The Hidden Life Skills in Simon Says
There are so many skills young kids need to learn, but what can parents and caregivers do to teach them? First, Gloria learns about the seven essential life skills every child needs with the researcher who developed them: Ellen Galinsky, Chief Science Officer at the Bezos Family Foundation. Ellen tells Gloria that even though games like Simon Says may not have been conceived as a way to teach young kids executive functioning skills, they’re actually an incredible way to do just that. Then, Gloria is joined by Slumberkins co-founders Kelly Oriard and Callie Christensen, who have created ways to teach young children about important life skills like conflict resolution and emotional courage through affirmations and storytelling.
Follow Ellen Galinsky on Twitter @ellengalinsky and learn more about Mind in the Making at https://www.mindinthemaking.org/.
Check out Slumberkins at www.slumberkins.com.
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Callie Christensen, Gloria Riviera, Kelly Oriard, Ellen Galinsky
Gloria Riviera 00:00
Hi. So it’s Monday night, it’s almost seven. And I feel like a lot of us ah, you know what tea is coming at me. I mean, it’ll all be fine. But I found out today my 80 year old mother has COVID and she’s not in great shape and she’s across the country and she sounds sick. God bless her, drove herself to the ER, got herself some Paxlovid, but I just have to figure that out. My son was excited about a birthday party. He really likes this kid, was psyched to be included and I just dropped the ball. I had RSVP. Yes. And I just forgot. Straight up mistake. He was crestfallen. He is crestfallen. Oh my god. I mean, I know that’s not the worst, that’s not the worst thing in the world, but you’re only as happy as your status kid. So, anyway, my son who loves math, his two teachers announced today they are leaving. Again, I mean, these are not, I know they’re not huge problems. It just sometimes feels that way.
Hi, guys. Do you guys feel like you have just way, way too much on your plate right now? Yeah, me too. This is No One Is Coming To Save Us. I’m your host Gloria Riviera. Today we have a two part show. And we have three truly fantastic guests. They are all focused on hugely important skills. Really every single child should have. We’re going to start off with you can think of this as you’re sort of no one is coming to save us masterclass, right? On the research and database side of these skills. There is an incredible woman who will speak with us, she has spent decades devoted to studying childcare and children’s development. Her name is Ellen Galinsky. Get ready for some very complex subjects boiled down to seven just seven ideas. Every parent and caregiver should be aware of impart to the children they parent or care for, and really look out for in the classroom. These are big ideas, people, very big ideas, deconstructed simplified and then delivered to the child in a way that makes sense to both the parent and caregiver and the child. At least that’s how I came to understand them, a series of light bulbs going off in my head with the bubble above my head saying okay, yeah, okay, I get that. That makes so much sense, right. Ellen is co-founder and president of Families and Work Institute, and also serves as Chief Science Officer and Executive Director of Mind in the Making at the Bezos Family Foundation. This lady has written an absolute ton, more than 100 books and reports and over 300 articles, what? Another one of these when does she sleep kind of women. But what we talk about is mind in the making the seven essential life skills every child needs, Ellen is going to break down each skill for us. Focus on self-control, that’s number one. Perspective taking, that’s number two. Number three, communicating. Making Connections is number four, critical thinking, number five, and we’re talking about little kids all these big ideas. Number six is taking on challenges. And finally, number seven, self-directed, engaged learning. Then after we hear all about these seven essential skills, we are going to dive into the more practical side of them. I’m going to build with luck on what we learned by talking with the founders of a company focused on children’s social emotional learning. As it turns out, that is a big space. This company Slumberkins has found a way to use cute little plushies. And I can vouch they really are very adorable. To help kids learn about things like self-acceptance, grief and loss, emotional well-being and so much more. But first, Ellen Galinsky with the seven essential life skills every child needs. Ellen, it’s so good to see you. Thank you so much for joining us. I do want to get to mind in the making, because I’m really interested. First, I want to hear all about your take on the seven issues that you mentioned. And I really want to hear how you think Child Care Educators can implement what you talk about, can we go through them and just hear a little bit about each of them. I know you’ve done this many times, but it will be so helpful for us. So focus and self-control. And in the brief notes, you mentioned, children remembering the rules, but also thinking with flexibility. And I would love for you to explain how those two ideas go together.
