What’s Needed in these Uncertain Times? Maybe More Empathy…

hands in shape of love heart

In the fourth week of the Trump Administration, with the news changing so quickly every day, we are once again reminded that we need to stay grounded. I have been staying active in my community and riding most of the tumultuous waves by practicing the mindset of Maybe. But the deportation of Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, who came to this country when she was a teenager and was taken into custody by U.S. Immigration officials during a routine check-in, shook me deeply. In addition to Maybe, I found myself needing another way to cope. I watched the live news coverage of Ms. Rayos sitting in a van with immigration officials waiting to be deported. Her two kids, husband, friends and immigrant-rights advocates tried to block the van from moving. As I sat on the couch with my two children by my side, watching the news, I could not stop crying. Immigrant-rights advocates have portrayed Ms. Rayos as a victim of President Trump’s sweeping new deportation orders. At the same time, her deportation has been viewed differently by others who have praised Trump’s immigration orders because Ms. Rayos had a felony conviction. That conviction stemmed from a 2008 work-site raid on employees at amusement parks, Ms. Rayos among them, who were working using false social security numbers.

The deportation of undocumented immigrants was not a policy originally created by the Trump administration. The Obama administration deported millions of undocumented immigrants over the last eight years. Donald Trump and his administration might be casting a wider net, deporting immigrants with no criminal records, but both administrations have supported the removal of people present in the United States illegally. In an effort to understand and process what’s been happening, I called a few friends who voted for Hilary Clinton and some who voted for Donald Trump about these immigration issues. The results have been interesting.

My friends who voted for Hilary Clinton were not totally aware that millions of people were deported during the Obama administration and all felt that Ms. Rayos should be allowed to stay in the country. My friends who voted for President Trump were under the impression that Obama did nothing to deport undocumented immigrants. Unanimously, my pro-Trump friends felt it was the Continue reading…

A Survival Guide for Uncertain Times Week 2: Communicate

Ponte che collega le persone

“I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.” –Mother Teresa

A few weeks ago, I attended the New York City Women’s March. When I got home, I received a call from a friend who voted for Donald Trump.  He felt the Women’s March was divisive and portrayed those who had voted for Donald Trump as horrible people. He said he was not a horrible person simply because he voted for Donald Trump over Hilary Clinton. He told me he had seen on the news signs from the march that proclaimed, “He is not my president,” and “Dump Trump.” He heard a clip from Madonna in Washington, DC that he found violent and upsetting. I tried to express to him how wonderful the March was for me and how the people at these marches care about important issues facing the world today. But my friend could only focus on the negatives he has seen on the news.

As I lay awake in bed that night, I felt overwhelmed that my relationship with this dear old friend had become so argumentative. The next day I called him back. The first thing I said was, “Donald Trump is President of the United States.  I don’t want to discuss the election and I just want to focus on what is happening today.  Let’s talk facts.”

As the discussion continued, the things my friend said to me sounded like a string of Fox News sound bites. I probably sounded to him like a tape of MSNBC sound bites!  Again, we were getting nowhere.  My friend and I took a pause. We each Continue reading…

A Simple Technique to Help Relieve your Child’s Stress and Worry

Mass pencils

My daughter came to me the other night worried about all of the obligations she had at school.  She wondered if she would get more homework than she could handle. She was also nervous about doing poorly on her history test the next day.  She asked if everything would work out and if she would be okay.

Many of us have had these moments with our kids when they become anxious and worried about the future or even just their homework. Our children can worry about everything from global warming, war and famine to exams and friendships.

The first thing I do is ask my child if she is okay in this moment. She usually takes a moment and says, “I think so.”

Then, I ask her to jump up and down, do some jumping jacks, push ups, head rolls and shoulder shrugs for a few minutes. This gets her a little out of her head and more in her body.

Next I ask her if she is absolutely certain that what she is worrying about will happen. She always answers, “no I am not absolutely certain.” Then I say, “Well if you are not absolutely certain then that means something else could happen. Maybe even something good. Maybe you will be able to handle your homework, and Maybe you will do well on your test.  Why worry that it will be bad when it also could be good!”

Then, I say, “And even if things don’t work out exactly as you want them to, the next moment will offer you Maybe once again. There’s an unlimited range of possibilities for your future!  

