How To Reduce Stress In Kids

Lessons From The Road Part 2 

Your Kids Need You (but not in the way you think)

On the road there would be times when I’d feel stressed or anxious about things, and I would turn to my kids and see what they needed. I’d offer to make my daughter a sandwich and she’d let me know that she can make her own sandwich. Or I’d ask my younger daughter if she needed help with anything and she would be playing with her toys and say, “No, I’m good,” and I would still be looking for something to do with my anxiety and my stress.

And then I would grab my guitar, go and sit outside the trailer and I would practice guitar for a bit and get myself into a calmer state. Find myself in a good place.

Then you know what would happen like magic? The girls would come outside and they’d want to hang out. They’d maybe want to play guitar or just play and they’d want to be around me in a different way than when I was just trying to do things that I thought they needed. I learned through experiences like these that what my daughters need is not always what I think they need.

When I see Karuna hurting, she does not need me to talk to her. She needs me to be present, to be kind. I give space; to love her and not try to solve it. She does not need me to solve all of her challenges.

Your kids need you, but not in the way you may think. They need your presence and undivided attention. They need your clarity and peace of mind. They need you to make them feel part of the team. They need you to feel like they’re part of the family unit and that they belong and they’re wanted and that they matter. They need you to start letting go, way before you actually want to.

For instance, my 9-year-old daughter is going off to sleep away camp for two weeks, and I can already feel this letting go process begin. She’s her own person in this world. She needs me to trust her. She needs autonomy, not control. Boundaries and safety with a lot of freedom to roam.

So your kids also need basic sustenance, food, shelter, and all the basic needs that we as parents work to provide. But if you notice in that list there are certain things that they don’t necessarily need. They don’t need you to buy them everything that they ask for. They don’t need you to tell them things that aren’t true. They don’t need you to pretend to be something that you aren’t.

In fact, your kids need you to be happy. And they can’t make you happy. Your kids need you to not make them the source of your happiness. That is a heavy burden to put on your children.

When you are in your own state of happiness because of how you’re choosing to live your life, your kids benefit tremendously.

If you had to live in a home with three other people, would you enjoy it if they were all stressed out, overwhelmed, and anxious? Probably not. You would love your roommates to be happy, peaceful, fun to be around. Present. Enthusiastic about life.

I know it’s strange to say that parents and kids are like roommates, but in some ways, we are, right? We inhabit the same home, and it’s a good analogy to help us to see how our kids could be impacted by our own life choices, by our own state of consciousness, by our own vibration. So much of the work in the family is the parents’ work.

Because face it, kids just love being kids. Kids are not in a position to do all kinds of personal work, reflection work. Kids aren’t looking to go to meditation retreats. It’s the parents who are looking to do that because of our lifetime of struggles and sufferings; people being unkind to us; mistakes and being in and out of all kinds of difficult challenges, all in contrast to what we want to do in our lives.

So it’s our work to overcome the stress and the struggles, to come into equilibrium so that we can be there for our children in the ways that they need us most. All so that they can face a lifetime of triumphs and challenges with the patience and resolve that we were able to show them. Our kids need us, but not always in the ways that we think they do. How we show up for our children matters.

LESSONS FROM THE ROAD: PART ONE

Hitting the Road Through #EndlessCaravan

In the Spring of 2017, our family packed up our bags and we flew to Jackson Center, Ohio, and the headquarters of Airstream, who provided us with the trailer and the truck as part of their Endless Caravan Campaign. This beautiful endeavor allows families who have creative visions to move around the country and do their great work, while also getting to experience living in an Airstream trailer. I have so much gratitude to Airstream and their vision, because what unfolded over the next three months I believe radically changed all of us as a family.

From Ohio, we all headed out across the United States for a season-long journey in an Airstream trailer, 23 feet long (about 175 square feet), with two kids ages 8 and 4, my wife and myself. There was one queen bed and a kitchen table that transforms into a single bed. We had an ambitious route to cover 9,000 + miles covering 23 states.

