A Roller Coaster Day of Emotions Part 2: Day in the Life of Jenny Owens (Teacher/Parent/Wife)

Last week we followed teacher, wife, and mother of two, Marissa Weiss, as she showed us how she is coping with the stay-at-home mandate while juggling teaching, being with her kids, and running a household.

What we learned from her is that it’s normal to experience all the feelings throughout the day and that it’s easy to lose perspective when we get caught up in the moment. An important piece of advice from Marissa was to not sweat the small things, acknowledge that it’s extremely hard, and to keep in mind what’s most important; which is to be grateful for what you have including those small or big moments that bring you laughter and joy.

Today, we get to follow another teacher, wife, and mother, Jenny Owens, as she shows us how she juggles having two kids age 3 and 7.

My day begins with my 3-year-old daughter, Naya, screaming, “Mommy is it wake up time!” She’s a great alarm clock. As a I wobble to her room rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I open her door only to see a very happy, rested toddler ready for the day. With a full day ahead, this is one moment I make sure to cherish. From there we get dressed and head out to the living room to play and start brainstorming breakfast ideas. I usually let her watch her favorite Bubble Guppies show while we start our coffee machine and wake up our 1st grader, Kennedy, who has officially learned how to sleep in. She’s not as happy to wake up like Naya. As soon as both kids are up, the whole house is moving. One of us is usually getting breakfast together while the other is getting iPads and laptops set up for virtual learning. We went from no screens during the week to everyone in this house having a screen. There are some things I realized you have to just let go and accept and screen time is one of them.

At 8:30 am while I am on my first call with my class, my 3-year-old and 7-year-old are rushing through breakfast. My husband is keeping them busy until I get off my call. When I am off my call, I head straight to help Kennedy with her schoolwork before she hops on her call at 10 am. At this time, I shift from Kennedy to Naya and make sure I give her the attention she needs before hopping on my second call at 10:30 am when she shifts to hanging out in the bedroom with my husband while he’s trying to get work done. At times, it feels like we are all just rushing by each other to get to the next task. When Kennedy is done with her call, she independently tries to finish the rest of her work. When my call is finished, I immediately take them outside so we can get some fresh air. This is a chance for all of us to just unwind and release some built up energy. Meanwhile, my husband is on back-to-back conference calls inside.

Then as every parent knows, we hear the constant, “I’m hungry.” I shift to cook where I have to sometimes prepare two different meals for my two different kids. We get through lunch just in time for Kennedy to hop back on her second phone call. This is where I can give Naya my undivided attention. Mind you, all the while I am looking over at my computer a little anxiously when I hear the mail chime go off constantly. I’m a little bit on edge wondering if I forgot to respond to an email. By 2 pm, we feel like we have already had a 12-hour day! At this time, I put Naya down for a nap and then shift my attention back to Kennedy who has been wanting more attention. I have to make sure to stop throughout the day and check in with how she’s feeling. She is so independent and capable that I sometimes forget she’s only 7 and doesn’t have all the skills to regulate and recognize her emotions. Around 3:30 pm, Naya wakes up from her nap and we take the girls outside again to play as much as possible before coming inside at 4:45 pm to start dinner, baths, and family time.

Finally, when the girls go down at 7:30 pm, it’s now time for the last part of my day: planning my lesson for the next day, and checking in with my colleagues, my husband, my parents, my friends, and, last but not least, me. This has truly transformed my family and we have all experienced some highs and some lows, but we take it one day at a time and continue doing the best we can with what we have and know that it’s going to be okay because in the end we have each other and that’s the most important thing to me.

At anytime if you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We are all in this together.

For more information, please check out our Distance Learning Hub: https://distancelearning.thewillows.org/

A Roller Coaster Day of Emotions: Day in the Life of Marissa Weiss (Teacher/Parent/Wife)

“When I am on my walk, I think of the ridiculous yet hysterical dances my husband does, how my 6-year-old tells me I am his favorite person in the world, and how my 9-year-old still likes to cuddle with his mom, and I realize that everything is going to be okay.

