What Parents Are Saying About the Importance of Social and Emotional Learning in Schools…

Real Stories, Real Families

Why do parents and caregivers support social and emotional learning (SEL) for their children? Can parents see a significant difference in a school without social and emotional learning versus a school with social and emotional learning? Families across the country answer those questions, two of whom are Confident Parents Lead Contributors, Jason Miller and Mike Wilson. 

Confident Parents Lead Contributor Jason Miller

Confident Parents Lead Contributor Mike Wilson

Check out the rest of the parent video series and learn more!

Interested in talking to your child’s teacher or school about what social and emotional learning efforts they have in place? Check out this Parent/Caregiver Conversation Tool from Aspen Institute that Confident Parents’ founder Jennifer Miller helped create.

Want to learn more? Check out the Leading with SEL site.

Waking Up to Family Life

The Great Reshuffle to Align with Our Life Priorities

By Jason P. Miller

Amidst these wildly changing times, an unprecedented shift is occurring in the timeless dance of workplace and family life. Forced to limit in-person interactions to curtail the spread of COVID-19, most employers in some way loosened requirements to report to work in a physical setting.  Employers counted on these measures to keep their employees and organization safe, while also finding ways to keep the work of the organization moving forward. The remote working arrangement that many employers offered did, in many ways, achieve these objectives.  What employers did not count on, however, was the wake-up call that this arrangement has initiated. 

Now, a historical moment has emerged that is radically shaking up the old order of work/life balance.  It is being coined by economists, scholars, and media outlets by a number of titles: “the Great Resignation”; the “Great Reshuffle”; and the “Great Reset” are perhaps the most familiar.  All point to the same phenomenon in which workers, after several years of being forced to rebalance their lives while working from home, are choosing to leave their positions and/or take pay cuts in lieu of going back to a daily in-person work schedule.  It is creating a watershed moment for the employer-employee relationship, in which the old contract of what constitutes a meaningful exchange is being fully re-written.

Consider the current situation for Rachel*, a divorced mother of two young children, whose employer has recently announced that all employees were required to come in at least four days a week, after two years of giving the full ability to work from home. “The last two years have been incredible for us as a family,” Rachel said.  “We are truly in each others’ lives every single day.  When one of the kids has a need, I am able to quickly go to them because I am right there, and my employer has come to expect these interruptions (which are minimal, because we have set rules at home).  For example, just the other day, one of my kids had something challenging happen at school, and really needed to talk about it shortly after coming home.  I was able to have this impromptu conversation in the moment in which it was needed, which helped her to clear her mind so she could have some enjoyable free time before starting homework.  That emotional support I could give her was because of my ability to work from home.  And, my partner is also here most of the time. So when I am occupied with a work requirement and I cannot respond, he is able to often pick it up, and we can trade off as needed.”

In addition, Rachel continued, the arrangement has enabled unexpected opportunities to emerge that have deepened their family bonds as a supportive unit.  “I have a chronic health condition that can create challenges for me with my energy levels, and it can affect how I am able to engage in my day.  Being in each others’ lives the way that we have, my kids have also learned how to take care of me too. This has been so valuable for all of us, and it is helping me to raise very caring and loving kids who tune into the needs of others.  I am also able to take care of myself more appropriately by responding to my body’s needs when they emerge.  How could I possibly give this up by going back to the office four and eventually five days a week?  My profession is important to me, and this place is all I’ve known for 13 years.  But now I see that there is a different life that is possible, and I can’t go back. I don’t know where I’ll go, but I can’t work there anymore.”

Rachel’s story shows us that the title of “the Great Reshuffle” is perhaps the most accurate for what is really occurring.  So many have been forced inside – both literally and figuratively.  Forced physically inside, they have found themselves also being forced to look inside themselves and their life.  For so many like Rachel, there has also been a wake up to family life.  

Of course, not everyone has created the levels of intimate support that Rachel’s family has managed to co-create.  For many others, the forcing inside has led to breakdowns and breakups.  It is well-known that the realities of neglect and abuse have skyrocketed these past two years (divorce, addiction, abuse, depression, and overdoses have all risen during the pandemic). These trends are indeed troubling, but they were not born during the past two years.  Rather, they all point to a much longer-term trend that is fueled by a cultural context that emphasizes our separateness rather than our unity. We see this emphasis in all parts of our culture, with consumer products and mass and social media outlets turning the importance of individual tastes, preferences, and opinions into an algorithmic science.  

Yet, despite these disturbing trends, the possibility of a “Great Reshuffle” illuminates a path to a new future of a different kind.  Rachel’s example, along with a rising mass of others, suggests that there is perhaps no better time than this very moment to rethink, reimagine, and reshuffle the ordering of our conscious energies and priorities in our life. Going a step further, this is the moment in which we can collectively shift our focus toward arguably the greatest influence on all of humanity: the family unit.

When we hear the word “family,” a wide and complex array of memories, emotions, stories, and images can flow through us.  Family experiences and relationships are deeply formative, and therein lies the power and potential of the family system.  But, so much of the strength of the family system has been tried, tested, and eroded in a culture that places supreme value on extrinsic rewards (e.g., money, consumption, pleasurable escapist experiences, fame, etc.).  While it is easy for each of us to point the finger and find someone to blame, the truth is that each of us is both at the effect of AND a contributor to the currents of our cultural context.  The Great Reshuffle gives each of us the opportunity to make significant adjustments to how we live our lives.

We have, in our given moment, the possibility to dramatically shift the center of our lives from work and economics to family and well-being.  When we pause to really see, as the pandemic period has offered so many, we spend a large amount of conscious energy on work, and all that work affords us.  In this work-earn-consume paradigm, family life can often feel like something to manage or “balance” as a trade-off (which feels like a cost).  What would life be like if we chose to invest the same amount of psychic energy into family that we do in work and consuming?  What if all the hours we spend sweating work deadlines, tasks, and promotions were instead directed toward the well-being, growth, and flourishing of our family members?