Along our journey my wife planned family arts events through her business, The Art Pantry,and I spoke at schools through my work with Yale Universities’ Emotional Intelligence Lab. We had no previous experience towing a trailer and we booked almost no campsites in advance. In 3 months, we learned a lot about trailer life, this incredible country, our family, and how families are doing across the country.

Hope Lies in Our Families

Before the trip we were not sure what we would find as we traveled the country, but one thing we found was hope: hope in our collective, in one another, and hope that our children will have a bright future. We found this sense of hope in the amazing families we came across. There was not a single state across the Southeast, Southwest, Midwest and beyond that did not have amazing, inspiring families.

We encountered so many beautiful families who love their children, who love each other. We saw children who are happy, who appreciate their parents. We saw parents who are grateful for their children and for the opportunity to be a family.

This hope is what I want to share with you through this series of reflections: through the opportunity to focus on, heal, and love our families, and through supporting one another, we discover what this will make possible for us as communities, for us as a society, and ultimately for us as a world.

In this series of articles, I want to share what I learned from traveling with my own family as well as the lessons from interacting with hundreds of families through my work with Yale, speaking at schools to parents and administrators across the country, and through the events that my wife held, doing art with young children and being with families who had their own dreams that they shared with us.

Claim Your Family

The first big lesson of the trip was that we learned to claim our family. We live in a society that is constantly comparing one family to another; we’re comparing one lifestyle to another, one family’s choice to another. Something about going on this trip helped us to claim our family spirit. We recognized we have this special unit, the four of us, headed out across the country and it was our adventure to have. It was our journey to grow closer together.

The beauty of claiming your family is that it makes it yours. You don’t have to compare or try to be like anybody else. It’s family — it’s your family, and in reclaiming it, you can begin to push back against society’s inertia that often splits families apart, whether through struggles around technology, overworking, or peer groups that our kids become part of that we have little control over. Being together on this trip helped us to reclaim our family. I believe it is possible for all of us to go through the process of reclaiming our family by acknowledging that this is our beautiful gift that we have created with our partners and loved ones to do amazing things together.

So, as we traveled across the country, we started to understand for ourselves that we were living somewhat of a dream. We were outside society’s norms. We were free to be us. Our kids were not in school. My wife and I were not working 9-5 jobs. We were figuring it out on the road, while on the move. And we were doing it together.

Allan Watts describes life in our culture from going to kindergarten to first grade to second grade to third grade and they kind of lead you along in this ‘here, kitty, kitty,’ fashion until you get to high school, and then if you’re fortunate enough, to college. And then after college, you get this great job and you start a family. And somewhere in the course of this spectrum, you end up in your 40s and you have this wake-up moment, and you go, is this it? Is this what my life is all about?

I believe that there is something magical that can happen in a family when we wake up to who we are. We wake up to who our partner is telling us they are, and we wake up to who our children are showing us that they are. It’s in this awakened state that we have some freedom to live the life we want to live.

So many families are suffering right now because they often feel stuck, that they have to live life the way that they have always thought they had to live it, or the way they see it being lived by other people in their communities. And if there’s one thing that anyone takes away from this offering that I’m sharing, is that you are empowered to live your life the way you want. Especially in your families, because you created your family.

And yes, immediately you might ask me, ‘Well, how are we going to live the life we want with our finances? How are we going to live freely when we live where we live? How are we going to live differently with our kids’ educational needs?’ And I would say, let’s stop for a second, and let’s dream first. Before we put up all the obstacles and find all the blocks, let’s make sure we’re aligned on what you truly want. And if we can get a glimpse of what you truly want, and if you can claim your family, then I think we’re on a totally new journey.

What does it mean to you to claim your family as yours?

Tell me in the comments below!

All Parents Get Angry: You Can Choose What Happens Next

The choice is yours.

