confident parents confident kids

Simple Calming Strategies for You and Your Kids

Stress Less: Calming Strategies from Parent Toolkit on Vimeo.


This  video short from the NBC Parent Toolkit shows how simple it can be to incorporate calming strategies into your life and your children’s to benefit all in your family. Maurice Elias, Social and Emotional Learning Expert at Rutgers University and I had the chance to talk with NBC in preparing this video and several future social skill videos to come. Check it out and in addition, here are some helpful ways to remind yourself to use calming strategies.

Because we are all busy, it helps to find easy, everyday reminders to prompt us to use calming strategies. For example, I use my first morning coffee as a reminder to take deep breaths to start my day. I also walk outside while I am sipping my coffee and the fresh air reminds me to deep breathe. You can use the opening of your refrigerator door, as the cold air wafts out at you, to remind you of taking deep breaths. I can measure the difference in my patience level and my creative ability on days when I take a moment to deep breathe versus days when I don’t. When you use deep breathing as a calming strategy daily, you will be more likely to remember to use it when you are under acute stress. Find what works for you and see if you don’t notice a difference too.


The video talkblowing bubbles 001s about using bubble blowing with kids to practice deep breathing. In nicer weather, that’s a perfect way to cultivate an important calming habit. In wintertime or during inclement weather, use hot chocolate breathing. Take in the aroma of the chocolate while
you breathe in with your child and then, blow it out to cool it. If you have proactively practiced deep breathing with your child, you only need gently remind or begin modeling it yourself during an upsetting time. Your child will get in the routine of using this self-soothing support anytime and anywhere they need it. And you will feel rewarded with the knowledge that you have helped cultivate a critical self-management skill.Boy smelling hot chocolate 2014 illust by Jennifer Miller

Parents, Kids and Bullying Behaviors – What Can We Do?

Stop bullying by Jennifer Miller

Ultimately, the only power to which man should aspire is that which he exercises over himself.
-Elie Weisel

“You’re a horrible person,” was what I heard and deeply felt though I cannot recall the exact words that delivered this final crushing blow. It had come after a series of unconsidered and callous jabs and was interspersed with racial jokes directed at others that were, in part, responsible for the double crease lines between my eyebrows. This clearly was not my circle of friends though they had been the first and only ones I knew in an unfamiliar school in an unfamiliar community. And after many tears, my Mom had me convinced that the only way to deal with this hurtful situation was for me to screw up my courage and directly confront the girl of many mean words. And my Mom was right. Though it may have been the hardest thing I had done in my tender fourteen years of life, it was the most courageous and empowering. I took control of my relationships. I called her on the phone requiring the safety of distance and invisibility. I told her she had been cruel and she knew it. I wouldn’t take it anymore. “Just stop,” I said. And that was it. I’m not sure I muttered another word to her the rest of my high school years nor she me. And I was not only freed by getting rid of her presence in my life, but I felt a new sense of agency. I could face meanness and come away standing tall.

Most, at some point in their lives, have been bullied. Someone has intentionally caused them harm, emotionally and sometimes, physically, repeatedly over time creating a dominance of one over another. Immunity cannot be guaranteed for anyone but there are clear, research-based steps parents can take to prevent their own children from choosing bullying behaviors and also, from being the recipient of bullying. If you think your child has not experienced bullying, consider that in a study of U.S. students, grades 3-12, fewer than half said they had told a parent about their experience.1. So look for signs. If your child has repeated tummy aches and doesn’t want to go to school, ask if there are troubles they want to avoid. If your child seems depressed and you are unsure why, spend time hanging out together and just listening. Your demonstration of openness and trust may raise the subject that might otherwise remain a secret.

It helps to understand the conditions that perpetuate bullying behaviors. The evidence is clear that most bullies have been bullied themselves (by an adult or a child) in some form. In fact, it could be surmised that all bullies are hurting and perpetuating a cycle of hurt. There is a much greater likelihood that a child will show bullying behaviors if
– parents are aggressive, punishing and emphasize power and dominance in the family.
– siblings are aggressive with one another and parents allow it.
– there is physical and/or emotional abuse in the family.
– parents are overly permissive and/or ignore their child.

Parents who are consistent with boundaries and limits and balance it with responsiveness to needs and clear love and attention are significantly less likely to perpetuate bullying behaviors. 2. As with any social and emotional skill or lack thereof, family values and models are the greatest teachers.

Here are specific ways you can prevent your child from choosing bullying behaviors:

Become aware of your own language. When speaking about others, do you use language that includes labeling or demeaning words? Do you ever label your own child? You may feel that calling him a “geek” is innocent enough but what if the teacher called reporting your child was calling others “geeks”? Check your own language as you speak and realize that your child is learning from you. I ask myself, “If my child repeated what I am saying to someone else in public, would I be upset?” If my answer is yes, then I rethink and rephrase what I am saying or I try to not say it at all.

Be your child’s advocate. Perhaps you are not aggressive with your children but a relative is. Don’t allow it. Don’t allow uncles, aunts or grandmothers to criticize your child. There are kind and firm ways you can advocate without hurting others’ feelings. Remove your child. Change the subject. Distract with a game or other plaything. Pull the offending adult aside and ask them politely but firmly to stop. If you suspect they are inappropriate with your child when you are not present, make certain they are not left alone with him/her so that there are not opportunities for mistreatment.

Cultivate sibling kindness. If a family culture helps determine each child’s behavioral choices, then there needs to be certain limits between and among siblings. Harm whether physical or emotional is not acceptable. If harm is caused, parents can direct children in ways to make up for their harm – fixing a broken toy or doing a kindness for a sister with hurt feelings. Promote and practice sibling kindness by creating chances for siblings to appreciate one another. At dinnertime ask, “What did you notice your sister do today that was kind?” Also, find chances to guide siblings toward cooperation (versus competition). Siblings who are able to work together get regular practice in being collaborative and will translate that practice into their school relationships.

Learn strategies that prompt responsibility instead of resorting to yelling and/or punishment. If you are reading this blog, you are on a positive learning track as a parent! We all need support in our roles doing the hardest, most important job on the planet. Know how you learn best and seek ways to continue your own learning. Parents who understand multiple strategies for responding to misbehaviors don’t need to resort to yelling or punishment. They retain (or regain) their own emotional control and use those moments to teach their children responsible behaviors. Mom’s Clubs, support forums, parenting education classes, online webinars (see Confident Parents Academy), articles and talking with parents you admire are all ways to advance your own abilities in this area.

