Growth mindset for parents with Rebecca Weiner

The following blog post has been pulled from a video interview with Rebecca Weiner of Learn, Play, Grow Consulting.

Zoie: Rebecca is here today to talk with us a little bit about our mindset, as parents, as we head back into the school year. I know a lot of us had a hit to mental health and mindset, as we've gone through virtual learning, hybrid learning, trying to figure out childcare during all these really crazy times. And so I think this is gonna be a great conversation to hopefully help us get some actionable tips for back-to-school mindset as parents. Let me tell you a little bit about Rebecca, and then we're gonna get started. Rebecca is a dynamic educator and creator of learn, play grow. She helps young children with diverse abilities, and their parents, teachers and school, connect, communicate and learn with confidence. Rebecca specializes in play-based learning, parent coaching, early communication and development support, and consulting and inclusion support in schools.

Alright, Rebecca, let's get down to it. We're headed back to school, and it's complex, challenging, and scary. What should we be focusing on from a parenting perspective as we head into the new school year?

Focus on a mindset of grace and new beginnings

Rebecca: So your mindset as we go into this big transition will be their anchor and their compass. So let's talk about what you need. First and foremost, let's acknowledge the elephant in the room, there is so much uncertainty. We don't know what this year will hold. But we can learn to hold space for all the feels. And to remind our children that whatever comes we're going to figure it out together.

So let's talk about giving grace and allowing new beginnings, as we're heading back to school. And we have to remember that the past does not determine the future. Perhaps your child struggled last year or you got off on the wrong foot with a teacher last year. That doesn't mean that it's going to happen this year. When we give grace we allow new beginnings, everybody gets a fresh start. So here's what we know for sure. This is going to be messy. Most beginnings are imperfect and messy. But that's how you begin again. So my number one tip is get into a mindset of grace and new beginnings. Be ready for the mess and the imperfection and know that the best thing that you can do is hold space for the feelings and promise your children that you're going to get through it together. Whatever happens.

Zoie: I love that. And what a big lesson for kids as well. To hold space for the fact that it is not going to be perfect. And perfection is setting yourself up for disappointment.

Rebecca: Yes. Yes, that's a hard-won wisdom as adults, so we can set our children up for success. The only thing we know for sure is that we don't know. But we'll have the courage to ask the questions together.

Dealing with BIG feelings as parents

Zoie: Some of us are experiencing a lot of really big feelings like anxiety, fear, and anger when it comes to certain parts of our kids' education...maybe it's not going the way that we feel it should go. What do we need to do with all of those emotions?

Rebecca: Well, first, we need to remind ourselves that everything we feel is okay. It might not feel okay, but judging our feelings doesn't help us get through them. We have to feel them to heal them. So I'm a big proponent of holding space and holding space means You're allowed to feel whatever you feel - nothing is right, nothing is wrong. But you become your own safe space and you become the Safe Harbor for your children, whatever they're feeling, it can be shared.

Now, I know some parents who are positively elated to send their children back to in-person school, because they feel the need to surgically remove their children from their bodies, and have some specs. And that is fantastic if that's you. I also know some parents that are devastated to be away from their children for the first time in so long, and other parents who are stressed to the max trying to get school supplies and anticipating the dreaded science fair. And whether you're elated or stressed or dreading or uncertain. It's all okay. But here's the mindset for parents. When you get support for those feelings, make sure you're getting it from another grown-up. Because when our children hear us say, "I can't wait for my kids to go back to school, I need to get away from them." They might hear "my parents don't want me here". And when we say, "Oh, I'm so stressed about all the things I have to do for my kids", our kids might hear "I'm a burden". Now there are things that are totally appropriate to talk to your kids about, let's talk about COVID protocols, and who's going to be in our carpool and what we want in our lunches. Those are all great conversations to directly engage your children. But I encourage you, when you're holding space for emotion and seeking support, make sure you get that from another adult so that children don't have to hold your feelings and their feelings at the same time.

Zoie: It's hard in that moment, to not express that feeling. And is there an appropriate way for us to show our kids some of those hard feelings without making them take them on themselves? If you are stressed about the back-to-school shopping, and getting all those things done for your child? Is there an appropriate way for us to express that to our kids to let them know that it's okay to be overwhelmed?

Rebecca: It is okay to be overwhelmed. And we're going to talk about normalizing challenge and learning from mistakes. Because it's perfectly healthy to say "getting school supplies is a good challenge". That's a phrase that my little learners and I use, it sounds a lot better than "really hard". "Well, I'm thinking a lot about getting school supplies and need to get organized. So I know how best to help you." It's okay to own your feelings. And it's okay to own your uncertainty. But when we express it in a way where children might internalize that they're a burden, that becomes problematic. So "I'm stressed about getting school supplies, and not about you". Or "I'm overwhelmed with all the things that we need to do. I've made a to do list let's divide and conquer." So we're encouraging our kids to participate in this. So we're walking the journey together.

Parenting kids through big feelings

Rebecca: There's one more tool I want to share. Our kiddos also have big feelings. And when our kiddos have big feelings, we can co-regulate literally, we're going to model for them how to self-regulate. So when they lose their stuff, we tend to lose our stuff, which doesn't work very well. Because if they can't handle their stuff, what makes us think that they can handle our stuff. Losing our stuff with our children is not a good storage solution for our stuff. So they get upset, we can co-regulate by taking deep breaths, by staying calm by holding space for those feelings and knowing that we're going to have an adult outlet later. And when our kids are up here and they're screaming, and they're yelling, and they're freaking out and they're panicking, we're down here, and we're staying calm. There's no reason to feed the squirrels, we're just going to be there safe, calm, and constant. And when they come down, that's when the teachable moment happens. That's when we have a rational conversation. But Dan Siegel, who's a great thinker in the world of child development talks about the brain in the palm of your hand. And when kids flip their lid, their prefrontal cortex is offline, and they're just in their primal limbic system. This happens for adults, too. That's not the time to try to have a conversation. Let's wait until everybody's calm, and that's the teachable moment. Same thing for grownups. Sometimes we need to take a grown-up timeout. If we think we're going to flip our lid with all our big feelings. It's okay to step's better than say something that we would regret.

Advocating for your child at school

Zoie: Okay, so you work with parents and schools, and all the stakeholders in those situations, what advice do you have for parents who are trying to collaborate with the school to make sure that their child who maybe has some unique needs, gets everything they need?