She responded “Mom, thanks! I feel a lot better. Maybe everything will be okay. And if it does not work out, with Maybe there is always another possibility. That feels good.”

It works like a charm every time!!

If your child is a little older it is sometimes effective to have them write their worries down on a piece of paper.  Then ask them to write the sentence, “Are you absolutely certain this will happen?” Usually the answer is no and then they can challenge their worries with a few Maybe statements such as:  Maybe my beliefs about my situation are not true;  Maybe what is happening is good; Maybe what is happening can get better; Maybe everything will work out fine.  Ask your child how these Maybe Statements make them feel?  Does your child feel more hopeful? Does your child see that the situation can work out differently than he or she was fearing? Try to review these statements with them a few times each day.  If you can, have them add more Maybe statements that challenge their stress and worry about the current situation.

Have them keep their attention on these Maybe statements the next few days and see what happens to their fears and worries. Maybe your child will be pleasantly surprised!

How Can We Stay Calm When Our Children Don’t Listen To Us?

Kerze im Rosenblättermeer

“To conquer oneself is a greater task than conquering others”- Buddha 

Last year, my daughter came down with a sore throat and cold, 
but she really pushed herself to keep going to school. She kept pushing 
until one morning I forbade her to go to school and took her to the 
doctor. All that pushing of hers had resulted in a case of bronchitis. 
In my mind I decided that she had gotten bronchitis because she was 
rundown from staying up late doing homework and it therefore followed that this would need to stop.

So that night I put my almost 
fourteen-year-old daughter with bronchitis to bed at 8 pm. She was very angry about the early bedtime and sat on the floor and refused to 
get into bed. She came out of her room at least 15 times during the 
evening and the anger in me escalated. I took away her electronics but 
it did not seem to make a difference. I had made the decision that she 
needed more sleep and I had put my foot down. Yet three hours later I 
was still dealing with her defiance.

At this point in the evening, around 11pm, I temporarily lost my mind. 
I screamed at the top of my lungs, insisting that she go to sleep. But 
no matter what I did or said, at midnight I could still hear her moving 
around and not sleeping. As I lay in bed that night, I realized why I 
had lost control of my emotions. I saw that I had bought into my own 
linear story that she must go to sleep at 8pm for her well-being and 
that every moment she was awake was terrible and would lead to more 
illness. In hindsight I saw that I was parenting without Maybe.

Of course there are imperative moments when our kids must listen to us, 
like taking a particular medicine if they are sick or mandatory safety 
provisions during certain activities. Yet much of what we believe is 
”imperative” is a story that we are writing in our minds making us believe that there is only one way for our children to be safe and okay.  In reality, most of the time there 
is some wiggle room in our mandate and our children will still be fine. I am 
not saying we should always give them wiggle room, but if it happens 
and they take it, often it still works out.

For me, however, it is not just the wiggle room that we give our children that concerns me, but also how I acted and felt when my daughter didn’t listen to me. Yet, when I started to say “Maybe everything is okay” in my mind, I gained the perspective that I had lost in the heat of the drama. I still wished she had gone to sleep 
earlier, but I recognized it was not the end of the world. Just 
allowing the thought of Maybe to play in my mind lets me pull away from the INTENSITY of 
the parenting moment when it seems like things must be one way.

The next morning my approach had softened and we were able to talk with 
less anger and frustration. Because of what had happened the night 
before, would it take longer for her to get better? Maybe it would, but 
she would still get better over time. In retrospect, would I still have 
taken away her electronics? Absolutely.  But I would have remained calm and been able to communicate with her for an acceptable resolution. And 
Maybe if I had communicated better she would have fallen asleep at 10 
pm instead of midnight!

So today, as you face your screaming child who won’t put on her coat or 
his socks or won’t go to sleep or do their homework or even your defiant teenager who broke a curfew, remember Maybe.  Pause and 
Breathe and think Maybe everything will be okay.  It will help you remember parenting is a long road and our child’s well-being generally does
 not come down to one moment.

Let Maybe lighten your heart and bring some softness to the situation.  It will also help you communicate with your child and open all of you to other possible solutions to what you are facing. Who knows, Maybe it will make all the difference!