Practice social and emotional skills. Whether you engage in cooperative games with your family or hold family meetings to dialogue through problems, find ways to practice social and emotional skill building at home. Instead of running to help a neighbor on your own when Mom or Dad gets home to watch the kids, take the kids with you. Let them experience empathy in action. Find ways they can contribute to your home, school and community. Children who have practice in social and emotional skills do not need to bully. They derive power from their own skills and abilities.

Here are specific ways you can help your child if he or she is being bullied:

Listen with compassion and leave judgements behind. If you create sacred space and focused attention in which you listen to your child regularly, he is much more likely to share his troubles with you. If you learn he is being bullied, listen to the full story with compassion before chiming in. Express empathy for your child who is hurting. Also, be clear with your child that the other – the one who is choosing bullying behaviors – is hurting in ways we cannot fully understand. But what they are doing is not right and needs to stop.

Show confidence that your child can respond. Though painful, responding to bullying attacks is an important opportunity for your child’s growth in her social relationships if you provide support. If you give her the tools to deal with her own relationship problems, she will grow in her confidence and gain invaluable experience she will certainly use later in life when confronted with other difficult behaviors.

Coach your child on how to react. Because bullying behaviors are defined as a series of mistreatments, there tends to be a continuation and often an escalation of attacks over time. That means that the best time to address bullying is immediately. Coach your child on ways to respond the next time they are attacked. If a classmate says, “You are so ugly,” for example, practice what your child would say and how they would say it. The best responses follow this criteria.

  1. What is said is short, memorable and well-rehearsed.
    2. Child communicates what is happening is wrong.
    3. Child communicates that it must stop.

So the conversation would go as follows:

“You are so ugly,” says attacker.

“Gina, stop it. You know you are wrong.” says your child.

How a child says it – his body language – is as important as what he says. He will be scared. Acknowledge that anyone would be but that doesn’t mean he can’t do it. In fact, he can. Practice standing up straight. Looking the attacker in the eyes. Say his few words – “You are wrong. Stop!” firmly but not yelling (yelling indicates a loss of emotional control). Then, walk away. Like ripping off a bandaid, the interaction only need last a few minutes but can have lasting impact on your child’s confidence.

You can also coach your child to proactively confront their attacker as my Mom did with me. Give your child the choice. I was so upset that I needed to take control right away and not wait for another attack. Your child may have more courage to respond if he practices and then goes to his attacker and communicates that things are going to change. Either way, your child is empowered with the tools to shape his/her own relationships.

DO NOT encourage your child to engage in any hurtful word exchange. And DO NOT model it inadvertently by criticizing the attacker. A hurtful retort (referencing character, calling names) could escalate the conflict and put your child in immediate danger. Hold back on your own comments even if they are flying through your mind and keep your child safe.

What parents can do in partnership with schools:

Evidence-based school-wide initiatives that promote a caring school community and allow students to practice social and emotional skills have been found to be the most effective in preventing bullying. Specifically a meta-analysis of studies found that the most effective bullying prevention programs in schools included parent training, improved playground supervision, multiple disciplinary strategies (not Zero Tolerance), school conferences or assemblies that raised awareness of the problem, classroom rules against bullying, classroom management techniques for detecting and dealing with bullying and the work of peers to help combat bullying. 3. Check out the CASEL Guide on Social and Emotional Learning and Bullying Prevention for more. So what can we do as parents?

Find out what is being done in your child’s school. Ask what programs, policies and practices are in place related to bullying prevention. Raise your own awareness and let your family know about the school’s efforts.

Get involved. Does your school’s Parent Teacher Association have a role in bullying prevention? Get a seat at the table and make sure that it does. In my own state of Ohio, I worked closely with a parent who had been bullied as a child. She brought up the issue and her advocacy and persistence resulted in the adoption of a state-wide policy through the Ohio Parent Teacher Association on social and emotional learning and bullying prevention. Parents do have a powerful voice if they use it. The schools who have dealt with school what can i do sandy hook illust 001shootings have, after the tragedy, adopted a focus on creating a caring school environment and involving parents in that process. Don’t wait until your child’s safety is at risk. EVERY school needs to have plans and practices in place to promote connectedness between all members of the school community.

Promote Upstanders. Upstanders are kids who witness bullying behaviors and stand up for the kids who are being picked on. Some schools promote this as a part of their caring culture. Classroom discussions include conversations about how you can stand up for others. There are ways parents can promote inclusion at home and certainly not accept exclusion. In addition, check out Edutopia’s article on creating a culture of up-standers in schools. 

Remember the classic 1980’s film, “Back to the Future” when Calvin’s Dad confronted his bully, Biff and it forever changed the power dynamic in their relationship? And recall my story? I didn’t have to deal with the girl of many mean words again. When kids respond clearly and firmly, it has the power to completely shift the relationship. The message is “I’m not going to be picked on anymore.” And because the bullying behavior is a tentative ploy for dominance from a hurting child, he/she is likely to back off. The power has shifted and their ability to maintain control is on unsteady ground.

Though the aim of bullying behaviors is to force us into feelings of helplessness, we are not helpless. Everyone in a community can take responsibility and serve a role. By doing your part, we can eliminate the threat of abuse and focus on learning together.



Check out the following helpful sites:
National Bully Prevention Center –
The Bully Project –
Stomp Out Bullying –

Bazelon, Emily. (2013). Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy. NY: Random House.

Goldman, Carrie (2012). Bullied. What Every Parent, Teacher and Kid Needs To Know about Ending the Cycle of Fear. NY: Harper Collins.


1. Limber, S. P., Olweus, D., & Wang, W. (November, 2012). What we are learning about bullying: trends in bullying over 5 years. Paper presented at the meeting of the International Bullying Prevention Association. Kansas City, MO.
2. Duncan, Renae D. (2009) Family characteristics of children involved In bullying. Retrieved from on 10-1-15.
3. Ttofi, M. M., & Farrington, D. P. (2009). What works in preventing bullying: Effective elements of anti-bullying programs. Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, 1(1), 13–24.
4. CASEL, AIR, EDC. Social and Emotional Learning and Bullying Prevention. Online Guide.

Reading Together: A Portal to Social and Emotional Discoveries (with Book Recommendations)

Reading Together through the years by Jennifer Miller“There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.”
– Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

“One more chapter!” my son pleads at bedtime and more often than not, I have obliged. It’s a true joy to dive into an adventure together and have the chance to discuss subjects that might not otherwise arise. It may not surprise parents to know that children derive their love of reading from their family’s lifestyle, beliefs and practices with reading. If you read for pleasure, your children will likely read for pleasure. And we know that their literacy development is critical to academic achievement and success now and later in life. And though the stage between kindergarten and third grade is indeed a critical time to develop fundamental reading skills, literacy development continues throughout childhood and adolescence.

