Podcast Season 2: Episode 1: Teaching CHildren Empathy with Kate Barratt

Kate BarrattTania Hino talks to Kate Barratt about teaching children empathy.

Kate has B.A. in Early Childhood and Family Studies from the University of Washington, Master in teaching from the University of Washington, and with a Certificate in e-Learning and Instructional Design.

Kate is an innovative educator and instructional leader. Originally from Toronto, Canada, she has found her forever home in the PNW with her family. Prior to joining Meridian, she taught third and fourth grade and was an instructional technology/curriculum lead. Guided by her principle of always putting students first, Kate is excited to have joined the Meridian family’s SEL faculty. At home, you can find Kate chasing a very active two year old and taking long walks around Wallingford with her husband and dog, usually with a stop for ice cream.

Please see below for Kate’s book list recommendations.  
 

Resources

Children’s books about empathy and kindness

A Kid’s Books about Empathy

 

Found and Lost

Found and Lost by Glen Osborn, N. Seattle College Parent Education Instructor

Being alive means change keeps happening.  Change brings the loss of some things and opportunities to find some new things. This is true even for the Coronavirus pandemic we’re living through right now. Think about and then list some important things you’ve lost as a result of this unfolding event. Now think about some important things you’ve found or gained as a result and then list those. 

After you’ve done this, you can decide what you’d like to share and explain to your child(ren).  You can also encourage them to think about their own list of what they’re finding and what they’re losing these days. Add to this list as new gains and losses emerge. 

Five questions

1. What stands out for you from doing this?

2. What surprised you?

3. What seems important related to your parenting and/or teaching practices?

4. What is something you’ll either stop doing, start doing, or approach cautiously related to parenting and/or teaching?  

5. Now that you’ve considered found and lost, what change, if any do you notice in your mindset/outlook about the pandemic? 

We all wish that none of this was happening. Yet it is. So we’re all doing our best to cope with what’s outside of our control and keep finding ways to make the most of what we have. Including each other. 

I hope you found this helpful. 

Be well everyone.

Parenting in the Age of Coronavirus

holding hands

Parenting in the Age of Coronavirus

By Erin Bernau

Parenting is a sprint. You wake up at full attention and follow little people around all day from one activity to another. Your body is a punching bag, a car ramp, a medical experiment. 

Parenting is also a slog. There are long periods of playing cars on the floor, of Candyland, of counting doggies in a poster. You are present some ways, yes, and sometimes, not. That’s the way it has to be to get through the day in the best of times.

These are not the best of times. There is fear, leaching into our daily worlds. Coming into our children’s bedrooms, and definitely the parks and playgrounds, the schools and, god forbid, other people’s homes. 

Things we thought kept us surviving have been whipped away overnight. There goes getting together with your friends, the people who understand this delicate balance of love and attention and annoyance that make up your days. You never got to finish a sentence when you spoke with them, but they were there, right there next to you.

Yes, we have virtual worlds. That is something. But they don’t hold you when you cry because you haven’t had a full night’s sleep in days, month, years. They won’t wipe your kids disgusting nose because, why not? They’re wiping their own kid’s anyways. 

We have worked hard to make community, to lighten this heavy load. And now that community has shifted and feels tenuous as well. Who are we now? 

We are still something, something good. We can give each other a different normal. That overused phrase, a new normal. We can still celebrate the triumph of getting through a day. And also, the triumph of really being present in a moment, even if it’s just one moment, even if it’s fleeting.  

We can know that our kids are watching far too much tv, that we are frayed and cranky, that siblings will fight (but god, no blood, no need for the ER for sure), that partners may well bear the brunt of some of our frustration, that we will not follow the homeschooling chart that we downloaded so diligently (because that is how we parent shame ourselves apparently in the age of coronavirus).

But also…

We can undertake elaborate baking projects, get out those weeds in the garden, go through the baby photos, sort through the old clothes to donate, maybe plant some seeds, play a board game, watch (a lot of) movies, read some books, play umpteen games of chase with the patient (for now) dog. Because we have time. Far too much of it now. Why is that the way life seems to go? That we always have far too much or far too little. Never that “just right.” 

But there is wisdom in the letting go. In the sinking into these days. There is no other choice, really. There is just the now, the right now, and the remembering that there will be another day and another, and some day this will be different again. Because that is how life works. Time passes and things change. 

We’re going to come out of this different, changed, marked. Can we be marked well? Can we be changed beautifully? Can we be different in our resilience, in our connectivity, in our larger awareness? Can we still be connected even with social distancing? Can I feel that your pain is mine? That the work we are doing has meaning and purpose and joy, even in the midst of the pain and boredom? 

