Racism. The Question Is: What Are You Going to Do About It?

Racism. The Question Is: What Are You Going to Do About It?

Was anyone else glued to the news in horror watching the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd?

Anyone still grieving the death of Ahmaud Arbery? Breonna Taylor?

Are you still pissed about a Harvard graduate, writer, former Marvel editor, current biomedical editor for Health Science Communications, and board member of the Audubon Society who was threatened by a white woman who called the police on him for asking her to please leash her dog in Central Park? 

(And if you’re not, why not?)

Perhaps you’re feeling powerless… why on earth – despite all the protests and uprisings, despite the ongoing efforts of the people around you (especially your Black friends and colleagues) – are these deaths still happening?

Grief & outrage are NOT the same as action.

And (even more) action is required.

A lot of the white people I know don’t know where to start. It feels overwhelming. Sometimes it feels scary. Intentionally dismantling a system you’ve benefited from your whole life might feel like giving up a big piece of your pie.

But, what if it could feel like making more pie for everyone?

De-Schooling Anti-Racism

When people begin to move ‘beyond school’ we often encourage them to step outside of the infrastructure they’ve known their whole lives and spend a period of time intentionally refusing to participate in the trappings of the system. This is called De-Schooling.

It’s a time to detox, to breathe fresh air, to think clearly and intentionally about where they are and where they SHOULD be. It’s also a time to begin thinking, learning, and re-educating ourselves in a more holistic, integrated approach to learning together. It’s a time to shift your thinking and mindset and, most importantly, your perspective.

It’s hard to see a thing clearly until you choose to step outside of it.

De-schooling Anti-Racism involves an intentional choice to step outside of Systemic Racism.

De-schooling Anti-Racism involves doing the work of asking ourselves the hard questions:

  • Why have we let it get to this point? 
  • Why have we not moved against police brutality, as white people, harder and sooner
  • Why have we allowed a system in which people with less power are actively murdered on the regular by people with more power? 
  • Why do we tolerate and gloss over the myriad of micro aggressions that happen around us, daily? And that we, as white people, are still guilty of doing ourselves.
  • Why are we willing to raise our kids within a system that perpetuates violence and inequality without putting a stop to it, here and now?
  • Why are we not willing to be the change?

As the dominant power (economic, political, social and otherwise) why are WE as white people allowing this and creating an environment where it’s acceptable, or if not acceptable, at least tolerated? 

In her excellent article, Upping the Ante on Anti-Racism, Sharon Hurley Hall says this:

If you’ve been Black all your life, as I have, you know that racism isn’t going away anytime soon. If you’re a white anti-racist, you may know this too, or you’re catching on fast. Every day, we all have a choice about whether we’re working against racism or overtly or tacitly supporting it. …The question is: what are we going to do about it? 

-Sharon Hurley-Hall, Upping the Ante on Anti-Racism

Sharon’s Anti-Racism Bootcamp is an excellent place to start.

Led by Sharon Hurley-Hall and supported by Lea Jovy-Ford, this is an online training Bootcamp for anyone committed to understanding and eradicating the damaging biases we still have that perpetuate dangerous actions and reactions towards others, based upon their skin colour.

If you’re lucky (read: Aware), it may start to become more obvious to you how riddled with assumptions, beliefs and biases you are, based upon your reactions and responses to the people you come across in life, personally and professionally. If it isn’t obvious, then this needs your attention and work.

This is about becoming a better person. And understanding that this WILL empower you to navigate your worlds (personal and professional) with more positive impact for yourself and for others, both online and off.

DURING THE BOOTCAMP, WE…

  • Examine the unconscious biases you still hold, that may be unconsciously, unknowingly and deeply buried and how this is perpetuating our racist culture.
  • Understand what being anti-racist actually means, and what impact being anti-racist will mean for your own life.
  • Learn how to identify anti-racism in our world, both personally and professionally, and how to address it when we see it. 
  • Make a commitment to being actively anti-racist, in the here and now and for the long haul.

