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Feelings are our FRIENDS!

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lone•li•ness
noun
1. sadness because one has no friends or company.
“feelings of depression and loneliness”

     I remember back when I was in school, I was a social butterfly. I was a good student, but I always “talked too much” with my friends. Summer break used to be a bittersweet time for me. I loved being out of school, but I hated how lonely I felt. Some of my friends did not live near me and so it was hard, with our parents working, for us to see each other frequently. I often had to go to the park by myself, or stay at home by myself. I felt so alone, and sad, during the summer months.

     Now that we are about to embark on the second week of summer vacation for most children, I want to encourage parents to push their children out of their comfort zones. Sign them up for camp or a sports program. Encourage them to make new friends at the park. Summertime can be a really hard time for children who have a lot of friends at school, but not many friends in the neighborhood where they live.

Sometimes I feel that we forget that our children can feel lonely in the summer. Our lives as parents continue as normal and we think our kids should feel ecstatic that school is out. They get to sleep in, watch tv, relax and they have no homework. What could be better? However, we need to be aware, and understand the signs of loneliness so that we can help our children. Feeling lonely can spiral into something bigger if we don’t address it. Here is an article that describes loneliness and how to relieve that feeling of being alone. The article talks about The Close Five. This is having five people that you are close with and they can be family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, etc. It is important to have an inner circle of people that you trust and can be there for you. We cannot forget that children have these inner circles at school, but when it comes to being home all summer, where does that inner circle go? When children feel like they don’t have anybody, it can be dangerous and so again, I encourage parents to pay attention to their children and push them to branch out; to create a summertime inner circle.

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Over the weekend, I saw a bunch of children playing outside and I realized I would be seeing a lot more of them now that they had finished school. Watching them play in the street, I realized that they weren’t being very safe and I had to resist the urge to go outside and scold them, as a mother would, about their behavior.

It did get me thinking about the safety of children this summer. Many children will be outside, at the pools, at camp, at the park. Unfortunately, many parents still have to work and so they will leave an older sibling in charge, or a babysitter. But it really made me think about how SAFE children can be on their own. Do they really understand “stranger danger”? Do they know how to call 911? Do they know how to be safe at the pool? At the park? Do they know who to turn to for help?

I came across this article about students learning how to be safe in and out of their home and I thought of how beneficial a program similar to this would be in all schools. I remember the programs that were in place when I was in school and I never really felt that I learned anything. It was lecture-style with brochures. I think the idea of having a simulated community and having students role-play scenarios is much more engaging. It will require students to think, participate and actually retain the information they are being given.

In The Feeling Friends, we have Watcher the Caution Dog who sends a similar message to students, teaching them how to be SAFE and CAUTIOUS when doing things like crossing the street or playing around. It is extremely important that children understand what it means to feel SAFE and what it means to feel UNSAFE. What are the warning signs when we feel unsafe? We might be scared, anxious, nervous, or even feel sick. What are the signs that we feel safe? We are happy, we’re having fun, we know where we can go to get help if we need it. Helping children understand these feelings young will carry over into their older years. Parents won’t need to worry as much when leaving their high school-er in charge of siblings or letting the kids go play down the street because they will know that their children understand how to feel AND be SAFE. 

Have a great summer and please BE SAFE!

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con·fi·dence

noun

  1. the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something; firm trust.

“we had every confidence in the staff”

  1. the state of feeling certain about the truth of something.

“it is not possible to say with confidence how much of the increase in sea levels is due to melting glaciers”

  1. a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.

“she’s brimming with confidence”

 

Let’s focus on definition number three. I feel a mix of emotions when I read this definition. I feel angry because having been in a few schools, I have witnessed first-hand the lack of confidence many students have in themselves at such a young age and that is not okay. I also feel joy looking at this definition because the sample sentence is something POSITIVE.

“She’s brimming with confidence.” YES.

If you recall, I wrote a blog about happiness and it bothered me that the sample sentence was negative; “She struggled to find happiness in her life.” So to see that the sample sentence for confidence is something positive makes me HAPPY.

For many parents and children, they have approached the last week of school. Many End of Grade tests are finished or finishing and students are preparing to embark on summer break. For students that didn’t do well on these tests, summer break could mean summer school. I truly believe that a big part of how well a child does on these tests, or any tests, is confidence.

“I can’t do it.”

“It’s too hard.”

“I’m dumb.”

“I’m stupid.”

“I’m not smart enough to do this.”

I have heard many children say these exact words or variations of it and it breaks my heart. No child, any age, should feel this way. It’s the sound of defeat. It’s the sound of a child who has been worn down and beaten. And that’s not okay.

Parents, teachers, coaches, and anyone else who has interactions with children have an obligation to raise and build a child’s confidence. We have to help children understand that anything is possible through hard work and perseverance. We have to constantly tell and remind children that they CAN do it and they WILL do it, if they work hard and set their mind to it.