This is the culture change that each one of us can facilitate, and it starts right at home.  In the landmark 1990 book “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience,” the late Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi leveraged decades of research from multiple fields to give us the concept of flow.  Flow experiences are situations in which conscious attention is unusually well-ordered, with thoughts, intentions, feelings, and all senses focused on the same goal.  The result is an experience in harmony.  Chances are that we have all experienced flow at one time or another.  It is marked by a loss of self-consciousness, a sense of novelty, and an altered sense of time.  It is being completely tuned in, usually with an inner calm and confidence even in the face of intense challenge.  The “family in flow” is a useful and powerful aim that could serve as a vehicle to transform the family unit, the members in it, and the various communities the family touches.

How might family members co-create the conditions for flow to occur as the norm of family life?  Below are a few first steps that a family can take to create a home life that is best depicted as experiencing “spontaneous unity.”  “Spontaneous” in that each day will present unexpected and unplanned moments to create flow experiences for each individual; and “unity” in that the family experiences a sense of deep interconnection with one another around a strong sense of shared purpose.  

  1. Proclaim Individual & Shared Purpose & Values.  

Start with reflecting on and sharing why you, your family members, and your family as a whole exist, and what you stand for.  By engaging with all family members in a process of individual and collective introspection, you will be going a long way toward setting the solid foundation for your shared focus, choices, and actions.  Each individual, and then the group as a whole, can reflect on questions such as these:

  • Why are you here?
  • What are you uniquely meant to change in the world?  As a person?  As a family?
  • At the end of the day, what do you and your family believe is most important over all else?
  • What do you and your family want to be remembered for?
  • What do you and your family hold as most sacred?
  1. Activate Purpose and Values through Concrete Opportunities.  

To fully create a flow experience, it is not enough to stop at your ideal purpose and values.  You have to put them into action through the identification of real paths of contribution for each family member.  For example, if your collective family purpose is to advance learning and education in the world, how can every member of your family actively participate in this purpose, regardless of their age and/or life stage?  Part of this might include everyone engaging in ongoing formal learning, such as classes, workshops, webinars, podcasts, books, etc. (both individually and collectively).  For certain family members, they might take on a mentoring or tutoring role in the community. For others, it might take the form of advocacy work to create access opportunities to education. The key is to arrive at a common purpose and to help each member activate their individual purpose and unique gifts through what is shared as a family.

  1. Engage in a Daily Family Flow Practice.  

External forces are quite powerful, and there is no shortage of distractions that regularly work at pulling the family unit apart.  Failure to turn inward toward the relationships of the family every single day can diffuse attention, distort divergent goals, and amplify conflicts.  A shared daily practice by all members of the family can help to build a spontaneous unity throughout each day, even when all members are not together.  One such practice might look something like this simple, three-step approach:

Step 1: Attune.  Simply pay focused attention on each other, and on your own personal experience as well.  Get curious.  Listen deeply to what is arising within you (thoughts, feelings, sensations) and between you.  Release judgment, which shuts off your ability to tune in.

Step 2: Discern.  Now that you have noticed what is arising in your interaction, be deliberate in interpreting and making meaning.  Is what is arising in you coming from a place of purpose in unity with flow?  If you are feeling a sense of joy, love, and/or peace, without attachment to any outcomes, those are good indications that you are.  Or, is it coming from a place of personal ego needs that may work to separate us?   If you are feeling tension in your body, getting defensive, or experiencing anger, fear, or anxiety, chances are you are not in flow.  Go back to step 1, getting curious about what is triggering this response.

Step 3: Choose on Purpose.  Each moment presents an opportunity of choice.  Once you have discerned that you are in flow, make the choice that enables you to act on your purpose.  This may or may not be the easy path.  But you know you have chosen the path of purpose by the levels of peace and sense of knowing that you experience, even sometimes in the face of adversity.

Underpinning all of this, at the basis of any family in flow, is the fundamental principle of unconditional loving acceptance of all – including of yourself.  Success is predicated on each member self-emptying by releasing judgment, cynicism, fear, and the need to “fix”.  Simply being with each other, without the need to change anything, paradoxically is the very force that can change everything.

As we continue to face unprecedented shifts amidst the Great Reshuffle, let’s seize this opportunity to make this the new age of the family.  Family can be where the melodies of compassionate love are sung.  And, taking these melodies outside the home, they work to harmonize with our communities, and life in the world.

Jason Miller has over twenty-five years of experience as an Organizational Development leader, coach, and consultant. Jason currently has his own coaching and consulting practice called Inner Sound, and serves on the leadership and faculty team of the Hudson Institute of Coaching. He cultivates a more purpose-led approach by helping clients to shift focus from outward achievement and external validation to inner wisdom, joy, creativity, and contribution. Jason has coached and developed leaders and teams across multiple industries and Fortune 500 clients–including Google, Amazon, Panera, OhioHealth, Accenture, Caterpillar, The Gap, and Fidelity Investments. In Columbus, Ohio, Jason is husband to Confident Parents Founder Jennifer Miller and father to a teenage son. Learn more at Inner Sound Coaching & Consulting, LLC.

Reference:

*Name changed.

Exercising our Social Justice Muscles at Home

How Can Parents Show Unconditional Love Transforming their Values into Action while Maintaining Emotional Boundaries?

How Can Parents Show Unconditional Love Transforming their Values into Action while Maintaining Emotional Boundaries?

By Shannon Wanless

In the past few years there has been more visible interest in disrupting racism and building a more just and equitable world. Anti-racist book lists circulate widely. Businesses and schools hire diversity and equity consultants and hold mandatory staff training. Parenting groups have guest speakers about how to talk to our children about racism. Although these actions could be productive, they remind me of tasks to check off a list rather than catalysts of the deep transformative change that is needed. Individual people accomplishing individual tasks is not enough to disrupt racism. 

Instead, we, as a collective, also need a fundamental shift in our values. We need to be firmly grounded in values of unconditional love for every person, equitable redistribution of power, and accountability to the responsibilities that come with being part of an interconnected community. When we make a deep and intentional commitment to specific values, then it becomes clearer how to make sure that all of our words, relationships, decisions, and actions will reflect them. Living a values-inspired life, together, is how we will make a more just & equitable world. 

So what will it take for the world to undergo a transformative values change? The answer is to start within ourselves. And like just about everything else, our core values start at home. Let’s take a closer look at the values we need to examine. 

