Hiding Negative Emotions to Protect Children

This morning I broke down. I was feeling really lousy about something and I just couldn’t keep my emotions at bay. When my husband asked what I was thinking about as I stared off into space, I promptly began sobbing and the floodgates were open.

Then my son came back to the table, book in hand, asking me to read to him while he ate his breakfast. Avoiding eye contact with him, I quickly wiped my tears away and began reading with as controlled a voice as I could muster. Z was none the wiser.

I felt good, because I was able to keep our morning going smoothly and he didn’t have to deal with a sobbing mama and the potential awkwardness that might bring along with it.

Then I checked my Twitter feed and saw an article by Six Seconds, basically saying that we need to talk about feelings with our kids in order to develop their sense of empathy. While the focus of the article is mainly on simple activities you can do to help children be aware of their own emotions, the point was driven home: I have to be more open about how I’m feeling if I want Z to be able to recognize and empathize with others’ emotions.

As I did more research, I found some other great reasons to stop shielding my son from my negative feelings.

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7 (Cheap) Ways to Stay Sane During Unemployment

“What are we going to do today, Catherine?”

“Same thing we do every day, Catherine. Try to take over the workforce.”

I like to be busy, and I hate monotony. When I got laid off in December, it was easy to stay busy because Christmas and Z’s birthday were just around the corner—so many little projects and tasks awaited me, I was actually kind of glad for the forced “time off.” 

As the craziness of December becomes a distant memory, I find myself with fewer and fewer things to occupy my time. And, worse, I have no idea when I’ll earn a stable paycheck again, so spending money makes me feel sick to my stomach. I can’t just go out and spend the day in San Francisco, browse at the outlets, get a hobby (most of which are actually more expensive than you’d think), or whatever else I might do with my free time.

So what do I do? How do I keep myself from falling into a Netflix black hole?
Continue reading “7 (Cheap) Ways to Stay Sane During Unemployment”

Fostering vs. Forcing: Sharing

What is our responsibility as parents when we see another child asking our child for the toy he’s playing with? Do we attempt to force sharing? Do we let them work it out on their own? What will be best in the long run? Is there a right way to go on this?

I’ve seen plenty of defiantly-worded blog posts about why parents don’t make their kids share. While I can understand where they are coming from in a way, I am not fully convinced that we should not at least encourage our children to share. It seems like a fundamental life skill. I’m honestly still sort of on the fence about how hard we should push for sharing, so I think it’s worth exploring.

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Opening Up About Anxiety

Ever since I was in fifth grade, I’ve suffered from moderate anxiety and depression. (Interestingly, the National Institute of Mental Health notes that the average age at which people begin to suffer from anxiety is eleven years old.) In my case, the depression usually follows an episode of high anxiety.

In this post, I’m going to delve into my own struggles and explain why I (and others) think it’s worthwhile to talk about them. I’ve noticed that there’s been a movement lately to get people talking about mental illnesses, to bring individual experiences out into the light in an effort to remove the stigma. I think that sharing our internal struggles with others is a kindness to ourselves, but is also a kindness to those who may feel alone.

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Fostering vs. Forcing: Elementary Apologies

I’m currently exploring the issue of that thin line between fostering kind behavior and forcing it on our children. As I explained in my previous post about preschool apologies, I get frustrated by the inauthenticity that accompanies forced apologies. This is something that I experience in my daily life as the mom of a preschooler, but it’s also something I struggled with as second- and sixth-grade teacher.

In this post, I’ll be sharing my experiences with the issue in an elementary school setting, and then outlining some strategies for moving away from forcing insincere apologies and toward fostering heartfelt resolutions. If you’re more into the funny/exasperating tales of my little three-year-old tornado, not to worry—there’s plenty more where that came from, just not this week!
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Fostering vs. Forcing: Preschool Apologies


“Cole told me that my shirt is an ugly color!!”

“Cole, please tell Malia that you’re sorry.”

“But it IS ugly!”

“That’s not nice, and it hurts Malia’s feelings. Please apologize.”

“Sooooooorrrrry, Malia.”


Sound familiar? Yeah. This happens so, so often. It happens at home and it happens in the classroom.

In my experience, preschool-aged children tend to say they’re sorry with one foot out the door, tingling with the excitement to get back to whatever they were doing. They apologize as quickly as possible, with a look like, “Okay? Are you happy? Can I go PLAY?”

In elementary school, a lovely eye-roll or some other show of “sorry-not-sorry” might accompany the forced apology, and then the students return to the activity they were previously engaged in. There is no genuine resolution to the issue, no exploration of how the other child felt, and no follow-up.

In both cases, we usually just make the kids say they’re sorry and go about our business.

Because we’re busy.

Because being told your shirt is an ugly color is really not the end of the world.

Because neither the kids nor you wants a lengthy discussion, anyway.

Because we think it helps the accuser feel heard.

Because we are teaching them to be kind to each other.

Because that’s what we’re supposed to do.

But IS that what we’re supposed to do? Is this REALLY teaching kids how to be kind to each other?

Continue reading “Fostering vs. Forcing: Preschool Apologies”

“In His Cortex”: Tantrums and Self-Awareness

“In His Cortex”? What?

When I was an elementary school teacher, I once attended a staff development meeting about… well, I’m not sure what it was about, to be honest. But the speaker was an incredibly animated man with some quirky presentation habits. It’s probably due to these odd behaviors that I never forgot his presentation. Maybe he did it on purpose!

Anyway, this man talked about what our more challenging students were going through when they were having meltdowns. He described the very front part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, as the place that was shutting down when the students were so emotionally charged. Because the prefrontal cortex deals with self-control, the shutting down of that portion of the brain leads to a shutting down of self-control. His point was, basically, that we needed to be patient with these students and not attempt to reason with them in that moment. Continue reading ““In His Cortex”: Tantrums and Self-Awareness”

How I Picked Myself Up After Job Loss (And Whether It Lasted)

We’ve all experienced setbacks. This is just a fact of life. It doesn’t matter how smoothly things appear to be going—something, at some point, will trip us up. How do we dust ourselves off when this happens? And, once we do, how easy is it to stay standing?

My exploration of self-kindness today is through the lens of my (not-so-recent-anymore) layoff. I had found my dream job for a really wonderful organization with a mission that I truly believed in. I was writing language arts curriculum with a social-emotional focus, and I was just beginning to feel like I was becoming competent.

Then the whole thing began to fall apart. The organization was financially unstable and they did a few rounds of layoffs. I was part of the second round. Continue reading “How I Picked Myself Up After Job Loss (And Whether It Lasted)”