I was on a call the other day with a dad who said to me, “That sounds nice and good the way you describe treating people with kindness when I’m upset or working through my emotions and not taking it out on anybody. But how do you do that?”

It was so clear to me after meditating on it for a moment, that what he failed to recognize was the role that his own personal choice plays in all of it. I started to see that we as families, and parents especially, have a huge opportunity to realize the role of choice in all our decisions and how we interact with people, especially our kids.

 

Fundamentally, we are the choosers of all of our actions.

We live in a culture that is often motivated and controlled by our subconscious, repeating old patterns that we’ve learned and practiced. For example, the dad I was speaking to was somebody who’s known to lash out if he gets overwhelmed or frustrated. If things get too intense for him at home, he’ll just start screaming at his kids and his wife. He’s been doing that for a long time, so it’s just sort of how things go at the house.

What I’ve been working to show him and his family, and everybody through this post, is that we are the choosers. We are choosing even when we are not conscious of it. So, do we choose to lash out at somebody when they’ve upset us?

When we realize we’re the chooser, we can begin to do the work of choosing something different. We can choose to state how we’re feeling instead of lashing out at people. We can choose to take space and not engage with anybody while we’re running too hot and too full of anger. We can choose to do things like go for a run, meditate, cook or do anything that brings us peace. We have the choice to manage our actions, so that we don’t get so angry and overwhelmed that we have to lash out at people.

All of these are choices that we can make. Nobody can make them for us. You can’t tell somebody to stop drinking if they have a drinking problem. They have to choose to do that on their own, and often times it takes serious consequences or a big intervention for them to do that. But ultimately, the way that a person stays sober is that they choose to stay sober once they’ve gotten there.

The same is true for parents who choose not to scream at their kids anymore. For parents who choose to not let their own overwhelm and fear and anxiety take hold in the course of a situation with their kids leading to fights or screaming and shaming, making a situation a whole lot worse.

As soon as we recognize that we have a choice, we have begun the big work: the personal transformation work to choose to be who we want to be in this life.

On the road I’ve been talking to parents a lot about this idea that Yale calls the ‘best self,’ and often times when things get really hard, we lose our idea of what our best self is as a parent.

When I’m speaking of being a best parent, I’m talking about that view we had of ourselves before we even had kids. That perspective of the kind of parent we were going to be: one who could be there for our kids, who wouldn’t overreact, who could say yes to things when it was appropriate. Remember that parent we wanted to be, the one who made sure their kids had all kinds of fun experiences?

That view of ourselves, of the best self, the parent that we believed we could be often goes right out the door when things get hard. You come home from work, it’s dinnertime and there’s homework to be done, or you’ve been at home all day and you’re husband comes home in a grumpy mood and you feel like you’ve been doing everything all day. You just need a little bit of help, but you don’t know how to ask for it. In those moments you may not know how to choose to be your best self. You are like that confounded dad at the beginning of this post wondering, “How do you do that?”

You recognize that you have a choice. It’s like waking up from a dream and becoming conscious.

Now, recognizing that we have a choice doesn’t automatically mean that we choose to act as we want every time. Oftentimes our subconscious will take over and we will do the thing we’ve always done. We will do the thing that we learned from our parents. We will do the thing that we see played out at work or on TV. We will not know that we are acting in ways we don’t want to.

But when you become the chooser, when you act in a way that you didn’t choose, that your subconscious led you toward, you get to reconnect with the person you impacted and try being the person you consciously want to be.

For example, screaming at our kids over spilled milk is my favorite example. We get to apologize to them. We get to reconnect with them in a good way and let them know that we’re sorry we got so overwhelmed that we screamed at them. Then we can invite them to be more careful when using their cup.

We can do that. But then we can also choose the next time to not scream over spilled milk. We can get right back to being the chooser, and choose the things that align with our best self, the things that we believe in, and our values.

