Relationships: From babies, to marriages, to death (oh my)
This is the heart of it all for me. I can talk about this for an hour or for an entire day. No matter what stage or what relationship we’re talking, it all comes down to this: connection. It is in these connections with others that the most important question on the planet is answered: “Am I worth it?”.
Talking about the importance of relationships began in my work with educators. But, that’s not where it ends. First, we need to recognize that we’re all in (important, life-saving, world-altering, sometimes thunder-making) relationships—that includes police officers and emergency services personnel; foster parents and child care providers; administrators and policy makers. Second, we need a “shared language” that includes networks and strategies to support our babes who struggle the most , the families who hold them, and those doing the holy work of connection. See, what drives it all for me are found in the words of Ram Dass: “We are all just here walking each other home”.
The biggest challenge facing each of us “these days” is that we’ve never been more disconnected, making it harder than ever to determine if we really, truly matter in this world. By exploring the most recent research on attachment and emotional regulation, I share what’s most critical in, first, helping our children learn how to manage emotions and, later, what that looks like in our friendships, marriages, and most importantly, in ourselves.
Once I became a parent, I realized I knew nothing about children and that parenting my hypothetical children was SO much easier then when they (finally) arrived! Here’s what I know to be true so far: it is the hardest job on the planet. And, there are a lot of opinions about how to do it “right”, but generally, no body really knows what they hell they’re doing.
Here’s what I do know as a child psychologist: If you own a kid (or are helping to raise one), your #1 job is to teach them this thing called emotional regulation – how to stay calm in times of big emotion. Our babes will struggle to do well in this big-old world, doing well in school, making friends, having success in school, or being “happy”, unless they have some capacity to regulate emotion. In order to show our babes how to regulate emotion, the kicker is we have to figure out how to model for them what calm looks like. Turns out, just telling them to CALM DOWN doesn’t work for long, and neither does taking the things they love away so that they’ll eventually figure out that you want them to be kind.
In our parent talks, we often spend an evening together where you can expect laughter and stories, while we understand how attachment and connection to our babes and our partners will give our children the most important skill they will ever learn: How to be kind and connected people we can be proud of.
As we are expected to “do more with less” in this world of increasing disconnection, our employees are becoming more and more tired of giving, particularly in professions where we hold people with trauma histories. Some would say, however, that we are wired for compassion and that you cannot tire of the things we are born to do. When our hearts get tired, it often happens when we are triggered by our own stories. When we have nowhere to put the hard stuff, we can’t do our jobs like we used to do. We can’t “show up” like we used to. And we start to wonder “what’s wrong with me?”. This happens because no one (seriously) can serve from an empty vessel. This talk is about how we need to (AND CAN) look after each other, so we can continue serving the children and families who need us most.
Grief and Loss
It still amazes me that the universal experience of grief and loss is the one that’s the hardest to talk about. None of us get out of here alive. Every single soul on this planet will experience it. It pays no mind to age, sex, socioeconomic status, religion, or race. I’ve come to learn that when we are in it, in the messiest parts of it, we know what we need—someone to lean on. Unfortunately, when we are on the other side of grief and loss, we tend to forget what is needed by those grieving, and we gravitate towards action—how to fix it (what to bring, what to say, what not to say). Even worse, when grief and trauma go hand in hand, many of us feel like lost ships in a stormy sea. This day is all about a quote by Mitch Albom that stopped me in my tracks: “Death ends a life, not a relationship”. What ever you have in front of you today, I promise you this, you’re wired for it. You will survive it so much easier when you know this: We are wired for connection. Together, we will explore the saddest parts of grief, how we can help each other stay connected, and we can come out not the same, but perhaps even stronger on the other side.
As I develop my own company and talk about the importance of relationships across all other aspects of life, I’ve come to understand that system leaders are some of the most powerful people on the planet. And good leaders understand the importance of relationships first. It has also become clear to me that while good leaders are rare, they can be made. The steps to create a connected, relationship-based team are shockingly simple to do (on paper), but require remarkable courage in action. They require brave leaders who aren’t scared to step into discomfort, to excavate the unsaid, and who understand that trust is built in the small moments. We know, without a doubt, that people with a common goal are exponentially more committed and productive; how we get them there makes all the difference.
Being “trauma-informed” is the focus for many schools and organizations these days, and critical for those of us working in professions where people experience significant trauma (like in our classrooms, and in every single public service sector on the planet). In truth, very few of us get through this life unscathed. Understanding our brains from a trauma perspective, including research into the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) and how this shows up in our communities and our classrooms, can help change every, single aspect of our work. In this talk, I explore what “trauma” means for kids and adults, the ever-increasing mental health concerns and their impact on our lives, and what is most helpful following a significant traumatic incident. We will talk about the necessity of leaders assisting staff in keeping their “lid on” and reminding them, as often as we can, that their “people” are the difference makers. We will highlight the struggles that show up in our classrooms, as well as some approaches that may assist in helping our staff keep our kids (and their families) regulated and supported.