I don’t think we’re intentional about teaching these skills. But in circle time, if you’re playing something like Simon says, Now think about Simon says, You have to remember the rules. And they changed. So you have to remember the old rules and the new rules, right? You can only react, you can only do it if Simon says, You have to think flexibly because the rules change. And you can’t go on automatic, you are paying attention. You are having to pay attention. And in fact, Simon Says, has been adapted by a researcher named Megan McClellan at Oregon State University, to head to toe knee to shoulder as a measure of assessing executive function. So it differs. But in that situation, the adult will say, touch your head. And then she says, I’m gonna get a little tricky now, if I say touch your head in show you’re touching your head, you’re going to touch your toes. And that skill has predicted reading, literacy skills, and numeracy skills.
Gloria Riviera 06:22
Wow, that’s executive functioning, taught at age two, at age three, at time, very, very young ages.
Yeah. And we can embed these into everything we do. Now, our culture has passed on these games like mother may I, and Simon Says, and red light, green light, all of those, all of those games actually teach executive function skills. So if you walked into a classroom of a three year old, let’s say, and two kids were having an argument, and the teacher might stop the argument, and say, you tell me what happened. And you tell me what happened. And the stories would be different, because they would be different. And the teacher would be in helping the one child listen to the other child stories, she or he would be teaching, perspective taking, and understanding what you think and feel, and what someone else thinks and feels, and how those are different. That is essential for understanding the social world, and navigating the social world dealing with conflicts. It’s understanding what teachers next expect, So simple things. Now teachers, we are working with teachers all over the country with Mind in the Making, at the Bezos Family Foundation, to try to help teachers both understand what the skills are, and then use them in their practice. And in the state of Mississippi, for example, they’ve made videotapes, they’ve made videos to share with parents out in rural areas of what these skills are. And then they have conversations with parents about how they can promote them all of the time.
Right. And these are the seven skills in mind and the making, so perspective taking is number two. Now I understand that in context, okay, communicating, that’s the next one.
Ellen Galinsky 08:05
So we’re still in that blog corner. And that the teacher might say to the child, a good teacher would say, what ideas do you have for solving this problem? And then to the other child, what ideas do you have for solving this problem? And then she would might continue, because usually teachers she or he might continue to say, well, what would everyone else in the class think about this. So again, perspective taking skill, and the kids are learning to express themselves what they need and want, but they’re starting to do so thinking about how what they say would be heard. So that’s the skill of communicating. Now, we’re still in, we’re still in that fight between those two kids, because you mentioned conflict. The next issue would be making connections. The next skill, and that is seeing how things go together and don’t go together. That is the basis of symbolic representation. So if you take my glasses, you see them their, their thing, their glasses, but if you saw them as a picture, you would also know they were glasses, that’s the stand for relationship. And that is also if you saw the word glasses, you would know that was for glasses. So the teacher might write down, take those words of the children and write down those ideas. And they she would be teaching the skill of making connections, she would see how their words turn into those little squiggles on the page, because they’re three years old, and they most of them don’t know how to read and write yet. But she would be helping them learn that skill of seeing how things go together. And in coming up with solutions, they would be coming up with different solutions and maybe even unusual solutions. And that’s creativity.
Gloria Riviera 10:00
It tells me more about that what is so unusual connections? Because I’m with you on everything you said about the glasses. But what is an unusual connection? And how is it at the core of creativity?
The teacher was not telling the children, you can’t take a toy from someone else. Let’s say that was the conflict. Let’s say the teacher just fixes it for the child. That’s not promoting executive function skills. The teacher instead is giving the children the skills to be able to work it out themselves, which is the skill for life. It’s not just the skill, the teacher fixes that the kids don’t learn really how to solve problems on their own.
It makes me think of what I think you’ve said before, which is this idea of fixing the problem, give that toy back to me, you need to share, I’m giving it to Tommy, like that doesn’t give the child a real lesson there. That’s just Black and White.
I’ve asked teachers in in sessions that I’ve done with them write down the biggest conflict you’ve had with a child in your life recently. And now write down your solution. And then we teach them about how to promote executive function skills. And I’ll give you the steps if you want. And then we say, did you fix it? Or did you not? And most teachers, most of us, as parents and teachers fix it? What we’re trying to change is the culture in which we teach children developmentally, as they’re able to, I’m not saying teach a two year old to do something that only a five year old can do. But to be able to begin to solve problems themselves, and that you’re teaching them. So we think of teaching as with little kids, let’s say, numbers, letters, colors, we need to expand that definition, to think of how do we promote these essential life skills? Because then we’re giving children skills that they can transfer and use when they’re 18. And some other kids says, when would you like to go to this party? And I don’t have a driver’s license? Would you like to get in the car with me? Or whatever? Right? You know, we’re giving them skills to deal with the hard things, and the choices that you have to make in life, which I think is why these skills, in fact, are so predictive of health and wealth. And, you know, beyond your IQ, or your these are more these skills, study after study finds are more important than our IQ, right? This is using the knowledge that you have; it’s not just having knowledge.