The question is: ARE YOU READY?

Looking for Anti-Racism Resources for Kids?

We’ve got this article full of Anti-Racism Resources for Families. And Sharon Hurley-Hall also teaches a fantastic six week short course on Anti-Racism for Kids.

P.S. If you’ve got to here and you’re wondering “but what’s in it for me?” when it comes to dismantling racism for everyone, we’ll be covering that next time…

Are You Teaching Your Kids This One Vital Skill They Need To Thrive Through the Covid-19 Pandemic & Beyond?

Are You Teaching Your Kids This One Vital Skill They Need To Thrive Through the Covid-19 Pandemic & Beyond?

How are you coping with the endless squabbles, frequent fisticuffs and constant bickering in your household during the lockdown – or is that just our family?!

Dealing with emotions can be hard at the best of times, especially in a blended family of six –add the stress of this pandemic when we’re all under the same roof with little opportunity for respite – and it’s a melting pot of high emotions and ongoing drama.

Pandemic or not, one of the most important themes we focus on when it comes to ‘educating’ our children is emotional management and regulation. Why?

Because EVERY single thing we experience in life creates a response in us – often a physical response and always an emotional response.

Sadly, so very many of us are conditioned, from early childhood, to ignore or deny these responses (feelings) and so we grow into adulthood spectacularly unaware of our own emotions and unable to express, discuss and sometimes even feel them.  

The result?

We move through the world not understanding our own reactions, responses and behaviour, unable to understand others’ behaviours either, and end up repeating dysfunctional patterns, and creating or staying in dysfunctional relationships over and over again…

It doesn’t have to be like this. To us, understanding, feeling, processing and being able to manage our emotions is as fundamental as the three Rs! 

So how do you help children learn about their emotions – how to feel them, how to make sense of them, and how to manage and regulate them?

1. Create Emotional Space

The beauty of emotions is that there is no right or wrong way to feel. One of the things that sets humans apart from other living things is our ability to feel with a wide range of emotions and yet our emotional literacy is at an all-time low.

Many of us find it hard to identify and name the emotion we’re feeling which makes understanding and exploration of it challenging (and change almost impossible), and so we default to patterns that aren’t always useful.

For example, anger is a key ‘displacing’ emotion – because anger often hides a wealth of deeper feelings: Hurt, grief, betrayal, rejection, abandonment… 

  • It’s the 6 year old who kicks his sister in the stomach in anger, because underneath the anger, he’s feeling hurt and betrayed that she chose to play on her own instead of with him.
  • It’s the father who screams at his wife the next morning over a seemingly tiny incident, because he’s feeling hurt and rejected that she was too tired for sex last night. 

How do we address and change these default reactions and patterns? Creating and holding space for feelings and emotions is the first and fundamental step.

How do you do this? By making emotions ‘ok’ in your family…

  • “It’s ok to feel how you feel.”
  • “No-one can tell you how to feel about this.”
  • “You are ‘allowed’ to feel exactly how you want to feel.”
  • “It is ok to feel.”

Once you’ve created the space to feel emotions, cultivating a space for curiosity, exploration and discussion encourages children (and adults) to learn how to verbalise and talk about their feelings…

  • “How does this feel for you?”
  • “What words would you use to describe how you feel?”
  • “Does it feel like …?” (The goal is to help them find the words that feel right to them, not put words in their mouth that don’t feel right to them).
  • “I wonder where that feeling came from…what do you think?”
  • “What caused/triggered that feeling?”

The more emotional literacy we help children cultivate when they’re young, the better their ability to navigate any situation life will throw at them and create deeper, more authentic and more fulfilling relationships in all areas of their life.

2. Use Sportscasting 

Many adults find it tough to talk about emotions – it’s a skill we can get better at though it’s not one many of us have been encouraged to cultivate and so we find ourselves in repeating patterns…

  • Consider that argument you have on repeat with someone close to you; the one you can never seem to resolve and which pushes your buttons like nothing else. 
  • Think about the person at work who you cannot bear to be around but have to work closely with, even though they may never have actually done anything ‘wrong’.
  • Consider the overbearing mother who just won’t let you live your own life without comment or judgment even though you’re a capable, functioning adult! 

