Joy Is Not Made To Be A Crumb
Is your child experiencing stress? Are they struggling to make it through to a successful end of the school year? Do you know a student who is going through a tough time preparing for their finals? Sadly, I see it every day in my classroom. This can leave parents feeling hopeless and helpless, as though there is absolutely nothing that you can do to make things easier and with the amount of pressure that students are under, it can be hard to give them the support that they need. With over 10% of school children experiencing symptoms of anxiety, it’s hard to know when to help and how.
Facing the Fears
When people are afraid of situations, there is a high chance that they will want to do everything they can to avoid it. Instead of encouraging your child to avoid stressful situations, you should encourage them to face them head-on. The anxiety will reduce naturally over time, not to mention that it will show them that it is possible for them to deal with the stress they are feeling. The body can’t be anxious for long, it’s just not possible. There is a biological system in place that helps to calm the body down, so you have to trust that this concept applies to your child as well. The stress that they are under may feel unbearable, but know that they can get through it and tell them that they can as well. Taking them out of school or letting them take days off will only make things worse, as it reinforces the thought of them not being able to get through the situation.
Nobody is Perfect
Children often think that they have to be perfect to succeed, whether it is in sports or even in their academic performance. Sometimes parents may forget that kids just need to be kids. School is often far too grade driven. If students don’t achieve A+ grades then they may feel like a complete failure, so it’s important for parents to encourage them during this time and to tell them that nobody is perfect. Some parents feel the need to put even more pressure on their children when finals come along because they want them to do well; the truth is that this can make things even worse and their performance may even suffer as a result. Sometimes it helps for parents to take a back seat and encourage them to relax from time to time. They won’t get a perfect grade every time, and you need to know this as well as them.
Children who experience stress will probably go through a lot of negative thoughts. They may also experience self-criticism. It’s a good idea for parents to try and reinforce the positive aspects of any situation as well. This will remind them to focus on the positives and it will also help to pull them through this difficult and stress-filled time. Try and be upbeat, encourage them and tell them that you believe in them. If they come back with a bad result, let them know that it is okay and work with them to try and move past it. I like to think of it as being a soft place for them to land.
Find a Way To Relax
Kids need to relax and just be kids from time to time. Fun activities such as sports can quickly become about success instead of being about having fun. This is especially around finals, because your child may feel pressure in every aspect of their life. When your kids are out playing sports or when they are doing something that could be seen as being competitive, make sure that they are doing it to have fun and to just unwind. You could encourage them to take a walk with a friend, find a quiet place to relax and read, or even go on an adventure with the FFXV strategy game – taking a pause by engaging in little things like this can really go a long way when it comes to their stress levels, and it gives them the time that they need to take a break from the challenge of always trying to be successful.
If your child is not getting enough sleep or if they are finding it hard to relax at the end of the night then try and work with them to make sure that they are not having too much caffeine before bed. A lot of kids consume energy drinks and coffee to try and stay awake. This could be so that they can study longer or it can also be because they just don’t want to sleep. After all, when we go to sleep, we wake up and it is the day of the exam they are worrying about. If your child is not sleeping properly, support them with a routine. Encourage them to read a book before bed, consider essential oils and even have a family movie night. When you’re running low on sleep, your emotions can quickly get out of control and they can also make things seem worse than they actually are, so it really is crucial. Many of my students sleep only 6-7 hours each night!
Knowing When to Stop
We want to teach our children to soar – but your child may feel under constant pressure to succeed and study and at times, you may think that they are studying a bit too much. This is more than possible and it may even cause them to experience even more anxiety because of the pressure they are piling on themselves and the constant thought of having to learn. It’s important that parents recognize when your child is studying too much and stop them if they are focusing too much. Studying too much is as bad as not studying enough because the brain eventually gets to the point where it cannot absorb any more information and this will only lead to more frustration. Tell your child that they have done enough and no matter what happens, you will be there to support them in every possible situation. Teaching kids healthy boundaries is key to learning to be successful adults.
Authenticity: When I Wonder If I Am Enough
I didn’t really set out to be a teacher – or a parent. I wasn’t a child who dreamed of my ‘perfect’ career or ‘perfect’ family. I didn’t have names picked out for my future children. I rarely thought about life too far in advance. I mostly did what I needed to do, took the side roads instead of the highway, and generally landed on my feet – often times a bit wobbly or off center, but not completely upside down.
At least not more than once or twice.
The fact that teaching and parenting have defined me for 27 years is really quite surprising.
I’m grateful for my teaching job. I’m told I’m good at it; I’ve stuck with teaching middle school, through three different districts, dozens of principals and multiple iterations of teaching kids. Yes, the content and class titles have changed, but not my focus: kids first, content second.
And I’m grateful for my parenting job. I’m thinking I’m pretty good at it; my oldest is graduating from college, my youngest from high school. Neither has been in ‘trouble’, they care about people and take their education seriously. They are good humans. And they still check in with mom and dad and put up with my innate tendency to worry and create elaborate ‘what if’ scenarios in my head.
And yet, still, those moments creep up on me, silent and stealthy and surprising with their intensity – moments when doubt creeps in, wraps like a tourniquet around my forehead and squeezes out my confidence. The moments that I’m learning to beat down, to thrash out at with a violence built up over half a century of battling self-doubt.
