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Day 4 – Extending lots of grace to teachers

Day 4 – Extending lots of grace to teachers

Our teachers have been such troopers all summer and as we are entering the new year, they need our support (and the support of our kids!) more than ever. Today’s conversation is about explicitly teaching our kids how to choose empathy, compassion, and grace. Before you 

Day 3 – Mask (and school-choice) shaming.

Day 3 – Mask (and school-choice) shaming.

We are on Day 3 of continuing conversations with our kids about shaming. Shame is such a hard word. An even harder emotion. Yet, we all have experienced it and know how horrible it is. The trickiest part about shame messages is that we often 

Day 2 – Being a good friend without being too close

Day 2 – Being a good friend without being too close

So for Day 2, I want to talk about being a good friend without getting physically close to one another. Despite any of our own opinions about social distancing, it is clear that being 3 to 6 feet away from one another is a better way to stop the spread of all germs. And not spreading germs is a common concern for all kids in the school building, so it is not a new idea for our kids to get used to. But being physically distant from our friend may be.

Take a moment to consider this juxtaposition. Their whole lives, we have encouraged closer contact. We have developed a habit in them to be in the physical space of peers. And now, we have to help them change that habit at school. And we all remember how hard habits are to break!

So here is the video for Day 2 of our 7-day intentional journey together. Again, if you feel comfortable – give me a shout out about how the conversation went!

Stay well, friends.

Click HERE for the Day 2 video.

Day 1 of the 7-day intentional preparation for school to “start”

Day 1 of the 7-day intentional preparation for school to “start”

In this time of uncertainty and unpredictability, it is natural for us to feel anxious about the upcoming school year. When I am feeling anxious about something, I try to be even more intentional about conversations with my kids – knowing that if I am 

Somewhere there is a child…

Somewhere there is a child…

My dear Make Words Matter family. This post is not like my usual, uplifting messages (at least at first glance). In fact, this post may be more than you want to imagine is true in our communities right now. That’s okay. Please do not feel 

The good and the bad about being an essential worker

The good and the bad about being an essential worker

So you are an essential worker. Some will see you as “lucky” to be able to work. Others may believe it is better if you “just stay home regardless.” You may go back and forth between feeling grateful, happy, anxious, guilty, angry, and scared. Like many things in life, there are both good and bad things that come with being an essential worker. This post is aimed at honoring how you may feel, while also educating others who may not realize the pressures that our essential workers are experiencing. Please know, I want to honor the work each of you is doing. Please comment below if I missed anything!

The good about being an essential worker

You have a job.

As we are in this time of uncertainty, there is something so very reassuring about having a job and knowing a paycheck is coming. Most of us can remain grateful for our jobs, knowing we may have additional stressors if we weren’t essential workers. Financial continuity may give us the space to breathe and ease of mind to sleep just a little bit more restfully at night.

Having a job also gives us access to some additional co-workers or adult interaction that we may otherwise be craving. Many non-essential workers are realizing how important the social connections at their job really are. We recognize that although our social distancing at work makes the relationships at work somewhat different, we still appreciate having people around while we are working.

You have a somewhat routine.

Going to work keeps us in some form of routine while we are in this state of quarantine. The routine of our job may provide structure and order during a time that is otherwise way out of our control. And for most of us, that feels better. To feel like we have some sort of control over something in our lives gives us a sense of security and safety. Going to work, driving along the same route you are accustomed to, arriving and checking tasks off of your work to-do list may provide a sense of normalcy.

You get out of the house.

For those social butterflies and extroverts, quarantine (by day 28) can feel like torture. Some of us are simply dying to get out of the house and do something that isn’t just staying at home, binge-watching Netflix and eating ice cream. J Having a place that you have to go outside of the house brings about a change in the mundane. A change in the “same ole, same ole” routine of quarantine. It also gives you a reason to shower and look so much nicer than the rest of us in sweats (not really knowing if our pants will still fit later! J)

You are dedicating your time so the rest of us can have our necessities (and conveniences).

Joking aside, I want to be really sure we spend a moment realizing how truly dedicated you are for going to work so the rest of us can have the things we need/want. Each time I have gone out, I have made an intentional effort to truly thank the people who are working so I can get my groceries, my take-out food, and my toiletries.  Your dedication is not unseen. If you hear nothing else from this post, please, please hear that. We ALL appreciate everything you do to keep our society running. You really are the heroes in the history books during this time.

Even if some customers don’t show their appreciation, know that their negativity is probably not about you. Maybe that one person was just downright rude. Again, that is probably not about you. So much anxiety, fear, and worry are swirling around. Even just seeing people in masks and gloves in public evokes strong negative emotions. Please know we see your dedication, even if some others do not.