– Marissa Weiss

As we continue to delve deeper into distance learning and the stay-at-home mandate, you may find that your emotions are running high. You may notice yourself being more critical, frustrated, annoyed, angry, and anxious to yourself and those around you. Just know, you’re not alone. At this time, many parents are asking themselves the same question, “How can I make sure my child is learning, work my full-time job, and run a house?

There are going to be many ups and downs and things will change day to day and, let’s be honest, minute to minute. As Marc Bracket would say, “You will experience a roller coaster of emotions throughout one day.” This is true for any day but even more so during this ongoing pandemic.

What is important is that we remember that we are human and that it’s okay not to be perfect. Please refer to our past blog A Special Message To Our Parents.

Below, we find out what it’s like to be teacher, wife, and mother of two, Marissa Weiss. Follow her as she copes to make it one day at a time.

After the first day of distance learning, I thought, “There is no way I can sustain this. At least it will only be for a couple of weeks.” Well, 5 weeks later, here we are, and I am constantly trying to find balance to sustain this new way of life. After having serious health problems four years ago, I can easily come by the perspective that this is all okay. I am one of the lucky ones right now. People are sick and dying. If my family and I are healthy, that’s all I need. But I am also human, and I have moments of feeling very overwhelmed and stressed. I’m sure many working and non-working parents feel the same way. I feel like I am being pulled in 1,000 directions every minute of the day. Sometimes, I wonder, “How in the world can I balance all of this?”

After the first few days, I got more into a rhythm. A typical day for me starts at 6:30am. I make sure my kids have everything they need for the day. They are in kindergarten and fourth grade. Although, I’ll be checking in with them, I can’t sit there and help them for a significant amount of time since I am teaching my fifth-grade class for most of the day. I feel a constant pull on my heart strings. I really want to make sure I’m there for my students and their families because I know how hard it is right now, and I want to be that light and support for them, while I simultaneously am trying to be supportive to my children. More than anything, children need emotional support and connection right now, and I will admit that I am hard on myself if I was not there for my kids during the day when I was there for my class instead. And being there for my class also means the world to me. I have a close relationship with my students, and not only do I want to support them, but I want the joy that seeing their smiling faces brings me. Then, there are my dance students. It breaks my heart that my 8th grade dancers are not able to perform all of their hard work and demonstrate their incredible talents, especially in their last year at The Willows. Dance is an outlet for so many of the kids, and in many ways most important in their lives right now.

So, the question is each day: how do I adequately support my own 2 kids, my husband, 24 fifth graders, and 100 dancers? I do the best I can each day, and I think as parents that is what we can do right now. As a teacher, I ensure that the connection between my students and me is still there and that they know I am here for them anytime.

Then, I have to make time for my myself. I am a better mother, wife, and teacher, when I go out for a walk or run after the school day. I also try not to sweat the small things. So what if my 6-year-old ate 3 bags of Pirates Booty and 3 yogurts during his Zoom session, while I was also on with my students! It’s important to come up for air and remember what’s important. More than anything, I have such enormous gratitude for all that I have- my husband, my kids, my family, my friends, and this incredible Willows community. I have been telling my students that when they have an anxious thought, acknowledge it and try to reframe it. It’s okay to admit that this is hard, abnormal, sad, and frustrating. Acknowledging these feelings helps and then telling myself that I am safe, healthy, and full of gratitude for all that I have shifts my anxiety and worry to a more peaceful place. When I am on my walk, I think of the ridiculous yet hysterical dances my husband does, how my 6-year-old tells me I am his favorite person in the world, and how my 9-year-old still likes to cuddle with his mom, and I realize that everything is going to be okay.

We realize how challenging these times can be during this unprecedented time. Just know, you’re not in it alone. We are always here to support you and your family.

