Earth Day for Everyone

Last week we had Easter to look to and this week you may have been playing with colored eggs and of course enjoying a little pastel candy with your kids, and coming up next week we’ve got Earth Day, all of which is good in this challenging time to help keep kids entertained and easily come up with a whole bunch of different stuff to do when they’re not doing school work (and you’ve hit your limit of electronics for the day).  Since I spent a lot of time over the past month thinking and talking about Easter, today we’re thinking ahead to Earth Day.

Earth Day is an opportunity first and foremost to honor the natural planet and remember that it’s necessary to be respectful of it and protect it so that we and many generations to come can enjoy it. Hopefully the weather will turn around from what it’s been the past week and be a little nicer this week so we can at least enjoy a bit of nature and get the kids out of the house. But even if it’s not or you can’t go out due to the virus that we find ourselves all a bit stuck by at home, you can still make plans for how you’re going to celebrate and support nature in the months to come when life gets back to a version of normal. It’s a good family activity to make plans for natural places you want to visit and ways you can all help nature out.

Earth Day is also an opportunity to remember that we’re all sharing this physical planet, both humans and animals. Over the past few months we’ve discovered exactly how connected we humans all are, and how challenging it is to stop something dangerous like this virus when we are as connected as we are. We’ve seen some heart warming examples of how we’re caring for each other even at great distances, and hopefully we’ll see more of that in the future as our world returns to a new normal. Maybe some of the amazing examples of how nature has been positively impacted by this virus will inspire us to do a little more to care for our planet.

How are you and your family going to care for people and planet this Earth Day?

Discovering What Matters

We’re learning many challenging lessons as a world right now, one of the most challenging being that even in our fast paced lifestyle and how connected we are, it’s still not fast enough to save more lives, find better treatments and get things back to a form of normal in the time we think it should take. It’s been a really difficult reality check for many people around the globe, because they simply weren’t prepared on many levels. They weren’t prepared to be home all the time, to work from home, to teach their children, to transition to all virtual learning, to not work for an extended period of time, to not be able to go out as often as desired, and to have the medical supplies and personnel to combat the virus. It has also revealed to many who were unaware of how connected we are as a world, how long it takes to find answers and combat things like this, and how important certain things were in our lives that we took for granted.

But we’ve also seen how quickly we can step up as a community once we realize what’s happening. Technology has made it incredibly easy to post requests and reach out to some of the most vulnerable people in our neighborhoods and lives to check on and support them. We’re also stepping outside of the technology box to keep us all connected and support each other by hanging signs of support and thanks, and putting pictures in our windows for Easter egg hunts and other types of “treasure” hunts. We’re learning how to depend on others to get us food and giving up some of the control in our lives to help others stay healthier.

We’re also working on controlling what we can and letting go of what we can’t. We do absolutely have power right now and the ability to make choices, it’s just a little different right now. These are some of the hardest lessons to learn, mostly because for the majority of us the control and choice we have to make is about staying home and navigating full-time life with those we live with. We don’t have the ability to influence or impact in many other areas right now the way we usually would in a time of struggle or tragedy because so much is closed or changed.

But even though we’re taking things slower right now and not living our normal lives, we’re seeing the light in some very important ways, and I hope that what we’re seeing now is how we’ll continue as things change and return to a version of normal. It’s my hope that we’ve realized over these past few weeks and months how important family is (both family by blood and the other people we call family), and that we should do more with family in the future, even if that just means more video calls because we live physically distant from each other. I hope we also remember how important the medical community is and how important it is to pay attention to our health and the health of others. And finally, I hope we remember this need to give and participate in community, that we would support each other as never before when we return to our lives again. What are you learning as you navigate these changes and challenges?

Teaching Kids About Changes and Choice

We’re all making different choices than we’ve made before thanks to this virus, aren’t we? It used to be we had to decide things that we’ve had to decide for likely many years past, and now we’re making decisions about who gets what location to do their work or homework, what ideas we can come up with to keep those in our family who aren’t thrilled with the change of pace and changed/limited activities to keep from getting bored, and how to keep everyone fed and a roof over our heads while all this goes on.  It’s also not easy to explain all of this to them, especially since we don’t have many answers ourselves.

