compassion, empathy, family, kindness, Love, RECK, respect

Stuck at Home with Family? Practice RECK!

These are unusual times. The novel Coronavirus has more and more states telling people to stay at home and requiring Physical Distancing if we must go out. This puts many of us in a situation where we are “Safer at Home” with the people we love… and getting on each other’s nerves!

Never fear! RECK is here! To save you having to click over to another page to discover what the heck RECK is, I’ll take a moment to explain it here. RECK is an acronym that stands for respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness. It is meant as a simple guide to help us treat others in the best way possible. And don’t we want to treat the people we love most in the whole world in the best way possible? Of course we do.

Think of it this way: all people need respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness in order to stay emotionally healthy. When you think about harm that has been done to people, in every instance, one or more of these four principles has been violated. In family situations, most typically the principle we forget to adhere to is to be kind to one another.

Here’s how to utilize RECK at home during this unusual time:

First, do your best to remain respectful towards your family members at all times. This can be a tough one, especially when we are feeling irritable. Disrespectful words are usually those words that we end up regretting later. When it comes to trying to create a harmonious home atmosphere, being disrespectful is a line we simply should not cross. Being respectful towards your family all the time will help you maintain a healthy self-respect. When you are respectful to others, you feel good about yourself.

Next, make an effort to be empathetic towards the feelings of others. This one can be especially challenging with young children. They tend to feel things strongly and are often unable to completely articulate or even understand their feelings. As adults, we have an important role to play in helping them identify their emotions and learn to understand and control them. Remember, empathy is deeper than sympathy. Sympathy is to feel for someone, while empathy requires us to go even further and feel with them. A good way to understand empathy is to remember the adage of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes.

Then, strive to always keep your compassion switch in the “on” position. This is a tall order. Compassion calls us to feel another person’s suffering with them and then work to relieve it. Compassion, however, is a game-changer for children. Kids feel so often misunderstood and like their suffering is ignored. As adults, we can sometimes wish children would simply “get over it.” But we need to remember that their feelings are very real to them and when we take them seriously and respond to them, children feel heard. Although perhaps more pronounced in children, this is true for all people. And during these stressful times, lots of people might be feeling strong emotions. We all would be well served to hear one another out, take each other’s feelings to heart, and make an effort to provide comfort whenever possible.

Finally, in all situations and at all times: Be kind. If you think this one is easy or trivial, then think back to the last time that you know you hurt someone else’s feelings whether they said so or not. You might not have to think back very far! Kindness is the grease that oils the gears of healthy family dynamics. Being unkind is like throwing a wrench in the works. How often has everything been going just fine at home and then someone did or said something unkind and all heck broke loose? Kindness is the key to unlocking family harmony.

If your family is struggling to get along right now, then make a big sign that says “RECK: Respect, Empathy, Compassion and Kindness” and put it up someplace everyone can see it. Then, make sure everyone knows what all of those words mean and make a promise to treat each other with RECK. You’ll be amazed by how much better everyone gets along.

All the best,

Matthew Vasko,

Founder, Century of Compassion

family

Tips for Families During Social Distancing

These are unusual times. Even us parents have probably never experienced anything quite like this before. So, it seems perfectly normal and understandable if our children are anxious. Personally, I have 9-year-old twins at home and they are experiencing a variety of emotions from anxiety to boredom.

My goal with the materials included below is to provide parents with tools to help their families “weather the storm.” I hope you find both spiritual and practical resources here to help you and your children cope. My best wishes to everyone during this time.

With love,

Matt Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion

 

SPIRITUALITY & PRAYER:

This can be a time for families to deepen their home spiritual practices. Here are some resources to help you in that meaningful work:

1. The Unitarian Universalist Association (a big tent of belief) has an entire guide devoted to family spiritual practices; everything from ritual to crafts to alter building. Click here to view their guide.

2. Foothills Unitarian offers this nice page on prayer complete with a prayer bead necklace activity and a UU Family Prayer Sampler.