If you have any questions or need some support please call me at 415 370-3767 or email me at aaron@coachschiller.com. No parent should ever feel like they don’t know who to call when things get tough.

 

Why Kids Need To Help Their Families

When you’re busy, overwhelmed and doing a lot, day in, day out, one of the best things you can experience is someone being helpful. By inviting our children to be connected to us through sharing in daily tasks and duties, we are doing our part to socialize healthy individuals before letting them loose on the world.

For much of human history, families have been really helpful to one another. If you look back to farms and agricultural life, parents had kids to support the family way of life on the farm. Kids made things possible by taking care of livestock, clearing fields, and tending to the other children. Being helpful was at the core of what made a family work.

And something really amazing has been happening, especially in the Western world, where families are having more affluence, and more opportunities for their children to do less. Parents are finding themselves more overwhelmed; kids seem to be more stressed and unhappy despite the fact that they have more things and more opportunities.

Parents Are Doing Too Much

I was on a call the other day with a family and I said to them, point blank, “Would you like your kids to be helpful?” And the mom paused this really profound pause and said, “Sometimes I see other kids being helpful to their parents and I just wish and dream that my kids would do that.“ So I thought: Wow. Maybe that’s what this is all about. Maybe the value that is missing from our culture that could shift our happiness factor is helpfulness.

How do we bring helpfulness back into our family’s life? How do we connect and be there for one another in a way that feels really helpful?

I don’t know about you, but when I’m helping another human being, I feel really good. In fact, I like to be put to work whenever I’m new somewhere or if I’m a guest in someone’s house. I do whatever I can to be helpful so that I can feel more comfortable. I can feel part of the unit.

I want this feeling for our children as well, for them to truly enjoy being of service. I like to think of what every parent wants to hear when their child is a guest somewhere: “They were so helpful at dinner, and even helped clean up after everyone was playing for a while.” Supporting our children’s natural orientation to be helpful and part of the group will continue with them wherever they go.

For example, a child who was helpful at home through their childhood may go on to their first job asking, “How can I help?” instead of standing around waiting for someone to give them an order or a task to do. This way of being prepares our children for life skills well beyond home life.

Being Helpful Can Improve Family Dynamics

One of the new values that I’m currently concentrating on as I work with families is this value of helpfulness. And I’m not just talking about making kids do chores and work from a place of obedience or a place of consequence. I’m talking about true helpfulness. A way that parents and kids can feel some satisfaction that they are contributing to the whole, that they are part of the family unit.

I think one of the medicines that will be a boon to families is to re-enlist each other in being helpful. I see it on my trip, in my own family. Karuna, my oldest daughter, has been so helpful. There are times when she comes out and says, “Dad, do you want me to help hook up the electrical for the trailer? Do you want me to crank down the stabilization jacks?” There are all kinds of little things she’s offering to do. It makes me feel really supported because I’ve got so much I’m managing in my head, and extra hands on deck really do make a difference.

Furthermore, I see that it makes her feel really part of the experience. The feeling of being helpful is driving her and connecting her to the whole family or pack. I think family cultures can benefit greatly from instilling this value into your culture as a unit, because it is unifying!

Helpful Kids Care More About Their Surroundings

To see how powerful being helpful is, look at children in school. You see small children using their little brooms and dustpans because little kids love being helpful. Go to any preschool across the world and you’ll find kids who want to help their teachers. But for some reason, as those kids get older, we strip away the helpfulness. We make kids sit in their desks. There aren’t a lot of opportunities to be helpful at school that empower students, and make them feel connected to the school. So what do kids do? They vandalize the school. They disrespect it. They do the same thing at home.

A lot of these problems could be solved through finding unique and creative ways to give kids an opportunity to be helpful. This doesn’t mean you need to make your kids sweep or wash dishes. If your kids are older, ages 8 to 15, be creative. What are the ways they want help? How can they contribute to the home? Are they interested in helping with meal prep? I know kids who love to cook and so they are very helpful in their homes and actually make dinner a couple times a week.