Gloria Riviera 12:32
Do they go from one to the other? Because, yes, hearing you talk about the decision that one will make in late teenage years about do I get in the car with the person who had doesn’t have a license? That to me seemed like critical thinking, how do I? Okay, that makes sense to me.
And critical thinking is controversial these days. But what critical thinking is, is figuring out for yourself what is valid and what is real. There’s so much information in the world, we act on the basis of what we know, how are we acting on the best information, and it’s an everyday life. I mean, my favorite example of it is, is when my grandson had 104 fever, and it was, of course, the Fourth of July weekend, and no doctors were answering their phones. And she gave him, let’s say Tylenol, and he threw it up. So does she now give him you know, the baby Advil? Or does she give him Tylenol again? Or is she overdosing him? Did he absorb any of it? You know, these are the kinds of so you Google it and you get 10 answers, right? You don’t know what to do. And so how do we figure out what’s real? What information we need to make decisions on? And then the sixth skill is taking on challenges. And everybody talks about resilience. Yeah, but I think that this goes beyond resilience. Taking on challenges includes coping, but it means that you then try the next hard things. It means that in my mother’s world where there were horses, it means getting on the horse if you’ve fallen off, right, my kids world, where there are bikes, it means not just dealing with falling off a bike, but it means getting on and trying the bike again.
Gloria Riviera 14:12
And what does that mean in terms of lack of fear? You’re not afraid? Is it teaching children not to be afraid of failure, that it’s okay to fail?
There are a number of things that taking on challenges means it means that you, that you see that you only learn by making mistakes. We have a world in which there’s a right answer or a wrong answer. And that unfortunately precludes reflection and we learn our brains change the most when we reflect and learn from our experience. So getting, figuring out why we made that mistake, and how we could solve it the next time. If we’re teaching we need to pause and give the child a chance to figure out what the bigger principle is not just say what the right answer is.
How does the parent response to taking on challenges change from when they have a child who’s 2-3, to 9-10 to 13. One thing that I found useful is the phrase that makes sense. It makes sense that you’re upset that your friend took the ball from you, it makes sense that you’re upset, you didn’t get this thing you ran for on Student Council. But sometimes after I say, that makes sense. I don’t really know what to say.
If you’re promoting taking on challenges with your child, you can sympathize and empathize, you can help them understand why it happened, if you can, if you can figure out why that teacher said, Whatever comment the teacher made, that your child didn’t like, or why that other child did something that you didn’t think was fair. And then you can you can rehearse with them, what they might do if it happened the next time. Yeah, and you might not, they may be too raw to rehearse with that particular incidence. So you can make up stories that are similar enough. So that you can say, What do you think so and so my friend just called and her child has this problem? What do you think that that child should do? So there are many ways to help children rehearse. And then there are actual skills that are important in managing stressful situations. One of them is to be able to what’s called take a psychological distance, stepped back from it. In the corporate world, it might be called getting on the balcony. And studies have found it looking at the brain development. This is Ethan Kross’ Research at the University of Michigan. With adolescents, he’s found that if you use the Utah talk about yourself in the third person, what would Ellen do in this situation? Or Stephanie Carlson, the University of Minnesota has found this is with younger children. If you think of someone you admire, what would Batman do? That really helps children gain almost a year and being able to deal with a challenge.
Wow, that would work in my house. I mean, we have an array of superheroes to choose from.