  1. Being clear about what our values are.

Have we ever really named the values that are at the core of our being? Because we are living through complex times, we will be put to the test. So in order to be ready to stand for what we truly believe in, we need to name them. Only then can we develop ways to intentionally teach them and make sure they come up in our family rituals and routines. 

Most of us would probably nod if we were asked if we value love, honesty, and responsibility. But have we really thought about what those words mean to us and how they play out through our words and actions? And what other value words would we choose?

As my mentor, Michelle King, asked me recently, “What is your working definition of love?” To be honest, I was a bit stumped with this question. I couldn’t believe how simplistic my response was. Love is so complex! If I had really committed to this value, shouldn’t I have a clearer definition of it? As I thought about my working definition of love, I realized that for me love was unconditional — I was adamant about that. But there have been many moments in my life where I was not living this way. What does unconditional love look like, every day, for every person, no matter what? 

I started to look at my daily routine at home. What about when I’m getting ready for work and my kids are getting ready for school or summer camp? And then I thought about recurring moments such as birthdays, report cards, and graduations. How do I show unconditional love in each of those circumstances? Do they know that I love them even when they are making me late for work, or when they bring home low grades on their report card? I want to have high expectations but also show them that I love them no matter whether they achieve them or not. This seems like a fine line but absolutely critical to living my definition of love.

And what about how I model love for others? Do my children see that I can be frustrated with others and still love them unconditionally? What does it look like to have boundaries and yet feel authentic love in your heart for someone? 

  1. Engaging in regular reflection about how we are living those values — or not.

Everything we think, say, and do reflects a value. If we are thinking about it, then we may be reinforcing social values that we don’t actually agree with. For example, when an extended family member says something that we think is problematic or misinformed, we might tell them that if they say that again in front of us, we will not spend time with them anymore. What is our intention of saying that? Are we trying to punish them for saying what they think is true? Are we just trying to make ourselves feel better by getting away from their annoying comments? How could we rephrase this to reflect our unconditional love? What if we explained that we don’t believe what they are saying and are not going to change our minds, but want to stay in relationship and communicate with them? “Is it possible to spend time together and be our true selves if we do not agree?”

In fact, when I ask people about their values and their most common parenting practices, it is amazing how often they don’t align at all. But when we take the time to decide what values we want to commit to, then we can be intentional about checking regularly for authentic alignment.

  1. Holding each other accountable when we stray from our values.

It is particularly hard to be true to our values when we are under stress, or when we are in conflict with the values that the rest of our community holds. What is our plan as a family to be on the lookout for these moments, call each other in, welcome feedback, and help each other reconnect to what we believe is important? Maybe we should have a family ritual that makes this easier. For example, you could have one special cup that you fill with a snack and then invite the other person to sit down and share it with you while you talk through something that might not be easy to say. You might start with, “Is there a good time for us to talk about something that has been on my mind?” When the other person sees that cup, they know to give you their full attention and be open to receiving feedback. Even if you both hold differing values, you will at least know that you are speaking from a point of view that you each hold dear. This conversation can be tender yet also clear about where each of your emotional boundaries lie. Keeping yourselves accountable to respecting each others’ boundaries is a part of family love.

Tensions over homework and grades are common and can sometimes feel neverending. Even if we try to show unconditional love in the moment, stress can be high for parent and child, and the message may need more reinforcing later.  I can picture sitting down on a weekend with the special family cup full of fresh strawberries and asking your child if it is a good time to talk. Share your unconditional love and your struggle as a parent to hold high expectations but also acknowledge the reality that sometimes homework can be too much. “I love you no matter what the exam grade ends up being, and I also am going to work with you to do as well as you possibly can.” Ask your child to share their experience too. Even if you do not agree, and even if they do not value homework at all, your honest conversation about each of your values will help you both see that you are bringing your best selves to this relationship.

Before we can create a more just and equitable world, we have to begin to articulate what that world would look like, and begin to experience it in small moments so that we know what it would feel like. Beginning to envision and enact a just and equitable world can begin at home. It will likely be clumsy, and require many moments of reflection, difficult conversations, changing-course, and being vulnerable. We need to get more comfortable and skilled with all of that inevitable messiness. Home is the perfect place to practice exercising our social justice muscles. This is what deep, sustainable transformation looks like.

Shannon Wanless is an Associate Professor as well as the Director of the Office of Child Development at the University of Pittsburgh, a large university-community partnership center in the School of Education, that is focused on ensuring that all children thrive. Shannon focuses on young child’s development and the adults that help them thrive. Her current work is on social justice and equity. She explores ways that children, preservice teachers, and organizational leaders develop social justice and equity skills and how to create classroom, school, and organizational climates that reflect social justice and equity tenets. Shannon also co-investigated research with Jennifer Miller and Roger Weissberg on Parenting with Social and Emotional Learning. Shannon is the mother of a teenage son and daughter. Visit https://www.ocd.pitt.edu/ to learn more.

Dealing with Summertime Injuries…

…while building emotional skills in yourself and your child

“Are you okay?” I asked as E made a beeline from the outdoors in straight to the upstairs bathroom and shut the door. “No,” he uttered angrily coming out and showing me bloody elbows and knees and scraps up and down the side of his body. It was his first day out of school. And I truly cannot recall one first day out of school when the weather was beautiful and he was free to run outside that he didn’t wind up with at least one scraped knee. Yes, tis the season for “boo-boos”. And for some children, they’ll deal with more serious injuries this summer like concussions, sprains, or fractures.

So how do you manage your own big feelings when your child is in pain? These circumstances test our emotional intelligence because of the mounting emotions we’ll have to confront. After all, we are reacting to our child’s upset which may be expressed in inconsolable crying, yelling and anger (that could be directed at us), or running away and hiding. We have to cope with our empathy as they endure pain which can be no small feat as we desire their suffering to go away as quickly as possible. We may get squeamish at the sight of blood or have a sense of disgust or revulsion as we view their injury. We may also fear greater internal injuries that we cannot detect on our own so that we have to deal with anxiety and feelings of incompetence when we don’t know what to do.

This seemed an important day for me to consider how we can respond in ways that support our children, acknowledge their big feelings, and deal with our own in constructive ways. Here are a few well-considered tips.