In other families, kids are more makers and they want to work in the shed with their dad or mom building things that the family needs. Or maybe they want to watch their siblings. Come up with a list of things, especially for older kids that they want to do. This is not about forcing anyone to work—being helpful is not a punitive thing, it’s something that you want to do.

I love to say to my daughter, “Hey, do you want to help me dry the dishes?” And when she says yes, she’s opting into it. I’m not forcing her. She could stop at anytime. But in being helpful, we’re together. We’re having beautiful discussions. We’re feeling connected. And it’s optional. Once again, I’m not trying to create model where being helpful is just a punitive chore or a consequence, but a way in which a kid gets to be part of the whole.

And maybe, just maybe, some of your own overwhelm will reduce and you’re ability to connect and be present with your kid will increase. Then, instead of the need to buy a new thing or class for your kid, you will find in this togetherness what you were truly after, which is to be appreciated, to be loved, to be connected.

If you have any questions for me or want to talk email me at aaron@coachschiller.com

These posts were written while I was on the road as pat of Airstream’s #endlesscaravan. You can follow the adventure and see pictures on my Wife’s site The Art Pantry or facebook by searching #endlesscaravan

On The Road With Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a game-changer. It makes moving through the tough moments as a family an opportunity for growth instead of turmoil.

I think anybody who’s going to talk about emotional intelligence as it pertains to families should be required to spend three months on the road in a small trailer with their family.  Nothing prepares you quite as well to talk about emotional intelligence as having your own emotions front and center, with nowhere to hide during that kind of experience. Living in close quarters requires you to emotionally regulate yourself on a very constant and conscious basis. It’s that day-to-day tracking of one’s own emotions that can make the difference between a pleasant experience or a disaster.

3 Month Airstream Family Road Trip #EndlessCaravan

 

Lucky for me this is not a hypothetical situation, this is exactly what I am up to. As part of Airstream’s Endless Caravan tour my family is spending 3 months on the road touring around the United States.  This is a trip of a lifetime and a real dream come true.  On our journey my wife, Megan, is holding creative family events focused on process art and I am leading parent workshops at schools across the country through my work with Yale University’s Emotional Intelligence Lab. I am field testing in a very real way what I am presenting to parents.

For example, in a recent experience with my family on the road, we were all worn thin. The youngest was crying, jumping up and down, while the eldest was crossing her arms as we walked in the hot sun towards a restaurant we couldn’t find. Lost, tired, hot, and hungry, everything in that moment was terrible. I realized I was feeling the same way my kids were.

So I took a deep breath and found some space in myself to move forward in a good way. Connecting with the eldest first, I let her know I totally get it. “It makes sense to feel frustrated right now. We’re going to get some food soon, and just maybe you can have a sip of my sweet tea,” I tell her, which sparks a small smile. Then she turns to her sister with some hope that things may improve.

It Starts With You

Everything centers on my own ability to recognize how I am feeling first.

Knowing when your own tank is empty or you’re feeling overwhelmed or frustrated can help keep you from lashing out at your family. Being aware of your own emotions could keep one moment from escalating out of control and into something difficult to handle.  Using your emotional intelligence, a potential calamity remains a positive experience.

As I look at this in my work with families, I see this happening all the time. One parent comes home from work tired, or another had a tough day at home with the kids or their own job, and emotions spiral out of control. Suddenly the adults find themselves in the middle of chaos: kids not doing their homework, no one is listening to anyone, and all kinds of hell breaks loose. They look at each other and think: how did we get here?

15 Minutes of Unpleasant Emotions Vs A Whole Night of it – You Choose…

Without emotional intelligence, that one moment of frustration at the time when most families reunite at the end of the day, turns into a whole evening of nobody getting along, nobody feeling close, and nobody getting what they need emotionally from each other. The time when families come together has turned into a time of pulling apart. That’s where the practical skills or tools of emotional intelligence come in: recognizing your emotions and understanding them, and taking a proactive approach to dealing with them can turn the situation around and bring you back to harmonious togetherness.