After the break, Ellen tells me about the last skill self-directed, engaged learning. Well, this leads to the last one on your list that I may want to make sure we get to which is self-directed, engaged learning. And what struck me about this was the idea of strategies. And it makes sense that it’s at the end of the list,
Ellen Galinsky 18:00
I now think of self-directed, engaged learning as not only a skill but as an outcome as a result of what I want for my children. My son today is driving to Boston to see a friend of his who had an operation and had a stroke and is in hospice. You know, it’s, he’s just going to have a really hard day, the very long drive to Boston and then seeing someone he loves, at the end of his life, it’s the first experience for him to do that. I’m not there, he’s there, what you want for your children is to be able to figure out how to deal with the good things, the bad things that happened to you in intentional ways. And also, I personally, because there’s a lot of research that shows that it really helps us live more productive lives. I want a world in which my children and other people’s children care about making the world a better place. So the fact that my son would give up everything today, and drive to Boston to see a friend who probably is in a coma, I don’t know, whether he’ll be able to be responsive or not, is he’s done something good for the world. He’s showed he’s scared. He’s, he’s, you know, that’s what I want for my children. And I know the research that shows that each of us in very small ways does something to make the world a better place. We live lives that are healthier and more fulfilling, and happier. So I think being someone who’s interested in things, who’s curious, keeps us young keeps us alive. And we couldn’t have solved the COVID crisis. I mean, yes, there were a lot of stumbles along the way and we can get into the blame game all we want. But we’ve managed in a way that another generation might never have, and it’s because we had people who were ready to you know, who had technologies who had research who had data that they could accelerate, and come up with solutions. And the same in the childcare field, when I’ve seen through this consortium that I’ve been involved with now for two years, is that the solution in Kansas helps the state of South Carolina in this in the solution and South Carolina helps a Kansas and vice versa, it’s that you can where you can really talk to each other honestly, putting politics aside, you can figure out how to spend that money to that you got through the Cares Act in ways that could improve quality, how to make some of the changes in the system that you’ve been wanting, wanting, wanting to make, and really didn’t feel that you could write in the past,
Gloria Riviera 20:51
and just taking pages out of other people’s books, because they were shown to work where they were. So they will work for me. And finally, I just think that story about your son is beautiful. And I always think when we extend acts of kindness, it makes us feel good, right? He probably had to, you know, miss whatever it was, it was important that day, but he will feel better for having done that. And that’s what I hope.
Yes, you’ll feel awful, because it’s going to be very sad. And he’s never done that before. But in the end, he said he didn’t want. He didn’t want any regrets.
Right, well, and that’s where you feel good about not having those regrets.
Yes. And so think about the skill that that takes no regrets means you’re able to project yourself into the future, you’re not just thinking.
Oh, you just helped me connect the dots in the last 30 seconds of this interview. I want to thank you, Ellen, so much for joining us. I feel like I am at the very beginning of what I know is body of your life work. That very much relates to children in early education. So thank you for all that you do for this cause, I appreciate you and your work tremendously.
Ellen Galinsky 22:06
Thank you so much.
Okay, what did I tell you? Right? She is so smart. I mean, she’s the smart girl in high school that I was too shy to talk to because she was so dang smart. I love how all of her seven skills focus on empowering the whole human we want out in the world, a child who grows into an adult with the skills to handle everything that comes their way. I mean, it won’t always be pretty, but it won’t be unmanageable, right? I mean, that’s my work, I would venture to say that’s all of our work. And if we are intentional about imparting the tools we all need to kids, little kids, we will all be better off for it. And some very good news. So Ellen and I were emailing after our interview, and she told me that she believes as she put it, the dawn comes after the darkness, and that it is okay to be comfortable in the gray versus the black and white. I felt better hearing that because childcare and early education feels pretty gray to me a lot of the time. And I’ll just tell you also, she wrote to say, she had been on an early childhood solutions consortium call. And while staff shortages are dire, listen to this. She says a lot of states are reporting that they are increasing wages and pay for training. I mean, that is a big step in the right direction. All right, these next two women are boss, ladies, literally. And they take up where Elon left off in the very crowded child product marketplace. They run a successful company. It’s pretty new. It’s called Slumberkins, which sponsors this show. And it started with a $200 loan to these two BFFs from high school, Kelly Oriard and Callie Christensen, so they could make and buy make, I mean, so themselves. They’re adorable little plushies like a sloth or a big foot. They’re really so cute. These plushies were sold with short stories on social emotional learning themes for parents to read to the kids. I know I have read a lot to my own kids. And there are a lot of great stories out there that do similar things. But this is far more straightforward, far more simple and directed to the under-fives. These two women are really lovely. They are warm. They are dedicated to what they are doing. And they’ve been through some tough stuff in their own lives from a lack of space to feel feelings when young to being bullied for being tall. They are both gorgeously tall women […] life, right? Comes at you, we will start right off with Kelly talking about just how early social emotional learning starts in kids.