Can my sprint be yours? Can your slog be mine? Do you feel our connection even when I can’t sit beside you? Please try. I will, too.

Erin B. Bernau is a Parent Educator and LICSW.

References

https://www.erinbernau.com/new-blog-1/2020/3/18/parenting-in-the-age-of-coronavirus

Parent Impostor Syndrome

Parent Impostor Syndrome

By Tania Hino

I\’m doing just fine!     You suck!     They are better     Stop!

Give up…     You\’re not patient     Nobody likes you

You are a fake!     I don\’t know….     Idiot! 

I am messing up my kids???

Do you ever feel like you do not know what you’re doing with your kids? Do you feel like you do not have enough patience? Do you feel like you are not as good as the other parents? Do you feel like you are supposed to enjoy being a parent all the time but you are not? Do you feel like you are an impostor when you are serving on the board? Do you ever worry that you are not the best co-op parent or that you do not know how to be a co-op parent? Have you had any of these feelings?

These feelings are more common than you think and you are not alone. All parents feel that way about their parenting at one time or another. It’s even harder now than ever before with Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, parenting books and social media in general. You are only seeing what’s being portrayed on the outside and this gives you the sense that you are the only one who is suffering. It is impossible to be a Perfect Parent. Perfect Parentsdo not exist. These feelings are natural. It’s called Impostor Syndrome and we all have this syndrome one time or another.

Let’s define impostor syndrome: Impostor syndrome is a psychological pattern in which one doubts one\’s accomplishments. Clance and Imes defined impostor phenomenon as an individual experience of self-perceived intellectual phoniness (fraud).

Over the years, I personally doubted myself many times while raising my children. Even to this day, it crosses my mind periodically. I’ve wondered – Am I messing up my children? Should I be reading more parenting books? Self-talk doubts go on and on…

Many times I will question myself, am I a good parent? I will also compare myself to others and this will trigger more doubts about my parenting. To make matters worse, I started working part-time. The feeling of impostor syndrome multiplied on both ends of my two jobs (as a mother and a paid employee). I had several doubts as to – am I good enough to do both of my jobs? Maybe my kids and life partner need me more at home.

These are natural feelings and everyone at one point or another feels like an impostor in regards to being a parent, at one’s job or while working on a project etc. This feeling is totally normal and affects everyone. However, women and people of color or disadvantaged communities tend to have more of the impostor syndrome feelings in more areas of their lives. For example, a single mom working two jobs to make ends meet may feel much worse than a well off married couple.

Here is how I deal with my impostor syndrome:

BE REAL ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS – it is okay to feel like you do not belong or you are not enough. Accepting your own feelings is the first step.

FIND YOUR STRENGTHS make a list of what you are good at (i.e. at your work/particular project etc.)

FIND YOUR CHALLENGES this is a hard one, but be kind to yourself. Make a list of what areas you’d like to improve in regards to your parenting, projects/work etc.

IDENTIFY RESOURCES in the areas where you need improvement.

LEARN HOW TO DO IT read books, articles, watch Ted Talks, etc.

WHO CAN GIVE YOU SUPPORT Find a support group, a non-judgmental parent or a person who listens to you when you are feeling vulnerable and vice versa.

TALK TO YOUR SELF LIKE YOU WOULD TALK TO OTHERS be kind to yourself and think about what kind of advice you would give to your friend if they were feeling vulnerable. Give yourself that advice.

PRACTICE THE TOOLS LEARNED practice the tools you have learned with patience and kindness. Make sure you are consistent with the tools for at least 4 weeks to see results. 

In reality, we all feel like we do not know enough when it comes to raising our kids – which is true, and that’s good enough. Just be kind to yourself and be ready to feel vulnerable. Acknowledging your impostor syndrome and accepting that you are not perfect will not only help you, it will teach your kids that it’s okay to be imperfect.

Tania Hino is a Parent Educator and MSW, LICSW.

REFERENCES:

Clance, Pauline Rose. (1985) The Impostor Phenomenon: Overcoming the Fear That Haunts Your Success. Peachtree Pub Ltd

Articulating our Family Values

Articulating Our Family Values

By Annie Garrett, M.Ed.

How do you create a positive culture?

What is the reason for your existence?

What purpose do you serve?