Older children and adolescents read less for pleasure than younger children. Or kids may perceive reading as an act of performance and their desire for a good book may lessen or their time becomes filled with social and extracurricular activities. For some, reading may generate feelings of pressure, inadequacy or obligation at school. But it does not need to be experienced that way at home. Because reading is a social act, it gives those reading together access to social and emotional issues that may seem too sensitive to bring up in everyday life.

Stories can help a child define his identity, become aware of complex feelings, evaluate reactions to situations and grapple with the consequences of difficult choices. If you cultivate habits of enjoying reading together, it can allow you unique access to your child’s inner world. It can serve as a catalyst for ongoing trusting and meaningful connections offering relationship resilience in more challenging times.

It’s been an adventure discovering a whole new set of literature through the eyes and mind of my child. There are simple ways to promote social connection-making through books. Ask, “What books do you have in common with your friends? Do you know what they are reading?” After asking this of my son, I watched him reenact his favorite Magic Treehouse stories with a friend dressing in the styles of the characters and going on neighborhood adventures. We as adults enjoy a good book club discussion so why not our children? Just asking the question can get them thinking about what experiences others are having through reading.

With the help of other parents and teachers, I have put together a list of favorite children’s books that are particularly strong in raising social and emotional topics. Check out the following organized by picture books, juvenile fiction for 7-12 year olds and young adult fiction for 13-17 year olds. Treat your children to a trip to the library or bookstore and enjoy picking out high interest books together. This list will be updated regularly as a consistent resource for parents on in the “Kid Resources” menu. Happy reading!

CPCK’s Social and Emotional Learning Picture Book Recommendations

InMyHeartIn My Heart; A Book of Feelings by Jo Witek, Illustrated by Christine Roussey
A girl explores the feelings of her heart and describes what she feels when she is happy, calm, brave, hurt, angry, sad, hopeful, silly, shy and proud. This is a perfect book to introduce a conversation about emotions and the purpose they serve as clues to who we are. There is no shame or guilt in feeling any of these emotions. They are all equally a part of this girl’s heart as they are a part of ours.


HiRescoverMade by Raffi-1Made by Raffi by Craig Pomranz, Illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain
Raffi feels different from other kids at school and he is often teased because of it. He doesn’t like loud noises and rough play, he enjoys his peace and quiet. A teacher shows Raffi how to knit and his world changes! Everyone wants to have something made by Raffi and he feels more accepted.


CorduroyCorduroy by Don Freeman
A slightly ragged department store bear searches for his missing button in hopes of tidying himself up to be the perfect teddy bear for Lisa. However, Lisa loves him just the way he is! She takes him home, makes him a bed and fixes his overalls for him.


UnknownQuiet Bunny’s Many Colors by Lisa McCue
Quiet Bunny loves all the colors of spring and wishes his brown and white skin were yellow, blue, or even green. When he realizes that he can’t be any of those colors, owl helps him realize that, that’s why the spring forest is beautiful because they are all different colors.



MouseWasMadMouse Was Mad by Linda Urban, Illustrated by Henry Cole
This is a hilarious book about a mouse who gets critiqued about the ways he is expressing his anger until he finds his own way to cool down that impresses all of the other animals. This is an excellent book to discuss and learn about the ways to manage anger.



LittlePipDon’t Be Afraid, Little Pip by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman
Little Pip has been told he will learn to swim with all of the other penguins his age. He is scared of swimming and his interest in flying becomes the excuse for not learning to swim. When he accidentally falls into the water, he learns to swim and overcomes his fear with the support of a friend.


Unknown-2When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry… by Molly Bang
This is a story about a little girl who gets angry when it is time for her to share with her sister. She throws a fit and then takes off into the woods where she takes in nature and finds comfort in the world and is able to calm down. She heads back home and everything is ok again.



SkinYouLiveInThe Skin you Live In by Michael Tyler, Illustrated by David Lee Cscicsko
Race and skin color can be a challenging subject to bring up with our children though so important. This book can help! It describes the beauty of a variety of skin tones using dessert imagery. Then, it moves beyond skin color to talk about all of the qualities that make a person unique – their imagination, their hopes and dreams.


WhosInMyFamilyWho’s In My Family? All About Our Families by Robie Harris, Illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott
A family takes a trip to the zoo and notes all of the different make-ups of human and animal families. It discusses how different families eat a variety of foods and live in varying environments. There are multiracial families, single sex couples, adopted children and stepparents. It makes the point that it’s normal to have all sorts of different kinds of families and family members.


ChildrenAroundTheWorldChildren Around the World by Donata Montanari
This book introduces individual children from many different corners of the world starting with Emilio from the Philippines and ending with Rosa from Boliva. Read about their experiences in their countries, where they live and what they do each day.



WhoeverYouAreWhoever You Are by Mem Fox, Illustrated by Leslie Staub
A story that takes you around the world to let you know that even though you may look different than others, learn and speak differently, and live differently, that on the inside we are all the same. We all have beating hearts, joys, laughter, pain and tears.




A Pocket Full of KissesA Pocket Full of Kisses by Audrey Penn, Illustrated by Barbara Leonard Gibson
This is an excellent book for siblings or with only children who feel envious when their parents share their attention with other children. Big brother Raccoon struggles with his younger brother’s need for attention. Mama Raccoon is able to explain, using each of her paws and the sun’s rays, that there is plenty of love for both and between the bothers too.


Too Tall HousesToo Tall Houses by Gianna Marino
Friends Rabbit and Owl build their homes next door to each other. But when one feels the other’s house is bigger, the other starts building his own. A competition ensues to build the tallest house. In the midst of their building frenzy, both houses collapse and they must consider what to do next. They find that their best solution is to rebuild one home to share together.


BadAppleBad Apple by Edward Hemingway
Mac and Will become best friends despite the fact that Mac is an apple and Will is a worm. The other apples in the orchard say that Mac is a bad apple for being friends with Will. Will thinks Mac would be better off without him, but Mac would rather be a bad apple than a sad one.



The Lion and the MouseThe Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
This is a particularly interesting “read” with a child since there are no words – only illustrations. Give your child the opportunity to narrate the story and see how they advance the events and interpret the pictures. A lion spares a mouse by not eating him when he encounters him. The mouse promises to help him one day. The lion laughs off his offer figuring he is too small to contribute. But when the lion gets caught in a hunter’s net, the mouse chews the rope and sets him free.

The Snail and the WhaleThe Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
This delightful rhyming tale is about the unlikely friendship and adventures of a snail and whale. When the whale’s life is threatened, the tiny snail uses a unique attribute to attract attention and enlist help to save the whale.


