Simple Acts of Compassion Create Connection

Love your neighbor as yourself. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Many of the wisdom traditions use a version of the Golden Rule. This rule or guideline stresses compassion. 

 

I think back to when I was a child growing up in the ’70s and ’80s and the problems I felt were in my life. The issues of friendships, where to go to eat on a Saturday night (Pizza Hut, of course), and what to do when I felt there was nothing to do. I usually didn’t know about a party until after the fact. If my friends decided to go to the movies and I wasn’t home to pick up the phone, my friends left me to find my own entertainment. 

 

It’s different today for the younger generation. Teens today have instant notifications, instant invitations, or instant connections, all through the little device in their hands. Yet is it really what they want or need? There are reports of young people feeling disconnected and lonely among the ability to connect instantly. 

 

Even though my teen years are so much different from my children’s, I can still have compassion for this generation’s young people because of an essential shared human experience. The needs of belonging, connection, and to matter are a few of the needs I can relate to, even though I am an “old” person. 

 

I have worked in the area of social and emotional learning for over 16 years. Over those years, I have learned that building a connection with a caring, capable, and compassionate adult is essential in a young person’s life – an adult who will listen and make a serious attempt to understand. 

 

Compassion is created from three components – awareness of suffering, action to relieve suffering, and recognizing a shared human experience. I see a young person sitting on the sideline watching while others play a game. I go over the talk to the young person, strike up a conversation and find out she doesn’t know the game’s rules. Then I take the time to explain the rules and then ask her to play. That is an act of compassion.

 

The Search Institute, a research organization in Minneapolis, has a list of 40 positive supports and strengths a young person needs to succeed. One area is support: care from family, other adults, community members, and school staff. When a young person feels supported by the adults around him/her, there is a decrease in high-risk behaviors. Simple ways to connect with youth can happen in your community. YOU can play a part in the solution!

 

Here are ten ways you can increase your compassion and connect with a child or teen.

  • Take an interest in an activity a teen you know is involved in by attending the activity or asking questions of the teen. Then listen.
  • Ask a child what they are interested in doing. What are her passions? What sparks his interests? Then listen.
  • Play a game of pick-up basketball with a group of kids for fun.
  • Invite kids on the sidelines to participate in a game.
  • Give an authentic and specific compliment to a child. An example could be, “Wow, I admire how you organized the books on the shelf.”
  • Do a random act of kindness for a teen.
  • Ask, “What are your dreams?” Then listen.
  • Accept a child for who he or she is, a unique individual in this world.
  • Make sure making mistakes is “okay” for both kids and adults. 
  • Breathe deeply before saying something that could harm a child.

 

If you take action on even some of these ten simple activities, you will build compassion in yourself and the other person over time. These actions will not solve the complex problem of loneliness, violence, or inequities in our world; however, it is a start.

Looking for the Bright Spots in 2020

Welcome to 2021!! A new year and a new set of possibilities before us. However, before you jump into the new year’s setting goals, resolutions, or intentions, I invite you to take some time to look back to the past year.

 

The past year has been a roller coaster ride of a year. I look back and see many downs and few ups throughout the year. How about you? Do you see any bright spots? Glimmers of positivity and hope?

 

In this month’s video, I talk about why it’s so easy for humans to see the negative and how you have to train your brain to see the positives. It’s all about practicing to look for the bright spots.

 

I would like to hear about the bright spots in your past year. Please leave a comment under the video and tell me about your bright spots for 2020.

 

I wish you much happiness and health in 2021!

 

 

Moving Through Fear and Anxiety

Happy Halloween!

I thought today would be the appropriate day to talk about fear and anxiety.

Sometimes fun and fear can go together like today! Halloween is the annual time of the year when spooky costumes and scary movies can be fun!

However, when you are truly dealing with fears and anxieties, there is nothing fun about it.

We all have fears and anxiety. It’s part of all human experience.

Big Fears and little fears. Realistic and imagined fears.

I invite you to practice the skills presented in today’s video to move through fear and anxiety.

Then pass these skills on to the children in your life.

 

Using Your Strengths To Overcome Challenges: Part 3

I love it when I receive questions from followers. Last week I had a really big question from a follower,

 

How do you help adults overcome

childhood trauma and toxic stress?

 

Wow! Big question! This is too big of a question to cover in a ten-minute video or even in a blog post. However, I can give you a few tools to start on a path that will decrease your toxic stress response and increase your self- regulation. Once your nervous system is regulated, tapping into your strengths to build up your resilience is key.

 

You can build your self-awareness toolbox as an adult and tap into those tools when stress enters your life.