Prepare.

Before your child comes to you with her first scraped knee, make it a start of summer ritual to stock up on first aid supplies (yes, we are not past the mid-point of summer but it’s never too late!). I carry band-aids in my purse everywhere I go. And I’ve helped out other parents in the grocery store or in the park. When a child needs a band-aid, they really need one. Don’t mess with feeling helpless and unprepared. My favorite supplies to keep on hand are: band-aids of all sizes, foaming anti-bacterial solution (it goes on fast and easy), cut strips of clean, soft t-shirts (thank you for this, Mema) to use to clean wounds or as flexible wraps, surgical tape so that it doesn’t hurt badly when you remove it (drug stores have this), ice packs, and popsicles. It’s nice to have a ritual popsicle on hand to soothe your child and help them get cool and calm down.

Why does this all help with your emotional intelligence, you ask? Because you have no control over when and where injuries take place, this will help you feel more competent and ready so that you can take action and not feel helpless.

Clear your schedule.

Injuries, even if just a scraped knee, take your time and attention. A work conference call, a haircut appointment, or a lunch date cannot compare – in the big scheme of things – to taking care of your hurting child when they need you. Time pressures wear away at our patience and add a layer of anxiety to an already charged moment. So remove the time commitment so that you can focus your attention on your child.

Remember to breathe.

There’s typically a time when a parent is sitting and waiting. Whether a child is crying hysterically or shut inside her room or turned away and refusing treatment, there’s waiting time involved with children’s hurts. Use those times to deep breathe. This will prepare your mind and body to respond in the way you most want to respond — with empathy and compassion.

Acknowledge and accept feelings.

It can be tempting – particularly in sports’ settings – to utter words like, “you’re fine,” “power through,” “walk it off” (Okay, I never understood this one but I do hear it.) or “stay in the game,” when you are not sure the degree to which your child is genuinely hurt though you see him crying or wincing in pain. After all, it’s likely this is how you were coached or parented as a kid so it can become a reflexive response. In addition, you may have a hidden (or not-so-hidden) fear that acknowledging a child’s feelings might encourage the child to seek sympathy or over-emphasize their hurts. In fact, that is a fallacy. The opposite is true. When we ignore or downplay our children’s feelings, they come back stronger in order to get your attention. Their upset wasn’t good enough the first time so in order to prove it to you, they have to up the emotional ante. 

Use your own inner coach in these situations. Breathe first and think “what’s my best response?” Then, acknowledge and accept what they are expressing or what you are observing they are feeling. “It looks like you are really hurt. I’m here to help.” This simple comforting statement will offer your child acceptance. You understand. And you are there for them.

Manage your own reactions. 

If you are indeed feeling disgusted or appalled or terrified by a child’s injury, there’s no way to bury those big feelings nor should you be expected to. But become aware of your big feelings and do something about them. Put your hand on your heart and attempt to slow it down. Stepping aside and taking a few deep breaths or intentionally relaxing your tense body before addressing a crying child can help you respond in a more effective, calming manner which, in turn, will better support your child through the pain.

Wait for consent to treat.

Your child may just refuse to have a wound cleaned for fear it will cause additional pain, as mine did. After you’ve let your child know that it’s necessary to clean it first or it can get infected, you may need to give him time. No need to nag, insist, or force the issue. Being compassionately clear that you cannot move on until you treat the wound is enough. Eventually, your child will consent. Bravery takes time. Be sure and allow your child the time he needs to agree to treat his wound. Of course, in an emergency, you would indeed rush to treat and not offer a choice. But with everyday cuts and scrapes, it gives a child a chance to practice self-management skills, caring for and giving permission with their own body, and handling their emotions with courage if we allow for it.

When in doubt, check it out.

Perhaps you’ve treated the scraps but you see bruising emerging which could indicate an internal injury. When in doubt, check it out. Call your pediatrician triage line and talk with the nurse on call. If you don’t, you risk greater problems down the line so why not take care of it on the day of the injury? If you have questions you might want to research first, check out the site, Kids Health: https://kidshealth.org.

Distract! And offer comfort.

Throw a bag together before leaving for the doctor with some favorite books or card games. Joke books, Seek and Finds, “Would You Rather,” and other puzzle books can be helpful. For young children, pack favorite comfort items like a beloved stuffed friend, blanket and book. And yes, for school age and up, this is the ideal time to use handheld media to help your child through a tough time. Waiting while a child is in pain can be challenging so have some distractions on hand to help get through those time periods.

Children learn to self-soothe by first watching how we help them feel better. So after the wounds have been cleaned and bandaids carefully placed, how can you offer a quiet, soothing activity in which they can return to feeling better? Can they snuggle up with a bear, pillow, or blanket? Can you read a comforting storybook together? This will help both you and your child transition back to feeling better.

Tell the story.

Reflect together with loved ones on the surrounding events and recount how the injury happened including the feelings’ journey your child took. “I felt so hurt, then scared, then relieved.” This offers your child invaluable practice with discussing the difficult pains in life to help learn the lessons involved, process the feelings experienced, and also solidify the memory that he endured pain and survived.

Fortunately, my son was back up and running outside the very next day and though he had moments of pain, he was healing quickly. Summer injuries can test our patience and ability to show compassion at a time when our child most needs it. But with a little forethought, you’ll get through feeling competent, modeling ways to react to the pain that maximize your ability to support your child and help all feel better.

* This article was authentically researched by the author as she endured a basketball bouncing full force into her nose mere days before publication experiencing her own injury and offering greater empathy for her son — challenging her once again to react with emotional intelligence. Ouch! 

Originally published June, 2020.

Summer Road-Tripping with Device Breaks and Cooperative Games

Need Device Breaks? Try these fun, connecting and skill-building games!

We’re going on a road trip, a road trip, a road trip.
We’re going on a road trip to see what we can see!

During the past few years, we have embraced the glory of road trips. We’ve driven to interesting places near and far – farther than we ever imagined driving versus flying in order to discover beautiful sights and differing vistas. Yet again, we are packing and preparing for our next family adventure on the road with our 13-year-old. And yes, he’ll have plenty of time on his device. However on our journey, we create fun breaks from social media or gaming to give his weary eyes a break and his brain and heart a chance to focus on live, in-person connection and interacting as a family. We’ll use some of the following that seem more teen-appropriate while others may suit your needs with younger children.