With all the testing that children have to do each and every year, we have to make sure they have self-confidence. Because if a child thinks they CAN’T do it then they won’t even TRY. I have seen this too many times in the classrooms I’ve been in. It is sad. A child who doesn’t even try because they have been beaten down and made to believe that they can’t do anyway. NO. That is not okay. Students need to believe in themselves so that when they approach a difficult situation, they will at least TRY to problem solve, and who knows, they might get it right!

 

Dr. Maya Angelou was many things. A poet, memoirist, novelist, educator, dramatist, producer, actress, historian, filmmaker, and civil rights activist. Most importantly, to me, she was inspiring.

I was a senior in 1981, when Dr. Maya Angelou spoke at Memorial Hall at UNC-Chapel Hill. What I remember her saying was “I believe in love. I believe that love is the only answer for our species.” What I did not know at the time, was that she was sowing the seeds of emotion in my spirit that would begin my life journey and purpose.

The Feeling Friends were born when my daughter was diagnosed with depression at the age of 6. There were no tools on the market to help her, so out of LOVE I co-created and developed The Feeling Friends to help my daughter. The Feeling Friends teach children and families a feelings vocabulary. They teach that LOVE is the most important feeling and that LOVE is #1! Children are embracing and absorbing this message. It is the same LOVE message that Dr. Maya Angelou bestowed on me 32 years ago, on a cold November night in Chapel Hill.

The one thing that has survived all of my life adventures the past 32 years, both pleasant and unpleasant, was the book And Still I Rise that Dr. Maya Angelou signed “Joy” and the message of LOVE that she gave me that fall night. As the world mourns the passing of this remarkable and phenomenal woman, I mourn with them. I too shed tears. But my tears are of JOY…the same JOY that you wished me 32 years ago. Dr. Angelou, you came and did what you were supposed to do. Your living was not in vain. Well done thy good and faithful servant.

Dr. Maya Angelou was many things, but personally, she was inspiration, a guiding light, that helped me realize my life’s purpose, save my daughter, and create something that is helping children and families daily.

Dr. Maya Angelou, I will always remember what you said. I will always remember what you did. I live everyday with how YOU made me FEEL.

Joy,
Karen Cuthrell
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happiness
noun
the state of being happy
“she struggled to find happiness in her life”
 
When I look up the definition of happiness on Google, it bothers me that the example sentence is “she struggled to find happiness in her life”. Too many people walk around UNHAPPY. 
 
WHY?
 
I firmly believe that happiness is a choice. The Huffington Post wrote an article back in December about how there is scientific proof that happiness is a choice and listed 8 ways to take control of your own happiness. I will list them below, but to read the article in full, please click here. It is well worth the read!
 
1. Simply try.
2. Make happiness your number one goal.
3. Linger on those little, positive moments.
4. Choose mindfulness.
5. Smile your way to happiness.
6. Practice gratitude.
7. Pursue happiness, find happiness–and success.
8. Let yourself be happy. 
 
All of these things are so important. I attended a “mindfulness” class you can read about here. All of the 8 things above are inter-connected and some are things we need to learn at a young age. It is much harder for an adult to be grateful if they were not taught to be grateful at young age. It his hard to focus on small, positive moments and practice mindfulness if we are taught to focus on only the big things and always worry about the future.
 
This is where I’m going to plug The Feeling Friends. All of the current Feeling Friends and the ones that are being created help children, at a young age, identify and label their emotions. Anger, happiness, joy, confidence, loneliness, disappointment, worthiness, hope. These are just some of the many feelings that my program aims to help children identify. If children can’t identify how they are feeling and express their emotions, how can they be happy? How can you be happy if you don’t know you’re lonely? How can you be happy if you don’t know that you’re disappointed? How can you be happy if you don’t know that you feel confident? How can you be happy if you don’t know that you feel proud? Once children can identify and express their emotions, they can be taught to maintain happiness or change things so that they are happy.
 
In my book, my example sentence for feeling HAPPY is “I feel happy when I am having a good time dancing, singing or running outside.” The example for a GOOD FEELING should not be something negative. We should not have to say that “she struggled to find happiness in her life”. Instead we should all practice the 8 ways to be happy and be able to shout:
 
“I AM HAPPY!”
 
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“At least 1 in 5 children and adolescents has had, or is experiencing, a mental health challenge according to national studies.”

This statistic is frightening. It should shock the public. That means that in the average class in North Carolina, there are at least 4 children who have had or are currently experiencing a mental health challenge. What is even scarier is that there are no preventative programs in place.

Mental health is something that needs to be talked about a lot more than it is. I am going to take advantage of the fact that it is Mental Health Month and talk your ear off about it. Bringing awareness to mental health issues is something that I hold near and dear to my heart since my daughter was diagnosed with depression at the age of six. When I read articles like the one linked here, about programs put into place to help children and their families with mental health issues, it makes me HAPPY. Delaware is doing something right. They recognized a need in their community and they addressed it.

“Through the Delaware’s B.E.S.T. for Young Children and Their Families initiative, therapists are receiving training in evidence-based treatments; early childhood providers are learning new skills to address challenging behaviors; and most importantly, children and their caregivers are experiencing healthier family interactions.”