 

This is a journey where each new tool you use and practice can help you along your path of resilience.

 

Watch Using Your Strengths to Overcome Challenges Part 1 and Part 2 to add more tools to your toolbox.

 

 

Strength-Based Resilience is a four-part course for educators, parents, and caregivers. A new session starts on September 9, 2020.

More information about the course can be found here.

 

 

The Power of Nature

Much has happened over the last few weeks that my head is spinning. Maybe you can relate:

My daughter came home from college for spring break. One week has turned into staying at home for the rest of the semester. Classes are now online for her.

My high school-age sons were off school starting March 17. Now the eight days off of school have turned into distance learning until May 4.

My son, who is a senior, reacted poorly to the news that the last months of his senior year would be without the daily interaction of friends. The loss and grief of potentially not having a prom or graduation ceremony are real. 

I work from home. Most of my weekdays are spent with my dog and alone in the house. I have the occasional Zoom meeting or phone call, but mostly just quiet. However, that has not been the case for the last two weeks and it seems like it will not be the case for the next two months or more.

I want you to know that I understand. I hear you. I feel the anxiety and pain with you. The struggle is real. 

Yet, I say to myself daily, “This to shall pass.” I breathe and I go outside into nature. 

The video I am sharing with you is one that I made ten days ago. I felt it was important to share with you during this challenging time.

Nature has the power to heal and here are a few reasons why the power of nature can help you and your student or children through the challenges in life.

 

5 Ways to Help Students Discover Their Strengths

What if people were asked to work only on what they were good at doing?

What if schools asked children to do activities that they were able to successfully focus on because these activities brought them joy?

What if we asked students what they want to improve in their learning?

Learning about children’s strengths can better equip parents, educators, and youth in finding out what activities might bring the students the most success. Strengths are a combination of talent (the natural way of thinking, feeling and believing), skills and knowledge. Strengths have been researched by the Gallup Organization and placed into 10 talent themes for youth. Teachers can help a student to:

  1. discover their talents and then
  2. build-up and reinforce what is right with that student.

 

Here are five ways teachers can help students discover their strengths

 

Self-directed projects

Self-directed projects help students determine what they are interested in and what they may have a passion for. Many classrooms are instituting what is called a “Genius Hour.” A genius hour is simple and has 3 criteria: a driving question, research and a way to share the learning with others. In the adult world, both Google and 3M have implemented a similar idea – a “20% of time” rule – for employees to work on their own projects. This rule has led employees to develop some major innovations, for example, “Post It Notes” from 3M.

http://www.geniushour.com/

 

Play

Unstructured play is important for children and adults. Play is a way students can increase both their social skills and learn more about their strengths. Students will show preferences for what they want to play with and how they want to play with others. Some may enjoy a solitary game or play with a small group, while others like large group play. Watching children and how they play can tell you a lot about their strengths. Global School Play Day was February 5th, however, you can do this in your classroom any day!

http://www.globalschoolplayday.com/

 

Reading

Stories are a great way to get students to explore their strengths. One of my favorite books to read to a class is Andrew Henry’s Meadow. The boy in the story is not recognized for his strengths by his family and finds a meadow in which to build a home to accommodate his talent for inventing. When I read this book to classes, I ask students to identify Andrew Henry’s strengths and then have them draw a house that would reflect their own passions and talents. Other stories can be used in the same way. Have students choose the type of books they love to read and have a “Drop Everything And Read” (D.E.A.R) time during the day. Adding choices to the day will enhance a student’s joy of learning.

https://www.readingrockets.org/calendar/dear

 

Journals

Journals allow students to, not only write, but create. Many times journals are used only for writing about topics assigned by a teacher. When students have choices over the topics this can be a great motivator and allows them to explore their learning styles. “Wreck This Journal” is created by Keri Smith. She also has a “100 Creative Ways to Journal” that you can try out and see how your students respond.

http://www.kerismith.com/popular-posts/100-ideas/

 

Sketchbooks

Similar to journals, sketchbooks can lend insight to a child’s way of learning and perceiving the world around them. Everyone is creative and there is no right or wrong to art, especially to a child. When my son was younger, he loved to draw. Now he doesn’t draw anymore because, along the way, some well-meaning adults “corrected” his drawings. Because of this, he now thinks that he’s not very good at art. Art cannot be done wrong. The Tinkerlab has a wonderful Sketchbook Challenge that offers daily ideas for fun, low-stress ways to create art.

http://tinkerlab.com/tinkersketch-daily-sketchbook-challenge/

 

How can teachers help students discover and develop strengths?