In times of chaos, I consider the impact on my children. They are young and have done nothing to me to deserve my vengeance or aggression. As the adult, it is my role to model for them how to muster up the calm and then move from the love and sweetness I know is possible instead of letting my battered nerves guide the ship. Through practice, I learn to soften even when I am pushed to my limit.

I want these practices to be accessible and change the ways families engage during their precious time together. That’s why I’m excited about the work Yale is pioneering at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, and the information I am bringing to people across the country right now with this road trip. It’s a tremendous opportunity not only for me but those I meet. At its core is the question: What brings us closer as families? The answer is simple, but not easy. It is about how we relate to ourselves, internally, and to one another.

Families Want to Enjoy Each other

When people— kids or parents— are able to more deeply understand their own emotional experience, regulate those emotions, and then communicate from that regulated place, people become closer, families become tighter, experiences become more fluid. I truly believe it helps families do what they’re intended to do: enjoy each other, help one another to be happy, to live amazing lives, and to encourage one another to reach their potential.

What I love about working with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence is that they’re moving away from creating a methodology or program. Director Marc Brackett’s ideas, and what he and his team are pushing forward, are more practical: by learning the skills and developing ourselves, we become aware of and in tune with our own emotional and social beings. Emotional intelligence becomes a part of everything we do, seamlessly integrated to the life and culture of our family.

It’s a theory of change. It’s about how we learn more about ourselves and our emotional experiences in this world and how to use that experience to achieve the things that we want to do in our lives, whether it’s to have closer family relationships or to achieve success in our personal or professional growth.

Emotions Matter

Emotions matter, in many nuanced ways, which is a fundamental piece of the work that Yale has proved through their research. Emotions affect our quality of attention, our focus, and our ability to have meaningful relationships. This is not a soft skill. This is about how we show up in the world and how we live out our dreams. It’s about how we reach our potential as human beings on this planet.

Emotional intelligence is a skill people have overlooked. Society has taught many of us not to care about what we’re feeling. We’re told to get over it. Move on. Don’t cry. Don’t worry about it. Don’t feel so much.

But the truth is we are feeling beings. You can’t stop the emotional experience from happening. You can try to scare it out of people, you can attempt to restrict it, you can make people go underground and bury their emotions. But you cannot stop the emotional experience of being a human being. It’s fundamentally who and what we are.

Emotional intelligence, used as a way of understanding ourselves, can transform our relationships, can transform our interactions with people, whether it’s with your family, or outside the home. It can transform anyone, whether you’re a 4 year old, a 24 year old, or a 50 or 60 year old. This transformation can happen across genders and generations.

I’m super excited to be traveling across the country, sharing this with people of all ages, in all situations, at various venues. To learn more about RULER visit http://ei.yale.edu/ruler/
To follow my family on Facebook visit @CoachAaronSchiller or Instagram follow @coachschiller @artpantry and #endlesscaravan
If you have questions send me a note – aaron@coachschiller.com – I love hearing from people and will respond promptly.

Resentment Is A Love Blocker

Do you have experience with resentment? I have found It is really hard for me to express my love for someone when I am feeling resentful towards them – even if it is my wife and kids. It does not mean I don’t love them it just means the current resentment is blocking my love from flowing out of me. It is also stopping me from receiving their love. This video outlines my view on resentment and why I think it is so important for ourselves and our communities to clear resentments when ever possible.  This is especially true in our families. Carrying resentments towards our partners and children can create a lot of unpleasant energy in the family system.

Next Level Empathy -Weekly Video #1

For this first weekly video I am sharing my new concept I am calling Next Level Empathy. In this short 2 minute video I breakdown what I think it takes to really understand how hards certain challenges are for people and sometimes even for ourselves.