3. Beacon Unitarian Universalist Congregation has this page devoted to prayer before meals.

4. My family has a daily gratitude practice that we say before dinner. It goes like this: “We are grateful for everything and everyone we have in our lives and we promise to take care of all of it and all of them.” Then, we go around the table and say at least one thing (but usually 2 or 3 things) each of us is grateful for that day. It can be anything from the nice weather, to a kind word from a friend, to each other. If you start a practice like this now, I assure you that you will find that hard times are the times when gratitude for the good things and people we have in our lives really helps strengthen our spirits.

 

TEACHING TOLERANCE AND SOCIAL JUSTICE (From Momtivist)

1. Check out these amazing lesson plans on Tolerance.org. You can filter them by grade level – they’re designed for kindergarten through High School. Lots of great ideas that were designed for the classroom but can easily be scaled to work at home.

2. Find books that promote tolerance, spotlight underrepresented groups, counter racism, explore gender identity, etc., and read them with your kids! Consider creative activities around anything you read, like writing stories or puppet shows using the books as inspiration. This is a great resource for age appropriate books on all of these topics.

3. Play games learning about important women in history! We love the Little Feminists Memory Game.

4. Try out games, recipes and activities from around the world! Great way to learn about other cultures while having fun. This $10 deck is chock full of great ideas.

 

NETWORKING:

Social distancing does not have to mean social isolation!!

Face Time: Do you Facetime? Or Skype? Or Zoom? I believe that as cabin fever sets in children are going to be jonesing for connection with their friends and other caring adults in their lives. A 10-minute Facetime session with someone outside the home could really help brighten your child’s day.

Virtual Pen Pals: You can let your child draw a picture or write a note to someone and then text or email a photo of it to them. They can come up with creative ways to reply.

Virtual Story Time: This is a spin on face time. Have grandma, grandpa, an aunt, or uncle do a Skype session with your child and have them read your child a picture book they have around their house. Chances are that they own some different books than you do, and your child will get to hear and see a new book. My kids’ Uncle Jim used to do this with my twins from across the country when they were little, and they LOVED it.

Phone Calls: Make a list of people who haven’t heard from your children in a while and have your kids give them a call! The other person will probably delight at the surprise and your kids will learn proper phone etiquette. Seriously, do kids even know how to use phones anymore?

 

GAMES!

The number of family games available on Amazon.com are astounding. Not to be a commercial for Amazon, but with Prime shipping your family could be playing a new game every two days. Here are some of my family’s favorites:

Uno: This classic card game still keeps kids entertained for hours. And now there are even some wild variations on the game available like Uno Flip and Uno Attack.

Ticket to Ride: We started playing this exciting board game with our kids when they were in first grade and the whole family loves it. Essentially, you use train cards to build routes across the country. It’s great.

Catan: Children probably need to be in about second or third grade to really get this game, but it’s a lot of fun for children and adults alike. You collect cards to build and settle an island. It’s a bit hard to learn, but hours and hours of engaging fun. Watch out for the robber though… he’s the worst.

Xtronaut: Do you have an engineering-minded child? If so, then they’ll really enjoy this game that requires them to collect cards to “build” a rocket and launch it into space. It’s suitable for children in who are in second grade and up.

 

EDUCATION:

For virtual learning resources, I really only need to direct you to one resource. Someone has put together a vast spreadsheet of all of the virtual resources that are being offered free-of-charge during the this time.

 

YOUTUBE:

Your children might be watching more television than normal during this time. Well, I have good news. If you have a ROKU or similar device there are lots of educational channels on YouTube.

Here is a list of some of my kids’ favorites: It’s Okay to be Smart, Vsauce, ASAPScience, Crashcourse, SciShow, SciShowKids, SciShowSpace, MinutePhysics, MinuteEarth, MrDemaio, SesemeStreet, WorldWorldPBS, SmartGirls, HoustonZoo, TheBrainScoop and NASA

And here is a link to even more.

 

OUTSIDE!

Fortunately, one thing you can do while practicing social distancing is to get out into the great outdoors!