Unknown-5The Day Leo Said I HATE YOU! by Robie H. Harris, Illustrated by Molly Bang
All day Leo’s mom had been telling him “NO!” to everything that he did. Leo gets so angry that he tells his mom, “I HATE YOU!” Mommy does a great job letting Leo know that it’s ok to say you hate certain things, but saying it to people hurts feelings.




Juvenile Fiction (7-12 Year Olds)


Unknown-1Minnie McClary Speaks her Mind
by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Ten year old Minnie is trying to figure out who she is. Her teacher is encouraging students to write about themselves in a journal and discusses the many sometimes controversial ways individuals are different. Minnie begins to gain confidence and ask critical questions about herself and others when her teacher is suspended. Now a whole new set of questions are raised about why she would be suspended and what Minnie really believes about her teacher and herself.

bessicaThe Reinvention of Bessica Lefter
by Kristen Tracy
Before the school year begins, eleven year old Bessica Lefter wants to reinvent herself but her plans for a new identity fall apart. She loses her best friend and doesn’t know how to make other friends. This is a comical look at a girl who is trying to leave her primary school self behind to transition into her middle school self with the start of sixth grade but feels confused, unheard and misunderstood.


cvr9781442429314_9781442429314_lgAnyway: A Story About Me with 138 Footnotes, 27 Exaggerations and 1 Plate of Spaghetti
by Arthur Salm
At summer camp, twelve year old Max reinvents himself as daring and fearless. He comes home to return to school, his friends and his life and realizes that the fun he had over the summer was at the expense of others’ feelings. He acted like a bully and now, cannot be as risky with his friends at home. Max tries to figure what kind of person he really wants to be.

m@m1Malcolm at Midnight
by W.H. Beck
Malcolm, a smaller than average rat, loves life at school and the secret society of classroom pets that keep children out of trouble. But the kids and adults view the rats as trouble. When an iguana disappears, Malcolm must use all of his persistence to prove his innocence and save her.


UnknownMagic Tree House Series
by Mary Pope Osborne
Illustrated by Salvatore Murdocca
This is an excellent introduction for 6-8 year olds to the world of chapter books. The stories offer grand adventures for a sister and brother traveling through time and space through a magical tree house and encountering places, cultures, historical events, mythologies and creatures throughout the world. There are 53 books in the series.

by R.J. Palacio
A boy was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school until now. He attempts to convince his new classmates that he’s just an ordinary kid with an extraordinary face.



cvr9781416909842_9781416909842_lgNo Talking
by Andrew Clements
The noisy fifth grade boys of Laketon Elementary School challenge the equally loud fifth grade girls to a “no talking” contest. Communication is the social and emotional skill topic explored here.


by Judy Blume
The main character goes along with the rest of the fifth grade class in tormenting a classmate and then finds out what it’s like when she also becomes a target.


liberation-of-gabriel-king500-195x300The Liberation of Gabriel King
by K.L. Going
In Georgia in 1976, Gabriel, a bullied white boy, and Frita, an African-American girl facing prejudice, decide to overcome their fears together as they enter the fifth grade.


by Jerry Spinelli
“Crash” Coogan has always been aggressive, until his relationship with a Quaker boy and his grandfather’s stroke help him consider the meaning of friendship and family.



9780553494693Big Whopper
by Patricia Reilly Giff
This book explores issues of honesty and integrity. When a girl cannot think of a discovery during Discovery Week at school, she makes up a story but finds she cannot keep pretending it’s true.


Young Adult Fiction (13-17 years old)

Classic Literature

MockingbirdTo Kill A Mockingbird
By Harper Lee
A coming-of-age story set in the South. A young girl views a world of great beauty and savage inequities as her lawyer father risks everything to defend a black man unjustly accused of a terrible crime. This book has become an essential read and a rite of passage for teenagers in the U.S.


Mice and MenOf Mice and Men
By John Steinbeck
Migrant farm workers, George and Lennie travel to work on a new farm but have dreams of owning their own. Theirs is a complex friendship in which they seem dependent upon one another though George denies it. Lennie has a mild learning disability and sometimes crushes animals in his large hands when loving them too much. George and Lennie face difficult decisions in their new environment and ultimately face destruction of one another. This book raises critical conversations about the role of friendship, about responsible decision making and about the pitfalls of interdependence.

Grapes of WrathThe Grapes of Wrath
By John Steinbeck
Set in the Great Depression, this is the story of the Joad family who are forced to move from their Oklahoma farm to work in California. The family must work in a labor camp with unsanitary and inhumane conditions without water, shelter or bathrooms in order to survive. This novel paints a vivid picture of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless. The Joad family demonstrates their strength in the face of significant societal injustices.
Lord of the FliesLord of the Flies
By William Golding
What happens when a group of typical young boys are stranded on an island? At first, the boys view the opportunity as great fun. But survival takes priority quickly and life on the island turns into savage conflict and terror. As normal standards of behavior are forgotten, the boys prior life and known experience is shattered and another primitive existence becomes their world.

A Separate PeaceA Separate Peace
By John Knowles
Set at a boys’ boarding school in New England during the early years of World War II, this coming of age story deals with the angst of teenagers straddling youthful innocence but discovering adult problems and feelings. The story is ultimately about a friendship between two boys who support one another but also betray each other’s trust.

Farenheit 451Fahrenheit 451
By Ray Bradbury
Bradbury depicts a future dystopia in which television takes over and literature is nearly extinct. In this world, the job of firemen is to destroy the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden. When a fireman begins to question everything, he starts hiding books in his home. And when his actions are discovered, the fireman has to run for his life. This book raises important issues including the role of literature and censorship.
GiverThe Giver
By Lois Lowry
The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a world of contented conformity. Society attempts to control who procreates and how many children are born per couple in addition to giving each child a “life assignment.” Not until Jonas is given his own assignment does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his community. This book raises important discussions about questioning rules and authority and understanding the purpose behind decisions.

HobbitThe Hobbit
By J.R.R. Tolkien
An adventurous tale of the journey of one wizard and several dwarves including, the reluctant Bilbo Baggins. They go on a mission to take back the Lonely Mountain from a dangerous dragon. On their journey, they find a magic ring that holds great danger and tremendous power. They must work together to complete their mission and return home to the Shire.

Catcher in RyeCatcher in the Rye
By J.D. Salinger
Holden Caulfield is a patient in a mental hospital who reflects upon the events when he was a teenager that forever changed his life. Telling stories of expulsion, sexuality and betrayal, he looks back on a weekend and the people that he misses that were a part of that moment in time. This coming of age story dives into the psyche of a teenage boy and deals with the many confusing and complex issues that are so often a part of straddling the transition from childhood to adulthood and being exposed to grown-up problems.