It’s healthy to both miss the past and anticipate the future. No, we don’t know what the future holds, nor could we have really anticipated our present. But that’s the way life works, and it’s up to us to navigate it to the best of our abilities. It’s also up to each of us to raise up the next generation to learn from the experiences we had and hope that we’ve equipped them to be able to tackle whatever comes their way.

I encourage you to use this time of change and transition and being in close quarters with family to not just take a break, but pass on the essential skills they’ll need whether they face something like this virus again or not.  Give your kids the experience and knowledge they need in the kitchen, either with your personal knowledge (or your partner’s) or through an online video course, to be able to cook healthy and nourishing foods as well as fun ones too.  Teach them how to research online (and in the library when it reopens) so they can build their knowledge from a variety of sources at any time so they have fewer limitations in their future.  Give them opportunities to practice making quick, educated and gut decisions, so that they’re prepared to make their own wise decisions in the future.  Encourage them to make good health practices and look after others.

We didn’t ask for this time of challenge and transition, but we’ve been given the choice on how we deal with it.  I hope you’re not panicking, but instead are using this time productively with your family.  What are you helping your kids learn and what are they teaching you?

Questions and Answers

The events that have been developing over the past few months with regards to the coronavirus and the questions I’ve been hearing from kids that I work with, are frustrating because there aren’t good answers to give for a lot of the questions that are out there.  We’re in a very unique and unprecedented time in our world history, and there’s no manual to indicate how best to proceed, other than trying to do the most sensible things.

These unanswered questions got me thinking about other questions that are hard to answer, and no, I’m not talking about the ‘where do babies come from?’ question although that one can be hard to answer, but about things like clouds or blue sky or why certain animals/fish look as they do or why one person likes broccoli and another doesn’t.  

It’s hard to tell a kid that there isn’t a good answer or you don’t know (and Google can’t give you a suitable or age-appropriate answer).  They like to get answers, even the simple ones that help alleviate at least some of their curiosity.  They also know all about Google and the internet and think that adults probably know everything, so it’s hard for them to understand when you can’t give them an answer.  

But if we’re honest about it, even as adults we like answers too.  We like to know why things start and spiral as they sometimes do, and why things go so very wrong sometimes.  I think our curiosity gets buried under the worry and the responsibility, which is why we just keep pushing through beyond our questions, while the kids keep asking questions (they don’t have the responsibility we do).

It’s not possible to get answers to all of our questions, but I think we can do a better job of doing just a little research and getting at least some answers to our questions and the questions of our kids.  The next time a question comes up, before brushing it off I encourage you to think about whether finding an answer would make you smarter or give you a sense of peace, and if so go ahead and do a quick search for some answers.  It’s healthy and important to ask questions, so don’t discourage yourself or your kids from asking them, even though there aren’t answers to every question.

Getting Smart about Trying New Things

It’s always easier and more enjoyable to ask your kids to do something they enjoy, right? No, we can’t always do things we enjoy, like homework for example for most of us. But if you think about some of the challenges you may face with your kids like picky eaters, bad sleepers, those who dislike many activities etc., you may think twice about whether you feel like picking a fight or just giving in to their limited desires and interests. I get it, I do. We like our comfort zones and there’s a reason things are called “favorites.”

I was laughing the other day with a client when I shared that I was with another client and her one son complained about being asked to eat broccoli and how gross he thought it was. The humor was found in the fact that the first client’s one daughter only likes one vegetable: broccoli. So how did one child come to love broccoli and the other strongly dislike it? Chances are really good that they (and you) stumbled on their favorites they (currently) love by trying them at some point in time, they weren’t born loving them.

Of course the challenge and catch-22 is that in order to get new favorites you have to try things and not everyone is good at trying new things. Sometimes it’s easier to try things than others, especially if you’ve got someone you can try it with. Food is easy to try new things with, you can start with just a bite and go from there. Something I’ve said many times is that I think we could find just about anything edible and maybe even delicious with the right seasoning or sauce, or even just a little cheese can make a big difference. Learning and reading are two things that can be hard to get kids to do too, it’s up to us to work with them to find a method or subject, especially initially, that can be sufficient to capture their interest and help them move past what might initially disinterest or challenge them.