For me, questions like these conjure up memories of workplace retreats, trust falls, and “yay team” sorts of motivational talks. They are the types of guiding questions that formal groups- nonprofits, corporations, etc- may turn to as they seek to establish a shared vision. Interestingly, they are also the types of questions that an increasing number of families are asking themselves as they seek to jointly define their values and their expectations. In The Montessori Toddler, a 2019 national bestseller, author Simone Davies encourages families to formulate “ground rules” or “a list of family values framed on the living room wall” (Davies 2019 p. 121). She shares the following example:

  • We are kind to each other
  • We sit at the table to eat
  • We contribute to the household
  • We engage in rough play by mutual consent

As the parent of a toddler and a parent educator to toddler families, I do a lot of thinking about how families set limits. This is important and necessary and taxing, at least in the short term. Perhaps it is this thinking that makes Davies’ suggestion to think about limits in the context of values so appealing to me. Refreshing, even. How do we get clear on our limits? Davies states that parents she meets in Montessori workshops typically “…don’t have any ground rules at all. This means we are mostly just winging it- making it up on the spot. This can be difficult to keep track of, for us and definitely for our toddler. Imagine if they changed the rules for traffic lights and some days the red light meant “stop” and on other days it meant “go”. No wonder toddlers get mixed messages when we change our minds” (Davies 2019 pp 121-122)  

As I reflected on limits, I also began to ask a deeper question: What ends do these limits ultimately serve, anyways? Could we go beyond ground rules to create a more enduring manifesto, of sorts? I thought back to various family mottoes I’d come across over the years. I recalled that one of the families I most admire uses a three-part maxim: “We are caring, compassionate, and competent”.  Simple and seemingly effective. The family has stayed exceptionally close-knit and purposeful while raising a total of 5 healthy, happy children and grandchildren over the past four decades. I also recalled the more poetic saying taught to children and parents in the Unitarian Universalist community with which I’ve long been affiliated: “We are Unitarian Universalists with minds that think, hearts that love, and hands that are willing to serve.” With hand motions to accompany, children learn this phrase young and I’ve seen many live into it over time. 

Feeling inspired, I proposed the idea of creating an original manifesto to my partner. He chuckled as he claimed he was not surprised that I, a program manager by training, would try to attach a mission statement to our family.  But he agreed to take a stab at it, and so the family manifesto began. As the daughter of a scientist, I can admittedly be guilty of relying so heavily on research that I overlook that little inner voice: intuition. As I began to study family manifestos, I noticed that most writing on this subject fell into two camps, with families inspired either by corporate culture or by creed/religion. Under the corporate umbrella, I found step-by-step instructions with brainstorming activities, worksheets, and full how-to books, with businessman Stephen R. Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families lead amongst them. On the religions end of the spectrum, I found that inspiration is taken from God and religious text may be quoted. The deeper I got into my research, the more I realized that neither the corporate nor the creed-based approach spoke to me. The opposite, in fact. My husband and I both work in public service and lean more toward humanist than theist. I realized that it was actually the non-hierarchical, secular condition of our family that drew me to the concept of the family manifesto. In the relative absence of structure, a family is at risk of feeling more like a collection of individuals than a unit. And when our motivations and needs as individuals are in conflict- as they so often are when we are parenting young children- frustration and loneliness can result. I would argue that today, a family is largely an enterprise of the soul. In a post-agrarian society, few of us need children for survival. And in an increasingly secular society, less of us are having children for religious purposes. And so if it is love and joy that motivates us to form families, then you might say it is soul that unites us. Alas, I realized that <gasp>, I might have to buck the research and rely on intuition after all as I form a family manifesto.  And so, these questions emerged:

How can our family cultivate love and respect for one another?

How can our family live joyfully together?

How can our family work together to leave the world a little better than we found it?  

These simple questions are our starting point. We will hang something on the wall but the one thing we know for sure is this: for us, it will be written in pencil. For now, it will also have crayon doodles around it. Our daughter is growing and developing right alongside us, after all. 

What do you think—would your family benefit from articulating its values? What questions motivate you? Would you write it in pen or pencil? Maybe in song, or maybe on Twitter in size 11 Times New Roman font? Whatever form your family values may take, written or unwritten, may you enduringly find a way to live your values together. 



Annie Garrett is a Parent Educator with Cooperative Preschools and Manager of the Early Childhood Education Program at North Seattle College.

REFERENCES

Covey, Stephen R. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families: Building a Beautiful Family Culture in a Turbulent World. New York: Golden Books, 1997.

Davies, Simone. The Montessori Toddler: A Parent\’s Guide to Raising a Curious and Responsible Human Being. New York: Workman Publishing, 2019.

Samantha Power. The Education of an Idealist. New York: Dey Street Books, 2019.

