2022 Spring Newsletter

As parents, we have the natural desire to protect our children. When they are babies and they cry, we pick them up and soothe them, telling them everything will be OK. As they get older, we may try to distract them with a favorite toy or fix their problem, so they feel better. Although these are natural parental urges, they may not help children learn to be resilient by accepting and moving through big feelings. Anger and sadness are part of life and learning to handle upset, helps us to be emotionally healthy and find more joy in life.

Last year, my son announced that the pandemic had “ruined his life.” He did not enjoy learning online and found it difficult to stay focused during Zoom lessons. His grades dropped dramatically, and he missed his friends. After weighing the risks and benefits, he finished Fifth grade in person. When he got into a magnet program for middle school, we hoped he would go back to thriving at school. Instead, his middle school experience has been a roller coaster ride of friendships, hormones, inclusion/exclusion, online bullying, and learning personal responsibility. There have been lots of tears and big emotions. Any parent would feel deeply for a child that was going through painful emotions, but on top of that, I have been struggling with the grief of losing my father and grandparents.

In an article by Katie McLaughlin, she uses a tunnel analogy to talk about parenting when children are having big feelings. The analogy resonated with me both in terms of my own feelings and what my son is going through. She writes, “Difficult feelings are tunnels, and we are trains traveling through them. We have to move all the way through the darkness to get to the…calm peaceful light at the end.” Where we go wrong as well-meaning parents is trying to talk our children out of their feelings, rescue them, or discount their emotions by saying everything will be OK. Of course, it hurts us to see our children in pain, but we are missing out on teaching them to be resilient. The voice we use with them becomes their inner voice as they grow into adulthood.

McLaughlin talks about how as adults we don’t always move all the way through the “tunnel.” We try to hide by saying everything is fine when it isn’t, or we use distractions like food, shopping, and alcohol. When we can accept and release our feelings, we feel better. I want to help myself and my son move through our “tunnels.” I commit to remembering that expressing big feelings is not a sign of failure but instead of success. When I allow myself to feel, I can handle the discomfort of my child’s big feelings. I can empathize and allow life’s natural consequences and lessons to take place while supporting my child through the emotional tunnel.

My prayer for all of us is that we will recognize that emotions pass, and big feelings are a part of life, helping us to heal, and become more resilient. Instead of distracting our children or rescuing them from their feelings, we can help by being self-regulated, giving them both a sense of safety and being heard and seen, as they move through the tunnel.

Gigi Khalsa ,
Head

2021 Fall Newsletter

Returning to school this fall has been challenging for everyone. I think we all felt like we had turned a corner and maybe we could get back to life as it was before the pandemic. When numbers were rising again, we knew what to do as a school to keep everyone safe. Though we’d made it through a year without a single case of COVID, there was an emotional toll. The long-term effects of pandemic life are more obvious in children as well. On a personal note, I lost both my father and grandfather this year. But you don’t have to face loss to feel grief — all of us are grieving life as it was, a loss of connection and normalcy.

Fear, uncertainty, grief, sadness are all normal feelings. The question is what to do with these feelings. The feelings are not the problem, it is how we respond to them. As adults, we each have our own coping mechanisms. I tend to bottle up my pain and use numbing to get through. Even positive habits, like exercise, hobbies, achievements, planning, can be used in unproductive ways. If we are using them to avoid our feelings, we are only making things worse. The highs and the lows of life become muted — at some point, we will have to face our feelings.

I recently had the wonderful opportunity to attend Brene Brown’s “Dare to Lead” training. It was a life-changing experience, and I was motivated to recommit to self-compassion and self-care. I want to live into my values and be my best self. We can’t do that from an empty cup. We can’t give others what we can’t give ourselves. We hear lots about self-care and self- compassion these days, but what is it? Is having a glass of wine and taking a bubble bath self- care? If it helps me to be vulnerable, embrace my feelings and move through them, it can be. If those internal voices continue to be judgmental and harsh, I need to embrace self-compassion. Kristin Neff writes about three elements of self-compassion:

Self-Kindness vs. Self Judgement – learning to recognize that we are all imperfect and face difficulties; being gentle with ourselves when life doesn’t meet our expectations

Common Humanity vs. Isolation – recognizing pain, suffering, and feeling “not enough” are things we all go through, rather than feeling that it’s “just me,” alone

Mindfulness vs. Over Identification – observing thoughts and feeling without judging, suppressing, or denying them while at the same time not being so wrapped up in our feelings that we are caught up in negative reactivity

My prayer for all of us is that we can find ways to truly practice self-care. For myself, I know that means slowing down, breathing, and taking time for things like meditation, connecting to nature, and yoga. These are the things that allow me the space for reflecting, letting go, and true self-compassion. I am wishing you well and hoping that you will make the time to know what self-care and self-compassion mean for you, and give yourself permission to practice them, so you can be your best and serve those around you, including the children in your life.

