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Strategies to Reduce Stress



Research shows six major strategies for mitigating stress: sleep, nutrition, exercise, mindfulness, mental health care, and healthy relationships.”

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Because we are wiser together…

FullSizeRender (1)Last week, 80 leaders in Chicago opened my heart and inspired me to dream a new dream about how organizing is possible in a city. The majority of these folks use conversation as a tool for invoking the wisdom of the people, and supporting the people in organizing themselves to see the change and action they know is necessary in their communities — creating safer and more just communities, creating opportunities for healing. This group of people included folks using the World Café, Peacemaking Circles, and Art of Hosting practices in school districts, classrooms, with law enforcement and youth, to increase child protective rights and trauma-informed behaviors, to bring about social and emotional learning and restorative justice.

Midway through the day, I offered a woven poem, streaming together quotes that had been said throughout the day into one collective expression. You will hear snippets from these leaders sharing stories of their work, Juanita Brown offering insight into the roots of The World Cafe, and meaningful conversations about what we are all learning and what we hear these times calling for.

Deep gratitude to Lina Cramer and Renee Jackson and all of your mates who have been building the capacity for this inspiring network of leaders over the last 10 years.

The workshop was: We Were Made for These Times: Becoming Wiser Together (invitation here).

Here’s an audio of the woven poem.

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Age Appropriate Skills for Children

Here’s a little article that I wrote for my school’s Alumi Newsletter.

Did you know that your five year old is capable of taking out the garbage or sweeping the floor, your seven year old can help change the sheets on the bed or put dishes in the dishwasher, your twelve year old can cook meals for the family or do his own laundry, and your teenager can purchase her own clothes with a budgeted clothing allowance or do heavier yard work.

Many children are denied the opportunity to contribute to their families and communities in such valuable ways. They aren’t given a chance to learn essential skills for caring for themselves and others. Well-intentioned adults do things for children that they are capable of doing for themselves. As a result, the children learn to under-function, displaying trained helplessness and learned incompetence.

In a parenting group we explored age appropriate skills that kids are capable of doing for themselves. Many parents felt the a-ha that their child was capable of taking on some new responsibilities at home. Addressing this change with their child also gave them an opportunity to apologize to their child and admit that they had made a mistake. Children love to hear when adults make mistakes. In addition, modeling making mistakes is a powerful way to help address a child’s perfectionistic tendencies.

Below is one parent’s account of how she surprised her son with an apology and gave him an opportunity to feel empowered and begin taking control of one aspect of his life.

“I had still been picking out clothes for my 8-year-old son every morning. I had tried over the last few years to get him to pick his own clothes (“just pick something – what’s the big deal – it’s just a shirt and pants – your little sister has been picking her own clothes since she was 3…”) but he always acted like it was an overwhelming task and he had no idea what to pick. It made the morning go more smoothly if I just pulled out the clothes for him. After a few parenting classes, I told him that I had learned how much kids can do at different ages. Then I told him that I owed him an apology. He straightened up, taken aback, looking very happily interested in this unusual conversation. I told him that I knew that he was capable of picking out his own clothes and had been for many years, but that I had not been giving him the chance to do this for himself, and that this wasn’t fair to him. He looked honored. The first day after this little talk, I came by and asked him if he had an idea of what he might pick to wear that day. He told me what he was thinking and I said that it sounded like a good choice. Since then, he’s just shown up at breakfast, dressed, without any fuss.”

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Educating for Wholeness

I recently updated Educating for Wholeness. There you’ll find perspectives from parents, teachers and students as well as learning activities that I facilitate with students and parents. Have a peek:

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What We’d Like to Learn

Another inspiring list generated in a recent parenting group:

What we wish someone had taught us:

  • Listen from the perspective of who you are communicating with.
  • How to calm yourself when agitated or stressed.
  • How to spell!
  • How to be empathic and careful and conscious of the consequences of words.
  • Be present – in the moment you’re in.
  • Encourage first, teach second.
  • How to sort through thoughts and emotions.
  • How to figure out what I really want.
  • That emotional intelligence is just as important as cognitive intelligence
  • How to think ahead.
  • How to trust your instincts/intuition.
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Sibling limits

Each day I take a moment to reflect on how my day was, enjoying and savouring every moment with my children and trying to learn to deal with the new challenges they throw my way. Today I found myself thinking of the time when my 5 year old daughter Zoe came running to me whining because my 6 year son Jared was poking at her. I reflected back to her that it aggrivated her when her brother did this and that she was to use her words to tell him to stop. She carried on whining so he carried on poking at her. Again I asked her to tell him to stop, but she refused. She wanted me to tell him and as much as I wanted to fix it for her I knew if I did she would never learn to build confidence in herself to tell him or anyone else to stop when she wished it.

As she stood at my feet her body facing mine, I lent against the wall confused as what to do next. I then said to my son “Jared, doesn’t the whining drive you crazy?” His reply was “Yes, but I want HER to tell me to stop.” There was a moment of silence and then Zoe turned to Jared and asked him to stop. He granted her her wish and walked away. I stood for a moment speechless, it totally blew my mind as I found this very exciting as a parent to be able to let my kids work it out for themselves and to give THEM control of thier own actions. How easily situations can be resolved if you give your children enough trust and faith to fix it for themselves. I continue to practise this now, as when there comes a time when I am not around I can feel comfortable that they will be able sort out thier differences.I contunually encourage Zoe as I know we all learned a special lesson that day!


Maria Darling!

You have been extolled to the heavens by our dear friend, Ashley, so I was compelled to indulge in your latest offering!

Tonight over dinner Ashley and I were talking about the importance of coming to an explicit recognition/understanding of those things that are yet only intuited, or lacking the manifest forms of words and concrete cognition.

Reading your account of the scenario with your children, and how you oriented yourself toward them and their conflict, cloaked my intuition/implicit understanding in the mantle of words, making concrete and SPECIFIC what was only held in my awareness as a vague principle.

After absorbing your words, my own explicit understanding of how to foster empowering conflict resolution increased exponentially, and I had the distinct impression that in the future (whether that be tomorrow or years from now) that I will be able to approach conflict–my own and others–in such a way that lends itself to the successful end you described in your post. (In other words, you have given me an invaluable gift, and as I have opportunity to employ and impart it in my own life, I will remember the night I read your words and how instrumental they were to my own growth and happiness.)



GravatarDear Brandy,

Yes our dear friend indeed! for Ashley is responsible for giving me this gift and I will forever be in her debt. Her very presence thrills me as I know she is the only person who really feels and understands how precious my children are to me.
and you sweet Brandy, after reading your comments I humbly bow, but am thrilled that you too were able to rejoice and feel.

with love,Maria

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