Protecting Routine During the Holiday Season

child plays with trains

Protecting Routine during the Holiday Season

By Kristin Church, Parent Educator

This time of year can be a lot of fun and very exciting for young children. It can also be challenging for parents as we try to strike a balance between holiday activities and bedtimes and routines.

Here a few different philosophies to help this busy season go more smoothly. Perhaps one will resonate with you or you might think of another option:

  • You don’t generally worry about routine anyhow. The holiday season is no exception. Acknowledge that this is a family value and own it. All values come with risks and rewards.
  • Choose to compromise routine for a few events. The memories for your children and friends and family are worth it. Acknowledge that this option will likely have over-tired kids (and adults). Some middle ground ideas are having one night of a “splurge” from routine followed by one or two days of rest and a greatly reduced schedule. All compromises come with risks and rewards.
  • Don’t yield the routine at all. It is important for his year to get kid(s) and adult(s) into bed. Know that this option means you or your partner (or both) may miss out of some family or company bonding. Acknowledge that this is a family value and it comes with pros and cons. All values come with risks and rewards.
  • Choose to compromise the routine consistently because this season too, shall pass. Acknowledge you may have to rework some routines you had set up. The pros outweigh the cons.

I can think of plenty of situations as both a parent, and parent educator where I might have chosen any of these options or maybe even one not listed. It’s my belief that there is not a deep rulebook for parenting (kindness, play, car seats, and infants sleeping on their back are high on my list).

The Holiday Season of 2019 will be exactly what it is: one holiday season, for one year. I hope you feel empowered to choose whatever road makes the most sense for your family, at this time.

Building a More Thankful Family

holding hands

Building a More Thankful Family

By Katie Gruver, Co-Founder & Parent Educator at Positive Parenting Seattle

Along with crunchy autumn leaves, pumpkin spice everything and holiday trips to overeat while spending time with family and friends, this time of year gets many of us thinking about gratitude. And while the banal hashtag #blessed might have us rolling our eyes as we scroll Instagram, the research keeps rolling in that creating a habit of mindfully expressing gratitude not only brings about measurably greater happiness, but also consistently better health outcomes.

Those seem like things we can all get behind.

That being said… somewhere, especially in our dealings with children, the spirit of thankfulness and deep appreciation gets muddled. We nag at our kids to “Say thank you!” before they’ve had the chance to open up in a recent gift. We worry that their inability to make it through the grocery store without begging for the toy they “really really NEED!” means they’re unappreciative or greedy. We share a sigh as we realize that now WE are the ones telling our children stories about how bad we had it as kids (“Back in our day, we didn’t have Netflix. We had to actually get up and change the channel by HAND, AND we had to sit through commercials!”) in the hopes that they’ll express some gratitude for the improved life we’re giving them.

It’s easy to get stuck in the fear and not see the opportunity.

What we know about gratitude (and its benefits) is that it is not a single act, but rather a practice… a routine if you will. And we know that modeling and practicing new skills and routines are at the heart of almost every parent-child (or teacher-child) relationship.  

Trade “Good job” for “Thank you”:

Many schools and homes are stuck in a pattern of congratulating children over small tasks or expected behaviors, when what we really mean is “Thank you.” Save the “good jobs” for when they’ve done something truly exemplary, and swap it out for something much more meaningful: “Thank you”. Giving thanks to your child and appreciating their hard work and effort helps them feel seen and loved. “Good job” merely praises an activity and can fall a little flat (was it really good or merely what you had asked them to do), and leave our kids just seeking more and more verbal gold stars for behavior.

Instead of “Good job climbing into your car seat” try: “Thank you. That was so helpful to have you climb in!”

Instead of “Good job getting dressed this morning” try: “Thank you for getting dressed all by yourself today. I can see that you’re really growing up. ”

Instead of “Good job cleaning up your puzzle” try: “Thanks for cleaning up. That’s such a big help for our family. Now we have space for something new!” 

Modeling Gratitude in Daily Errands:

Thank the check out clerk. Thank the barista. Thank the person at the post office. You should do this anyway, but definitely do it when your child is with you… and you can also encourage your child to also say (or sign) “thank you” as part of your habit of interacting with others who have given you a service.

You can wonder outloud to your child: “Wow, I wonder how many coffees our barista has made today? I sure am thankful they were able to make my coffee and your steamed milk. And did you notice how quick they were? We barely had to wait!” This type of active in-the-moment gratitude for the daily grind of life helps our kids not only pay attention and notice others who are helping them, but establish a family value and routine around the giving of thanks AND the paying attention to the “little things” of life. It’s easy to be on your phone or

Surprise them (and others) with gratitude notes

Even if they’re not reading yet, leaving them a note on their pillow or in their lunch box of love and appreciation is such a gracious touch. Letting them feel what that appreciation feels like in themselves will help them know how to give it back to others.