You may typically venture out on a number of small road trips during the summer months taking advantage of the freedom and warm weather. Or like us, your family vacation has involved more driving and less flying. It’s tempting to hand a child an iPad and allow the video games and programs to fill the idle time. Then I think back to my own road trips as a child, sometimes thirteen hours in a non-air-conditioned car, and of course, with no handy portable device to fill my time. I recall being happily consumed with my crayons and a sketch pad. I filled every single page with drawings of sand castles, mermaids and sea creatures anticipating our vacation at the beach. But now, my son, who is so used to easily accessible entertainment and high level of stimulation, seems to require more than just that trusty old sketch pad. But engage him with a family game, and he is delighted to play. If packing and getting out of the house is a stressful time, these silly, playful games help reconnect you as a family and set the tone that you are leaving the stress behind and on your way to more good times together.

The following car games can offer ways to connect as a family and build cooperative skills all the while enjoying your time together. It can set a collaborative tone preparing all family members for a positive adventure together.

Cooperative Storytelling

One person begins a story with a main character and a setting. Start with a few juicy details – “One day a giant sea turtle named Freddy sauntered down the isle of a grocery store looking for his favorite potato chips…” and then pass off the story to the next person to fill in what comes next. Offer a few sentences and then continue to pass the story along with each family member contributing key details to move your adventure forward. In my experience, the stories that emerge from these games are a joy and delight with surprises around every corner! Our family loves this game!

Where in the World Guessing Game

“Where in the world is E?” we ask and E begins to describe his surroundings. He picks any city, community or habitat in the world and offers details about the attributes of his environment without naming it and we have to guess the place.

Creature Guessing Game

Similarly, one person thinks of a creature. All of the guessers ask questions of the individual with a creature in mind. “Is it small, medium or large? Does it live in the forest? Does it eat plants or animals?” When you have enough details, guess the creature. Go around and give each person the chance to think of an animal.

Name the Face

See if you can express an emotion with only your facial expression. (This could be tricky for drivers!) Think of the emotion and perform the facial expression of that emotion. See if others can guess what you are feeling.

More, More!

Select a category such as ice cream flavors, popular songs or amusement park rides. Call out as many different kinds as you can until you’ve exhausted your list of ideas. This offers practice in brainstorming, a valuable skill used in coming up with solutions to a problem.

Cell Phone

Do you remember the old game Telephone? Think of a sentence. Start simple and make them more challenging as you go. Whisper it into the ear of another family member. Each person whispers to the next person exactly what they heard whispered in their ear. Have the last person say what they heard aloud. It’s ideal if you can go quickly and try it a couple of times. Then you are able to see if listening and communication improves with practice and focus.

You Write the Songs

Pick out a family favorite song – one that everyone knows. Now select a favorite animal (your pet?), place (your school?) or person (your best friend?). Change the words of the song to describe or tell the story of that creature or place. Make sure all family members have the chance to contribute. Practice and sing it with gusto!

Radio Story

Turn on the radio. Listen to the first station that plays. Is it a song or a commercial. Now cooperatively tell the background story of the song or commercial. How was the song written? Why was the product developed (if a commercial)? What story does it really tell? Make it imaginative, the crazier, the better. None of it should be based on real facts. Each family member can add details to your radio backstory.

Social Dilemmas

Tweens and teens are often fascinated with social dilemmas since they are dealing with more complex social issues regularly. This may interest that age group. One person offers a social problem such as a friend wants to get on the highway with her friends and drive out of town without telling anyone. What do you do? Or an animal is about to get run over by a car in the road at the same time your toddler brother is running down the street. What do you do? These can offer interesting ethical considerations and turn into involving conversations. The trick for parents is to remain in open-minded dialogue mode, offering ideas and not criticizing.

Try out these road trip games or create your own and watch the time fly past as you laugh and creatively, cooperatively play with your family. Happy adventures!

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Resource:

Our Grandma Linda sent us a gift this Spring that we’ve started to use at our Sunday night family dinners entitled And Then, Story Starters, 20 Imaginative Beginnings. It’s a book-size deck of cards, each with its own riveting story starter. These prompts offer rich details from which to build and could be of great use if you want to try the cooperative storytelling and would like help in getting started.

We also like to use Story Cubes to help us initiate storytelling.

This is a CPCK favorite article originally published in May, 2017.

Making Room for All Children at the Table

Summertime is a time when we may have the chance to slow down, step back and reflect on our roles as parents in the moments when our kids are exploring nature at camp perhaps and we create a little quiet space. Nikkya’s article may offer inspiration as you consider the ways in which you want to be, to teach and to act as a model of living your values in the world through your important role as a caregiver.

By Nikkya Hargrove

Anyone who has had the privilege of being a parent knows it is hard. It is a role we take head-on and as flawed and incomplete as we are, we say “YES” to being a parent. It is a decision. When we do sign up, we also take on the responsibilities which come along with it from cleaning the dirty diapers to teaching them how to drive to lending them money for their first apartment. Parenting is a job that never ends. We all have a purpose as parents, and as such, we too are “works in progress” as are our kids.

Have you read the book “Are You My Mother” by P.D. Eastman to your children? If not, the gist of it is that a little birdie goes around asking anyone (a dog) and anything (a bulldozer) if they are their mother. When reading it to my now 6-year-old twins, even while I know how the story ends, I say to myself, “Sure, the dog can be your mother,” because the dog can give you love, compassion, and provide you with a family little birdie. In my household, I am the birdie and my kids are the exclamation points. The question I ask all three of my kids is, “Were you the only brown person there?” I ask them this almost daily. Why? Because being the only brown person or the only person of color in a room always, can be exhausting, uncomfortable, and frustrating.

