps. No schedule. No rushing. Just time.

So this evening while I was starting laundry, I found Anna like this. In the middle of the hallway, she was video taping her baby (again). She loves to make videos, all kinds. Slime, babies, makeup, singing….the typical 9 year old stuff. It’s her own little reality that she can erase and redo day after day.20180710_193611.jpgIt was just a few minutes earlier that I’d been bragging to my mom on the phone about the run I had with the kids. I suggested it to Brody so that he can start getting back in shape for soccer. Believe it or not, a dark, cool room and Fortnite don’t really help your heart or lungs, and soccer is starting back up! (Pause to say that I still feel like it’s a miracle that he can play soccer after not one but two brain tumor resections in the cerebellum…..really awesome). But, we need to ease back into shape and running will help. He didn’t fight this suggestion. In fact, he seemed excited to go for a run at the hottest part of the day around 5:30. But, Anna didn’t want to stay alone for that short time and insisted on joining us. So, we all did one slow, hot mile.

20180710_172853That makes me happy. So while sharing this small success with mom, I also was telling her about Brody’s early morning MRI tomorrow. Anna insists on going. It’s a lot of waiting around at the hospital, and then more waiting while we visit the neurosurgeon’s office for his appointment. But, she really wants to go, and I suspect that’s because since Brody’s recent surgery, she has decided that she wants to be a nurse!

For years, she has wanted to be a teacher. And, she has practiced hours upon hours in her school room. But, suddenly after observing the sweet, young nurses in action at ETCH, she’s had a change of heart. And, we do think she’d be a good nurse! She’s responsible, diligent, and super nurturing.

So, it makes me even happier catching her practicing. Nana had just said she could see her in the NICU, and I walked upstairs 5 minutes later to find her measuring Lily and recording the data. Livin’ the dream!20180710_184347

We all have our dreams. Some dreams are grand. Some are so simple, yet just as satisfying. Here’s to celebrating it all. Short, hot runs. Baby dolls in the hallway. And, time. We love it all, don’t we!?

 

 

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Resiliency

There is one good reason that I choose to work with kids. I could tell you all the things that are challenging about my job, or all the reasons NOT to go into Education….but, the good things outweigh the bad at the end of the day. In short, kids are amazing.

Since 2003, I have been a public School Counselor. I’ve worked in very rural schools with a very homogeneous population (loved those country kids!). Then, in Knox county, I have worked with a very wide variety of children. From African American to Caucasian, from inner-city to affluent, from Chinese, African, and Middle Eastern, I have met all sorts of kids from all over of the world, and there is a common thread. Kids are resilient.

  • children in our very own city who are abandoned
  • children who have grown up in refugee camps
  • children who have parents who are drug addicts
  • children who have lost a parent
  • children who don’t have dinner on the table
  • children who don’t know their father
  • children who have 10+ siblings
  • and, children, like my own son, who are battling brain tumors

What do all of the above have in common? First, they are living with unfair and really hard situations! Second, they don’t have a choice and this is a hard daily reality. Third, they are children who wake up and face battles far greater than many adults…..and they can do it with a smile on their face.

That’s why I keep doing it. That’s why my job makes me a better person. That’s why my son makes me a stronger person. If a child can smile, show kindness, face the unimaginable and keep on, then the world is a better place because of it. When students can live in the moment without the worry of the future, they inspire.

As adults, I know we get tired. We get weak. We get scared….But, like children, we have to press on. Their pure hearts remind me that no matter the circumstances, we can and should be our best even when the circumstances aren’t the best!  We adults make excuses. We get down. We over think.

Children are examples of how to live. Full, real emotions (good and sad). Deeply in the moment. Caring about friends. Easily distracted. Ready to have fun. Playing, running, goofing off. That’s how to live. That’s how to love.

So, as tired as this old School Counselor is and as sad as their stories may seem, we should live more like children. Resiliency isn’t even a word they know….but they certainly live out. Children show us a thing or two about living.

Persevere.

Live childlike.

Inspire.

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My #1

1Every child deserves to someone’s number one. Every child needs to hear they are loved, feel adored, and be given hugs before bed. Every child deserves to have someone read them a bedtime story. Every child wants to hear they are good at something. Every child not only wants these things; they need it. It’s something many of us take for grated. It’s something many of us do for our children without thought.