My goal is to have The Feeling Friends be a part of initiatives like this. My goal is for schools and communities to use The Feeling Friends to help children identify and manage their feelings and to give children and their caregivers, parents, doctors, and teachers a vocabulary for healthier, more effective conversations and dialogue.

“Makes no difference who you are. Anything your heart desires will come to you.”

 


	

IMG_5194“Anger is the most destructive of all emotions because it lies hidden, unrecognized, in many other symptoms of maladjustment. In guilt we are angry with ourselves. In hate we are angry at the object of our hatred. In self-pity we are angry at the situations or people that frustrate us. Expressed or suppressed, it accounts for most of our misery.”
– Meeka O’Brien

 

For many years of my previous life, I was ANGRY for various reasons.  I made many life decisions that I wish that I had not made while in my ANGER.  Gratefully, I do not spend my time in the past; I spend my time practicing mindfulness. If you remember from my last post, I went to a mindfulness class at my local Mental Health Association. It is all about living in the present. That is what I want to teach children and adults, if they choose to come along for the ride and learn how to manage their anger.

Last month I was teaching a group of 5th grade boys how to manage test anxiety.  As I was reviewing the feelings, one young man burst out crying.  Quickly I took him out of the classroom to see what the problem was. He knew he could share his feelings with someone he trusted, me, the young man told me that he was hurting because he had hurt his best friend.  I asked him why he had hurt his best friend.  The young man replied that his father had called him the night before and had made him so ANGRY that he came to school and hit his best friend.  For the record, this young man lives in a foster home and it was his biological father that had called and upset him.  This outburst of behavior for this young man was out of the ordinary.  He is an outstanding student and citizen of the school.  However, this is a perfect example of how ANGER can control you, take over your life and make you do things that you normally would not do.

As I stood in the hallway giving this young man a hug, and yes, boys do need hugs, I asked him what he wanted to do.  He told me that he wanted to tell his friend that he was sorry and tell him why he had hit him.  I allowed him to ask his friend for forgiveness and when he did, both boys began to cry. After the good cry, the boys hugged each other and went about their business of being friends.

There are so many lessons in this story for not only children, but adults as well.  In short, when we learn how to identify what we are feeling and why we are feeling that way, only then are we able to manage the feelings and move-on.  I encourage you to identify your ANGER.  I encourage you to express your ANGER.  I encourage you to control your ANGER so it doesn’t control you. I encourage you manage your ANGER so you can MOVE-ON.

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Last week I celebrated Mental Health Month by attending a class called “Mindfulness” at my local Mental Health Association. Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience. This class was free and wonderful because it gave me the opportunity to continue to explore a subject area that I sometimes forget to practice. 

There were 16 of us there who were in the process of working on our mental health.  I brought cupcakes to celebrate and it was amazing how a fifty cent cupcake with white icing and a red heart on top brought down the walls of mental illness and allowed folks to open up and freely talk about their feelings. It was a beautiful reminder of how things we do that seem so small can actually make a BIG difference in someone’s day!

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Mental Health Month continues and I came across an article that discusses the importance of early intervention and prevention when it comes to mental health. This is confirmation for what I do.  In schools, I am on the battlefield of early intervention with children by teaching them how to identify, express and manage their feelings appropriately.  By giving them simple feeling statements, a child can tell you how they feel and why. This is a step in early intervention and possible prevention of mental health issues. To see that prominent individuals, like Hilary Clinton, are bringing awareness to mental health issues and are trying to get people to talk about it is encouraging.

While I did not realize it at the time, my “Mindfulness” class last week was an ounce of prevention for me because it allowed me to talk about my feelings.  It also reminded me to use the tools of mindfulness to keep me in the present; not in the past which I cannot change nor in the future, in the potentially stressful weeks to come.  Like children, early intervention saved me!

Please continue to joyously celebrate Mental Health Month with me.  This week, I’m assisting my brother from another mother adjust to a new city.  For my mental health I am soaking up the L-O-V-E that we have for each other.  We are talking about and openly expressing our feelings about this life, being MINDFUL to focus on the present, not the past or the future.  We are giving and receiving unconditional L-O-V-E from each other.  L-O-V-E is the foundation of my mental health.  I give it.  I expect it.  I deserve it. L-O-V-E works for me.  Happy Mental Health Month!

To read the article in the Washington Post, “Hillary Clinton talks about mental-health at convention putting focus on early intervention”, please click here!

I am WORTHY!“I understand the importance of having harmony between my thoughts, my feelings and my behavior.” – Dr. Wayne A. Dyer

Dr. Dyer also states that “this harmony translates into peace and contentment”. I believe that when we understand our feelings and can communicate our feelings, especially our feeling of worth, we can be truly happy. Read more about what Dr. Dyer has to say about feeling worthy here.

Like Dr. Dyer, I believe I am WORTHY. I believe that you are WORTHY. Now it’s time for you to believe it too.