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

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.

 

Before we can solve anything we need a place to start…

This video is not a solution to your child’s challenges it is however the place to start.

Whenever I work with a new family I always like to start with exactly what is going on as it is. I do not want to fix or change anything right away. I want to honor everyone involved and be present enough to find the path forward. I also know that some challenges do not just go away.  Once again, this video is not a solution to your child’s challenges it is however the place to start.

Introducting Personal Growth Groups For Youth Ages 8-16

In addition to the one-on-one work I have been doing with 8-16 year olds, I am teaming up with my dear friend and colleague Will Hubert to start group work. Will is a Marin native with extensive outdoor education and youth mentoring experience. The goal of these summer groups will be to support your children as they transition into being young adults.

Coach Schiller

Each group session will cover a specific theme and can be signed up for individually, weekend pairs or for all them. Here are the group themes and dates. The groups will run from 4-7.

  • Resiliency & Grit: The Value of Perseverance July 25th

  • Self Awareness & Self Care: For A Vital Life July 26th

  • Relationship Building: Bridging Adolescence, Friendship and Family August 8th

  • Positive Communication Tools: Creative Means for Self Expression August 9th

The cost is $100 per session ($75 if you sign up for all 4) and free to any parent who organizes a group of 5 or more. In addition if the dates above do not work for you and you think you have enough people to join please let us know what dates might work. We picked weekends in an effort to not interfere with camps.

We have designed a unique experience that will lead children through many important life lessons and provide skill development not generally taught in schools.  A majority of the sessions will take place on Mount Tam while others will happen around town.

I realize we are late in the summer planning season but I know some people still feel like they are missing a meaningful experience for their children to help them transition into middle school or the next grade.We recognize that everyone has busy schedules and many will not be able to participate. However we will be rolling out additional programs in the new school year so stay tuned.

If you would like to grab coffee/tea to learn more do not hesitate to reach out.

Happy Summer
Aaron