For more resources and information, please go to https://www.thewillows.org/about-us/coronavirus-covid-19-update

The “Smart” Way to Praise Children

When it comes to school, everything that matters depends upon a student’s mindset. Students with a fixed mindset believe that they prove their intelligence by doing flawless work, while students with a growth mindset equate intelligence with knowing how to confront a challenge

Lisa Damour, Clinical Psychologist and Writer

We all know that praise is a very powerful thing. It’s a tool we often use to support and motivate our children. Although, very well-intentioned, the byproduct could potentially have negative consequences. Often we praise our children for their intelligence or their ability by saying, “you’re so smart” or “you’re so good”. By habitually doing this, it could contribute to a fixed mindset within our children. This type of mindset often lends a hand to children becoming fixed on how “good” or “bad” they are at something and inhibits their thinking that they can improve their intelligence.

Carol Dweck, psychologist and author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, emphasizes that we should praise our children based on their effort and not their intelligence. When we praise our children based on their effort, we help them understand that it’s their effort, aligned with the right actions and behaviors, that help them develop skills and overcome obstacles.

One thing to keep in mind is when Dweck speaks about effort, she’s talking about effective effort. That word often seems to get lost. There is a difference between effort and effective effort and they are not equal. Effective effort is the kind that leads to growth and new learning, whereas, ineffective effort is when children put in unfocused energy. Praising the wrong type of effort can be damaging.

In a landmark series of experiments on American 5th graders, researchers Claudia Mueller and Carol Dweck found that children behaved very differently depending on the type of praise they received. Research showed that children who were praised for their effort were more open to accepting new challenges and learning new strategies, whereas, by contrast, children that were praised for their intelligence tended to avoid challenges, often preferred easy tasks, and gave up after a failure.

Praising for Intelligence

Praising students’ intelligence leads to a short burst of pride followed by a long string of negative consequences

Carol Dweck

When we praise for intelligence we are sending our children a message that we are proud of their flawless work. This often leads to children feeling fearful of making mistakes, avoiding difficult tasks, and cheating. By praising children for their intelligence, we are teaching them that their success is due to their intelligence. When difficult challenges later appear, they are more likely to attribute their challenges/failures to a lack of intelligence.

Praising for Effective Effort

By contrast, when praising students for their effective effort, we are letting our children know that by continuing to practice good behaviors and actions, they can continue to grow and get better. This promotes a growth mindset. This type of praise fosters motivation, collaboration, increased effort, willingness to try and take on new challenges, and great self-confidence.

Dweck’s research on this topic has hit home for Lisa Damour, clinical psychologist and writer, who has written numerous academic papers, chapters, and two New York Times best-selling books, Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood and Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls.

Just like many parents, Damour wants to encourage her children to thrive and take chances by stepping out of their comfort zone, but she also wants to make sure she is not applying undue pressure on her children and asking for more than is fair. Promoting a growth mindset by praising effective effort has helped her find a good balance.

This coming December, we will be having Lisa Damour speak to The Willows community and our extended Los Angeles community as part of our Speaker Series, which will be open and free to the public.

For more resources on this topic, feel free to check out these videos by Carol Dweck and Lisa Damour.


Mueller CM and Dweck CS. 1998. Praise for intelligence can undermine children’s motivation and performance. Journal for Personality and Social Psychology 75(1): 33-52

The Importance Of Being Bored

 A bored mind moves into a “daydreaming” state

Sandi Mann, psychologist at the University of Central Lancashire

“I’m bored!” These are two words many parents dread hearing. Parents often want to avoid hearing this so they expend time and energy finding ways to alleviate their child’s boredom. They do this by over-scheduling numerous activities or drowning them with projects to do at home because it provokes a feeling that they have failed to enlighten or enrich their child’s mind.

What’s important to know is that constructive boredom in children is essential to their mental and emotional development. It’s also important to remember that there’s a big difference between a negatively numbed brain and a constructively bored mind. Constructive boredom is the type of boredom that leads to reading a book, painting a picture, creating a game, or playing outside with the neighbors. This type of constructive boredom does need a little guidance from parents, but not much. In this blog, we will talk about the benefits of constructive boredom and how parents can help nurture that.