Tree in BrooklynA Tree Grows in Brooklyn
By Betty Smith
The coming of age story of ten year old Francie Nolan takes place at the turn of the century in the slums of Brooklyn. Francie, both a dreamer and a practical planner, tries to understand her family members and community around her through the laughter and sorrow. This book examines the effects of poverty on family life with dynamic characters that ring true. Not only does this book raise important discussions about the role of money in our lives, but it also deals with family connectedness.

OutsidersThe Outsiders
By S.E. Hinton
This story focuses on two teen cliques that battle one another primarily because of their class differences. In one of the fights, the kids lose control and one boy dies. The narrator, a boy in one of the groups, dives into confusing relationships with friends and enemies and tries to understand the injustices taking place. Ultimately, he has to decide where his allegiance lies and what he believes to be right.

By Gary Paulsen
While his parents are going through a divorce, Brian takes off on a flight to visit his father. The pilot, while showing him how to fly, experiences a heart attach and dies mid-air. The plane crashes and Brian is alone in the Canadian wilderness. His mother had given him a hatchet as a present, his only tool to use to keep him alive. Meanwhile, he is mentally consumed by a secret that his mother had an affair. He quickly has to pull himself together in order to fight his way back to civilization and survive.

HuckleberryAdventures of Huckleberry Finn
By Mark Twain
This classic story involves the high stakes adventure of an abused runaway boy and slave while rowing down the Great Mississippi River. The rich characters and lively obstacles they encounter create the forefront of a delightful story that illuminates the underlying social justice themes of class, race, enslavement, the role of society, human rights and more.


Contemporary Fiction

Ender's GameEnder’s Game
By Orson Scott Card
The government decides to breed child geniuses as soldiers to fight hostile aliens who have already attacked once in preparation for their return. The story focuses on the Wiggin family with three children, Peter, Andrew “Ender” and sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the military training program but ultimately, Ender is selected to be trained as an anti-alien fighter. This challenge will test his courage, beliefs and self-identity.

Striped PJsThe Boy in the Striped Pajamas
By John Boyne
Set in Berlin in 1942, Bruno’s father receives a promotion and the family must move to a desolate place. There are hundreds of others but they live beyond a fence and all seem to wear the same striped pajamas. Though Bruno doesn’t know what his father does for a living, he is curious about life beyond the fence and meets a boy of similar age, Schmuel, who tells him about his life within the fence. Their secret friendship helps Bruno understand and empathize with the world beyond the fence. This powerful story depicts the horrors of Nazi Germany and the concentration camps from a fresh perspective and one in which teens will learn much about the injustices that took place and the complex roles and feelings of those involved.

The Book ThiefThe Book Thief
By Markus Zusak
Set in Munich in 1939, Leslie is a foster girl living with her foster father, a street musician. Death narrates the story and takes her younger brother. Leslie steals a first book before she can read from which her foster father reads to her every night to comfort her and prevent nightmares of her brother’s death. She can’t resist stealing more, learns to read and shares her treasured books with neighbors during bombing raids and with the Jewish man hidden in her basement. She continues to learn about the role of death in the world around her.

Curious Incident of the Dog...The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
By Mark Haddon
Christopher is a 15 year old boy with autism. He knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He can relate well with animals. But he has no understanding of human emotions. Christopher decides to investigate the death of his neighbor’s dog and uncover the secrets in his neighbor. In addition to better understanding the heart and mind of a child with autism, this story paints a picture of an individual with a fresh, wholly different perspective on average events.

By Louis Sachar
Stanley feels his is part of a long-running family curse. He has been unjustly sent to a boys’ detention center, Camp Green Lake. The boys are required to dig holes everyday to “build character” but Stanley suspects there is a darker reason behind the hole digging. The adults are punitive and secretive at the camp. Stanley tries to uncover the truth along with friends and enemies he meets along the way. This book raises questions about the roles of crime and punishment and what makes a difference in kids’ behavior.

On Getting Smart: “Smart Parents and Back to School Preparations; Supporting Social Learning”

Back to School Readiness by Jennifer MillerOn “Getting Smart” in the Smart Parents series and next week, in the Huffington Post, Education section…

“Smart Parents and Back to School Preparations: Supporting Social Learning”

It begins…

After the first week of school, I walked my seven year old son home along with one of his friends for a playdate. As we talked I asked, “What can you tell me about second grade so far?” expecting to hear about their new teachers or the greatness (or awfulness) of gym class. Instead they jumped right into discussing friendships and how certain classmates were treating one another unfairly. “Simon tells me to shut up.” said my son’s friend. “Yeah, and he wouldn’t let me in his four square game at recess.” my son added. And they volleyed back and forth with their concerns about the behaviors of their classmates. The interactions with their friends were foremost on their minds before teachers or classes. Consider your own conversations with your children about their first days and weeks back to school. Do you notice social and emotional concerns? How have you prepared to support your children’s social and emotional learning this school year? Read full article.

In this article, you’ll find simple, practical ideas to use this school year to support your child’s social and emotional skill building at home.

Reinvigorating Your School Year Routines

Boy Writing Poster by Jennifer MillerIt’s Just Another Day.

Slipping Into Stockings,
Stepping Into Shoes,
Dipping In The Pockets Of Her Raincoat.

Ah, It’s Just Another Day. Du Du Du Du Du
It’s Just Another Day. Du Du Du Du Du
It’s Just Another Day.

– It’s Just Another Day, Paul McCartney

“Do we really have to go back again?” my groggy, incredulous seven year old said on the second morning of school. I could almost hear his thoughts. “I conquered the first day and it was exhausting. How can I possibly go back and do it again?” We all feel some form of that sentiment when people and surroundings are new and we haven’t yet found our “groove.” Teachers will be busy this time of year establishing routines. And there will be a routine for just about every single aspect of your child’s school day – from the order of subjects to transition times to getting a drink of water. And these structures are critical for success. Why? For the same reason that Barack Obama, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg wear roughly the same clothing everyday. There’s predictability, security and the freeing up of brain power to focus on more important issues.

It seems that when a student starts the year in a window seat at the back of the bus, that’s the exact seat he’ll be found sitting in on the final day of school. And this is the time when those habits begin, for better or for worse. Parents can significantly contribute to their kids’ ability to focus on learning during the school day by creating and being consistent with home routines during the week. Whether it’s morning time preparing to go to school, engaging in after school extracurriculars, doing homework, getting dinner or going to bed, all of those occasions can run smoothly or they can take a great amount of energy and stir up stress as power struggles occur. Some planning and preparation with your children can pave the way for ease with daily transitions and allow for mental and emotional energy to be spent engaged in learning opportunities.