I am a Black mom with biracial children who are half Sri Lankan and half Black. I know what it feels like to be in their shoes. I have often been the only Black child in my elementary school classroom and now I am often the only Black professional woman in meetings. I hope that we can change this fact. But it will take work. If we, as a community, put in the work now to do more to be more inclusive, our society will reflect it. Do we say, “it is what it is” or “my hands are tied” or “I don’t control who is in my kid’s classroom?” We are parents who have a purpose and while our job as a parent is a role we take on without pay or reward, we do it because we love our kids and we want the best for them. Embracing racial inclusivity now, while our kids are young, will invariably shape their futures as professionals and as young adults. Here are some steps we can take.

Be Mindful

It’s simple. Read the room, the classroom, the cafeteria, the playground and see who is there. See how diverse the room is. As a mom of color, I certainly scan the room and just take a mental note of who is showing up in the room from the teachers to support staff to the kids. When we are more aware of our surroundings, we can sit with what we have opened our eyes to, and have discussions with our kids. 

Learn Because It Matters

If our children have taught us anything, it is that we must continue to learn, to keep up with them. We must learn the names of their friends and understand how our kids are being treated by their classmates and their friends. Here is where we can discuss race with our kids because it matters. When we talk about race with our kids, it helps them be more self-aware and aware of their surroundings in a crucial way.

You Can Be The One

You can promote inclusivity. My kids are often “the two” kids of color at the party or on the playground because their friends are predominantly white. We, as a family, are comfortable being “the” one because it is what we know. Given that fact, as moms of color, we must also be proactive in befriending more people of color, inviting more people of color, and bringing them to the proverbial table, even on the playground. It’s not a one size fits all approach to being more inclusive. We all have a role to play in bringing inclusivity onto the playground. 

Educate Ourselves

I know in my household, we promote inclusivity. I’ve found myself, as of late, being more aware of how to be more inclusive picking up tools, mostly reading articles, and truly listening to others. With birthday party invitations arriving monthly to my email inbox and playdate requests showing up via text, I am conscious of who is inviting whom to playdates, birthday parties, and everything in between. 

Keep your eyes open. I know, when things get tough, when my day-to-day seems unbearable – the tantrums, the fights, the overload on social media, the screen time, the forgotten homework, the calls from teachers – I want to throw in my hat. I want to quit. But most often, when things are calm, when dinner is served and we are sitting around our dinner table, with a meal that I made with love, and the belly laughs begin, I am reminded of my purpose. I will continue to be intentional, to sit and ponder what the “right” decision for my kids might be, and today, the right decision is to put them in environments that invite them to the table, belly laughs and all. And if that space does not exist, it is my job to make room for them.

Nikkya Hargrove is an alum of Bard College and a 2012 Lambda Literary Fellow. She has written for the The New York Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post, Taproot Magazine, Elle, and more. Her memoir, Mama: A Black, Queer Woman’s Journey to Motherhood, is forthcoming from Algonquin Books. She lives in Connecticut with her one son and two daughters and is a staff writer for Scary Mommy. Learn more at https://www.nikkyamhargrove.com.

Understanding Social Intelligence and Growing Skills in a New Day

As a result of the tough times of the past few years, we all seem to be on guard. It’s taking time to heal and adjust and we may be less inclined to trust others’ intentions or motivations now. Our safety or our trust – or both – has been challenged one too many times. We’ve found ourselves disagreeing wholeheartedly with others we once viewed as close allies including family and friends. We’ve dealt with mixed information and misinformation about issues related to our well-being. We’ve endured losses of individuals to COVID and stress-related illnesses and perhaps, also sustained losses of relationships because of disagreements or destructive choices. And we’ve been more isolated than perhaps ever in our lives. 

This social distance has created an emotional as well as a physical divide. Add to it our daily consumption of social media and we may sit in judgment of others more often than we’d like to admit. Our “othering” tendency may just be at an all-time high. 

Some reflections I’ve heard recently reinforce this notion. “You’d think we’d have less stress with COVID restrictions are mostly gone but it feels like there’s more!” “Why is it people seem to be so on edge and making more destructive even outlandish choices when we are back more fully in the world?” Indeed stress is cumulative. The very definition of anxiety involves the world changing around us faster than we are able to adapt. Generally, many have tapped their resilience reserves to cope with the stressors of our times one too many times. For those who haven’t been doubling-down on renewal and care, their reserves may just be empty.

What happens when our patience, our resilience, our self-management reserves are depleted? We react instinctively, defensively, impulsively. We may blame others for our unhappiness and have less of a willingness to accept our own limitations or poor reactions to our emotions. We may react more from our reptilian brain (fight, flight or freeze) which offers us very limited choices. And our children and teens may be reacting in their own uniquely challenging ways. Those actions can resemble more of a reptile’s reaction versus a rational thinking person… hissing, snapping back, even lashing out. Our kids may surprise us or we may even surprise ourselves.

This can become particularly challenging in family life as our lives speed up with summertime activities, working in-person, increasing our travel, and generally spending more time away from home. Additionally, as we engage in relationships beyond our home in person, we may approach those interactions with more caution, fear or skepticism. And perhaps we are hearing about or experiencing behavior from our kids that is new, different or disturbing. 

So it’s time to rebuild our social intelligence – in our kids and in ourselves and fortunately, we can work on both simultaneously. Daniel Goleman, in his book “Social Intelligence; The Revolutionary New Science of Human Relationships” offers two core components of social intelligence: 1.) social awareness and 2.) social facility. Let’s take a look at how these have specifically been impacted by the pandemic.

Social awareness:

a. Empathy = we feel for and with others

b. Nonverbal signals = understanding others through tone of voice, facial expressions. and body language.

c. Attunement = listening fully to another

d. Empathetic accuracy = understanding another’s thoughts, feelings and intentions

e. Social cognition = knowing how social situations and interactions work.

Potential Pandemic Impact:

a. Empathy – There has been so much pain over an extended period of time that if we are feeling it for and with others, it can wear us down. In fact, we/our children may actively work to block others’ feelings because we’re worn with our own emotions. But when we shut emotions down, we do not have the ability to empathize with others. This can lead to destructive choices in our relationships so our awareness is key! On the plus side, there’s been a greater, wider sensitization to injustices, misinformation campaigns, and other’s suffering as we are keenly tuned into local, national and global news.

b. Nonverbal signals – For a few years prior, masks have covered half of our faces when out of our homes making it more difficult to read nonverbal cues. This is particularly salient for our children who have been in- person in schools. Much of the past school year for many has been spent missing some of the social cues offered and straining to figure them out. For professionals, we’ve spent our days on Zoom with a limited view of the face and shoulders of the other person missing the rest of the body’s nonverbal cues.

c. Attunement – Masks may challenge us to fully listen to another person particularly when there’s ambient sound like noisy hallways.

d. Empathetic accuracy – We have a heightened sense now of stranger danger – and not just strangers! – family and friends too. Do you recall when the news first told us to assume everyone we come into contact with has COVID? This lack of safety can skew our perceptions of others. We may assess ill intent where none exists. 

e. Social cognition – We are simply out of practice!