I’ve been rolling around this idea for awhile now, waiting for just the right inspiration – and today, the Universe responded with a quote from Coco Chanel in my “Year of Daily Joy” guided journal: “How many cares one loses when one decides not to be something, but someone.”
I honestly think that’s where I am right now: deciding to be someONE. I’m fairly certain it has to do with being 50+, with having a supportive husband who helps me along a path that just feels like the right one to take – even when I’ve got no other justification than that. I would bet that it has to do with feeling supported in my work – but administrators, colleagues, parents, and students who allow me to succeed and fail, who listen to my audacious ideas and trust me enough to join in.
Authenticity: loving fiercely
And I know for sure that my children, the two humans who have taught me the most in life, are at the core of my decision. Loving fiercely, parenting two spirits that aren’t afraid to call me out and show me their side of the story, enable me to look in the mirror every day and ask, “Am I enough by THEIR standards?”
Knowing that if I walk my talk, if I believe in my power enough to show them they can believe in theirs, is flexing my authenticity muscle. With every risk I take, with every failure and stumble and crash I hope I’m showing them that I care. That I believe in searching for fulfillment for myself and being open to what the Universe has in mind…even when I want nothing more than to stay under the soft covers of my bed and listen to the birds chirping outside on a cloudy morning.
Martha Beck says, “Refusing to risk is like allowing a muscle to atrophy; it doesn’t hurt, but when the muscle isn’t fulfilling its purpose, it loses whatever strength it has.”
I love thinking of these moments of wondering if I’m enough like a muscle I need to exercise. We all have authenticity inside, wrapping our bones and covering our hearts with abundance and love. Why have so many, like me, found it easier to refuse to risk, to scramble under the covers instead of undertaking the hard work of finding – and cultivating – it?
I have struggled most of my life with a paralysis of perfectionism. I don’t know where it comes from or why, and I honestly don’t care.
What I do care about, however, is how this paralysis impacts my ability to find authenticity-in my parenting, my teaching, my writing, and my daily interactions with strangers and friends. Part of that is recognizing that when the Universe sends me former students who remind me I was their ‘favorite’ teacher, or when my son responds with a hug to my request to spend more than an hour a day together, or when I connect with a stranger on Twitter who honors my work, I am making a difference.
Authenticity: Being enough
I care about authenticity. I also care deeply about being ‘enough’. So I’ll show up, I’ll puff out my chest when I’m feeling less than brave, and I’ll live. I’ll take the risk. I’ll flex the muscle. I’ll show the Universe more love. I’ll do things that I want to do, and I won’t let perfectionism paralyze me ever again.
I’m struggling with the challenge of teaching our children to soar. I think about it every day, way too often than is healthy. I think about it at home, at work, and when I’m alone in my writing room, trying to clear my thoughts and start the day.
“The light here leaves you lonely, fading as does the dusk that takes too long to arrive. By morning the mountain moving a bit closer to the sun. This valley belongs to no one—except birds who name themselves by their songs in the dawn. What good are wishes, if they aren’t used up…”
“We guess at what’s next unlike the mountain who knows it in the bones, a music too high to scale…”
“Black like an eye bruised night brightens by morning, yellow then grey—a memory. What the light was like. All day the heat a heavy, colored coat. I want to liedown like the lamb—down & down till gone—shorn of its wool. The cool of setting & rising in this valley, the canyon between us shoulders our echoes. Moan, & make way…”
“What you want—Nobody, or nothing fills our short journeying. Above even the birds, winging heavenward, the world is hard to leave behind or land against—must end. I mean to make it. Turning slow beneath our feet, finding sun, seen from above, this world looks like us—mostly salt, dark water…”
“I chase the quiet round the house. Soon the sound—wind wills its way against the panes. Welcome the rain. Welcome the moon’s squinting into space. The trees bow like priests. The storm lifts up the leaves. Why not sing.”
The Great Heart of the World
I know what the cure is:
it is to give up,
to relinquish, to surrender,
so that our little hearts may
beat in unison with the
great heart of the world.
~ Henry Miller
Every morning for the last eight days I’ve walked into my classroom, taken a big breath, and remembered why I am there. I’ve tried to focus on the love I have for my students, my colleagues, my job and the buildings that help me engage students and build their confidence. As I plug in the twinkle lights that light up the walls and fill my diffuser with lavender, I’m purposefully sharing my love. I stand at the door and greet my students by name. We high five, hug, smile and chat to ease our way into building our little community. I scan their faces for highs and lows and try to notice something about each one. My simple rituals help remind me that school is a place of love for me – that school is where I see the great heart of the world every single day.
Where is our great heart of the world? There are so many ways we have been loved in our lives – so many ways we can SHOW love in our lives. It shouldn’t take tragedies and politics to remember the profound power to be found in love – think about what would happen if you spent five minutes today just writing a list of all the places, all the people and pets and experiences in your life RIGHT NOW where you see love…it would feel so good. It might even balance out all the negativity we see around us, help heal the pain and wrap our arms around those we don’t even know, but those who are collapsed in anguish.
I found this Henry Miller poem about the great heart of the world on the lovely blog, a First Sip – and it just felt like today was the right time to share it.
Sending you all great big love today, and every day. Be sure to share some of your own, too.