Before solidifying your routine, you may want to consider how complications will impact it down the road. Consider adding several layers of clothing to your morning routine in wintertime. Or think about group or long-term projects related to homework time. Thinking about how your routines will translate to the conditions in January and also in April can help you plan successful habits now.

It’s never too late to reinvigorate your routine by giving some thought to it and working collaboratively with family members to ensure that all are clear on their respective roles and responsibilities. Here are some ideas for helping to plan those conversations so that you can emerge with a routine that works for your family.

Discuss the routine with all involved when you are not in it. Find a time when family members can talk about how the morning will go or how and when homework will get accomplished. Have a snack and make it enjoyable. Ask, “What are the tasks that need to get accomplished during that time?” “What’s working well so far?” “What seems to be a challenge?” and finally, “What are some ideas for getting through the particular tasks that pose more of a challenge?” Be sure you allow the time and space for children to give their ideas and solutions. Use their solutions as much as is possible and offer choices. For example, “Would you prefer to get your homework done right after school or after dinner?” They will be more willing to uphold a routine they had a significant role in creating.

Formalize it! Write down your decisions for the routine with the simplest language as an agenda (1. wake up etc.). What’s the order of the bedtime routine? What time do you begin? What time are lights out? Have your children do the writing or illustrate your writing.

Review your plan and expectations constructively. Go over your agenda for the routine and expectations for cooperation among all. Consider all of the challenges you have including those January and April challenges and make certain you’ve brainstormed solutions to those issues. Do you need more time? What will we do to get it? Frame all challenge dialogue in constructive terms. Don’t fall into the blaming trap! Instead of “Joseph refuses to get his teeth brushed in the morning.”, focus your comments on the problem. You might say, “Getting teeth brushed seems to pose a challenge. What can help to move that task along?”

Post it. Hang up your routine in writing whether it’s on a regular 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper or on poster board. Post it in an area where you can quickly refer to it during the routine.

Reinforce. Before going into that routine, reinforce the conversation you’ve had to remind your children what the plan is. For example, “We talked about getting on shoes when the timer goes off. Let’s help each other remember.” For more on using a timer (instead of nagging), read “The Magic Timer.”

Remind. In the moment, remind in constructive and calm ways. With any age, a parent can fall into their own bad habit of repeating themselves in order to get a child to complete a task. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work. The child becomes accustomed to the 5-10 times they are typically being told to do something so who needs to listen or move the first, second or even third time? Remind once in a highly effective manner and watch all go more smoothly. It may take a few times if it’s a change in their expectations. Bend down on their level. Make eye contact. Give your directions (one time only) such as, “Time to get shoes on.” Say it in a normal, calm tone of voice. And then, move on with your own preparations assuming the child will get their goal accomplished. Do not resort to repeating your directions. If it’s not happening after you’ve moved on with your own preparations (be sure to give enough time), then bend down again at eye level and ask, “Do you need help with your shoes this morning? Let me know if you need support.” Then allot time if its needed to get the task accomplished.

Enlist all family members as “owners” and co-creators of the routine and then reinforce that notion each time you go through it with them. Show your confidence in your kids that they can accept responsibility for their portion of the routine as does each family member. Imagine routines that create a sense of safety and security for your children and run smoothly. This too can be your daily experience if you put in a little time and effort upfront. Beginning your day with hugs and a lack of stress from accomplishing the mundane tasks of getting ready can be a significant reward for all involved.

I’ve written about each of the daily routines so for more specific guidance on a particular routine, check out:

A Truly Good Morning

Setting Up for Homework Success


The Opportunity of Bedtime

* Confident Parents, Confident Kids is still working on the construction of the new site. This email through MailChimp is an interim solution while we are working through all of the aspects of the new site. More resources coming soon! And happy back to school!

Work of Purpose, Purpose of Work

Working Together by Jennifer Miller

Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.

– Theodore Roosevelt

As we move into the school year, the subject of work seems to be front and center. Kids are focused on learning tasks during the day and engaged in homework in the evenings. Full-time working parents face job challenges year-round but perhaps more intensively now as for some, the fiscal year ends and a new one begins. And for those part-time working parents or those with more flexible schedules such as mine, they may take time in the summer to spend with their children and now are either back to work or more engaged in it. We, as parents, may also try to engage our children in contributing to our household by doing chores. Because work plays a significant role in our daily lives, it’s worth exploring the question, what are we teaching our children about the purpose of work in our lives?

I asked a few adults how they defined work, one a full-time parent and the other a full-time employee and parent. Both defined work similarly as “the way we make money and contribute to family security.” And jobs that offer financial security are determined by employers who are looking for hard workers. In a survey of 150 American managers,
                               nearly 60% of the respondents ranked work ethic as the most important
                               factor when hiring an administrative employee, assuming the candidate
                               had the basic skills necessary to perform the job. Work ethic was ranked
                               higher than other employee characteristics such as intelligence (23%),
                               enthusiasm (12%), and education (4%). 1

But in addition to hearing parents talk about their jobs, children develop their ideas and values about work with unpaid experiences in their home and community. Caring for children, maintaining a household and home (cooking, cleaning and repairing breakdowns) and contributing to the community whether its making dinner for a sick neighbor, voting on leaders and issues or raising funds for your children’s school. Yet, commonly families struggle with getting children to do household chores. Homework can also be a time of conflict. Parents use charts, praises, rewards and punishments to try and get their participation and cooperation sometimes resulting in power struggles. And why? Maybe, in part, it has to do with how we view and are teaching our children about the role of work.

We can learn from other cultures. In a Mayan Village, for example, in remote Yucatan, Mexico, parents are working all day long in their respective roles – men in the fields and women in the household preparing food, washing clothing, caring for livestock and cleaning. Children as young as they are capable begin participating alongside their parents. Artin Goncu who studied their daily habits wrote about an eighteen month old child who threw corn to the chickens while her Mom hand-washed clothing and her sister swept out the dirt floors of their stick-woven house. Her sister “facilitated her accomplishing the chore by providing Mari (the 18-month old) with the corn, but she did not bribe or praise her for doing the chore – her compliance was assumed and it was forthcoming.” 2

Perhaps an expanded view of what work means could benefit children’s participation, engagement and motivation with work. If kids hear adults regularly complaining about work as drudgery, they bring that view with them to their work experiences as well. If parents moan when it’s homework time, kids will certainly bring a moan to the tasks as well. Research on motivation shows that rewards, excessive and general praise and punishment not only do not motivate children toward the actions we want them to take but also can hurt their motivation to try. 3

The following is an expanded definition of work with ideas of how we might teach our children to engage in it.

The purpose work is:

…to give the best of who we are. We take tremendous pride in our children’s accomplishments and celebrate their unique talents. Work can be a vehicle for expressing who we are and how we best contribute ourselves to the world. A sense of vocation is not solely connected to particularly religious affiliations but can be used as a way to describe how a person’s passions and gifts can benefit others through their work.