Our belief is that children are born fully vibrant, authentic, capable, resilient human beings, that when given the opportunity will move towards growth, they take in so much more than we give them credit for they understand, pick up on nonverbal social cues way more than I think people realize. Even infants, there’s studies that show even infants are and that you know, even the sound of your voice, when babies are in utero, they’re responding to that, they’re responding to the emotional states of the mother. So, you know, social emotional learning starts way early. And basically through the different stages, which we also layer into our products and our thinking around the developmental timelines and work with this curriculum is what tasks they’re trying to accomplish at that stage. Right? Like, in the, in the early years of like, 2 to 4, I would say it’s kind of mastery. That’s why you get into the terrible 2 and the 3 majors, as they call it, right? Where it’s like, they’ve learned some skills, they’re, they’re moving to be a little bit separate from you as a parent and prove that they have some capability on their own. And there’s different ways of supporting that phase and that growth stage to support the building blocks of self-esteem of resilience of authenticity. And these aren’t things that we normally talk about, because there’s so deep, they sort of just been like an afterthought of like, what happens if you get it right, and there’s just really important things that shaped our core beliefs, that shape up in this time period, affect how we see the world forever.
What would be a story that would be appropriate for that age group to read along with one of the cute little plushies?
so I’ll use Callie’s favorite character Bigfoot as an example for self-esteem. The concept of being lovable no matter what, that you, no matter what you do, how you grow and learn and whatever mistakes you make. I’m going to love you and you are innately lovable. And so the title of the first book for Bigfoot is Bigfoot. You are lovable. And it’s written in a direct address way where the parents reading that book. And it’s basically a script of them saying, You’re lovable, I am loving watching you grow, you’re gonna make mistakes, you should know this. This is how you can deal with it gives a couple of tools, and then ends with an interactive affirmation which whether they can repeat or not. You as the adults saying that affirmation, which it always makes, you know, people get a little bit teary.
Gloria Riviera 28:06
I just wanna say are you going to cry on this podcast.
Well, like, with you read that, you feel it deeply, because we all needed to hear those things. So even as an adult saying the affirmations, it’s healing for yourself, but you’re also doing that in the presence of your child and setting them up for a better way forward.
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, as a kid, I think I learned that I proved my worth and earned love through being good at tasks and being a performer and achiever. And you know, the big four affirmation that is said out loud between parent and child, or from a parent reading how Kelly was explaining is, this is actually in the second book of for Bigfoot, but it’s, I am kind, I am strong, I am brave and unique. The world is better because I am here. And I like me. And so when you hear a two year old repeat that it’s just this magical moment that, you know, I think all of us need that reminder. For our own selves, but yes, I’m the resident Bigfoot of the brand.
Did you guys experience you know, bullying or negative childhood moments that stayed with you? And did they come to the surface as you’re creating these stories?
Yes, so big foots the good example of this one. So something else to know about Kelly and I were both very tall. So I’m six feet two and Kelly’s six feet and I was six feet as a sixth grader. So when I say resident Big Foot, it’s like literal and emotional. But there was a time in fifth grade that on the playground, a friend of mine, came up and said, Callie, you’re buff, and I had just started playing basketball. So I thought like, okay, like, whatever. And then in front of everyone, she said, You know what buff means? big, ugly, fat fellow.
Oh my god. I’m gonna go find that girl.
I know. Well, it was yeah, it was hard. And it was the day that I remember, it still stings, every time I say the story, like feel it in my chest because it was just one of those defining moments for me as a very tall child that, you know, it stung bad. And it was really embarrassing. And so I remember going home crying with my mom. And my mom did, she meant well, by keeping me busy, it was more putting me into activities that she knew I would find success and community in, you know, with being so tall. And so, yeah, that was kind of the inspiration for the book, Big Foot copes with hurt feelings. And the reason for that affirmation. And, you know, even Kelly’s husband, who is 6’82 had similar experiences as a very tall child, he cried, the first time he read the story, we have a lot of people that cry the first time they read that story.
Gloria Riviera 30:52
Bless his heart, that’s so sweet. Well, it makes me think just you’re mentioning that your mom was, you know, very well intentioned, I want to put you in places where you will find success. And often as parents, I often feel at least oh, my God, I didn’t think about that. I didn’t think about that conversation that needs to happen, especially in these early years from 0 to 7 to set those neural pathways on the right course. So Kelly, was there anything that you can share about, I don’t know, moments that were rough that you see like that your books, your product could have helped at that time?