“You’re my favorite boy in the world. You’re so smart. You’re such a good girl. You are so responsible. I love you…..”

These are things I say to my children every day because I mean it, and they need to hear it. They need to feel it. And, many, many children are not feeling like they are anyone’s number one.

The list of children that I spent time with this week is long. And when I think of a commonalities, there is one depressing theme. Many, if not most, of the children who had angry outbursts, who had a conflict or made a bad choice, or asked to spend time with me are lacking one or both parents. They are abandoned and feel unwanted. Their parents have different priorities.

They’re in jail. They’re on drugs. They have a new boyfriend. I’ve even had children tell me that they have new kids now. They have a new family. How does that make a child feel to have their parent care about something or someone more than them? It leaves a void. They feel incomplete. They feel insecure. And, they are longing for attention.

And, they look for attention wherever they can find it. In PAC (in-school suspension), in conflicts, in rebellion, and even within themselves. I had a boy tell me at the end of the day that “he would never earn a reward from me” when he saw another girl picking her toy from my ‘joy jar’. “I’m stupid and I never do anything right.” This is not how children are supposed to feel when they are nine.

But, when your mom has left you, you rarely see your dad, and you’re scared of your caretaker, you feel lost. When your mom tells you that you won’t be seeing your dad anymore, you feel sad. When your dad is in jail and you haven’t seen him since you were three, you feel disappointed. When your mother chose drugs over you, you feel angry. Children are hurting everywhere.

But, we can’t give up. We have to be the ones to love them. Maybe they aren’t our number one, but we can try to find them a number one. Today I checked in with a friend who is being raised by her aunt and uncle. She’s been with them for years now while some of her other many siblings are living with a drug-addicted mom and other family members. In fact, one of her brothers now attends the same school yet lives with step-mom and father. He was born addicted to drugs and the impact is huge. He is so delayed and almost incapable of functioning in school. Today, he didn’t want to leave his sister when he saw her this morning. Since they don’t live together and hardly see each other, he gets so excited to see her. He became so upset upon her leaving for class that he began screaming, “I want to kill myself” over and over and over again down the hallway. It was a blood-curdling scream. It was so painful to listen to so I cannot imagine how he feels. He’s in first grade.

But, this girl who shares the same mother and doesn’t have a relationship with a different father is doing great. It was her birthday today. And while she was understandably upset by the morning incident, her ‘Big Sister’ from the Big Brothers Big Sister’s program surprised her for her birthday. She’s been matched with this girl since first grade. Her Big Sister comes to eat lunch with her often. She takes her to do fun things outside of school. And, she delivers wonderful, fancy birthday presents to this one girl. She has made her her number one! She even asked her ‘little’ to be in her wedding this winter!

So when there are children who have had bad luck and received the short-end-of-the-stick, we have to find them a number one. A mentor, a school friend, a family member who steps in….someone who will treat them like they are the most important thing in the world. And even if we can’t actually find them a mentor, we make the time we spend with ‘our’ kids meaningful. When I spend time with a child, even if it’s 5 minutes, I really try to make them feel loved. They aren’t always the most loving kids but they can be when we show them how to.

At the end of the day today, I invited a boy who’s been abandoned by his mother to come help me with my kindergarten leadership class. I had to conduct a suicide assessment on him yesterday. But today, he wanted to come with me as I taught the sweet kindergarten students about ‘filling buckets’. He was so well-behaved in this class as he served as my assistant. A boy who is desperate to be loved and is feeling really depressed chose to spend his afternoon explaining to other children how to fill buckets and make other people feel loved.

Fill someone’s bucket today, and make a child feel loved. They all deserve it.

 

Simple

First, listen to ‘Simple’ by our local Emily Ann Roberts!

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Awaking again at my leisure, not too early and not too late, I get to sip at my fresh cup of French Roast and browse the internet. Again, we have no plans for the day. We’re in no rush to get out of our pj’s or even eat breakfast. And, the biggest decision will be what to eat for dinner.

Summer is wonderful….simple. It’s exciting, and slow. It’s hot, humid air and cool, fresh water. It’s friends, and silence. It’s fresh veggies, and treats. It’s books, and Netflix. Yes, and we love it all!