The world is an amazing place that should be explored, whether you have any interest in physically traveling or armchair traveling, and with almost daily reminders of how precious life is, there’s all the more reason to try new things and improve and expand our lives to get a fuller appreciation for life. I’m not saying there’s something wrong with having favorites, just that variety is healthy and there’s almost always something to be gained from trying something new.  What have you learned trying new things?

A Normal Family

I’ve been contemplating the topic of normal again today. For some families it’s normal to spend the weekend at Disney or some other well-known theme park. For other families, they spend the weekend learning doing homework or studying while the parents are working from home. Other families spend the weekend working the (small) family business together. Other families spend the weekend at doing faith-based activities. Other families spend the weekend (and many other days) at the hospital or other care facilities.

Some families celebrate some holidays, while others while other families celebrate different ones. For some families it’s normal to not eat dinner together or do it all on cell phones. For some families they spend a lot of time with technology, while others do a lot of sports, while others are active in the community. Some families are made up of one parent and many kids, some are made up of one kid and one parent, some are made of two parents of the same sex and (a) kid(s), some are made up of several adults and kids, and some are made up of one man, one woman, two kids and a pet or two.

And then there’s the topic of what’s normal when you conduct yourself in public. For some it’s normal to wear a medical face mask to protect from smog or illness. For others it’s normal to wear a veil, Burqa, Tzitzit, kippah, HIjab or other religious covering. For some it’s normal to wear very revealing clothing, while others are raised or come to wear clothing that isn’t supposed to attract attention. For some it’s normal to wear a uniform to work or school, while others wear largely whatever they want. For some it’s normal to use all kinds of words (including swears or salty language), while others generally keep their language “g” or “pg”.

I could keep going, but I think you are getting the picture. Normal has to be one of the hardest words to define, or at least the hardest word to agree on what it means to you personally versus what it means to someone else. I can’t imagine living in a world where “normal” is being concerned about where the next meal is coming from, if I’m going to be able to breathe tomorrow, if the next generation would be healthy when they’re my age based on the environment we live in, or how likely it would be that I would hear gunfire or be under attack in the next days or weeks. What is normal to someone else would make us stare in amazement if we saw it as part of our daily lives, and vice versa.

Maybe this is an encouragement to explore beyond what you consider normal. Maybe this is just a reminder of how diverse the world is. Maybe this is a reminder to be grateful for all of the blessings that you have, and appreciate all the “normal” stuff you have going on in your life. What is normal to you?

Teaching Love to the Next Generation

As an adult in the world, parent or not, one of our most important jobs is to prepare the next generation to be adults in the world. Maybe that means making sure they don’t turn out a certain way, or maybe that means helping them do even better than we’ve done, but it’s something you should care about and invest in if you have any interest in what the future of the world looks like. Some people do learn by doing and learning what does or doesn’t work for them, but there’s always something to be said for setting a good example for others and showing them by how you live how and interact with others they should live.

This month a lot of the conversation has been about love, and while there isn’t always a fairy tale ending, love in the real world does often resemble romantic movies wherein people meet, are attracted to each other, want to spend time together, and do face some challenges together. Love isn’t some perfect walk down a country road, it’s more like a roller coaster with ups and downs, some excitement and some fears, and some really great times. Life is rarely all easy or all perfect for any of us, so why would we expect that love would be that way? It certainly brings strength and beauty to our lives, but the job of love isn’t to make life perfect.

But as anyone who has experienced true love will tell you, they’d rather have love for however long they can have it than not to know love. But the word “love” is often misused by people who are abusers or other times meant for an emotion much less real than true love, so what do we teach the next generation when it comes to love? I think we start with showing them how grateful we are for the love we do have when we have it, and not sugarcoating when love isn’t so perfect. Don’t hide the fact that you and your significant other have struggles or disagreements, but don’t drag the kids into them or stay together if all you do is argue and aren’t loving. Continue to educate the next generation about love by being generous with love and when it comes to those you love, not so that you are taken advantage of, but because it’s rewarding to give to those you love.

How do you show what love really is to the next generation?