Gardening: My family is using this time to really get this year’s garden going. If you have space for a garden – or even a container garden – now could be a good time to get that garden going.

Painting Rocks: I borrowed this one from Momtivist – Decorate rocks (we recommend paint or glitter glue) with positive messages and/or drawings and leave them where other people will see them. Brainstorm with your child about what kind of images and messages might make people happy.

Explore Nature: If you have a magnifying glass, you can turn a young child loose in nature for seemingly forever and that magnifying glass will open up a whole new world of nature to them. Binoculars can have a similar effect, but they might need more help using them.

Go for a Hike! Or even just a walk around the block. Even though my family is staying home we still plan to get out for a walk each morning. Metro and regional parks can be a great place to really get out and stretch your legs, and they’re usually not too far from home.

 

HOW ABOUT YOU?

That’s my list. How about you? Do you have any recommendations to help families during this time? If so, please share them in the comments.

Acceptance, Love

True Love: To Be Loved Just As We Are

I believe there is a deep human need to be loved and accepted exactly the way we are. We all need someone in our lives to tell us that we are worthy, we are enough, and we are loved. I believe this is the kind of love that Fred Rogers was referring to when he ended his program with “I like you just the way you are.” He was saying you don’t need to do anything special to be worthy of love, you are loved just as you are at this moment.

This is the kind of love many of us get from our parents (and rightfully so). And – if we are lucky – we might just find someone who loves us this way to get married to and make a family with. I am fortunate enough to say that I am one of the lucky ones who is loved this way by my wife. I often say that it was my wife who taught me what love really was. By this, I mean a romantic love that is deeper than romantic love so often can be.

Before I met and fell in love with my wife I had girlfriends who might at some point in our relationship reach a point where they said they loved me, but that love always seemed to come with conditions. They might say things like, “I love you, because of the way you look at me.” or “I love you, because you treat me so well.” Their love also often felt like they loved me a certain amount, but they would love me even more if I could simply manage to change this one thing about me or that one thing.

My wife was the first woman who ever loved me just the way I was. And what was even more wonderful about her love was that the more she got to know the real me the more she loved me. She even loved me for things that I saw as weaknesses about myself, such as my sensitivity. She was able to look at those parts of me that I didn’t so much love and say, “You’re being too hard on yourself.” We all need that kind of love in our lives, don’t we?

I believe the kind of love and acceptance I have received from my wife has probably helped me grow into a better person than I might have otherwise been. That’s what acceptance can do. It helps us see the best in ourselves and think the best of ourselves and want grow to be even better – by strengthening our finer qualities. I’m not saying I’m perfect, but she knows this about me and loves me anyway. And that’s the point.

If my kids ever one day ask me what they should look for in a partner I will say this: “Look for someone who loves you for who you are and supports you in who you want to become.” To me, that seems like real love. True love. Love that can last a lifetime.

So, this Valentine’s Day I am grateful for my Valentine. Like her love for me, I love her just the way she is. And this Valentine’s Day and every day I wish for that kind of love for you – whoever you are and wherever you are on life’s journey. I wish you love that accepts you the way you are and wants you to grow in all of the ways you wish to grow. Happy Valentines Day.

With Love,

Matthew Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion

compassion, empathy, kindness, Love, RECK, respect

Parenting with Respect, Empathy, Compassion, and Kindness

Parenting can be a challenge, but it can also be a joy. As parents, we are always searching for tools to help us overcome the challenges and bring us to that place of joy. One set of such tools that has been highly effective for me is learning to parent with respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness (RECK). This transition, which happened gradually for me three years ago over the course of about 18 months, has been absolutely transformational.

The first thing I discovered when I put these tools to use was how often I was completely unempathetic to things my then 6-year-old twins were experiencing. After all, I had been six once myself. And I remember what a strange, magical, and sometimes frightening place the world could be. Harnessing my empathy allowed me to slow down and see things from their perspective. Respect played a part in this too, because first I needed to have a certain amount of respect for the fact that what they were experiencing was very real to them before I could start to empathize with them.

