Updated: Apr 28
Last week I had the pleasure and honor of being a guest on the podcast, “Wellness Rising.” Wellness Rising is produced by the Wellness House of Annapolis located in Annapolis, MD (https://www.annapoliswellnesshouse.org/).
The Wellness House provides support, education, and services to help individuals and their families who have been touched by cancer in recovering their health and well-being in a home-like environment. Their purpose and mission are so powerful, it almost defies definition.
“Wellness Rising” invites listeners to explore health and wellness beyond a cancer diagnosis, and features expert guests from the fields of mental, physical, and spiritual wellness. This is stellar company to be included and I was thrilled to discuss how health and wellness coaching can support individuals and families in their path to healing and realize the benefits of health and wellness practices in daily life.
As part of the discussion, Mary Jermann, Executive Director of the Wellness House, and I touched on several areas related to health and wellness, but the topic of parenting with cancer entered the conversation as well. Specifically, the importance of self-care for those with children who have cancer or are parents of children with cancer.
Parenting can be challenging as I’ve stated in previous posts. However, this conversation got me thinking about it even more. More about the importance of taking care of ourselves to be here, healthy, and present for our children as well as ensuring we guide them successfully through the stages to come in their own lives, with or with a challenging diagnosis. I was thinking about this as I walked downstairs past my son and a few friends playing video games and thought to myself, “The future is sitting on my couch.” My next thought was, "How do we go about preparing our children for the challenges of life, success, adversity, and everything in between?"
A key theme of my conversation with Mary was about taking care of ourselves so that we can take care of each other. Essentially, being good humans so we can raise good humans. What does that look like and how do we even start?
There are so many directions in which this could go. What’s important? What’s not? What is nurture versus nature and who’s to say what’s right and what’s wrong? In the end, it’s so individualized and personal but I kept coming back to a few major areas that seemed to support some foundational themes. So, here are my thoughts in stream-of-consciousness order.
Lesson – Time is Precious: As I’ve mentioned in past posts, one of the most important things we can give our children is the gift of our time and have them learn the value of spending time together. You don’t have to spend every waking hour with them but carve out moments to just connect and listen and they will learn that magic happens in those moments. Very often, that magic happens in the car, no radio, no phones, just conversation and it's so good.
Lesson – Listen to Others: While modeling the behavior of spending time and listening to your children, let them know that’s it’s important for them to listen to others as well. They should invest in the time spent with others and not just in anticipation for when they can share more about themselves and their concerns. They might learn something interesting or grow closer to that person by being open to what others have to say.
Lesson – Respect: Teach them that they deserve respect and should always show respect to others. Everyone is unique, has gifts and talents to share. There’s room for everyone at the table. If there isn’t, make space.
Lesson – Selflove: Along with Respect for self and others, teach them to embrace selfcare, acceptance, and body positivity. Teach them to take care of themselves, believe in themselves and know that they are perfect just the way they are. Let them know that they are doing great and if they aren’t, all they have to do is ask for help and it will be provided. No matter what a bitter, spiteful person may say, a photoshopped magazine cover may show, or a hurtful text or post may spew. Your children should know they are heard, seen and enough.
Lesson – Make Good Choices: In one of my favorite movies, Pitch Perfect, Becca tells one of her inebriated group members as she staggers off into the night to, “make good choices!” Sage advice indeed. While we want our children to be independent and make their own decisions, emphasize that they should weigh all the options and outcomes and aim for the best one.
Lesson – Look Out for Others: Along with making good decisions for themselves, let’s support them looking out for others as well. Teach them to be kind and that bullying, and exclusion is wrong. Teach them to be a friend because you never know when you may need a friend. And again, everyone deserves respect.
Lesson – There are Expectations: If you have beliefs, practices, morals, values or other traditions that you cherish and feel can bring positive outcomes to your children, live them every day, pass them on, and make it clear there are exceptions to living up to them. This not only strengthens you as a family but grounds them as individuals. The walls will be solid if the foundation is strong.
Lesson – Share and Teach History: I recently had a pretty intense conversation with my son about the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert F. Kennedy. I was going to shy away from the dialogue at first, but he had some spot-on questions, so I addressed them. It made for a very enlightening exchange as he asked for details and my thoughts on certain topics. It turned out not only to be a teachable moment, but a moment of connection for us. It got me thinking about family history too. Along with US and global history, share your family history as well. Share stories, show pictures and collectables that have been passed down and the meanings behind them. Use your discretion regarding what you want to talk about or share. Not all information is necessary or appropriate. However, "We all grow when we know."
Lesson – Honesty: Be an honest person, be honest with your children, and model honesty for your children. In a previous post, “No Lie, Honesty is Vital to Growth,” I talked about how even a little white lie by a parent gives validation to being dishonest from a child's perspective. It’s tough sometimes, but take the high road and walk the path of truth.
Lesson – Go After Opportunities: Provide your kids with opportunities to do things in all areas; sports, academics, arts and encourage them to go for it! Support their dreams and set the example by going after your own dreams as well.
Lesson – The Reality of Social Media and Gaming: Be the strongest, loudest, most persuasive voice in the life of your children and limit their access to social media and some types of video games. While entertaining and time consuming, certain forms of social media and gaming are more detrimental to your children than drugs, alcohol, or junk food. Block sites, apply restrictions, monitor user time if you must. Real life happens away from screens.
Lesson – Nutrition and Exercise: As the saying goes, "Your health is your wealth." The selflove and make good choices lessons are pivotal here! Bring good, healthy, clean food into your home. Have your children see you preparing it and eating it. Be sure they know that food is medicine and can drastically determine the quality of their future health; positive or negative. Take a walk, take your kids with you. Make sure they know the benefits of exercise on the mind, body, and spirit. Need a way to visually hammer the message home, have them watch “Supersize Me” (2004), “What the Health?” (2017) or “That Sugar Film” (2014). These would be eye-openers for anyone.
Lesson – Importance of Voting: Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but you can’t really complain if you don’t know the issues or make your voice heard! Let your children know they should stand up for what they believe in and the way to do that is by participating in the process. I know, I know, politics is such a volatile topic but there are other valuable lessons here about history, governing processes and long-term consequences of complacency that apply here. Let’s involve the leaders of tomorrow today because soon, it will be their turn.
Lesson – Respect the Planet: We only have one planet (so far). Let’s teach our children to respect it and find ways of preserving what we have now and ensuring we make it better in the future. Make it clear that we all need to do our part in sustaining our home.
Lesson – Non-violent Conflict Resolution: No matter what, violence is never the answer to any conflict, period. We live in a time where inadvertently cutting someone off in traffic can get you killed. Teach your children to show others a little grace when they get cut off and teach them to walk away from a conflict with an unreasonable person or situation that doesn’t merit their time or attention. Both will go a long way in lowering the temperature on interpersonal interactions and saving lives.
While it may feel like it, this is not an exhaustive list by any means and what is important to me may not show up on your radar at all. But you, as an individual know what your legacy and non-negotiables are.
In the hustle and bustle of daily life, we sometimes forget that we are examples for our children. We are their first teachers and role models. They do what we do, say what we say, support what we support, admire what we admire, listen to what we listen to, trust what we trust, and value what we consider valuable. Let these be all good things that bring them knowledge, wisdom, support, confidence, happiness, courage, and most importantly, humanity.
Did you find value in this post? If so, I encourage you to like it and share it with someone you know that might benefit from this message.
Now, go out there and raise some good humans!
Take care and be well,