CUSD Cares

Confident Parents,Confident Kids -Part 1

September 29, 2020 Brenda Vargas/Jennifer Miller Season 2 Episode 1
CUSD Cares
Confident Parents,Confident Kids -Part 1
Chapters
CUSD Cares
Confident Parents,Confident Kids -Part 1
Sep 29, 2020 Season 2 Episode 1
Brenda Vargas/Jennifer Miller

Brenda Vargas sits down virtually with Jennifer Miller, The former researcher for CASEL (Collaboration for Academic Social Emotional Learning), Family and Educational Author/Consultant/Coach, Social and Emotional Learning, Founder and author of Confident Parents,Confident Kids. Jennifer shares her quick tips to practicing "body check five" to manage any fear or worry with your child. 

For more info- see her blog here:
https://confidentparentsconfidentkids.org/?s=the+stress+of+school&submit=Go

Show Notes Transcript

Brenda Vargas sits down virtually with Jennifer Miller, The former researcher for CASEL (Collaboration for Academic Social Emotional Learning), Family and Educational Author/Consultant/Coach, Social and Emotional Learning, Founder and author of Confident Parents,Confident Kids. Jennifer shares her quick tips to practicing "body check five" to manage any fear or worry with your child. 

For more info- see her blog here:
https://confidentparentsconfidentkids.org/?s=the+stress+of+school&submit=Go

Brenda Vargas:

Parents and Community from Chandler Unified School District. Thank you for joining us today. I am very pleased to have with us today to share a wealth of information Jennifer Miller, she's a researcher and collaborator with CASEL as well as she's an author of the book called Confident Parents, Confident Kids. What a great title to that book, Jennifer, thanks for being with us here today.

Jennifer Miller:

Thanks so much. I'm excited about our conversation.

Brenda Vargas:

Yes. I think it's going to be one of many that's for sure. It will resonate with a lot of people. Well, Jennifer, you're coming to us from the Midwest from Ohio and we just appreciate you making time for us, but I know that you do a multitude of different things in order to keep yourself busy, you're so creative but one that is most dear and near to your heart is just being a wealth of information and support for our parents, raising kids today. Would you mind just sharing real quick? So parents can kind of get an idea of some of the things you've done and who you collaborate with just so they can frame, Hey, who is Jennifer Miller?

Jennifer Miller:

Sure. I do a lot of interesting projects, both nationally and locally. I coach parents one-on-one locally or as parenting teams.I also work with PBS on parenting videos and I'm working on a show that's being pitched. I'm very excited about that. I work with NBC Today Parenting contributing expertise t o articles on their blog. So I do a lot of writing and I do many webinars and podcasts and all with the idea of getting the word out that there's a lot of support and guidance. We can learn from research to translate into the messy world of family life. One other project I do is with the state of Montana, I helped pr oduce a parenting Montana site where there are tools age by stage of all of the topics that are hot topics for parents. So I get to do a lot of different fun ways of reaching families and the whole point is to help parents feel supported in supporting their children's social and emotional development.

Brenda Vargas:

That sounds so awesome. I can't wait to start going down that rabbit hole to take a look at what all the other things that you're doing. I'm super excited. Our podcast is specifically for our parents and community just to help support them through this very challenging time that you know, it takes two to raise a little one right into these young, amazing people that they become. And it takes a lot of creativity. So this is just one way that we help educate parents. So thank you for being on here. Our topic today, friends out there is the stress of school and their safety now. Jen is very much an avid writer. She will share with us towards the tail end some of the things that she is making available to parents. But I wanted to start off by us talking about our reality in regards to really making that awareness piece and acknowledging that awareness piece for all of our students, right. We know it's probably a little scarier for our elementary age students as they have in the last few weeks here and in our district have begun coming to school and some are participating virtually, but eventually I think when their family sees it's the best fit, they will return to us at some point down the road when they feel it's safe. But it's a hard decision for a lot of families .

