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Parenting with Compassion

Recently David and I had the opportunity to attend the Ask Sharifa show as guests on a panel. The topic of conversation switched to parenting teenage children, especially during the pandemic.

As parents of two teenagers, David and I know the parenting challenges that can arise at the different stages of our children’s lives. As we have all heard, kids aren’t born with a manual, and even if we did have one, no one-size strategy can fit all the needs of young people. Today, on the surface it may appear as though the needs of our children are not the same as they were when we were young. We didn’t have social media to contend with, or have the pressure to be constantly “on” social chats so you can score points and not lose your rank. Some young people are dealing with increased social isolation from COVID19, increased focus on electronics, and/or may find home is not a safe (physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual) place to reside in but have no other options due to closures. However, at the core, all children have the same needs: to be loved and to love, to be seen, to be heard, to feel safe and provided for, to have agency in their lives, to experience things, to live their dreams, and to flourish and grow. Nevertheless, as parents it may feel at times as though we have no idea how to support our kids or that the needs of our children supersede or conflict with our own needs or desires. However, there are ways to ensure a more harmonious relationship with our children.

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Here are 10 reasons why Ted Lasso is a compassionate leader:

The Ted Lasso show has become a hit worldwide. It has been nominated for multiple Emmys and has won numerous awards. What has been most surprising about the hit show is people’s reaction to Coach Lasso’s compassionate, collaborative, generous and positive outlook. Many are calling his approach a breath of fresh air in leadership.

**Warning: spoilers ahead**

The show follows a small time football coach who is hired to coach a professional soccer team in England despite having had no previous experience. He gets hired by the owner Rebecca in an attempt to hurt her ex-husband who loves soccer. Eventually though Rebecca is charmed by Ted’s easy going and thoughtful approach (plus his baking!) and due to his people skills, the team begins to do very well under his leadership.

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Upset about the vaccines? Try a little compassion

COVID19 has brought a number of challenges and opportunities. From the chaos, greater clarity has arisen over what is working and not working in our world. Although we are seeing greater and greater calls for compassion and kindness in our society, there is still a great deal of division among people. One of the topics which is currently dividing people is the issue of vaccination. Although Canada has one of the highest vaccinations rates in the world, with 67% of people being fully vaccinated (80% have received 1 vaccine) there are still a reported 3-5 million people who are not vaccinated even though they can be. Worldwide vaccination rates range from 60% to 6%. The new variant, the Delta variant, is causing a great deal of strife and adding to the divide between those who are adamant that everyone be vaccinated and those who feel their rights are being violated by being forced to vaccinate.

I am lucky enough to have friends of both sides so I can hear their different perspectives. My friends who are vaccinated tout the research shared with them, the minimal side effects and the fact that the vaccine has been shown to decrease the potential of hospitalization and death. The majority of my friends have been vaccinated without much ado. These friends are shocked that anyone would not want to get vaccinated and feel it is irresponsible not to get vaccinated. Even Jennifer Aniston has decided to cut ties with “friends” who are not vaccinated due to the fear that those who are vaccinated are spreading the disease to others and are responsible for keeping the Delta variant alive.

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Loving our looks!

Have you ever looked in the mirror and imagined what you would look like after plastic surgery? Well I have.  I used to put my finger over my nose, and imagine what it could look like if I had a nose job.  I grew up as a “cute” kid.  I received compliments on what an adorable baby I was.  My barometer for my attractiveness was based on my model of beauty which was my mother who was/is a beautiful woman in all traditional sense of the word.  She had the perfect nose and beautiful face.  As a kid, my house of self-love was built on compliments from external people.  And like any house not built on a solid foundation, it was so fragile it would collapse under the wind of anything that did not align with the image of cuteness I had built.  One day, such a wind blew in the form of an indirect compliment, “you know” someone said to me, “you would be so much prettier if you had a nose job.”  “What’s wrong with my nose?” I thought. Turns out, I didn’t have the conventional cute, straight and pointy nose.  In fact, when I looked at it, my nose look more like the witches noses in kids movies.  In fact, I remember going to the movie Rapunzel with my little girl and her commenting how much I looked like Mother Gothel.  When I was younger, I would look at myself in the mirror and say, “maybe if I could fix my nose, I would be perfect” and would actually imagine how men would stop in the streets to look at me. This makes me chuckle now but back then the struggle was real or at least it felt real.  This fascination with my nose, soon lead to my noticing other things that weren’t like other people.  Most of the people I knew, didn’t have big puffy hair, and crooked teeth.  No wonder rhinoplasty and orthodontics are billion dollar industries.  As I started looking to examples to validate my own beauty in the environment around me, I discovered that a vast number of women in the movie industry had nose jobs, facelifts etc. and these were the examples I was using to measure myself. I wondered what those individuals looked like originally and why they felt they had to change everything about themselves.   Thinking back, not finding other examples of people who looked like was actually a blessing.  If you ask my parents, they would tell you that I’ve always been a non-conformist (defiant is more like it) so I decided to not fix my nose or teeth as a giant F*** you, to anyone who didn’t choose to accept me.  I said to myself that my not doing so was my badge of honor that showed I loved myself. But the truth is, I didn’t.   I still avoided all profile pictures and didn’t really think that I was attractive enough to be with someone.  Really, when I reflect about this now, I realize that it wasn’t about my nose at all. It was about my perceptions that I had to be perfect to be loveable.   