Gigi Khalsa ,
Head

2021 Spring Newsletter

I thought parenting would be easy. Learning about young children and teaching in the field of Early Childhood Education was my passion. The key to parenting was to provide unconditional love, and a sense of safety, with structure and limits–and then of course, I would have happy and healthy children. The reality of parenting humbled me.

The first big challenge was my infant daughter’s daily crying spells. Hazel would begin crying in the early evening and wouldn’t stop for several hours. I didn’t understand why nursing, or rocking, or singing, or swaddling, or shushing, or any of the other endless things we tried, wouldn’t comfort her. Was something really wrong, or was she just overwhelmed by too much sensory input in a world full of bright lights and loud sounds?

The crying jags stopped after a few months, but the parenting challenges continued. Then we had a second child, Wes, and he had his own challenges. Sleeping, potty training, friendships, school, mental health, screen time, and food choices–all would present struggles. When family life seemed chaotic and uncertain, I felt like a failure.

A book that really helped me explore new ways of being a parent was Nurturing the Soul of Your Family by Renée Peterson Trudeau. I began to realize that fearing others’ judgements, and the long-term consequences of my parenting choices, was not helpful. I needed to open my heart, be present, and accept each moment as it is.

Instead of resisting conflict, I needed to see that family is part of our lives to teach us; to help us grow and evolve. I had to shift my perspective and let go of my ego, and honor each person’s need to be heard, know that we matter and that we belong. Trudeau also recommends:

  • Self-care. You love and nurture the best in yourself so can you give that to others.
  • Healing. Being centered and calm models of self-regulation for our children means finding ways to begin the process of healing our own traumas.
  • Nature. Science has proven that being in nature is a powerful anti-depressant. For me and my family, it is also a way to tap into spirituality and the oneness of life.
  • Spiritual renewal. Breńe Brown defines spirituality as “recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than us.” Share whatever that is for you with your children.

Parenting is truly the hardest job on the planet. I have to remind myself that I have the power to bring happiness and peace into parenting by being present and responsive. When I am flexible and forgiving, and focus on love and connection, I can recognize the gift of family life. My prayer for our community is that we can all find ways to nurture the souls of our families.

Gigi Khalsa,
Head

2020 Fall Newsletter

 

When I was in second grade, my family went through a hard year financially. We moved across the country and we were surviving on a school bus driver’s income. Luckily, we had a roof over our head, thanks to a family friend who had taken us in, but I remember eating a lot of soup and buying second-hand clothes for $1.00 a bag.

I never wanted my children to experience the shame that comes from comparing yourself to others and feeling that others are looking down on you. As an adult, I had the privileges that allowed me to provide my children with a home that they have always lived in and an abundance of food, clothing, and toys. As they grew, I wondered if there was a downside to never knowing financial instability. How could I teach them to appreciate what they had, spark their desire to help and serve people who are facing challenges, and right injustices?

When my mom wanted to take my kids to deliver toys to children in need for Blue Santa, I was excited for them to have a first-hand experience where they might recognize their privilege and develop empathy for other people’s struggles. I remember my daughter coming back with wide eyes and excitedly telling me about a large family that lived in a small trailer and how happy and appreciative they were. I could tell it had made a big impression on her. It became a tradition that my kids eagerly awaited. Still, I wanted to do more than one yearly service experience.

Studies show that the benefits of gratitude for kids and adults include better mental and physical health. We are happier, sleep better, and have less stress and better resilience when we practice gratitude. Young children need lots of chances to see gratitude modeled, be of service to others, and be encouraged to reflect on what they are grateful for. We often ask children to talk about thankfulness around Thanksgiving, but how can we work toward developing empathy year-round?

• Daily sharing at a meal about something each family member is grateful for.
• Finding ways as a family to help others through donations or time.
• Practicing random acts of kindness and expressing appreciation when you see or receive acts of kindness.
• Taking a gratitude walk and using your senses to notice and appreciate nature.
• Giving your child age appropriate chores, working together as a team, and giving specific feedback, for example, “You set the table. That was helpful!”

Gratitude is especially important during this stressful and uncertain time. My prayer for our school family is that we can nurture gratitude in ourselves and in our children, not only during the holiday season, but throughout the year.

Gigi Khalsa ,
Head