Engaging kids:
Kids are constantly in the process of defining and redefining their identity as they grow and change. They are asking the question, “Why am I unique? In what will I be able to demonstrate competence?” And in that search, you can listen openly and encourage as a good coach might. Coaches observe and watch for strengths and articulate them specifically so that they can be built upon. They offer practice opportunities so that kids can progress in their competence. And they coach on limitations and weaknesses by acknowledging them and asking good questions to prompt thinking about how they can best work toward their goals.

…a part of being in a family. As in the Mayan household, children are highly capable of contributing alongside family members to maintain the daily requirements of a household. Responsibilities can be viewed as a regular expectation of being in a family. Though we parents should not shoulder the burden ourselves, working together as a family to organize, clean, fix and maintain is a way that all family members show caring for our environment. And certainly every home culture is different and must find what works best for them.

Engaging kIds:
In our home, we don’t label “chores” or keep lists of responsibilities. But we do work together and it’s part of our daily and weekly routines. When E seems capable of learning to take on a new responsibility, I model it and work with him to learn how to do it no matter how simple (learn more about interactive modeling). He sets the table and sweeps the floor. And I do my own work of preparing dinner or dusting and holding the dust pan alongside him. We turn on music at times and enjoy working together. The only reward is the connectedness we feel as we care for our home together. I will remind in kind ways but gently and with full confidence that he will follow through. I do not need to nag, yell, punish or bribe because it’s how we’ve decided to be as a family.

…to contribute to others and/or the environment. Humans in general are intrinsically motivated by three basic psychological needs: autonomy, belonging and competence (ABCs). 4 Work can serve to fulfill those needs by giving an individual the opportunity to significantly contribute to the betterment of other peoples’ lives.

Engaging kids:
Kids are seeking out ways to fulfill these essential ABC needs too. Sometimes they make poor choices in an effort to satisfy their sense of autonomy for example. Give them chances to show their competence in making significant contributions to others in the family. Kids can take great pride in preparing a meal with a parent or washing the family car together but they need support from an adult to begin it.

…to advance our sense of meaning and purpose. At some point, all work is difficult. If we feel that our work connects us to meaning and a sense of purpose, we can get through the most challenging obstacles. This is what sustains our motivation over the long haul. Certainly our role as parents may be one of the most meaningful roles we play and the work of parenting, though incredibly difficult at times, is steeped in meaning and it sustains us.

Engaging kids:
When discussing work at the dinner table or on a road trip, articulate your values and sense of purpose and meaning related to work. How do you uniquely contribute in your work? How does it give you a sense of meaning and purpose? Does it connect you with a bigger community than you might be engaged in without it? How have you learned about people in that community in your area or around the world?

…to create a sustainable livelihood for ourselves and our families.
And of course, creating a sustainable livelihood for ourselves and our families is critical to our safety and security. It can significantly influence our experiences and how we live our daily lives. Helping children understand the value of the work we do and why we get paid for it helps them begin to wonder and ask questions about what we do all day.

Engaging kids:
So much work and communication takes place online that the work that used to be highly visible and understandable by children is much more hidden and complex. Try making the hidden apparent by looking for ways to show your children evidence of what you do. In addition to finished products, kids need to hear about the process, the people involved and the struggles along the way. Also expressing gratefulness for our work and the life that it helps sustain gives children an understanding of why they too should be grateful for the hard work you do.

…to further our learning and development.
Kids are keenly aware of their own growth and development since it often makes them uncomfortable and at times, frustrated. They are actively working on developmental milestones and, though not as visible, so are we. Parents are so often in the director’s chair that we forget or don’t want to admit that we are learning all of the time too. Work provides a context for continual development whether its working collaboratively with others or managing a team.

Engaging kids:
Discuss and talk about your own learning goals. How is work challenging you to develop? How are you accepting that challenge? What supports are you seeking? What steps are you taking to persist toward larger goals? We want our children to persist toward their learning goals. Hearing about yours in your own career helps provide a specific model for them.

If we want our children to thrive not merely survive, we need to prepare them with the attitudes and experiences that will motivate them to engage in work that makes a significant contribution. Our knowledge economy requires creative, critical thinkers, collaborators and innovators. Thinking about how we influence our children’s perceptions and involvement with work now can significantly impact their participation in family responsibilities today and their to ability to shape their future success.


1. Miller, M.J., Woehr, D.J., & Hudspeth, N. (2001). The Meaning and Measurement of Work Ethic: Construction and Initial Validation of a Multidimensional Inventory. Journal of Vocational Behavior 59, 1-39.

2. Goncu, A. (1999). Children’s Engagement in the World; Sociocultural Perspectives. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

3. Kohn, A. (1999). Punished by Rewards; The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise and Other Bribes. NY, NY: Houghton Mifflin.

4. Ryan, R.M., Deci, E.L. (2000). Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology 25, 54-67.

Launch of “Smart Parents” Book!

Smart Parents, Parenting for Powerful LearningWhat an honor it is to be a contributor to the new book, Smart Parents; Parenting for Powerful Learning by Bonnie Lathram, Carri Schneider and Tom Vander Ark. Packed with helpful guidance from more than 60 parents who are also experts in learning and/or education, this book will support Moms and Dads who recognize learning as core to their purpose. Preparing a child for success means that parents embrace their roles as models, coaches and educational partners. Our knowledge economy of today and the future will require individuals to be creative and critical problem solvers, empathetic and kind collaborators, socially aware and well-practiced with making responsible decisions. This book prepares parents for powerful and significant contributions to our children’s learning. What an ideal way to begin the school year by advancing parents’ understanding of how they can best support their children’s development. Here’s the link to read more about it and learn what others are saying. 

And here’s the link to get your own copy!

Back to School Butterflies


family with butterflies 001“Everyone has butterflies when they are starting something new. Just make sure you visualize them flying in formation and you’ll be fine.”

– My Dad, David Smith from a Dale Carnegie Public Speaking Course

If you are a parent, you are likely in the middle of clothing and supply shopping preparing for the first day of school. There may be more stress around the house as you switch gears from the less scheduled, slower paced summer routines to alarm clocks ringing early, morning rushes to get out of the house on time, new clothing, new teachers, homework and general exhaustion.

In addition to practical routine changes, you may have your own set of anxieties. For many, work demands increase as fiscal years end in August and begin in September. For fellow educators, we are busy attending or giving professional development courses during the month of August and preparing… Read full post.

Originally posted on confident parents confident kids:

family with butterflies 001

Everyone has butterflies when they are starting something new. Just make sure you visualize them flying in formation and you’ll be fine.