In less than a week, Brody has another MRI. This one will around 8 months instead of the scheduled 6 months. When we called to make the appointment months ago, she was that booked up. And when the receptionist put me on hold to ask Dr. Savage if it was ok to wait this long, she came back on the line to ask if he’s having any symptoms. No (knock on wood), I replied, so we are some of the lucky ones who can wait. Of course we want her dedicating her time to those who cannot wait; Brody was that emergency patient once.

It’s nerve-wracking every time, indeed. It seems like an eternity and only yesterday we were in that waiting room at Children’s. So, there is anxiety again. This has been the longest break so we are out of practice. It’s sneaking up, but Brody doesn’t even realize it. He’s living his simple day-to-day life….blessings.

Yesterday, we did a quick day-trip to Frozen Head, sticking to my plan of a good ole’ Tennessee summer, a simple summer. Brody’s best friends are 13, almost 14, and 11. They spent the afternoon wading through the shallow creek, flipping rocks and searching for crawdads. The sound of the creek and woods was all you could hear; no one was there. It was quiet, slow, and most definitely simple. What’s great is that they are that easily entertained. Kids are quite simple too, even 13 year olds!

It takes less junk (entertainment systems, devices, toys, gadgets, bells and whistles) than parents realize to keep our kids happy. They ended the day by all chasing and catching fireflies and jumping on the trampoline in the dark.

Brody’s diagnosis 2 years ago changed me in many, many ways. One of those is that I realize we don’t have to stay busy-busy to not be bored. So, our summers will be different than most. No camps. No schedule. We won’t have an outing every day. We will do whatever we feel like that day. We’ll be spontaneous, a little bored, lazy, and just see what happens. Because so far, it’s working out for us.

Just like I believe this Monday will work out for us too. Simple.

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#LIVINGFORTODAY

#FRIENDSFAMILYLIFE

Room to grow

Time to reflect and examine what’s going on with our kids. Another school year has come to a close, riddled with unexpected twists and turns. Growing pains are always to be expected. So, is this year any different?

  • Stressed, overworked teachers
  • Negligent caregivers, and over-involved parents
  • Excess extracurriculars and lack of quality time
  • Suicide
  • Social media

These are just a few persistent, troubling themes in American schools. As usual, there have been friendship problems, tragedies, and too much information in too little time. But, what sticks out in 2017 as impacting our young children most? When I think back on this fast school year, many issues are avoidable.

More and more continues to be demanded of our public school teachers and this stress does trickle down to students. Yet, many teachers have accepted that the list requirements will always be growing and changing. Teachers seem less stressed than they were a couple years ago when the new evaluation system was first implemented. Yet, teachers seem no more happy. It’s hard work and more work with no more money! Yet, there are so many great teachers willing to persevere because they believe in children and shaping their future.

Sometimes these are the only consistently positive role models our children have. More and more, children are not experiencing the 2-parent, traditional home. The model of a family continues to shift, whether it be living with a family friend, to having multiple homes, or being raised by a grandparent. This is impacting our children’s resiliency and confidence. Some children expect the unexpected at an early age making it difficult to concentrate on being a student and stress-free kid.

Divorce continues to be an issue that many young children face. And, it’s not easy. Sometimes it takes years for children to accept, if they ever do. Changes in schedules and bouncing from different homes is challenging even if it’s the best decision for the parents. Kids miss their mom or dad when they aren’t with them. Going for months on end without seeing a parents hurts.

Grandparents as caregivers present another set of challenges, as their role as a guardian is not the same dynamic as a parent. Many times, they are juggling working and raising their grandchildren, while also dealing with whatever factors got the children there to begin with. It’s a lot of pressure and these children don’t always get the discipline and consistency they need. They may get away with more and less is expected from them as many times the grandparents feel sorry for them. Or, the grandparent is too tired to fight the fight. Many children aren’t held to same expectations as their peers when it comes to household or school responsibilities. And, they aren’t getting the help they need with their school work at home either. Academics have changed and become more rigorous. And, many times parents and grandparents don’t know how to help them. They weren’t taught the same way, or they don’t remember. So, many kids don’t do their homework. They’d rather stick them on a device to pacify.