Many of these feel like unresolvable, unchangeable situations. They are not because while you have no control over other people, you have full and sole control over yourself, and that’s all you need. This is the message we give to our children, over and over.

So how you do initiate a difficult, potentially conflict-causing conversation about what might really be going on underneath the surface? By using a technique I call ‘sportcasting’.

This is a technique I’ve honed based on Janet Lansbury’s method for addressing difficult toddler behaviour.

Sportscasting is a valuable way to get underneath any unconscious, game-playing devices or indirect, passive aggressive ways of communicating because it brings out the pattern into the open, puts a name to it, and allows both parties to address what’s actually happening in the dynamic between them from a place of conscious awareness.

Being able to verbalise what might actually be going on under the surface, on behalf of someone who can’t yet express it themselves, is a powerful way to step out of that pattern, especially for children.

Why It Works

It’s hard, in the heat of a moment, to maintain a clear head, especially if you’ve been triggered. It’s also hard to hear and understand what’s actually being said when the words sometimes don’t appear to make sense or don’t match your sense of what’s actually going on.

Stepping into sportscasting mode allows you to instantly and immediately step out of the drama, get yourself into a more adult space, and observe what’s happening as a more passive onlooker, than get sucked into a back-and-forth, emotionally-charged exchange which does nobody any good.

It allows you to look beneath the surface of what’s being said, to understand what’s actually going on, and empowers you to see things from a different (their) perspective and why they’re behaving and responding as they are, because you begin to understand where it’s coming from.

How Do You Do It?

To begin sportscasting, there’s a process you can use…

  • Step 1: Observe and verbally reflect back your experience of their behaviour.
  • Step 2: Identify what triggered the behaviour in the first place.
  • Step 3: Identify and encourage verbal expression of the emotion/feeling being displayed.
  • Step 4: Provide space for discussion to take place.

I’ve written a more detailed breakdown of how to do each step here. And if all else fails…

Use A Simplified Version of Sportscasting

The key here is to sportscast the behaviour you’re experiencing and then ask a direct question to be answered, which creates space for constructive and open dialogue instead of mudslinging or further game playing…

  • “It sounds like you’re really angry at me for changing this filing system; what could I have done differently to make it work better for you too?”
  • “It sounds like you’re frustrated by the lack of progress; is there something that’d help you to feel more ok with the process?”
  • “It feels like you’re really upset by something I’ve done; can you tell me what that is?”
  • “It feels like you really want to control what I do; can we talk about why that is and how that feels for each of us?”

3. Agree On Positive Forms of Communication 

There are many ways of communicating that we learn as we grow up that keep us rooted in patterns that don’t serve us well in adulthood. These include:

  • Indirectness
  • Passive aggressiveness
  • Game playing
  • Name calling

We use these because they’ve either been modelled to us by our primary caregivers or because we’ve learned to use them to get our needs met when we haven’t been empowered to do it differently.

How we relate to and communicate with people is fundamental to our experience of life; none of us lives in a vacuum and yet we continue to use communication that is harmful to our relationships and our own and others’ emotional wellbeing because we’ve never been taught anything other. 

In our family, we consciously and openly talk a lot about the things we value as a family when it comes to how we communicate because how we do this has an emotional impact on everyone.

To us, clear and honest communication, kindness and respect, etc. are important and so we encourage our children to use forms of communication that are:

  • Direct
  • Take ownership of their emotions
  • Respectful
  • Kind

You might like to consider and explicitly agree as a family how you’d like to communicate too. This agreement can then form the basis of all your communications with each other and has everyone’s buy-in.

It doesn’t mean it will always happen (we still get name-calling, game playing and indirectness rearing their ugly heads frequently!), but an explicit and conscious agreement helps to create a new, more positive default for everyone to work towards.