Boredom fosters creativity

Our minds like to wander and when there’s nothing to do, they’re even more active. This often leads to a state of daydreaming, and that daydreaming sparks creative thoughts. When our children have nothing to do, they exercise their imagination which may be one of the most important skills they can develop. The notion that all children should be constantly active or engaged in activities could ultimately hamper the development of their imagination. Researchers all agree that the number one benefit of children experiencing periods of boredom is that it develops their innate ability to be creative.

Boredom helps develop a sense of identity and self-efficiency

“Your role as a parent is to prepare children to take their place in society. Being an adult means occupying yourself and filling up your leisure time in a way that will make you happy. If parents spend all their time filling up their child’s spare time, then the child’s never going to learn to do this for themselves.”

Lyn Fry, child psychologist

Over-scheduling may inhibit and ultimately keep your children from discovering what really interests them. When children have the time and opportunity to find ways to occupy themselves, it gives their self-esteem a boost as well. This is the time they can try new things, take risks, go outside their comfort zone, which will in the end build their sense of self-identity and self-efficiency.

Here are a few things parents can do to nurture constructive boredom.

Create a list of things to do

Brainstorm with your child all of the things they enjoy. These can be anything such as reading a book, writing a story, baking a cake, or putting on a play. Let your child be creative. Avoid activities such as playing video games or watching a movie, and, remember, these activities are for the child to do. There should be little to no parent guidance. The next time your child complains of boredom, have your child pick an activity to do from the list.

Plan unstructured time

Unstructured time allows children to find ways to use their imagination to be creative. When things aren’t prescribed or handed to them, children will have the opportunity to fill their time building forts, designing clothes, writing songs, or observing bugs. This time allows children to explore their own passions.

Have designated play areas designed specifically for kids

Create a space with your child that is designated for just him/her. This space will become a place for creativity and inspiration. Provide open ended toys, markers, paper, fabric, wood, boxes, and anything else that may spark imagination. Don’t mind the mess. Everything can be cleared at the end or put away.

The next time you hear your child say, “I’m bored,” hopefully you’ll remember these tools to help nurture your child to be constructively bored!

For more resources and information, please go to https://www.thewillows.org/about-us/coronavirus-covid-19-update

A Special Message To Our Parents!

Not perfect, but present.

Dr. Tina Payne Bryson, Mom, Psychotherapist, Speaker, & Co-Author of The Power of Showing Up.

There’s a video that I came across not too long ago by Dr. Tina Payne Bryson, that really hit home. I feel that it’s extremely pertinent to all of our parents to hear this message especially during this time where parents are not only acting as a parent but as an educator as well. It’s important to know that it’s OKAY to not feel in control or to not feel you’re doing your best.

Here are a couple takeaways from Dr. Tina Payne Bryson.

Please be kind to yourself!

Right now you don’t have to be the best parent or the best educator. The most important thing is to be present for your family. This is the time to give yourself grace, a lot of leeway, and to know that it’s okay to make mistakes. If you happen to mess up with your kids, repair it. It’s important to communicate and process things. It’s okay for them to see you’re not perfect in an imperfect situation.

It’s okay to let your kids play

Play is important work. Enjoy being together, watch movies, build together, and bake cookies. What’s important is that you enjoy this time together with your kids.

Remember, we have to be there for our kids, but we can’t do that if we’re not showing up and being too hard on ourselves as parents. You don’t have to be the best parent right now. You don’t have to be the best educator right now. What matters most is that you show up for each other and that your kids feel safe, seen, soothed, and secure.

Here is a video of Dr. Tina Payne Bryson discussing the Whole-Brain Child.

Here is a video of Dr. Tina discussing her book The Yes Brain.

For more resources and information, please go to https://www.thewillows.org/about-us/coronavirus-covid-19-update