On the other hand, there continue to be the parents who micromanage every move their child makes. Every little quiz must be an A and the teacher is contacted if their child’s grade drops to a B. Teachers find this type of parent just as frustrating. The entitled parent expects ongoing communication if their child has a bad day; this parent wants to monitor every move. This child is not allowed to have a bad day, and if they do, there has to be a reason that must be fixed immediately. This kid deserves to be the best because they are the smartest, of course.

For all kids, of all races and socioeconomic status, electronic devices seemed to cause the most trouble in 2016/17. We still haven’t figured out balance and how to regulate our kids. And, there are more and more opportunities for children of all socioeconomic levels to get online. Whether it be texting or messaging, being sucked into YouTube, or just the simple games like Roadblock, electronics are seriously impacting our children. Many times, parents are unaware or checked out from regulating these devices. This school year has been the year of hurt feelings over what started out as a simple message or text. Middle-class girls whose parents value education and are involved are NOT involved in monitoring this process. Many misunderstandings and cyberbullying could have been avoided.

Children in elementary (not to mention even middle and high school) are just too young to practice mindful online communication and react appropriately on their own. It’s complicating their lives and spilling into their school day too! It’s impacting their self-image and really causing damage to their outlook on whom they can trust, believing they aren’t good enough. Kids in elementary are too young to explore online without an adult. The world of electronics can be isolating and addictive.

Sadly, this has been the year of suicide. 13 Reasons Why sparked the conversation but kids were already hurting. Young kids are hurting. It’s surprising that so many elementary age children are already aware of what suicide is and some are even talking about doing it. That’s been the most difficult part of this school year, knowing that children the age of my own son are contemplating dying and living with feelings of hopelessness.

Most are not serious about completing the act, but many are already causing self-harm. There are many red flags. And when a child in elementary school is already considering this as their coping strategy, we should be alarmed. They don’t think they are smart. No one likes them. Their parents don’t care. I’ve heard it all. I’ve witnessed this myself after calling parents and encountering their lack of alarm or immediate attention. These kids are crying out and many parents aren’t taking them seriously.

Then, there were 3 high school students at Knoxville’s most affluent high school who did complete this act. We must take early warning signs seriously. It seriously disturbs me when parents don’t listen, take the next steps, or just don’t believe their children. Mental illness or instability, at the very least, is going undiagnosed and without care.

Parents aren’t taking the time. Parents are taking time buying them new stuff, micromanaging their school work, and running them to practices. But, parents aren’t really taking the time to connect, like truly connect. Parents need to ask questions and take time to listen, in the car, before meals, at bed. Many young children feel disconnected from their parents. Everyone is busy and many times, children are home alone or just feel alone. This has become way more acceptable in all circles. Working parents or just busy families are not taking the time to be with their kids.

There’s the 7-year-old who gets off the bus by himself and spends a couple hours alone while mom is still at work. And, there’s also the affluent parent who’s rushing off to a multiple practices and has their child involved in every possible extracurricular. Quality time is becoming scarce and parents don’t know their children as well. Instead of spending time together, more parents are signing their kids up for structured activities or sports where the family is apart.

There seems to be a push towards valuing education in America. We sure are raising the academic standards but why do we expect all children fit this mold? There’s pressure to achieve and watch those graphs go up. Maybe we are pressuring our children in developmentally inappropriate ways, however. With our youth, we should be spending the most time developing a sense of self, understanding and relating to others, and forming friendships. These are the life skills that lead to a fulfilling life.

Looking forward to this summer, we need to get outside more. We need to sit down and talk with (not to) our kids. We need to explore, adventure, read, play, and talk more. We need to stress less and laugh more. We need to slow down! We need to take time for friends and leave our devices alone. We need to have more fun!

Thanks for listening and being the kind of parent who already lives with perspective and love! Those of you who read this are the ones who are raising respectful, well-balanced, and creative kids! Keep on rocking in the free world! ego.jpg

Is 2nd grade the new 4th for girls?

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You people working in schools know what I’m talking about. Recess drama and female friendships that flip-flop daily or by the hour! Girls who are drama queens and TELL their friends who they can and cannot play with. And, then there’s the girl who is always the victim; someone is ALWAYS being mean to her. Or, she NEVER gets to play! (poor me…) Girl drama is tough!