Jennifer Miller:

It's a really hard decision.There is really no right answer at this point. There's a lot of uncertainty, there are so many factors. And so every family has to decide for themselves. And I would say too, that parents and children alike are living with anxiety right under their skin. And so we have to really be aware of that and give a lot of grace to our family members as we acknowledge that the stress is higher for everyone on a regular basis. And look for some ways to deal with it in healthy ways.

Brenda Vargas:

And I remember in our conversation getting ready for this, Jennifer, you mentioned that it is essential that we name it, that we actually call it what it is. And for our younger students, they may not understand what they're feeling, what exactly that translates to be. Could you talk a little bit about that awareness piece and why it's so important before moving on to that phase of how do we deal with it.

Jennifer Miller:

It's so true. We assume that we will be nurturing and building our children's language development in the early childhood years, but we are not in the habit as adults of talking about our feelings. It really feels like a weakness. And in fact, especially when it comes to more challenging emotions like fears, we actively avoid talking about it. And I notice the feeling, we were going to bring up fears at dinner time and my husband and I just exchanged in a side like, Oh, she could have nightmares. Maybe we don't want to go there. You know? So I think we're constantly looking at ways we can avoid pain and suffering and skirt the fears that are there but it really does our kids a disservice. If we don't name the feelings that are really taking place, if we don't name them, that children feel like they don't develop that feelings vocabulary, they aren't able to articulate what's going on inside of them. It can be very confusing because we have physical symptoms that pair with our bigger feelings, especially if we're feeling anxiety, we may get sweaty on the back of our neck. Our heart may beat faster. Every person's reactions are different, but for a child, they cannot name what's going on in their bo dy. So we really need to help them develop that emotional vocabulary simply by using it, by calling it out by saying, you know, I see that you've got a furrowed brow. Are you worried? Is tha t wh at's going on? And we never have to assume that we definitively know, but we can ask the question and name the feeling, and maybe you've heard the old saying, name it to tame it. Once a child is able to name the emotion, then they are able to manage the emotion better. And just the process of saying, yes, I'm feeling worried; all of a sudden your child is seeking understanding, and that act alone reduces some of the heat of that worry. It takes some of the pent up pressure of holding it all inside in their little hearts and bodies and it releases it because they've sought your understanding. So it really is important as a family. If you do one thing is just to begin calling it out, just begin naming the true feelings, i n cluding when they're, conflicting, when they' re a ma shup, you know, feelings are very difficult and confusing to adults. So imagine how our children feel.

Brenda Vargas:

And I like what you said earlier about just naming it, right? Creating possibly like a feelings vocabulary, or maybe going around the table during a time when you're sitting down with your child, or even what I have found is that car drive, right. We're all stuck here. And there is an end in sight as far as that destination, especially with teenagers, because sometimes they don't even know. They just know they feel off or not right. So naming how your body reacts and just giving them permission that it could look a variety of ways. So I like that naming it to tame it that's really, really helpful. Now moving on, because I think one of the things that we really want to focus on is that feeling that we have the ability to be in control and to cope with whatever it is that is being challenged at that moment in time. Right. As small or big as that may be. And how do we deal with reframing our reality and you talk in one of your actual blogs about body checks, which I think is a quick tip that I think any parent listening can walk away going, okay- I can remember those five things. Can you talk to us a little bit about that body c heck a nd what that conversation might sound like with someone's child?

Jennifer Miller:

It is a really easy way to promote focused attention, to bring a child back to calm. If you're seeing that your child is really anxious, maybe it's a parent because they're angry or they've just got an overwhelming sense of energy. They're bubbly, they're all over the place, but you know, it's coming from a place of anxiety. This is a great way to help them learn about their feelings, help them learn about the body signals that they're getting and calm down in the same time. So I call it the body check five. And you simply use your five senses and you ask your child what are five things that you can see right now? Just name them five things that you can see. Well, I can see my house plant. I can see my books. I can see a window. So what are five things th en? What are four things that you can he ar? And you get quiet and you really listen. Well, I hear a dog barking outside. If I really listen, I can hear the rain drops.