Make a practice of thank you notes

After birthdays or other celebrations where gifts were given, encourage your little ones to draw a picture or dictate you a note about why they liked it and to say thank you. Thank you letters don’t have to be restricted to gifts though. Many children are naturally generous hearted, and you can encourage this by every time they’re speaking fondly of a cousin, neighbor, teacher or friend… you can invite them to make a picture or send a thank you note of love and appreciation to those they care about. This practice of snail-mailing our gratitude and love is NOT a completely lost art and is certainly one that leaves most children feeling very proud of themselves and even more apt to notice all the little kindnesses done for them.

Incorporate gratitude or “appreciations” into meal times

Many families do “rose and a thorn” or something similar at family meal times where they talk about one nice thing and one not-so-nice thing that happened to them that day. You could add to this routine by taking a page out of a traditional family meeting practice and start doing family appreciations. How it works is this: Every family members says an appreciation (something they’re grateful for or that they love) about EVERY other family member and themselves. This takes some practice, and for very young kids, they may just sign or say “thank you” or “I love you”. But starting a practice of actively appreciating your family members AND yourselves is a wonderful thing to teach.

For example, at a recent family dinner, some of my family’s appreciations sounded like: “Mom, I appreciate about you that you made this dinner, and you helped me find my red headband.” “I appreciate about myself that I am working hard to learn minus-ing.” “I appreciate about you (child) that you invited me to play with you and we had that very fun wrestling match.” Other fun ways to incorporate gratitude could be:

  • Making a paper chain of things you appreciate with one item written on each paper link (daily/weekly etc.)
  • Start a gratitude jar. Family members can add things to it as they wish, or you can take time every day/week to add to it together.
  • At bedtime, as you’re tucking the kids in, talk about what you’re grateful for, or listing 3 things that make you feel thankful
  • Use “Surprise Sticky Notes” – I think of this like guerilla gratitude. Give family members (or classmates) a post it and have them write (or write for them) something they appreciate about someone else. Then they post it somewhere that person will find it later!

So, the next time you’re thinking that your child isn’t really “getting” what it means to be thankful or that you’re worried that they’re spoiled with all the bounty that comes from living in the modern world…take a moment to check in to see if there might be some more opportunities not only for you to genuinely appreciate them but to also build some family routines around gratitude that make EVERYONE feel more seen, heard and loved.

For more reading, check out this article by Sarina Natkin: “Gifts and Gratitude – Helping Kids Appreciate the Holiday Season

Spring into Fall!

children play

Spring into Fall!

Starting school (even co-op) can be a big challenge for many children. Here are some tips to get your year off to a more peaceful year:

  • Arrive to school with plenty of time to get things dropped off, children signed in, etc. Don’t come before the Teacher recommends, but coming in once the day has begun can be really upsetting to many children. Think about your child’s temperament – many might do best to be one of the first children there as it gives them time to settle in and get ready for their work…play! It is also really important to your teacher that you arrive on time if you are a working parent for that day. 
  • Be prompt about pick-ups. Looking up from closing circle and not seeing mom or dad (or whoever is picking up) can be frightening for children. If you come too early though, we might put you to work. 🙂
  • Think high-protein breakfasts. If you have an early riser, make like a hobbit and maybe do a second breakfast in the car or during the walk in. These guys are working hard and they get hungry, fast. 
  • If getting out the door on time is challenging, set things out the night before. Have a consistent place for school items. If getting dressing is the time suck, have them sleep in their school clothes for the next day at night. 
  • While not always the case, many of your kids will be very overwhelmed with what is going on at the start of school. Try to keep evenings and weekends low-key and predictable until it seems like everyone has adjusted some (parents too!). 
  • Consider a family “tradition” of some sort of forum to debrief about everyone’s day (highs and lows at dinner, best part of the day at bedtime (this is not the best time for all kids), sharing something surprising, drawing, two truths and a lie).
  • Finally, go easy on yourself and your child. Even our most intentional and thoughtful plans or ideas for the fall may or may not be what our children needed. Our role as parents and caregivers to provide loving consistency to our children; a soft place to meltdown or fall apart as our children adjust to their new normal for this school year. Fall is a hard time for many but we all know as parents that these challenges too, will pass.