Is 2nd grade the new 4th grade?

It’s interesting that women night say 50 is the new 40. Time is moving backwards. But, in adulthood, it’s a positive idea embodying self-righteousness and true self-awareness. And with all the age-defying tricks, you can even make your self look younger while also feeling wiser!

For young girls, many are trying to grow up too fast. They want to be pre-teens when they are really still kids. We are seeing drama queens at a younger and younger age. It’s like it’s contagious. There’s always been the pecking order but now instead of 4th or 5th grade, it’s 2nd grade.

As a counselor, my “guidance” box is littered with notes about friendship problems each week. And, yes, all grades experience friendship issues at some point but the majority of friendship problems are 2nd grade girls. What some parents may label “bullying” is really more like power struggles, where both parties are at play. There are many power-hungry girls who want to be the boss yet lack the empathy and leadership skills is takes to navigate through making decisions. Are they all like this?

We want our girls to be confident decision-makers. But, most 2nd grade girls haven’t figured out how to act self-assured and assertive while also being kind, fair, and humble. We want our girls to play fair, take turns, share friends, make new friendships, and be happy…. yet so many are not at such a young age.

This is the part that I know I’m about to curse myself so I’m knocking on wood. Our time will come I’m sure…. In fact, we are almost guaranteed a nightmarish teenagehood because our 8-year-old is just so responsible, kind, and also confident now!  I work with countless girls her age, I know I do not have a drama queen. I know her friends find her nice. And I know this because I am fortunate enough to be right there hearing it and seeing for myself. Thank goodness she’s not one of the ‘ALWAYS’, poor-me, ‘I’m not your friend anymore’ girls!

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And, thank goodness she also has a couple of friends, not a ton, who are the same way. They still have a simple innocence, soft delivery, yet old-soul approach towards friendship. In fact, I noticed recently that her absolute best friend in the whole world wasn’t playing with her a recess. For almost 3 years now, they have played with each other (kid-you-not) every single day of recess. They were only in the same class together one of these 3 years but they always reunited on the playground.

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You could usually find Anna and Kate hand in hand on the playground. They greeted each other running with arms stretched out like in a movie. They hugged and played every single day until a couple of weeks ago. The streak has ended. Anna said nothing about it but I noticed, being that I walk past the playground upon entering and leaving my room at our school. When I noticed that they were playing in different areas and with different girls, I was very surprised. I worried there must be trouble in paradise. But, these are 2 girls that have never had a fight. In fact, I have never heard them even bicker or have a disagreement.

When I asked Anna about it, she just said plainly that she was playing with 3 other girls from her class. There was no reason. And when I asked Kate about it out of curiosity a week later when she was playing at our house, she also said plainly that they are playing with other people, and “that’s fine”. This is NOT the way things normally work. No jealousy? No hurt feelings? No tears, no blame, no ‘always’/ ‘never’ threats!? This is not how 2nd grade girls operate!

So, for now I consider myself very lucky. Their 4th grade year may be the one, the one I used to dread! But for now, I will take this mature, sweet, and simple approach towards friendship and life. I appreciate so much these kind girls who don’t want to stir the pot or cause trouble. I love girls who aren’t fueled by drama and they know they are enough; they aren’t always needing to be the center of attention. They don’t need to get caught up on every minor issue that life throws out or a mean girl chooses to test them with. Thank goodness for girls like Kate and Anna. They aren’t all drama queens.

XOXO

Anxiety and kids

Seems like wherever you go, people are stressed, including children. The fact that I left being a counselor at a high-needs, low-income school doesn’t mean I don’t have to help students with their problems and stress anymore. The problems and stress at a  predominately white, middle class school are sometimes just different from the problems poor children experience.

We know the students are stressed because the other counselor and I surveyed the students at one large Knox county school. Making the most of the few guidance classes we have with them, we wanted to teach them what they want to learn. And, the top topic according to these 8-11 year olds is managing stress and disappointment, definitely a more affluent problem to have. But, it’s a stressor nevertheless.