Brenda Vargas:

Or I can hear my heartbeat. I can hear your b reathing mom or dad.

Jennifer Miller:

Yeah. Yeah. And when you start that process, even you feel it as you start to name those things, or as your child starts to name those things, you begin the process of calming down because you are noticing what is around you and inside of you right away, as you begin to name those things. So go down the senses-sound and then smell. You could do three smells; two things that you can touch and what do they feel like? One thing that you can taste. I just had a piece of birthday cake from my son, I can still taste the i cing in my mouth. So go down those five senses. It's a great way in preschool and kindergarten to teach them about the five senses. But this is also a meditation that i s done with adults who are dealing with trauma. So if y ou're a parent and you are triggered by your child, they do something that infuriates you. Instead of responding immediately, step back, take a pause and do this body check five and see if it changes your ability to respond with emotional intelligence. It really brings you back to focus on the present moment.

Brenda Vargas:

And that present moment is so important for us to really tackle what we're dealing with. That could be very difficult and/or unsettling and unknown , which leaves people feeling,You know, there's always that little bit of fear, especially when we're dealing with the unknown. I really like the body check five. I think it's quick and easy to do it in any setting car, walking. Even at a store and with any person, any child, any adult, any young adult or young adolescent as well. Sometimes I know for speaking of adolescence, it can be a very challenging time for some of our sons and daughters. And it's hard because they are going through a time in their lives that they're just trying to figure it out. And we know that that can bring its own fears and anxieties having nothing to do with the present moment and what we're dealing with today. However, I think it's important. I'd like t o take a moment to really chat about us as parents, not minimizing s tudents' fears and anxieties, especially when it comes to students in that adolescent period, because we know that to them, the problem might be really, really, really humongously, ginormously big, even though in the grand scheme of things It's not a large problem, or it's a problem that can be solved very easily, but, from their perspective, this problem is so big and massive. I t's going to have a great deal of impact in their eyes. How do we take it for whatever it is and meet our sons and daughters where it's at without coming across like we're minimizing their fears and anxieties or t heir unsettling feelings.

Jennifer Miller:

What a great question. I love that question! My child just turned 13 and I jumped into the teenage realm. I think the simple but complex answer is that we can really gain empathy and patience for our teens, when we learn about the conditions within which they develop and some of these conditions are there whether we're in a global pandemic or not. And yet we are in these times where there are so many challenges that they have this other layer or set of challenges. But what I like to say to parents in order to help with our empathy is to help you recall when you first had a baby. What if you could just name off the feelings that you felt when you very first became a parent, what were those emotions, Brenda, do you? Name one.

Brenda Vargas:

Fear was at the forefront. That's definitely for sure, but excitement and fear together. So it was both ends of the spectrum, but so much hope as you look at this small little child that you're just now in this driver's seat to help them grow to this young adult. And oh my goodness. To take me back to that moment, it seems like forever ago, but they're always our babies. Aren't they?

Jennifer Miller:

Well, it is a magical time. And I would say that our teens are being born into adulthood and they have fear at the fore , right. But also excitement and a whole lot of hope. They also, if you remember becoming a new parent, feel overwhelmed and incredibly vulnerable, they feel sensitive. They don't really have an understanding of their identity yet. People have told them who they are, but now they're ready to figure out who they are for themselves. They also have this added social dimension where they have this new found, social awareness, where they feel like they're in the spotlight. They feel like all their peers are looking at them and judging from stem to stern, every part of who they are. So Brenda, you mentioned like sometimes we may feel as teenagers that their expressions or their emotions around their situations- We may think they're small. They think th ey're e normous, right? But if we think about it, they know that they're go ing t o l eave our houses, o ur homes in a matter of years and they've got ta be ready. And instinctually they're aware that their peers are their tribe. And so they very much are their survival going forward. So if we remember that their social connections are the ir su rvival, then we don't make light as much of their small little social dynamics that are going all wrong. And they think the world is ending because for them, it really feels like the world is ending when their social circle is disturbed. So how can we gain empathy for what they're going through in teen development? And I encourage you to read my book for more, but really how can we gain empathy for them and realize that they're in a very vulnerable place. And, also another important context is that often our worries are very different than their worries. So we can't make assumptions that we know what they're fearful of. We don't know often it is very different.