The bad about being an essential worker

You have a job (while others don’t).

I have not met an essential worker who hasn’t had the added guilt of “others” who don’t have a job. Yes, we are thankful we have a job. But we may also have thoughts like: “Well, others probably need this job more than I do.” “I hope people realize how much I need this job, too.”  “I feel bad that ______ lost their job and I still have mine.” “Maybe I should tell my boss to let someone else have my job…but I really need the income.” “Maybe I shouldn’t be so selfish.” “______ was so crushed that they lost their job. I better never complain about my job and just be grateful all the time.”

It is so hard right now to manage the conflicting emotions and thoughts we may be experiencing. Here is a quick tip that may be helpful: if you find yourself thinking negative thoughts, take a moment to physically stop and take a breath. From there, say out loud (yes…out loud! Don’t worry if others are around!) one statement that can be a productive truth for your current negative thought. Here are a couple examples:

  • If your unhelpful thought is that “others probably need this job more than I do.” After your physical pause and breath, you might say out loud to yourself, “Although others may need a job, I am also as worthy of having a job. I also need a job. It doesn’t make me better than them, but it also doesn’t undermine my needs either.”
  • If your unhelpful thought is “I feel bad that my coworker lost their job.” Again, after your pause and breath, you might say out loud to yourself, “I can be sad for my coworker, but also glad for myself. It is sad that they lost their job, and I can be both sad and happy that I have mine and that still makes me a good person.”

You have a somewhat routine (that is totally different than it used to be).

Yes, you have a routine that is somewhat like what it used to be. But in other ways, it is totally different. Your drive to work may include needing to carry an “official letter” giving you permission to be on the road. Your time at work may be continually interrupted by increased sanitation efforts or anxious questions from customers. The overall aura of your job may be totally different. The absence of the usual hustle-and-bustle may feel like an eerie silence. Seeing everyone wearing masks and gloves may bring about so many fears in you that you were not even aware existed. So yes, you have a routine of getting in your car and driving to the office, but things are anything but routine right now.

You get out of the house (and leave your children at home, potentially expose them to the virus).

This may be the hardest part of being an essential worker. True, essential workers are able to get out of the house. However, our essential workers also carry the weight of the risks associated with leaving the house. Primarily, the fear of bringing home the virus to loved ones who are quarantined at home. This fear may fluctuate between simple worries about germs to overwhelming fear that someone near to them may die. This unseen anxiety may also feel especially hard because it is unseen by others who do not experience it. In other words, other people who don’t leave the house may not realize how heavy those fears really are.

While non-essential workers are posting their “kids-are-driving-me-crazy” posts on social media, our essential workers are feeling the empty sadness of leaving kids at home. They are getting misty-eyed after video calls home and having swirling thoughts of “why did I even come to work today?!?” On the other side of that, their kids are also feeling lonely and angry that their parents aren’t able to stay home. All-in-all, the sacrifice of our essential workers and their families cannot be understated.

Although technology has made it extraordinarily more convenient to stay connected to our loved ones at home, other ideas for helping with having kids at home may include:

  • A tangible connection item that you both keep with you while you are apart. This is ideally something that is small enough to fit in your pocket and the child’s connection item is big enough to fit in their hand. For example: two Lego creations that you make together, or a stuffed bear and the tiny scarf that goes around the bear, or two matching coins. The point here is not that it needs to be a specific tangible thing. The bigger connection here is that when you see that tangible thing, it reminds you of your child – and your child can have the reminder of you.
  • A scheduled text message with positive thoughts for your child. This may be particularly important for our older kids. Two or three times while you are away, you can send a quick text that reminds them you are thinking of them, are missing them, and love them.

You are dedicating your time so the rest of us can have our necessities and conveniences (which may bring about anger, frustration, and resentment).

If I imagine being on the front lines as an essential worker, I can think of many situations that would leave me feeling angry and resentful. I can picture stocking shelves with essential items only to be shouted at when certain items aren’t available. I can imagine cooking food at a restaurant for a take-out order when the customer grumpily takes his food that he perceives isn’t hot enough. I can imagine rudeness and irritability from customers all while I was giving up time from my family, risking my own health so other people can have what they need. And THAT is how I get treated?!?

If you have found yourself feeling angry, frustrated, or resentful of customers, please don’t give up hope. As I mentioned before, we DO need you. We value you. We appreciate you. Perhaps you could write a little reminder of that on your inner wrist – I am valued – that you glance at from time to time when things become challenging. For that matter, whatever mantra you need that day – write that mantra on your arm as you go out. “I can do hard things.” “I can stay safe.” “I am doing what is right.” “My kids mean the most to me.” “Kindness always prevails.”