I mean, I would say definitely, I feel like it is helping me just even creating these tools and using them. I again, like had that similar experience that I had as a child, which was, I became a therapist, I knew all of the deeper reasons and you know, treatment plans and was helping families and kids before I had kids. And so when I had my boys, I thought, oh, I’m going to be a great mom, I may have this totally figured out, I get it. But that’s when I realized there’s a real difference between knowing it in your brain and like learning something, and actually living it and doing it with your whole self-involved and your emotional, you just your whole vulnerable self-coming to the table. And that’s where I think some of the, I guess, difficulties that I didn’t even realize were difficulties until I had kids started to come up, you know, I thought my childhood was pretty fine. But once my kids started hitting ages, where I think I had some, you know, blocks or things where maybe I you know, maybe my parents just sent me to my room to say go cry in there because we don’t want to see you cry, which at the time, I didn’t think was a problem, because I just did that and learned how to cope. Now I would see my kids crying. I knew from a therapeutic lens, like I need to be there and help them co regulate. But I couldn’t. I was then so triggered by them. Because I had no practice. I had no ability to do that. To help them because I wanted to say go to your room. Or like I wanted to run away. And so I think the tools of Slumberkins have helped me see my interactions with my kids, especially ones where I’m super triggered, which is always around like anger, like super tantrums and anger and mostly that because I was not allowed to have that kind of big emotions in an unstable environment with an alcoholic and my family. You know, I have a lot of trouble with that now. And so then that work of trying to you know, hold that space reading the books and doing the affirmations just gives me a pole to hold on to when I feel like I’m gonna get swept away and lose my cool and it still happens that I do, but you know.
After this break, Kelly and Callie share some tips for child caregivers on bringing social emotional learning into your classrooms. Plus my favorite, your real child care moments these just get better and better. The voices of our no one is coming to save us community. Those are coming right up after this.
Gloria Riviera 34:35
Some of the tougher things that you guys address are issues like grief and loss. When did those topics arise as something that you had to address? And how much personal experience did you have with those topics that informed what eventually made it out there for people to purchase and have in their homes?
Yeah, the grief and loss collection was actually our most requested collection from our community of parents back in 2017. And I think we really sprite, the sprite collection in 2018 or early 2019. And, you know, I think Kelly can go deeper into the content in the collection. But what I love about it is our most recent sprite book that we released is actually just an introduction to goodbyes and a really great introduction and proactive tool to even approach things like grief and loss around a family unit after a divorce or grief and loss around a big move or the grief that can be felt through so many different moments of change. And then the second book in the collection is the original sprite book that is more specific to the loss of a person or a loved one.
Yeah, I, I would have to say, I think it’s one of those. I feel like, speaking about death is something that a lot of people are uncomfortable with until you’re in it. And especially around children, because we have this perception that we need to keep them safe from things that are scary, but actually by not talking about something that’s completely natural and normal. And something that is going to happen to beings around them is what makes it scary. And so I think it was really important to bring that into the collection, to bring that conversation forward to give parents that non scary way to start that process. So and have the script and have the things to say so they don’t feel out of their league. Because the truth is, we didn’t have it, we are kind of walking on shaky ground trying to do better for our kids. And when you’re worried or scared, you forget what to say. So that’s why we created the products. And I would just say I didn’t have like a very extreme example of grief and loss that I can like point to in my early childhood or anything. But I guess what I noticed when I was becoming a mom, I started noticing when I was going to give birth, like how crazy it was, like there was just not a lot of I had to had never been exposed to the idea of like birth until I was actually pregnant. And then I was searching for information and people to talk about these things. And I think it’s I think birth and death kind of go in the same category there. And so because they’re like the entryway into one or the other. So I think that was where we just we knew that we needed to be talking about anything that’s natural, anything that people are dealing with, and that’s causing fear or discomfort or is difficult, like we want to be there to support with for parents and kids.
Gloria Riviera 38:01
It’s so funny, because just talking to you guys, it brings up so much in my own head. And as you were talking, I was thinking I didn’t go to my grandfather’s funeral, I just didn’t go my mom made the decision to go by herself. And that has always stayed with me. It’s like, why didn’t I go to his funeral? You know, I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to him at the funeral. I mean, those are the traditions we have in this country. And fast forward. My own father died in a very beautiful way I was there at his side. But there was no format for me, or any kind of literary infrastructure for me to learn that lesson of how to deal, it just came at me. Have you guys had to talk to your own families about those topics of grief and loss?