This is just scratching the surface of social intelligence. Here’s the second half involving social facility.

Social facility:

a. Synchrony = smooth interactions through nonverbals.

b. Self-presentation = presenting ourselves effectively.

c. Influence = Shaping the outcome of social interactions.

d. Concern = Caring about others needs and making choices that reflect care.

Potential Pandemic Impact:

a. Synchrony – It’s difficult to achieve synchrony if we struggle to see nonverbals behind a mask or with a limited view on Zoom.

b. Self-presentation – For kids, they may have felt safe hiding from social pressures behind their mask and may now struggle as masks come off. 

c. Influence – We may experience increased discomfort and even a lack of agency as we have to literally face individuals we’ve disagreed with or know they’ve voiced very different views.

d. Concern – This is compassion at its finest. This involves our moral compass and consequential thinking. But we can find it challenging to make decisions that care for others when we ourselves feel depleted.

There’s much we can do to help rebuild our social intelligence! First, acknowledging what we are going through is key. Our raised awareness will be an important first step toward accepting our circumstances and offering family members more grace as they deal with their own stressors. Easing back into social situations in moderation can help with making adjustments too. Here are some additional steps we can take to ensure our children and ourselves are rebuilding our social intelligence.

Replenish the Empty Well with Daily Mindfulness and Gratitude

Our families will continue to struggle until we become committed to refilling the empty well. Since anxiety is contagious, we inadvertently share it with one another. So taking care involves the entire family. Here are some key questions about potential daily practices that can nourish your soul and allow the water to flow back into your life-spring!

  • Do you have a daily deep breathing ritual? Nothing replenishes your body, mind and spirit at once quite like deep breathing can.
  • Do you reflect on or voice gratitude with your family at least once per day? Families that do experience greater well-being. Consider that you and your children get plenty of doses of negativity through social media and news. How will you balance those sources so that you see the good in your life?
  • How do you take in fresh air and get into nature? Summer is the perfect time to simply get outside. Forest bathing is not the only way to experience nature. Just a walk around the block can be replenishing.
  • How do you limit your screen time – your children’s and your own? Too much screen time can reduce quantity and quality of sleep at night and make you feel lethargic not to mention the content that is often negative or destructive. Limiting screen time matters.
  • How do you reflect and reframe? Do you journal or write down your thoughts and feelings? It’s not enough just to reflect. Reflection alone can turn into rumination, or a churning of the same thoughts over and over. Instead, how can you read wisdom in books, podcasts and through your best sage sources to help reframe your thinking (we hope this is one place you can do that!)?

Accept and Validate Even the Most Challenging Feelings

There are a huge range of feelings we just don’t want to show to the outside world. Yet, they are a part of being human. If we hide them or shove them down, not only will they come out stronger (and produce reactions we may later regret) but also, we’ll model hiding and shoving for our children. Instead we offer our children strength when we name the mix-up of feelings we hold – hurt, anger, shame, jealousy, disgust – and validate that ours and their own feelings are normal.

Initiate the Pause Principle.

When our self-control has been depleted, we run a much greater risk of hurting someone we love — at any age. It’s as simple as that. So get into the habit as a family of pausing when emotions run high. Take some beats to breathe. This super simple step allows for impulse to turn to feeling to turn to thought. It happens within seconds but those are precious seconds that help us consider the impact of our words and actions on others.

Discuss the Impact of Choices.

Have a difficult decision to make? COVID has offered a million opportunities for them. Talk as a family about challenging decisions to gather thoughts and feelings. Include your children and teens in these valuable discussions. Consider the impact today on yourself and others? Is there the potential for harm to anyone with a particular course of action? What about next week? How will the potential decisions impact yourself and others in a month or a year? Now play out making the debated choice. Imagine telling the story of your decision later to someone you admire greatly. Did you demonstrate moral courage? Will you be proud of your choice in the days to come?

Repair Harm After A Poor Choice.

Though you may need to wait to let emotions cool, don’t wait too long if your child or even you make a poor choice. Often one poor choice can spiral downward into more to cope with the first. There’s always a next opportunity to make it right. Guide your child (or model for yourself) to take responsibility for your role in the problem (even if others made poor choices too). You might ask your child: how do you feel? And how can you repair the relationship? What can you do to make him feel better or safer or trust you more? Children may require your hand-holding through the process of repairing harm. And that’s okay! In fact, adults struggle to do this effectively. So support your child as needed when they apologize to a friend or mend a toy for a sibling. They will learn a critical life lesson as you support them through the courageous act of taking responsibility for their choices. 

Also, check out our Fighting Fairly Family Pledge which lists specific ways of fighting to avoid because they destroy trust and ways in which we can build up trust and come through disagreements stronger and more connected.

We have been facing perhaps the biggest tests of our relationships in recent history throughout this pandemic and its ongoing many ripple effects. If we didn’t quite fathom our interconnectedness before, we have evidence of how we are inextricably linked locally, nationally and globally. As we’ve reentered the world, we’ve begun to realize that our ability to care for ourselves and our family has ripple effects for each person with whom we come into contact physically, socially and emotionally. It will take time, mistakes, and many rehearsals to rebuild or for young children to build their social intelligence. But we know the steps we need to take. If we become intentional about this process, we will meet the times and more importantly each other with a sense of gratitude; grateful for the freedom, meaning and life-giving enrichment of being with one another and growing together.