There’s a wealth of opportunity to talk and learn about emotions currently – from how everyone’s feeling about the lockdown, isolation, homeschooling and home working journeys to navigating the day to day friction of sharing the same space in such close proximity.

Talking about our emotions and how everyone’s feeling – openly, honestly, directly and with positive intent – is, I believe, one of the most positive approaches we can take to helping our children (and ourselves) survive through the uncertainties of where we find ourselves currently.

It’s possible you could even see this time as an opportunity to address some of the longstanding patterns that may be highlighted when you’re so ‘close’ to your loved ones for the foreseeable future…as a truly valuable opportunity to thrive during the pandemic, and beyond.

Homeschooling, Working From Home & Staying Sane: 5 Techniques & Tactics To Help

Homeschooling, Working From Home & Staying Sane: 5 Techniques & Tactics To Help

I just scrolled past this in my Twitter feed today. It’s one of many, many tweets sharing the realities of working from home, with the kids at home all day, every day.

I’ve worked from home, running a variety of my own ventures 100% online, for well over a decade. I’ve been homeschooling my kids – the eldest is now 10 – for about the same amount of time too. It has NOT been a walk in the park!

For half of that decade, I had my (now ex) husband helping out with childcare, household stuff and homeschooling. Now I’m a single parent and though we co-parent and share the children for around half a week each, I still have to earn a full-time living in part-time hours. It is still NOT a walk in the park.

And now, we’ve got this. The Covid-19 virus. Forcing us ALL to stay at home, working and educating on the fly – no group activities, no play dates, no day trips. Nothing. It is definitely NOT a walk in the park for any of us.

This is CRISIS-schooling, CRISIS-working and CRISIS-living. It is not homeschooling, remote work or location independent living, as those of us who’ve CONSCIOUSLY chosen to do this have ever known it.

It’s stressful, anxiety-inducing and taps into many of our insecurities leaving us fearful, grieving and angry.

And if we’re fortunate, we still have jobs to do or businesses to run and somehow have to do this, while homeschooling the kids and staying sane during a global lockdown.

I’ve had a less steep learning curve than most so here’s what I’ve found is working for me…

Identify YOUR Needs & Natural Rhythms

Women, in particular, find this hard. We are so used to slaving to others’ needs (it’s what society has conditioned us to do) that the concept of considering our own needs first (yes, first!) is almost anathema. I would urge you to start re-thinking this!

You, right now, are likely your children’s primary and only role model. Do you want to give them the message that it isn’t ok to prioritise themselves? That they need to consider others before their own? Please understand, this does not have to mean meeting your needs at anyone else’s expense; it does however mean recognising and meeting YOUR needs too!

You can’t give what you don’t have, and right now our kids need us to have and give!

How do you do this?

1. Pay attention to & honour your own patterns – your energy, circadian (sleep/wake) and productive patterns.

One of the benefits of being at home currently is that you are less likely to be tied to a specific schedule of 7am Wake & get up > 7.30am Breakfast > 8-9am commute > 9-5pm Work/School > 5-6pm Commute > 7pm Dinner > 9pm+ bed. Your schedule is likely subject to far more flex than the rigid routines of the office and school.

It may take a few weeks to identify what your natural rhythms are; you’ve been following a prescribed rhythm for so long now…

  • It helps to practice good sleep hygiene habits and, if you can during the lockdown, get out into the fresh air and some sunshine.
  • Eat when you’re hungry, not just because it’s time for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
  • Exercise when you feel most energised and strong, not just because it’s early in the morning/after work and you’re conditioned to squeezing in a workout then.

2. Use this knowledge to your benefit (and your children’s)

Plan intense, focused work that needs more concentration at a time when you and your children are more suited to it; and plan easier work when you’re not so on top form. So if you and your kids experience a post lunch, mid-afternoon slump, take a nap instead of scheduling in some intense work requiring good concentration.

This is such a great opportunity to begin to pay more attention to your own natural rhythms and encourage your children to pay more attention to theirs too, then work your plan and schedule around these, instead of slaving to one that doesn’t actually work for you.