Yeah, I’ve actually spoken a lot to my kids about death, they actually, I think around like three or four a lot of parents get surprised by kids asking about death, they start to understand or notice, you see an animal or a bug or something that it’s pretty natural for them to be curious, my son found a dead bird in our front yard and, you know, brought it in and was trying to put it in the tree to bring it back to life. And so this was that moment of saying, Okay, I got it, I need to talk to him about this. So I remember, I felt so lucky that I had been working on our books and other content around grief and loss and it was fresh in my mind because, you know, I explained to him that you know that the bird had died, that it wasn’t in its body anymore. My belief is there is a spirit world. So I told him, you know, his soul went to the spirit world and now the body is here and that happens to all living things. And I remember because he was like three and a half. It like sunk in and the amount of like pain and he just started crying and collapsed. And I had that urge really quickly to want to, like, fix it, and be like, oh, don’t cry, like it’s okay. But I held myself back and just held him and like rocked him on the floor and said, I know, it’s really sad when this big change happens, but it’s okay. And I’m going to help you through it. And, you know, when we buried the record and all of this stuff, and, I feel like every, at least every week, my kids are asking me like, they still are like, a bit obsessive, like, how old are you? When are you going to die? When are this? You know, and I think it’s important to answer those questions, honestly. And that’s a nice, it’s, there’s the one side of like, the physiological answer of like, this is what happens. They’re not feeling anything, they don’t see anything anymore. They’re not in their bodies. This is what we do. And then open up your conversation around what you believe happens afterwards. Or if you believe that nothing does happen, then you can express that everybody has their own meaning making that they can pass on. And that’s a really beautiful gift to give to your children and they can handle it. So I just encourage that conversation and not to shy away from it, because it’s shying away from it that makes it seem scary to kids.
And you carry with you, right? Like I never got to my grandfather’s funeral. And I still think about it, you know, let’s bring it back to child care. And the reason that we wanted to speak to you guys, what can child caregivers who are still in their jobs, we’ve had so many leave? Like, are there any tips that you have for them for how to adopt any of this post COVID in their classrooms with these itty bitty kids?
we have recently done some trainings on this with educators. And I would say the main thing we’re focusing on is specifically for teachers and childcare providers to understand that they’re in a helping profession. And that is a very difficult job, especially right now in the pandemic, which means that self-care and self-care practice and routine is an ethical imperative, like you cannot skimp anymore and just cope through it, or you will end up leaving the profession. So if you really, you know, we really encourage people to take care of themselves, that whole concept of putting your oxygen mask on first, being curious about what you need, and potentially broadening your ideas about what self-care is for you. There’s a lot of tools out there to support with that, like a self-care assessment, there’s five domains of self-care, it’s not just like getting pampered and getting a massage, there’s physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, relational, self-care domains, all of those areas you can focus in on to try to balance out the parts of the job that you are not going to be able to control, which is that kids are going to be more triggered right now. It’s high stress, big feelings. And your job is not to stop children from having feelings, your job is to help them witness those feelings. And find a path to this executive functioning, like you have as an adult. But if you’re triggered, you’re not going to be able to do it either.
And good self-care will help you avoid being in that state of mind. Callie, anything from you?
Yeah, I’m just reflecting back on my days in the classroom. And as a teacher, I worked in a day treatment school. So it was, you know, the most restrictive environment in the world of education before a child might be placed in a residential facility for mental and behavioral health concerns and safety and, you know, the amount of not only self-care, but also just self-awareness and modeling bit goes so far, if you show up to the class and you have the awareness of, I’m feeling triggered, I’m in an overwhelmed state, because even sharing that with students opens up a whole other realm of them being willing to even connect with you as a teacher or a human and, like, kind of just modeling for them. What that looks like, also allows them to say, Hey, Mrs. C, I’m feeling very overwhelmed right now, you know, and it’s kind of the ultimate connector when you humanize yourself as an educator or caregiver and express how you’re feeling. So modeling and it’s really though that like, self-awareness piece of just knowing how you’re showing up that day, if you know you’re running on empty then you know, hold on to the things that help get you through your day. You can cope through your day, but then just have that level of awareness of okay, I need to do the things that are gonna get me back up to where I am feeling good about this again, with all those things that Kelly said.
Gloria Riviera 44:56
It’s so interesting, because coming out of COVID, this just happened an hour and a half. Before we started this conversation, were in the car, my six year old child was talking to her six year old friend. And she said, you know, I’m there talking about going to bed and said, I still sleep with mommy and daddy every night. And the great joy of this podcast is I get to speak to people who are very smart in many different areas. And I knew that sleeping together is about processing separation after COVID. Right? And all this together time, and we now have to look at that practice, which I love. But just with some information, right? But it was just this moment where I knew I was coming in this conversation. And she was she burst into tears, because her other friend said, Oh, I sleep by myself. And I just I heard her crying. And it was like, she you know, what are the emotions around that? Some guilt, some shame, but just the beginnings of those, but those big feelings all around, you know, and what do I say as an adult? Do I say like, it’s okay, you know? How do I process that? So it was it was a good little personal moment before coming into this conversation. So thank you to you both. You know, I have so much respect for what you’ve done with $200. And so much gratitude, that the slumber kins brand is out there helping people in ways I’m sure they know. But in a lot of ways, you know, you don’t know what you don’t know. And so thank you for helping people understand that.
