Of all the varied skills I’ve taught over the years to youth of all ages, the one that I find most challenging is learning to let go. While we all have a tough time with this, it is especially difficult for kids with developing and learning differences. For example, a child who has ADHD, who hears many times in one day to stop moving, pay attention, focus, and control her body has a particularly hard time letting go of repeated reminders that she is not doing what she is supposed to. In today’s video, I’m excited to show you three ways to practice this important skill.
Create a time for family check-ins where you notice, acknowledge and air out the heavy feelings. In my house, this is our Sunday ritual. This does not have to take a long time. Twenty minutes goes a long way.
Simply ask, “what has weighed you down this week?” At first, kids may not know how to answer. You can model by answering honestly. Pick examples that are easy to understand. Don’t be shy to present difficult moments. Just be mindful of the words you choose. Stay safe and positive.
Here are some examples.
A. You have a difficult situation at work. You have too much on your plate, not enough help or support. You feel stressed out, tired, and overwhelmed.
You could say: what is weighing me down is feeling like I want to do a really good job at work. I have so much work to do, sometimes I really feel I could use some help. But right now it feels like there’s no one around who can help me. I feel alone and sometimes frustrated. I want to acknowledge that I feel frustrated with how much work I have to do.
B. You have had a difficult argument with your child at home. You were forceful with your words, loud and irritated with your voice.
You could say: what is weighing me down is the argument we had at home. This argument made me feel like we are not fully connected. Sometimes I feel like we have this big car called family, and each one of us has an important job to make it run. I sometimes feel like I’m trying to keep the car running but it can’t happen without everyone’s help. I would have liked to have more patience and be less forceful with my voice.
The kids and you can write these feelings on pieces of paper, or big rocks. If your kid loves to draw, let him. You can use chalk and write on the pavement. If you have young kids who don’t write (or talk) yet, try do this anyway. Take one minute, hold a rock and say what you are willing to let go of this week. The kids will pay attention (even if it seems they aren’t), and after a few times, they’ll look forward to seeing what you have to say. By the time they are old enough to write, they will feel excited to participate.
I believe it is extremely important to ground our learning in some kind of physical movement. Whether it is crumbling the paper and throwing it in the trash, flushing it down the toilet, washing the rocks with a sponge, or hosing down the concrete, letting go is a physical practice.
Although it may seem silly at first, the practice of letting go, is simply that: a practice. The more we do it, the more we learn to associate the physical movement with a much needed sense of lightness. We want to feel as though a weight has been lifted (or washed off, tossed in the garbage, shredded, ripped) off of our shoulders.
I’d love to hear from you! Do you have a favorite way to practice letting go? What works for you and how does your practice work inside your family?
Thank you so much for being here.
With love and appreciation,
2011 is the year to be “Ready”, and if that’s the case, I better hurry up! This year we decided to experiment with a new format for teaching, by using one word each month to inspire our work. We created a pinwheel with twelve intention words, one for each month, sent it out to our active members, asked them to post it, use it, and play with it. What’s become glaringly obvious is that it’s hard to be an authentic teacher and leader without making this exercise work for myself. As a result, I’ve spent the first four weeks of the month getting ready by taking a good, hard look in the mirror and decided it was time to take “walking the talk” to a whole new level.
I’ll admit I am a bit nervous about sharing some of my observations with you. And yet, just the other day, I had a conversation with one of the parents, who said she appreciated the transparency of my letters, because they offered her perspectives, and that in itself was inspiring. So here it goes …
Taking a close look in the mirror revealed what I always knew: I have a very hard time separating life from work and vice versa, and I’ve spent as long as I can remember making that wrong. If you’ve talked to Jorge, you know that I can be in the middle of a romantic date or giving our boy a bath, and I’ll bust out with a “honey, you know what I was thinking for the kids this month, or I think I found a better credit card processing company.” My boundaries around my personal time and goals can move, and do so often, at the expense of missing a workout, a meditation session, or an appointment with my soul who likes photography, writing, and painting. What’s worse is the negative, chatty troll that sits on my back and spends the next few days telling me how and what I should be doing, or should have done. What an emotional drain …
My self-reflection, however, also allowed me to rediscover what I know to be true about myself: I love to work hard and that brings me joy. I am a big picture, take-it-beyond-what-anyone’s-ever-imagined-possible kind of dreamer. My purpose in life is to bring health, joy, and peace to people, and especially kids. Most importantly though, and this is my golden nugget: I love my work so much that it is hard to separate it from my life, because I work doing something that is my personal life’s purpose. My work is my life and my life is my work. And for this I feel blessed and deeply grateful.
What does be Ready look like for me?
Did you take a close look at yourself when you set your new year’s resolutions or vision? What did you see and what does Ready look like for you, and for your family? Find an accountability partner, someone who won’t beat you up if you miss a goal or target but rather stand by, support, help, and dream with you. Better yet, make me your accountability partner; you will be fueling my life’s passion and that’s got nothing but good Karma written on it.
Last year I taught high school students about stress management, at the request of a concerned teacher who wanted to help reduce the anxiety associated with project deadlines. The teens seemed to appreciate the reprieve, but what I got from my experience was urgency. It’s one thing to read about the health crisis our youth are facing in the news, but it’s eye-opening to see it first hand. Yes, most of them knew about eating, working out, sleeping, all that. Yet, most of them lived on sugar and energy drinks, and they didn’t do any kind of movement at all. Based on what I saw at the quarterly student art exhibit, their spirit – define it any way you want – wasn’t doing so hot either. Many expressed a level of frustration, hopelessness, and anger that shocked and downright depressed me.
Take a quick glance at the SOS: Stressed out Student Project Conference agenda from 2008 and you’ll get a good clue about our teens’ current state of wellbeing from the presenters’ book titles:
A couple days ago I chatted with a young five year old, I’ll call Parker, who has wanted to sign up for classes at Hiruko after observing his sibling for some time.
“Will you be taking classes here soon?”
He shook his head slowly and told me he needs to finish all the school “must-dos” before he can start. He told me the rule is very clear, and it’s especially hard in school.
“I don’t get my free play until I finish my must-dos”.
“How old are you again?” I asked cautiously.
“I just turned five”.
His manner struck me. Parker is generally a responsible little guy who has clearly learned the importance of honoring his parents and teachers, but, in that moment, he didn’t seem to think there was hope of finishing all his must-dos. He seemed trapped. Our conversation left me wondering; what is an authentic way to inspire our children while also holding a vision for their wellbeing. We’ve all had moments when, with the most sincere and noble intentions, we’ve pushed our kids a bit too much, too soon, too hard. We want our kids to be attentive listeners, considerate thinkers, compassionate friends, creative contributors, inspired artists, accomplished athletes, and courageous leaders. We know that children who get these types of results are disciplined and focused. But many are also stressed out.
I urge you to ask yourself: where and when can our kids get that wellbeing is “cool”, and who is generating the possibility of “wellbeing” as an equally important must-do? It’s not too late for the teens, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s never too late. But I’d like to see some changes now. I want the school must-dos to include daily breathing exercises, and family must-dos to include some form of exercise four to five times a week. I want parents to feel empowered to advocate for their children’s time and wellbeing. I asked Parker how he feels when he can’t have free play. “Very sad”, he said. How would you feel?