Knowing You’re Loved

My partner is home recovering from what I hope to be his final knee surgery, so as I was in the kitchen cutting up strawberries I thought about the fact that I didn’t really know how he ate strawberries. Obviously, it’s not a big deal and so I just cut them as I thought he might like them, but it got me thinking about February and Valentine’s Day and the topic of love, and how we know if we’re loved.

Even back when we were kids we would pass notes around that said things like ‘do you like me circle one: yes/no.’ As simple as they are and as silly as they were, those notes were a great declaration of love or interest when the person replied in the affirmative, and great examples and opportunities of communication. This month you will hopefully hear and read some really great love stories, from those in articles and on news stories to books and even billboards. Every love story is different, and not all of them have a happy ending, but we can learn something important from each of them, just like we learn from these simple notes as a kid how important it is to communicate our love to each other.

Most of us aren’t professional writers, we don’t write romance books for a living, and every relationship has ups and downs (hopefully more ups than downs, of course). But do the people you love know that you love them? Yes, you can show them that you love them through a thousand different actions, but the words are so important as well. Beyond ‘I love you,’ it’s important to say things like ‘you matter to me,’ ‘I thought about you today,’ ‘I appreciate you,’ and ‘I’m glad you’re here.’

Do the people in your life like your significant other and your kids/family, know that you love them? Do you tell them and show them from the big gestures and words to small ways and simple moments? Make it your goal this month to let the people in your life know that you love them.

A Life of Moments

This week I’ve been reading my business book of the month which I’ll be sharing about in the coming week on the topics of creating moments, and it’s got me thinking about the moments in our lives that have nothing to do with commercialism or marketing (although some of those moments can be pretty awesome). Most of us don’t have memories like a video camera, rather we remember snapshots or short clips from different times during our lives, which usually amounts to only a portion of our lives. When we think about them it’s often like we’re right back there in that moment, that’s how clear our memories are. Those memories/moments are often based in or surrounded by strong emotions, both positive and negative ones.

I don’t think we should have a goal of trying to create a “moment” out of every second of our lives. For one, it would take the magic from true moments. I also think it would be too frustrating if we tried to make everything a ‘moment’ and most of it didn’t work out that way and wasn’t even close to what we tried to make it. However, I do think we can do a better job with not only having moments, but teaching our kids to embrace life and working ourselves on thriving more than surviving. To get to more moments we have to live, do, be, see or have more.

One simple example are books. I absolutely love to read and there are tons of new books that are published each day. No one will have an interest in every book, and not every book will be good let alone readable. But you have to be willing to take a chance on some books if you want to find the really great ones. Because those really great ones are worth wading through some that are just OK or those that aren’t even worth finishing. So maybe the answer to having more moments in our lives that are worth remembering for years to come is simply to try more.

So this week with your kids (and your partner) I encourage you to try a little harder, do something a little different and lean into experiences that could create moments.

Change for a New Year

We’ve got a new year waiting for us, and a new decade too, just a couple of days away. As I was thinking about this calendar change I got to thinking about our kids and schooling and how school starts in September or August and how the new calendar year starts in January. Add to that how companies can start/be “born” any time of year, or how we can start a job any time of year and you add additional layers of change and schedules onto the pile.

As strange or challenging as it may be, I do think that the different school and calendar start times have some good lessons to learn in them though, primarily in regularly introducing kids to the idea of change. The new year introduces some changes, but they’re mostly good changes, certainly not changes that come with a lot of baggage or concern like some school years start with. So having the calendar change at a different time from the school year change keeps kids in practice with change happening, but also exposes them to the idea that change isn’t bad or scary, at least not all the time, and it does happen regularly.

As adults we certainly embrace the new year a little stronger than we do other types of change, typically because we’re ready to move on to what the next year holds. It’s a great way for us to be released from what the past year was, or to be lifted into the next greatest part of our journey. With this change being a typically positive one, it helps us do better with teaching change to our kids as well.

Yes, we do often use a new year to talk about making changes in our lives, like eating healthier or exercising more, but even if we don’t embrace or practice using this time of year to make changes in our lives, just the practice of accepting and even celebrating this change of calendar year can be good for everyone.

So as we head into the new year next week, I encourage you to take time to reflect on what may be changing or what has changed over the past year, and do the same with your kids. You may be surprised at what you remember from this year that is ending.