Emotional Health and PTAs: Handling the Challenge in a Heart-Healthy Way

This week the smart and talented women at Living Self-Care kicked off another challenge. Its focus on moms’ physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health is right on time for Mother’s Day.

The last Living Self-Care Challenge came during a particularly stressful time in my work, when I really needed someone (even a voice from cyberspace!) encouraging me to take time for myself. Which I still do, I’m proud to say.

Now I’m in a slightly different situation – I’ve recently committed to donate my writing and organizing talents to the Parent Assembly at my son’s school for a year. And so today’s topic for the Living Self-Care challenge really resonates! The topic is Our Hearts, and it’s all about taking care of our emotional health and relationships.

Parent-teacher organizations are a fabulous way for moms and dads to become involved and stay engaged with their child’s school. But they can also camouflage steaming pools of discontent that simmer underground until POOF!  They spout like a geyser in Yellowstone.

We are all passionate about our kids and their education, but the downside is that our emotions can sometimes cause us to put a lot of energy into heating up a geyser when what we really should be doing is boiling a pot of coffee for a sit-down session with the school’s leadership or other parents.

There are a couple of lines in the Hearty-Healthy Habits that I would like to hang in the parents’ lounge at school.  One is about prioritizing our emotional health. “It means saying ‘yes’ to what makes our heart sing and ‘no’ when it’s too much.” This is for every parent who’s ever overcommitted to something she doesn’t really enjoy just because there’s a blank sign-up form on the table.

Another is “Nurture relationships with time, energy and attention.” We are all so busy that it seems utopian to expect that everyone can be up at school for all the performances, field trips, class parties and other events.  But there are plenty of other ways to nurture relationships with teachers, staff and fellow parents outside school hours. The key is to recognize how important these relationships are and to prioritize them.

Finally, the one that leaps out from the screen at me is “Communicate Assertively: Express both positive and negative feelings openly and directly. Don’t attack the other person or passively withdraw. Address problems as they occur. Be respectful and expect the same.”

This is such a challenge!  It is much easier to surround ourselves with groups of like-minded parents and to bring our dissatisfaction to their friendly ears than to express ourselves to those with opposing viewpoints in a respectful, open, direct way.

The key is to remember that everyone – other parents, staff, administration, teachers – wants what is best for all the children in the school. Some examples:

  • If you think the music in aftercare is too mature for your elementary son, bring it up with the program’s coordinator. It’s possible no one has considered the issue before.
  • If you worry that the sanitation standards for lunchroom utensils aren’t high enough, find out who supervises the cafeteria and explain your concerns. The reason may be something simple (like the kids keep throwing the forks away so the dishwashers have to scramble to keep up).
  • If you aren’t satisfied with the quality of playground time or activities, bring it up with the principal or head of school. There are many nonprofit organizations that work with schools to teach non-competitive games and mentor students in peer conflict resolution.

We’re only three days into the Self-Care Challenge and I’m already finding much food for thought … I look forward to the rest of the week!

By Amy De La Hunt, Health Blogger for SmartParenting

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Amy De La Hunt is a journalist and editor who lives in the St. Louis metro area and works across the country as a writer, copy editor, project manager and editorial consultant on everything from fiction books to monthly magazines to blog posts. When she's not chauffeuring her teenage sons to activities, Amy is an enthusiastic amateur cook, landscaper, Latin dancer and traveler. Follow Amy on Instagram @amy_in_words

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