When we cannot stop where we are and address feelings in the moment, they tend to come out sideways as emotions or actions far removed from the original feeling. They can show up as a grumpy spouse who snaps at a simple request, a call from a teacher when your child has an outburst in class, your own lack of patience with co-workers or friends. By the time the feeling has become an expressed emotion, you may not be able to find your way back to the source. As parents, modeling calm, approaching emotions with curiosity, and giving yourself and your children permission to feel will go a long way toward reducing anxiety. These life-long, invaluable skills lay the groundwork for the courage, flexibility, and compassion we will require to re-envision our world as a better, more equitable, more beautiful place.
Let kindness in this moment—each moment—guide your actions and orient your mindset. I long for the day we can show goodness to each other in person again. In the meantime, I am comforted to see the many ways we are managing to make profound connections with one another—in our community and with the larger world—despite the distance.
This was not how it was supposed to go... yet here we are. We don’t know what we’re doing, but we’re already doing it better than we did last week. We don’t know how to stay connected and apart, but we have so many more opportunities and inspirations than we did just a few days ago. We are getting better at talking to our kids. Each day we tolerate feeling uncertain and afraid. We are doing the things we thought we could not do.
We generally go through life with predictable routines and familiar expectations as our default version of reality. We work hard to hold on to the familiar and generally succeed. But at some point or another, we are thrust out of this comfortable place and life as we know it drastically changes. When this happens, we feel groundless, unanchored. It can feel terrifying, but it can also create spaces for wisdom, for new ways of looking at the world unburdened by the ways in which we have previously interpreted it.
This last week has certainly changed the way we live our lives, and it is natural to have mixed feelings about the chaos that swirls around us and the lightening-speed alterations we have made to our natural rhythms. For many, anxiety, fear, and resentment predominate—but we can find hope, joy, and meaning in this crisis if we choose to look.
Throughout my personal and professional life—my dissertation research, my high school and undergraduate teaching, my experience leading P-8 educational programs, and my counseling work with adolescent girls—I have seen firsthand hundreds of girls and young women wrestle with the challenge to thrive in a male-dominated society. Through their struggles, these young women continue to impress me with their resilience and fortitude.
Lately, I have been on an Adam Grant binge. Dr. Grant, an organizational psychology professor at the Wharton School of Business, is an expert on how we can channel motivation and meaning to live more generous and creative lives—a perfect perspective to explore as we reflect on 2019 and direct our intentions for the year ahead. If you have 15 minutes (or less!) to spare amid the busyness of the season, check out these quick links to keep your holiday spirits centered.
I am always struck by the irony of feeling frustrated and resentful at the demands surrounding holidays that are about love and appreciation. The truth is, as humans, we are really good at making flawed assumptions about our futures and are really bad at predicting what will actually make us happy. Therefore, we often don't consider opportunities that will inspire true contentment and fulfillment, like spending time with loved ones, and instead invest in things that look appealing at first but won’t move our happiness needle in an enduring way.
Children develop positive self-identity through open conversations, being valued by peers, experiencing supportive relationships and settings, and by seeing other people with similar identities be appreciated and valued. A recent study by Sesame Street and the University of Chicago demonstrated that children as young as preschool notice and talk about difference in race, class, gender, culture, and religion. Open conversations with even our youngest children can help them learn about themselves and others.
Creating a school culture where we all understand and embrace differences is ongoing work which requires us to first see and acknowledge difference. When we nullify differences in favor of likenesses, the “likeness” is often anchored in culturally dominant norms. This invites “color blindness,” a well-meaning gesture that attempts to find commonality among different groups but instead can further divide us through its use of a single lens. It is crucial that as adults we develop the self-awareness and humility necessary to have courageous conversations with our children about differences and diversity.