Callie Christensen 46:27
Oh, thank you for having us.
Thank you so much.
Gloria Riviera 46:37
Thank you again to Kelly Oriard and Callie Christiansen. All right, drumroll please. It is the moment we’ve all been waiting for your real childcare moments from this week, here are the voices of the no one is coming to save us community.
Aloha Gloria, I am recording this from what I am on a walk. It’s one of the few moments I get with my kids for the day. We have two children in preschool, and a newborn. And we are desperately trying to find infant care for our newborn. And I feel like I’m out of options. I just, I don’t know what we’re gonna do. And I have to go back to work, I think, well, I have an employer who is encouraging me to spend time at home. And is very, very understanding of kids at home. And we’re 100% remote. But at some point, I’m going to have to do meetings in person. And I don’t know what I’m going to do. So I’m just sharing this because I don’t know what I was going to do. And my job is to fight for these things. And even as I fight for these things, I don’t know what I’m gonna do. So I don’t know how anybody else is gonna do what they’re gonna do. And I guess that’s it.
Hi, Gloria. This is Emily. I’m calling from Michigan. And I’m a parent and a child care teacher. But I just left work. My feelings are running high right now I’m headed to a rally about child care. And we’re rallying before the Board of Regents meeting, hoping to help them see that this is very much needed. That if we want to put women back in the workforce, childcare needs to be available and affordable. And our employer needs to help fund that. And so I’m calling you in a very hopeful moment of wanting to go make a change, I just spray painted my shirt, and made a giant sign that says childcare is infrastructure. And I’m ready to go, you know, do my small part in my community to make a change, because I know if I had full time childcare, when my children were younger, and even now, as they’re young, children in elementary school, first grader and a fourth grader, they still need childcare so that I can work full time. And it’s impossible. So we are piecing it together. And I hope I can make a difference. So thanks. Thanks for letting us share.
Wow, it always makes me so happy to hear that our audience is getting involved in the fight for childcare. To that first mom who said she just doesn’t know what else she’s going to do. I hear you. It’s going to be okay. I’m glad your employer is encouraging you to spend time at home with your little ones. But you’re right, that should not be your only option. And to that second Mom, thank you for getting out there and advocating for childcare in your community, I want to see that sign and I want to see that T shirt. If you haven’t already, this is your reminder to join us in the no one is coming to save us Facebook group. It is a space for parents and caregivers to connect to be together to share their experiences navigating this crisis. So if you have a picture of yourself at rallies or participating in a day of action, this is the perfect place to share them, I will give them a big thumbs up. And you never know you might just inspire someone else to join this fight. Don’t forget if you want to hear your voice on the show, which I highly encourage you to do as well. All you have to do is take out your phone, record a short voice memo and send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I cannot wait to hear what you send. Okay, we have some amazing shows coming up. I want to tell you about them. Next week I’ll be talking to probably our most requested guests ever. Dr. Becky, she is a clinical psychologist and the host of the good inside podcast. We cover it all, separation anxiety, mom guilt, burnout, and more. It’s basically like a therapy session so you should really listen. And then the week after that I’m so excited. I get to speak with Fatima Goss Graves. She is the president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center. We will get into their recent report resilient but not recovered. What a great title. Sadly, it is all about how this pandemic has affected women in the workforce. The statistics about how many women still have not made it back to the workforce will shock you. We will talk about solutions and Fatima will tell us how the overturning of Roe is a child care issue. I really cannot wait for you to hear this conversation. Okay, that’s it for now. Thank you so much for being here with me. I will see you back here next week.
NO ONE IS COMING TO SAVE US is a Lemonada Media original presented by and created with Neighborhood Villages. The show is produced by Kryssy Pease and Alex McOwen. Veronica Rodriguez is our engineer. Music is by Hannis Brown. Our executive producers are Stephanie Wittels Wachs, Jessica Cordova Kramer, and me Gloria Riviera. If you like the show, and you believe what we’re doing is important. Please help others find us by leaving us a rating and writing us a review. Do you have your own experiences and frustrations with the childcare system? Do you have ideas for what we could do to make it better? Join the no one is coming to save us Facebook group where we can continue the conversation together. You can also follow us and other Lemonada podcasts at @LemonadaMedia across all social platforms. Thank you so much for listening. We will be back next week. Until then hang in there. You can do it.