So, I had my first round of guidance classes Monday. The 4th and 5th grade classes, especially, were eye-opening to me. Students started with a giant list of potential typical stressors that kids might experience. They could circle as many as applied, and during roll-call, they shared at least one ‘worry’ they had. Many students wanted to share more so I added another couple minutes of time to share at their tables because they had so many stressors on their list, in addition to writing in their own.

What was interesting is noticing many common themes in this very homogenous school. Included on their list were:

  • Making good grades (C’s aren’t good enough)
  • Doing well on tests
  • My weight
  • Disappointing my parents
  • The way I look
  • Dying
  • My parents dying
  • Living up to family expectations

The students were serious and acted genuinely stressed when sharing, yet much lighter afterwards. Remembering back, one popular boy’s response stood out to me. He explained that he wrestles and has to be in a certain weight-class. He gets stressed when he can barely eat for a day in order to stay in his weight class before a match. This is a kid not much older than my own son, Brody. And, this is a stressor that he and his family chooses, like many others on this list. Is this healthy at such a young age?

Two other boys talked about Grandfathers who were athletes. One was in the NBA and one the NFL. Now, these young boys also aspire to grow up like these family legends. They are already so focused on sports. And, while I assume and hope it’s fun for them, it also seems so young to be so serious about something, worrying that they could get hurt in practice and prevent this dream from blossoming.

Maybe we shouldn’t be micromanaging future plans for what they must become. Maybe we, as parents, could cut the kids some slack and let them choose a little more. Maybe we could have some downtime and allow for mistakes. Why? Because shouldn’t some of this be their choice?

I’m noticing that much childhood stress comes from parents, both rich and poor. I’ve met many children over the years who are anxious to the point of not functioning because they don’t have basic needs met and don’t know what to expect when they get home. On the contrary, there are also many kids who know oh too well what to expect and know they must reach this high bar or else. They must keep running from lesson to lesson, and are expected to perform.

Total apathy or lack of concern, AND micromanaging and rushing future plans are ruining a fun childhood.

Balance. meditation_op_517

We must be sensible and sensitive to what our children need so we don’t drive the anxiety because many good kids are secretly suffering and stressed. Isn’t there so much more time to worry, rush, and stress? And while some stress can motivate and drive us (or even “fuel us” as one of my students said), we also need to have fun and keep ‘real’ worries in check. We all have worries but it’s how we view them, and there’s no reason to bring more upon growing, changing minds than we have to.

We spent most of the class talking about how to relieve stress, what to and not to do. Many bad habits are formed young, from overeating to dependence on technology. These are choices that I’m still figuring out! But, as I have said many times, kids are always watching what we do. How do we model dealing with stress has a huge influence on our kids.

I do know this, though, being able to talk about stress and acknowledge that we all have some stress does help. It helps us be human. It helps us connect. It helped me come home and continue this conversation with my own children, who too share some of these worries. Sometimes, if you don’t ask, you simply don’t know. So, let’s ask and listen. Let’s talk and not pressure. Let’s accept that we can’t always be happy but sometimes we can create our own happiness. And, let’s help our kids make choices that bring less stress and more choice, less frustration and more joy, and less pressure and more freedom and natural consequences.

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Instead of…

Yesterday, a ‘girl’ or woman in her 20’s was at my house.We were chatting about our neighborhood and I was telling her what I like most about it. Mainly, I love our neighbors and the fact that my children can play outside without me worrying about them. She smiled and said she doesn’t have kids yet but hopes when she does one day, she will have kids that play outside because it doesn’t seem like children do play outside anymore. She’s right…but not in our neighborhood.

Many, if not most, children do not play outside daily. Every single day at school, I see a young boy for counseling and we talk about what he did after school or what he will do. The only thing many boys look forward to is playing video games. There are some girls sprinkled in there but mainly it’s the boys who are addicted.

Often times, it’s the same boys who are behavior problems, impulsive, or the ones who can’t focus. Hmm…. This certainly isn’t a coincidence. But, it’s also a very preventable problem.

video-games

My son is the same type of boy who, if allowed, would spend hours on a screen. So, knowing he’s this type of kid and staring at a screen is not making him more creative, imaginative, or intelligent, we have rules. Most boys are shocked when the ‘nice’ counselor tells them that my son isn’t allowed to play video games at all during the school week.