 

I hope that as you have read the good and the bad for our essential workers, you may find connection and normalcy in those feelings. If you are a non-essential worker, I hope you will also find additional empathy and creative ways to show that others matter during this time.

 

How are you finding hope as an essential worker?

 

How can you show how valued our essential workers are more intentionally?
A message to our high school seniors – It really isn’t fair.

A message to our high school seniors – It really isn’t fair.

Dear 12th grader, I know these last few weeks have not been what you thought they would be. You had all of these plans. You have worked so hard to get here. Your dreams feel like they are slipping away. It’s just not fair. You 

What to expect as social distancing continues

What to expect as social distancing continues

As we recently received news that social distancing will continue for another month, I thought I would share some ideas for you to consider as we are entering another month of social distancing with our kids. I recently made a post about why COVID-19 is 

3 reasons the coronavirus feels especially hard right now

3 reasons the coronavirus feels especially hard right now

As I have been in meetings with different folks about mental wellness during this unprecedented time in our history, I have heard and felt similar things that make this pandemic especially hard. I thought I would share them here in case anyone else was feeling particularly down today. Know that you are not alone.

1. We are not used to feeling so many emotions at once, for such a long period of time.

Most of us are experiencing a wide range of emotions on a daily basis, from fear to anger, sadness to anxiety and so many more! All at once, sometimes overwhelmingly so. And many of us also have experienced the weight of these emotions for days and weeks on end to this point. In short, many of us are in deep emotions more frequently now than ever before.

This is hard because emotional awareness and expression are both skills that take practice. As we are overwhelmed, we might be feeling many things at once and the burden of those emotions are making us feel tired (both physically and emotionally).

Take a breath. Seriously. Like right now, take a deep breath. In through your nose and out through your mouth. Close your eyes for a moment and just listen to your breath for a few breaths in and out. This simple breathing technique can help keep you grounded and mindful – especially during intense emotional moments. Beyond that – realize that it’s okay to experience lots of emotions at once. Emotions won’t actually physically hurt us. We don’t have to be afraid of them. But we do have to honor them. So for a moment, take time to sit in how you are feeling. Write it down. Shout it out. Share it with a friend via text, phone or video message.

2. Most of us feel uncomfortable with having to repeatedly say, “I don’t know.”

Almost all of us like to feel like we are in control of things happening in our current situation. Even if you aren’t a “control freak,” you like to feel like things are in order and make sense. Right now, there are so many uncertainties. How long will this last? Will my family get sick? Will we be able to go back to work soon? Will things get better soon? Will the kids go back to school? On and on and on. Time and again, I have heard of the “uncertainty” and “unpredictability” as being “the hardest part.” And the truth is, we simply do not know.

If you find yourself becoming irritable or anxious with not having answers to the millionth question from your kid that you have to say, “I don’t know” to, come back to that same breathing exercise. Don’t allow the anxiety of not knowing take over. Simply say, “You know bud, I don’t know. And there are lots of things we don’t know right now. But what I do know is….(fill in the blank for what you DO know right now…)  I like being home with you right now.” or “I love to be able to play with you today.” or “I love that we are getting to each lunch together.”  It doesn’t need to be profound, it just needs to be honest about something tangible for your kid to see.

3. There is nothing to fix.

We are hurting, our people are hurting, and there is nothing to fix. At least not anything that will make everyone happy. Most of us like to fix things when people we love need help. That’s just the truth. And when there is nothing to fix, it can leave us feeling hopeless and helpless. If you have felt like there is no hope, let me encourage you with a few amazing ways this pandemic has impacted my community and family. And I would WELCOME the ways YOU have seen positive around you.

  • The most amazing teacher parades happening
  • Using technology to keep kids connected to their teachers AND peers
  • Finding creative ways to get outside everyday – even in the rain!
  • Community leaders coming TOGETHER for the good of everyone
  • Loving words on the sidewalk in chalk
  • Video message, after video message, after video message of people we love connecting with us
  • Human kindness for our front line workers who are truly heroes
  • Courage from individuals who step out to help others in need
  • FEEDING more than 40,000 people. Like literally feeding the community. Bravo!
  • And so so many more.
What are you seeing?? Comment or share!

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

Short video on How to talk with your kids about COVID-19

Short video on How to talk with your kids about COVID-19

Looking for some tips on how to talk about COVID-19 and answer their questions? Look no further! Give this short video a look and be sure to Follow us on Facebook for even more updates @ https://www.facebook.com/MWMwithKids/ Click HERE to watch the video!