Brenda Vargas:

It's very complex. They're growing up. It's a completely different generation, Jennifer, than you and I grew up than some of our parents, right. In a completely different world where social media presence and then some; it just is not the same than maybe the way that we grew up and we have to face that that is a fact.

Jennifer Miller:

So true. So how can we make sure that we're creating trust on a regular basis, that we're opening up the space to listen without judgment so that they feel safe to come to us and they may not come to us when we're ready to hear it, or when we have questions we need answered, but you know, Brenda, you mentioned the car rides. That's a great time. You're not looking eyeball to eyeball. They don't feel on the spot as much. And so find when your child is ready to talk and then really be there to listen.

Brenda Vargas:

And I found, because I have a boy and a girl, however, my youngest is a boy. And I will share families, that, with a 17 year old, that car ride was not intimidating at all. You know, I had to look forward, he was learning how to drive. We're definitely past that getting the driver's license stage. However, it was a time that he could focus on something else. And I had my planned topics every time we got in the car, like, hmm, I wonder what he'll have to say about this. I was very strategic. However, you have to meet them where they're at. Right. It may not be the car ride, but that's kind of what worked for us.

Jennifer Miller:

Right ? Yeah. That's great. I really appreciate that. So true.

Brenda Vargas:

I love that analogy about that you shared and I will repeat-comparing their peers to their tribe. That is probably the best way that we could really explain how much weight a student's social group, especially, I'm sorry, a teen adolescent, how important it is to them. It's the be all and end all. And we know a lot of times they go to each other before they come to us or to any adult I should say.

Jennifer Miller:

Yes, so be good to your child's friends too. And if you can create a trusting relationship with the friends, it's a really wonderful thing to have that circle of care surrounding your child. That makes a difference, be the host, right?

Brenda Vargas:

Absolutely whenever possible. And when you can, absolutely. And be connected to their parents as well, if it's at all possible in order for us to raise great, wonderful kids, we know that we have to be connected and to support the entire community and be good neighbors. So , one thing that I, as we wrap it up, Jennifer, I think these are great takeaways for our parents, but oftentimes, the busy-ness of life and juggling a family as well as just the day to day, right? The day goes by and you get to the end of the day. And you're like, we almost want to take off all our hats and, here where we're having to finish our day with our families. And sometimes it's a tough one. And I can say I've spoken to a lot of parents throughout our district and community members. You know, some days are harder than others, but we know that we're still in that role of a parent. However, we have to be good stewards of taking care of ourselves. And I know it's easy to chat about r ight. Make sure you take good care of yourself and physical and mental health, of course. But I think actually putting it into practice as far as what we're doing. And what would your guidance be to parents on that in regards to, in order to be a good parent we have to make sure we're okay.

Jennifer Miller:

So true and so hard. And , I think we're all guilty of saying yes, this is so important. And then prioritizing our family above our own self care. What I encourage parents to do is to think about what their way of stoving up self control for the day is at the beginning of every day. So I call it mindfulness, you might call it just collecting yourself, getting centered, getting calm, or whatever you call it. What is one ritual or routine that you can create in your morning time when your self control is at its max and research tells us this, we wake up, we have the most self control of the whole day ahead. And the pressures mount, and we feel it. We wear down throughout the day and we have less and less of it. So , if we can build up our reserves in the morning, it can make a big difference. I always walk outside, even in inclement weather. I'll stand out in the garage or wherever I need to, but I walk outside to get fresh air. I breathe and I take some wisdom with me. I grab a book where I know that I'm going to read something wise and I do it religiously every morning. It doesn't have to do with religion. I'm faithful about doing it. And I not iced th at on the rare occasions where I don't, I am not at my best that day. It really matters. So I would just ask your listeners, what can you do to get yourself started in the day, in a way that you can bring your best for your family?