In fact, he watches little to no t.v. most days. Why? Because instead, he’s running around outside. He’s kicking a soccer ball around with his friends. He’s asking me to play HORSE. He’s chasing kids in the cult-de-sac. He’s doing his homework, doing his chores, and helping with dinner. He’s busy because he has to be.

This is one of my pet peeves . Life is too short to not have friends, play, run in the fresh air, and create your fun. I am convinced that this habit is paying off. And while I feel proud that my children do indeed play, it does make me think about more instead of’s.

  • Instead of letting them eat crap after school, I can give them better choices.
  • Instead of cooking dinner every night, I can let them.
  • Instead of doing their laundry, I can teach them.
  • Instead of packing their lunch, I can let them.

The list goes on, and your list is different. But, I know there are more ‘instead’s’ to be done. It’s takes conscientious parenting, which is why I actually started this blog. In a culture that often does without thinking, I believe in the big picture. I believe in making choices and not defaulting to lazy and easy. What’s the instead you can start this week?

 

 

“I feel like I belong!”

Isn’t so important to feel like we have a place and sense of purpose in this world? Isn’t it easier when you fit in and are accepted for who you are? Don’t we all want to be liked and appreciated? A sense of belonging is vital at all stages, yet many times is undervalued.

I know there are some teachers who believe school is a place to learn, “not play”. I’ve heard it before. And, of course, the pressure to learn couldn’t be higher. Achieve, grow, achieve! Yes, we do all want smart kids but we also need to value the social/emotional growth as much, if not more, than the academics. And, I’m afraid we are losing sight of common sense when we have blinders on the standards that must be taught and test scores that must be reached.

This week, I was reminded of this during a sweet lunch group. Since there’s no other time that a counselor can conduct a small group due to academic time, I hold my small groups for upper elementary students during lunch which is not uncommon. For many School Counselors, it’s get creative with your time or you won’t be having those groups. So, like others, I make it work.

At the beginning of the year, I like to offer small groups to new students. Yes, we are meeting School Counseling standards and have objectives each group.  We practice I-messages, conflict-resolution, goal-setting, and self-awareness skills while also cramming food down our throats. But, it’s also fun. It’s a break from the cafeteria and I have kids asking to come every week. The ultimate goal is to make them feel special, included, and important. And, this week, I was reminded of why I do this.

There are only a few girls that come with me on Tuesdays. They are all new and in different classes, and they are just so sweet. I have learned so much about them in the past 4 weeks. I’ve heard about their last school. I know what their uniforms looked like. I have learned about two girls’ adoption stories, and heard stories about their orphanage. And, then I give them an M&M or two at the end of the group! (It’s the little things….or are they so little?)

We set goals a couple meetings in. All of the girls wanted to make all A’s and B’s on their interim report card, not an easy task for 3rd grade, just having moved, and being new. But, they all did it! So, in return, they got to choose a ‘prize’ from my prize can. At the last minute, though, I remembered I had some old, unused school t-shirts that the former PTO president gave me stored in the cabinet. I gave the girls the t-shirts as an option too. When I explained that these are the old school t-shirts, two of them jumped at that idea!

One of the pretty little girls, who looks like the perfect American school girl, was so excited that she immediately threw the t-shirt over her outfit to wear for the rest of the day. And, what she said next made me smile. When she got that blue t-shirt over her head and proudly looked down, she said, “I feel like I belong!” Wearing a shirt that her classmates had purchased the year before, a school shirt, made her day. She fit in. Kids want to fit in. She was a part of a bigger picture. The other girl followed suit and also pulled the shirt over her head.

The following day, I was at that school again. And, there she came, walking along with a bow in her bouncy ponytail and that new (old) blue t-shirt. She was proud. She fits in.

So, when I get push back from teachers for their students missing class time, which happens often, or I feel like no one knows what I do or cares, I remember simple statements like that. Like most things, there should be balance. Yes, make the most of school time and expand those minds. But, we also must remember the life skills that will get us those relationships and jobs.  In school, at our homes, in our neighborhoods, it’s kind to make people feel like they belong. It’s important. And, I guarantee she will remember that shirt this week a lot more than her math lesson.

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