–          My Dad, David Smith from a Dale Carnegie Public Speaking Course

If you are a parent, you are likely in the middle of clothing and supply shopping preparing for the first day of school. There may be more stress around the house as you switch gears from the less scheduled, slower paced summer routines to alarm clocks ringing early, morning rushes to get out of the house on time, new clothing, new teachers, homework and general exhaustion.

In addition to practical routine changes, you may have your own set of anxieties. For many, work demands increase as fiscal years end in August and begin in September. For fellow educators, we are busy attending or giving professional development courses during the month of August and preparing…

View original 919 more words

Easing the Transition Back to School

sun and school by Jennifer Miller

I’m gonna hold onto this couch and never let go!

– E. Miller, Age 6

It’s the morning after our summer vacation at the lake. E awoke and said he had had a nightmare. “My school became a haunted village. A ghost dragged me around the grounds. And all of my school friends were at my house playing with my favorite toys.” Though there are still a few weeks until the start of school, he is anticipating, not only the beginning but also the end of his freedom. And he worries about the unknown, faceless teacher who will rule over his days to come. Starting back to school can be an exciting time but as with any transition, it can also be fraught with worry, fear and a sense of loss. How can you best support your children as they go through this annual rite of passage?

Say goodbye to summer.
Summer days are so sweet and fleeting. Perhaps you spend precious family time laughing and enjoying one another in ways that may not occur as often during the hustle of the school year. As a family, find a way to say goodbye to summer. It could be as simple as an ice cream sundae indulgence or a campfire in the backyard. Pitch a tent or simply throw your beach blankets on the grass and stargaze. My husband proposed sharing a slideshow of seasonal photos with the grandparents. While you are savoring those last summer moments, take a moment to reflect on some of your happiest times over the last few months. When did you laugh the most? What were your favorite moments on your travels or local adventures? What animals or plants did you encounter? What activities do you want to repeat next summer?

Create rituals for the ending and beginning.
After finding a way to reflect and enjoy summer’s end together, how will you anticipate all that is positive about starting the school year? In addition to new tools including the fresh smell of a new box of crayons and razor sharp Ticonderoga twos, there are friends with whom to reconnect or perhaps new friends to be made. Haul out a few projects from last year and display them once again to remind your child of the success she has already experienced in school. Make a ritual out of getting school supplies by buying them together and then enjoying a special meal together or engaging in your child’s favorite activity as a family.

Create or recreate your routine.
Part of the annual preparations in our house for the school year is the creation of the morning routine poster. Going over your morning routine can offer great comfort to a child who has not gotten up at the crack of dawn or needed to get dressed and move quickly for months. Don’t expect that they will snap back into the routine easily. Pave the way by discussing how your morning will progress together. Find out what your children’s expectations and hopes are. Writing down your child’s routine formalizes it and helps provide a reminder to return to if there are struggles in those early days of school. Check out “A Truly Good Morning” for more ideas about creating a smooth morning routine for your family.

Does your child walk to school? Do they take the bus? Offer a practice dry run opportunity to add a feeling of comfort and safety before the first day. Get up at school time. Get dressed and follow your route to school whether it’s walking or driving. If your children take the bus, go to their bus stop and then drive the route to school. Talk about where they might want to sit and how they could introduce themselves to other kids and the bus driver. When you arrive at the empty school yard, walk around and show your child where they will line up or meet their teacher. Then go to your favorite coffee shop or donut house and get a morning snack to add a sense of celebration. Though this practice may seem like an extra step, it will pay off when you witness your child entering the school year with more confidence.

Involve children in preparations.
Work on a calendar for your child’s room and place all of the major events in the school year on it including friends’ birthdays and days off. Engage your child in placing their name in notebooks, on pencil holders and other school tools. Prepare your child’s homework space. Talk about what tools they might need at home and get them organized and ready. Perhaps work together on making a pencil holder (using a well rinsed frozen juice can, paper, glue, stickers and markers) or decorating book covers. Create a binder for papers sent home. Parents often fall into the flurry of preparations and may just check items off the list. Think about how you can involve your child knowing that this will pave the way for them in thinking about the tools and organization they need in order to be successful this school year.

Show that you are open and willing to listen during this time of transition. Children will be more likely to share their worries. Perhaps begin a conversation with him about his experience with his last teacher and how he got to know her and like her. Ask questions about rich memories from last school year and offer the space for your child to tell you about his school experiences. If worries emerge in conversation, you, in turn, can address those through practice, involvement and reflection.

Show additional sensitivity.
Children will have heightened emotions during this transition from summer to the first months of the school year. They are adjusting to major changes in their life including new faces and new expectations. Be aware that greater upset about minor issues may indicate anxiety just below the surface. If children are unable to identify or articulate their feelings, offer feeling words and ask if they are accurate: “It sounds like you are worried. Are you worried about having a new teacher or being in a new building?”

For more ideas, check out “Back to School Butterfiles.” And if your child is moving from preschool to kindergarten, do check out the article, “In Between Here and There.”

Taking steps to prepare your children through rituals, celebrations, organization, reflection and showing empathy for their situation can contribute to a sense of safety and security in the midst of change. Not only will it help create smooth transitions during each day for your family, but it will also allow your children to enter the school year with an open mind and heart to experience the joy and possibility of learning.


Reposted from Confident Parents, Confident Kids on 8-7-14.

New School Year Parent Resolutions from NBC Parent Toolkit


NBC Parent Toolkit is asking for parents to consider and write, video or take a photo of a resolution that states your desire for your own learning and development in this new school year. Check out their flyer. What do you want to focus on with your children in the coming year? Want do you want to learn or how can you improve? My resolution is to talk about issues that, I realize, are critical but often make me uncomfortable like racism and sexuality. My seven year old asks questions and encounters plenty of social opportunities to discuss these tough issues. I was involved with the Toolkit’s “Tough Talks” last year which was an excellent primer for me in thinking about difficult topics of conversation. Here are some below in case you missed them.

Be sure and check out all of the resolutions already submitted. And in addition, consider submitting your resolution to NBC Parent Toolkit so that we can learn from each other!

Here are some articles on difficult topics of conversation that, despite the discomfort, are important to have with your children.

Tough Talks: How to Talk to your Child about Mental Health

Tough Talks: How to Talk to your Child about Drugs and Alcohol

Tough Talks: How to Discuss Divorce with your Child

Tough Talks: Having the “Sex Talk” with your Child

An excellent article from In Culture Parent:

How I Talk to my Classroom about Race by Madeleine Rogin

And from Confident Parents, Confident Kids:

Helping Children Understand Death

Elements of a Confident Kid…Cultural Awareness


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