Brenda Vargas:

I agree. I think all of us have some type of routine, but just doing it with as much consistency as possible to start your day. Something that we talked about previously, Jennifer, was a lot of times we forget as parents that there are very few things that we have to respond immediately to, and making sure that we take a moment to check ourselves and maybe even doing that body check five with ourselves before responding, especially if we know we're at the end of our day, or it's been a tough one in some regards, or we know we have very little left in our tank, but I want to remind parents it's okay to take a pause before responding to your child.

Jennifer Miller:

I would say, it's not just, okay, it's important if we are frustrated or angry , that it is going to escalate the situation, if we respond immediately, because we're gonna respond on impulse , instead of thoughtfulness. And so the research on self-control says that pause is essential so that we can use our whole brains to bring thoughtfulness and consideration to the situation. So we don't have to be immediately responsive. We can say stop. We can call time out . You know, some parents do time out for themselves and take a moment. Maybe you sit down, maybe you close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. And you think about how you're going to return to this situation. What are you going to say when you actually face your child? And every time you come back better and you end the night feeling competent, or like you responded in a way that you wanted to versus ending the night saying I lost my temper again. I'm so disappointed. I'll try again tomorrow, but man, you know, and just feeling good. So really is worth taking that pause.

Brenda Vargas:

When what great modeling for your child.

Jennifer Miller:

It's a twofer, because you are teaching self management skills in that very moment. So yes, it's a powerful teacher.

Brenda Vargas:

And you know what, once you do it once you're going to feel better and give yourself permission to do it again. So I encourage it. I encourage you parents, community members to really try that. And we'll end on this note, Jen, be kind to yourself. I think sometimes we are amazing friends to our friends, our family, our neighbors. And I've been trying to practice this as well, be your own best friend, be good to yourself and take good care of yourself, whatever that means, whether it's getting an extra hour of sleep and, you know, going for a walk, whatever that looks like. If you have any last minute tips for our parents, Jennifer?

Jennifer Miller:

There's a wonderful exercise on self-compassion where you imagine a really close friend, who's going through a really tough time and you write down exactly what you would say to her and what you would do for her. And then you grab another sheet of paper and you say, I clearly, I'm going through a tough time. And we often can say horrible things to ourselves inside of ourselves. Right?

Brenda Vargas:

We're our biggest critic a lot of times aren't we?

Jennifer Miller:

We are. So how can you rewrite that to put yourself on the top of this sheet of paper and say those kind things inside your own head as you're going through your day and coaching yourself and how can you do those things for yourself?

Brenda Vargas:

Yeah. And on that note, I love that being kind to yourself and writing that letter and practicing and giving that best advice. But you know what, this is pretty much what we have for today. I know that we're going to continue to have some more with Jennifer. This is the beginning of our series. Parents, please just know that the job of being a parent, we know as parents ourselves, is one of the toughest jobs, but we are here to support you and be with you. And if you need anything, you're welcome to reach out, to vargas.brenda@cusd80.com. Jennifer's contact information in case someone wants to get in touch with you, Jennifer.

Jennifer Miller:

Yeah, so check out my site: confidentparentsconfidentkids.org, which has a whole ton of free resources, tools, lots of practical advice. And also if you want to email me directly, I'm confidentparentsconfidentkids@gmail.com

Brenda Vargas:

And her information is on our school district website under the Counseling tab- Parent Resources. So we definitely want to highlight her latest blog and we'll continue to do so, but parents keep us honest, let us know what you need and take good care of yourself. Thank you everybody.