Over time, this experience changed me. I became a much more patient parent. I came to realize that when they didn’t immediately hop-to-it when I asked them to do something it wasn’t because they were defying me, but because they needed a moment to shift gears. Children have full inner lives just like adults and – like adults – children need a moment to process a request, finish up whatever they were doing, and move forward.

For me, compassion was an easy one when something happened to my children physically, but a challenging one when things happened to or within my children emotionally. Compassion, for me, was very much about learning to read my children better. Yesterday, for example, I told my son that I was a little disappointed that he had gone against one of the house rules (it was really just kind of an aside, no big deal). He didn’t react much at first, but about five minutes later he got up from the couch and went to his room. A few years ago I would not have understood what was happening, but thanks to working on my compassionate response I was immediately cued in to the fact that he was beating himself up over what he had done. I went to his room and we had a long talk about the fact that I love him and that he needs to talk to himself the way he would expect a good friend to talk to him. He wouldn’t let a friend speak to him abusively and he shouldn’t speak to himself that way either.

Finally, in all things, I have learned to be kind. The world is a tough place and children need a place to feel safe, secure, and loved. I don’t know about you, but I want that place to be our home. I am constantly conscious of the atmosphere of our home now. If I’m not feeling the love then I make an effort to pump it up. We don’t need to worry about toughening up our children – the world is going to do that to them whether we want it to or not. But we do need to worry about our children’s psychological and emotional well-being. Harm that happens at home and harshness inflicted by a parent can leave scars that last a lifetime. I have adult friends who will testify to this.

In the end, children learn to treat people the way they are treated. If we treat our children with respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness, then we will raise humans who are respectful, empathetic, compassionate, and kind. And isn’t that really what we all want as parents?

Much love to you all,

Matthew Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion

compassion, empathy, kindness, Love, respect

All You Need is RECK

Have you ever come home after a hard day in the grumpiest of moods? You walk in the door, greet your family with a grumble, and then proceed to bark, snap, and maybe even yell at them for the rest of the evening?

Once you are feeling better, you might wonder why you treated them that way. After all, they are the ones you love the most and you might have treated them worse than you treated anyone else all day. “Next time,” you think, “I resolve to do better.”

Love is a wonderful thing. We are fortunate when we have people in our lives whom we love and who love us in return. But there aren’t really any ground rules to love, are there? We sort of have to make it up as we go along and we can probably think of some examples of times when we feel like maybe we weren’t loved properly. Perhaps our parents loved us, but they were highly judgmental of us. Or perhaps we had a romantic partner who loved us, but was controlling.

We need to be careful about love, because love done improperly can be harmful and a source of pain. This is where RECK comes in. RECK stands for respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness. It can be helpful to roll those four values over in your mind while you are thinking about how you want to treat the people you love.

Personally, I believe that we should treat all people with respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness. And I believe most strongly that we should treat the people we love this way. This way, we will love them in a way that is tender and caring. We will love them in a way that heals and does not harm.

If you resolved to treat your family – the people you love the most – with RECK, then even when you come home on your very worst day in the grumpiest of moods, you will still be respectful, empathetic, compassionate, and kind towards them. You will still seek first to be gentle, because kindness and compassion call us to be gentle. You will not yell, or bark, or snap, you will give hugs and support.

The beauty of RECK is that it doesn’t simply say “love one another,” it tells us how to love one another. First, be respectful – don’t trample all over people’s feelings and concerns, have respect for them. Next, be empathetic – treat the people you love the way you sense they need to be treated, try to get an idea of what is going on with them. Then, have compassion – maybe the people you love had hard days too, maybe they need some tenderness and affection. Finally, and at all times, be kind – it can be challenging to be kind when we are in a bad mood, but it is possible – we need to learn to control our emotions instead of letting our emotions control us.

This is RECK. This is what it’s all about. Keep those four values at the front of your mind and I promise you that they will not let you down. They will help you build a better life – both for yourself and for the people you love.

With love,

Matthew Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion