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Mental Health Awareness Week 2020: Kindness Starts at Home
Published: 23rd May 2020 | In: News
As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, the Quorum Cyber team has been taking extra time to open up the space for wellbeing conversations. Checking in with each other, and breaking down the barriers for everyone to reach out when – and, hopefully, before – things get tough. For our Managing Director, Federico Charosky, this process starts with mindful communication at home.
What was your favourite thing today, and how did it make you feel?
My name is Federico. I’m 37 years old. I’m Managing Director of Quorum Cyber. I’m an Engineer. I’m a Husband. I’m a Baker. I’m a Rock Climber. I’m a Reader. I’m a whisky and wine lover. But amongst the many titles and “labels” in my life, the one I hold most dear is that of “Father” – I’m the proud and incredibly lucky dad of two 5-year-old twins, Lucas and Oliver.
Being a father of twins is (I think) particularly interesting. For most parents, you are your child’s most important “thing”. You are their world. The bond is unique and defines both parent and child.
In the case of twins (or at least certainly our twins), the most important relationship is with each other. We, the parents, are a distant second. We are the “framework” for their relationship – but by and far, the strongest bond is with the brother. They are a true “Dyad in the Force”.
About a year ago, my wife and I decided (as one does) that it was time to start broadening the capability the boys had of using emotional language. The idea was simple: the more nuanced they can be about understanding and expressing their feelings, the lower their frustration levels would be.
Empathy is a very powerful ally, so if I can get my boys to carefully express how they “feel” by identifying the driving emotion, the more I can understand, and the more they will feel truly listened and understood.
So, we adopted a simple methodology, which has become one of the best things we ever did.
Every night, at bedtime, we all sit together and as we enjoy the last cuddles of the day, we ask each other “what was your favourite thing today, and how did it make you feel?”
At the beginning, the adults used to go first – that way we could teach them the names of the emotions. “my favourite thing was eating ice-cream together in the park, and it made me feel happy” or “my favourite thing was seeing you share your Spiderman toys, and it made me feel very proud”.
Over time this simple habit took on a life of its own. The boys started prompting the exercise, asking us “what was your favourite thing, and how did it make you feel?”. They started using very complex emotions… moving from the traditional “happy” or “sad” to “curious”, “excited”, “safe”, “strong”, “adventurous”.
And at this stage, we introduced the idea of “kindness”. The key point for us here was that we wanted them to think not of what they did, but of how it felt to the person on the other side.
Sharing your toy is kind, not because you give your toy to your brother, but because your brother was sad, and your act of kindness has made his day better. Every week we bake a cake and we take some to our neighbours, and that act of kindness makes their day magically better (even though you have less cake).
Kindness taught the boys to empathise and truly think of how others feel, personally relating to that feeling the other is experiencing, and developing strategies to make them feel better. Because if the other feels “sad”, and you can truly remember how that feels, kindness allows you to affect that feeling. At that point the toy you are playing with is secondary, because your primary goal is to not feel that shared sadness.
Paying this much attention to kindness also taught me something amazing: kindness is the only “thing” I’ve ever seen that breaks the laws of thermodynamics. By performing an act of kindness, not only can you make someone else happy, but you get that exact energy (for lack of a better word) back; the one “kind” action has two equally powerful reactions.
Today, the boys are fully versed in the language of emotions. But more importantly, they are growing kinder every day – they understand the impact of emotions on other people, and they celebrate each other’s acts of kindness in the purest of ways, as only 5-year-olds can.
I’m not sure why I chose to share this intimate family ritual with the world; if you know me at all, you will know I keep that part of my life well protected.
I guess, in a way, sharing the joy this simple exercise has brought to my wife and me is my very own act of kindness. And I hope that by embracing kindness fully, openly, we can all let that inner 5-year-old change the world.
PS: … but don’t touch my ice cream.