  • Make and record observations
  • Be curious about your students
  • Ask questions, for example, “What did you discover about yourself by doing this project?”
  • Refrain from making judgmental comments, for example, “I really like the way you used that color.” Instead give students acknowledgment, for example, “I notice you enjoy helping others when you are playing.” Or, “When I see that it’s your turn to clean up the art supplies, you are very organized in putting the supplies away.”
  • Create non-graded activities that infuse fun with learning.

 

Student strengths and talents are discovered and developed by the adults around them. Helping students to discover what is strong about themselves is a great way to boost engagement and confidence. Be open to the possibility of having children explore to create awareness of their strengths and to accept who they are as a person. Never miss that chance to let your students see their brilliance!

Vision Board Ideas for Teachers

I created this video for teachers, however, the process and ideas can be used for anyone. Teachers can use vision boards in the classroom as a way to build social and emotional learning skills. Vision boarding is a process of creating a visual around an intention, goal, dream, topic or vibe you want in life. Included in this video are several ideas of how you can use the vision boarding process for yourself or with your students.

 

Attitude of Gratitude

Happy New Year!

The beginning of the new year is a great time to start a practice of gratitude. When you practice gratitude you can increase happiness, decrease depression and strengthen resiliency. Use the game “Grategories”, that I demonstrate in the video, to guide students in creating an attitude of gratitude.

Three Steps to Take When Life Isn’t a Bowl Full of Cherries

It is a bright sunny day and you’re going about your daily business, going to work, washing clothes, sweeping the floor, making supper, and then boom!

A bomb drops!

Maybe the bomb is that your teen is involved with drugs, your friend’s mother has died, or your close friend is in an accident. Something that stops you in your tracks and shakes you to your core. You know you will step up to the plate and do your best, but how do you take care of yourself when life is anything but normal?

How do you react?
Where do you turn?
What do you do?

How do you react?

First, you react in a panic, milling around like a bug that has been swished by the big shoe of life! Or is your reaction sadness and crying, where you feel the pain and have empathy for your people involved, or for yourself. Your reaction might be to go into planning mode? Well, next I have to do this, and then I need to do that….

In reality, it could be all of these, and the reactions could all happen within seconds. Shock can take a toll on your physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. Finding ways to calm yourself down and make an assessment of what is happening is hard at times when life is less than brilliant.

Breathing is the first step to calming down your reaction to the situation. Deep breaths that go in through your nose and out through your mouth. Automatically humans take over 23,000 breaths a day. Mindful deep breathing is an action we don’t usually focus on in our lives. Yet by taking several deep breaths, you can get your racing heart and mind under control. Continue breathing deeply until you can lower your pulse and arrange the next steps in your mind.

Where do you turn?

After your mind is cleared, you might ask, “What is next? Who do I turn to? Please place people in my life to help me.”

As you breathe, say to yourself, “May I be safe, may I be happy, may I be healthy and may I live with ease.” Next, say this for the other people involved in the situation. Send out encouraging energy and an intention of loving-kindness. Then think of people you can contact for support and start contacting them. You can find support from your partner, spiritual leader, or a trusted friend. Be willing to seek out trained professionals such as a therapist, counselor, or doctor in a time of crisis.

What do you do?

When turning to others, you will receive an assortment of advice, however, listening carefully to your heart, ask yourself some key questions.

  • What do I want?
  • What’s important about that?
  • What is my intention in the situation?
  • What or who am I overlooking that can help me?
  • What am I committed to doing?
  • What am I committed to not doing?

Working through these questions alone, with a trusted friend, or with a professional assures that moving ahead based on first reactions won’t produce actions that you will later regret.

So let’s be honest, the unexpected will happen in your life. It’s inevitable that upsetting events will occur. In situations where life is not a bowl full of cherries, remember to breathe through your reaction, turn to others and ask for help, and do work through the tough questions about the problem. The problem remains and needs to be dealt with in the best way possible. Dealing with the difficulty using these steps will help you address almost anything with a clearer mind and a thoughtful plan.

 

Photo by silviannnm on Unsplash

Social and Emotional Learning – Minnesota Style

Rain, Rain, GO AWAY! That’s the chant we are saying in northern Minnesota. The cloudy skies and the drizzle over the last two weeks have put a damper on my mood.

I decided that the best way to handle the gray skies and the gray mood is to have a little fun with it. In my most recent video, I demonstrate the five competencies of Social and Emotional Learning with a little Minnesota humor.

I hope you enjoy it and please help me reach my goal of 100 subscribers by clicking on the red subscribe button to receive notification of new videos.