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Re-imagining Child Welfare as a Loving and Compassionate Place: Creating Empowering Organizations

Can child welfare be a place where children, families and even workers feel loved? What is the role of compassion in the administration of child welfare? Can child protection be “re-imagined” as a service that truly empowers others?

Child welfare has always been near and dear to my heart. Since I was 15, I wanted to work for an organization that helped children and their families have better lives. I was born in Peru, and even as a young child, I was witness to the many injustices endured by children. I now work for a child welfare agency, and for me it has been a dream come true. I am surrounded by truly loving and compassionate people, who got into the world of child welfare to help children and families. This commitment to the welfare of children and their families keeps workers engaged in the work especially when the work is the most challenging. The way child welfare is currently structured, though, I feel interferes with enabling workers to be truly compassionate and loving towards clients, to each other and even towards themselves. The system we have in Canada, nay the world, is one based on fear. Where fear reigns, love cannot flourish. This fear has arisen due to the way child deaths are managed by the media, the public, the ministry and even ourselves. What happens when we are in fear is that we contract, become afraid of doing the job, of being sued, of making a mistake, and we stop being willing to love and have faith in families in an open and transparent manner. We become controlling and afraid to share power. The Ontario Child Welfare system is based on ‘standards’ developed in order to measure the work as a form of accountability. On paper, it truly sounds good. Standard approaches for all people. However, child welfare is not the price club…if I was a client intersecting with child protection, I would want the work to be tailored to my own life circumstance. The structure we have in Ontario is based on the premise that as a worker my job is to “protect” children above all else, which is good but this is often where it stops. I remember having a conversation with someone from the Child Advocate’s office who said to me, “you know, in child welfare you spend all of your time bubble wrapping the kids until their 18 birthday…and then when they age out of care, you give them a bicycle and put them on the 401 and expect them to flourish”. This really stuck with me…because I had seen how the protection of children, at times, prevented children in care from truly living their lives. How sleepovers became a sudden potential for abuse, how ATVs were banned in case someone fell off. All of these “protections” were based on fear, not love. Love gives freedom to explore. Anyone who is familiar with the circle of security model understands that children need a secure base and the possibility to explore the world to build confidence in their own abilities to overcome adversity. The sponsoring thought of the “protection” approach is based on victim-hood. Children are “victims” that need to be protected from harmful parents instead of being regarded as resilient survivors. As stated in my interview with Erica Wright, (former youth in care) children in government care are often “pitied” for having experienced abuse (Podcast Episode 3: Creating Compassionate Places for Youth Pity is a dis-empowering emotion as it assumes the people do not have enough power to help themselves or know better. However, I have met many very strong, resilient and insightful children. When the victim mentality becomes a child’s whole identity, it prevents children from stepping into their full potential. Instead of having a child welfare system that focuses on youth’s empowerment and tapping into their resilience, we have a system that needs to “give” children and youth things in order for them to flourish. Of course it is important for us to meet the needs of the children…however, what are we doing to remind children that they have more power than they believe? That they are worthy of love and affection? How are we getting them to love and be compassionate to themselves? How are we getting them to feel inspired to achieve beyond their dreams? Additionally, do we do this for parents?

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