Fill Up Their Wells With Focus

We are so used to multi-tasking and dividing our attention between tasks, kids, and more. Now’s a great time to practise giving your focused attention to one thing at a time, then releasing that focus for a while. It’s a bit like weight training – focus, then release, focus, then release.

So, if you’re doing an activity with the kids, instead of trying to multi-task, check your emails AND help your kids, switch off the emails and give them your FULL and SOLE attention. This could be for a 30-40-minute block, after which you can release that dedicated focus.

This fills up their wells with your undivided attention; it lets them know they’re important and that your focus is theirs and theirs alone, and will often result in you being able to find a window of time afterwards where they’re happy doing their own thing for a bit because they’ve had their well filled by you, leaving you to switch focus.

Keep Your Promises & Boundaries

“Just give me 5 more minutes, sweetheart”.

If you hear yourself repeating this over and over, stop. Otherwise, it’ll go on and on and one of you will lose your temper. Depending upon their age, children often don’t really understand the concept of time very well and a 5 minute promise that stretches into half an hour or more does nothing to help this!

Children LOVE and thrive on boundaries. Give them a firm and easy-to-understand boundary around time:

“When that big hand gets to X, I’ll come and help you”.

Again, depending upon their age, that may be a window of 5 to 30 minutes! And if they’re really young you may need to physically point it out (or set a timer on your phone that they can see and watch counting down).

This technique works really well with my own children because they know that their request and needs will be met at a specific time, instead of an unknown “in 5 minutes” which goes on and on, indefinitely.

Integration, not Balance or Separation

Jenn and I have both been banging the work-life integration drum for a while now; when you work from home with kids around, there is very little balance or separation!

Unless you have the luxury of at-home childcare and a lockable office or a separate wing of your mansion, you can’t easily secret yourself away to focus on work for hours a day. At least I can’t, in an open-plan living space in a pretty small house. So separation isn’t always physically possible. And work-life balance… what exactly is that anyway?

Let’s just admit it; currently there is no work-life separation or balance, and integration is all we have.

Over the years, I’ve had to say “Could you just hang on a minute, I just need to go and wipe my son’s bottom” on conference or coaching calls one too many times for comfort. But this is now our reality – and work and life are pretty much all rolled into one for the foreseeable future. Let’s embrace rather than resist it…

Get Them Involved

Jenn wrote a brilliant piece on how to get kids to do chores (cheerfully). I’ve tweaked my approach to emphasise this more with my own children and focus them on the aspect of learning new skills and enabling them to do stuff many adults still can’t do, and have seen just how empowering my children are finding it – learning how to cook all their meals, keep the house clean and tidy, and contribute to the running of a household. It’s brilliant!

The same approach can work for your work too… instead of keeping them away, include them. Talk to them about your work and consider setting them an age-appropriate task or challenge for them to complete; all the better if it actually helps you out! For example:

  • Show them how to use image creation tools like Canva or Picmonkey. I upload a selfie photo for my 6 year old and he can spend a good half hour, adding filters, devil horns and scary backgrounds.
  • Ask their opinion on a question or challenge you’re facing; you may be surprised by how their simplistic, uncluttered thinking can sometimes cut through your own over-thinking to the core issue and a simple solution.
  • If they’re old enough, consider a gentle introduction to social media; my daughter is on Instagram and is a genius at it. She watches, experiments, engages, connects – although I’m a business strategist, she’s needed absolutely zero input from me and it’s inspiring to watch her.

This is a great opportunity to talk to your children about what you actually do for work; most of the time our kids have NO idea what we do or how we earn a living and the world of work remains a mystery until they’re throw in at the deep end with their first job. This is a chance to show them what ‘work’ actually looks like – at least for the meantime.

And if the changes we’re currently experiencing have a lasting impact on the world of work they’ll be going into – as we suspect they might – what better way to prepare them than for them to be experiencing it now, and learning how to do it while you learn a whole new approach too?