How To Disagree While Showing Care

By Mike Wilson, Confident Parents Lead Team Writer

History tells us there are critical events which alter what we once thought of as our “normal” way of life. Normalcy is what we are used to and creates our comfort zone.  However, we now continue to live in complicated times.  It seems that since Covid-19 hit, it created a storm of unknowns that shook our normalcy. Additionally, the effects of political commentaries on issues such as the social justice movement, policing, elections, the events of January 6th and biased news outlets have popularized opinions that have created divisions among us. As a result, our conversations have shifted from “I have my rational opinions on fixed topics” to “I have an emotional response to changing, uncertain topics.

Expressing personal thoughts on our current reality can be challenging. This is especially true when conversing with family and friends. The consequence of sharing our feelings with individuals we are not emotionally close to frequently does not result in a sense of loss. Yet, the outcome of tense discussions with family and friends is different. With these people, there exists strong emotional ties and a back history of shared experiences which have linked us together. Family and friends are people with whom we have established long-term relationships. Consequently, disagreements can create a devastating emotional response. Debates in these types of relationships can create a situation where the discussion becomes heated with each person stating justifications for their opinions and adopting an unwillingness to concede. The conversation becomes a tug of war of beliefs as opposed to a conversation based on facts and evidence. The result can involve each person becoming defensive and feeling as if the other person is trying to put them on the spot.

Because of previous discussions my two teenage daughters have shared with me regarding difficult conversations they’ve had with some of their friends, we came up with strategies they could use to handle disagreements. They attend a school in which the majority of the student population has similar opinions on current events which, in many cases, meant their friends’ thoughts differed from the opinions of my girls. So, during these discussions, several of their friends just assumed my daughters thought the same way as they do. My kids come from a household where we are open to all types of diverse dialogue and thoughts. Even if we disagree, we talk it out and move on.  However, when somewhat controversial topics with their friends came up, my daughters’ initial reaction was to just smile and say nothing. Then when they got home (their safe zone), they would share the conversations with me.  My response was that their approach worked but when they didn’t share how they felt, their friends really never got to know them.  So, as we continued to talk about it, we brainstormed some non-threatening ways they could share their opinions. That’s how the following list of strategies came about.  For example, the strategy they’ve found the most useful is: “That’s an interesting point and in my opinion…” If the person wants to argue about it, they simply say that we can agree to disagree, and they move on. They also try not to talk about politicians or use names of individuals because the conversation becomes personal. Instead they focus more on the impact of policies and try to keep the discussion open-ended. 

The following are simple strategies we can use when disagreeing with family and friends while sustaining a positive relationship.

Accept the other person’s personality type. 

When interacting with friends and family, you know in advance if they are argumentative, passive, sensitive or open to divergent views. As a result, you should know how they will respond to opposing beliefs.

Listen to the other person’s entire thought.  

Don’t interrupt no matter how much you disagree. 

Validate.

Once the person has finished talking, use validating terms such as, “I know many people feel the same way” or “that’s an interesting point.”

Avoid judgment.

Don’t use judgment phrases like “you are…” or “people like you…”

Own your response.

When responding, use I-statements” such as “I think…” and “In my opinion…”

Try not to take it personally.

Although individual thoughts are based on opinion, remember you are expressing your point of view and not trying to change the opinion of another. 

Agree to disagree.

You don’t have to work to find an agreement in order to end a conversation in a satisfying way. Instead, it’s important to accept that close friends or family might continue to hold differing opinions. You can hold that difference and even tension that might go with it and still show care and respect for one another.

Having honest and meaningful conversations with family and friends is essential in strengthening our relationships. Through dialogue, we learn about the thoughts, feelings and interests of other people. However, holding opposing viewpoints can cause conflict. What we must remember is that family and friends are part of our support system. As a result, maintaining positive relationships with these key individuals is more important than any opinion regarding a current issue.

Author Mike Wilson is the Outreach Coordinator for Harris County Department of Education, CASE Program and host the Making After School Cool podcast. Mike is the father of two teenage daughters in Houston, TX. Check out the Making After School Cool Podcast at https://case4kids.podbean.com.

Summer Renewal and Fun with Family Contributions and Healthy Boundaries

“Mom, what do you really want to do this summer?” my son asked me during our bedtime pillow talk last night. I had to think. I wanted my summer sunshine dreams of lemonade stands, library visits, and creeking at local parks to roll off my tongue but instead, my mind was a-jumble.

In our race to the finish line of school, my head was swimming with work agendas and teacher recognition tasks to complete. It wasn’t easy to get my mind quickly focused on summertime fun though that’s precisely the hope of my ten-year-old boy. And as I attempt to, waves of anxiety tend to rush through my veins as I figure out the windows of time in which I can accomplish work during those sunny summer days in the midst of playtime.

I know, though, that if I take some time over the coming weeks to do some collective summer dreaming while establishing some “lightweight” routines, our summer will be filled with cooperation, shared responsibility, and opportunities for those precious moments of spontaneity — the ones that I truly want to define our summer.

So with that in mind, here are the ways in which we’ll establish a foundation for fun. Perhaps some of these tips will help your household enjoy the summer as well.

Take Time for Sunny Summer Dreaming.

Grab a poster board or newsprint and brainstorm together a list of favorite activities you want to be sure and get in over the summer. Separate into “at home” and “out.” Make sure there are some ideas that can be done as solo play away from digital devices. Hang it on the refrigerator or somewhere you can refer to it throughout the summer. This serves as a terrific way to anticipate the fun of summer and can be an invaluable support for pointing to when your child comes to you bored and unsure of how to spend his/her time. I’ve done this every summer with great success. This summer, my son took the initiative himself without prompting and wrote out thirty-five ideas for summer fun! 

Talk about Your Routine “Lite.”

Though you may be eager to relinquish the rigor of the daily school routine, children still thrive with some sense of predictability. So talk about changes in your routine while your family is together. Consider your morning, bedtime and meal times and other transitions in the day. How will things stay the same? How will things change? Perhaps, you’ll agree that getting dressed should happen by a certain time in the morning? Perhaps, this is the time you’ll teach your child how to make her own delicious breakfast or lunch each day? Having this discussion can help set expectations for the summer and also provide that sense of stability children can thrive on through routines.

Set Up a Regular Quiet Reading Time.

Sure, you may be out of the house some days during a typical quiet time. But consider assigning a particular time of day to serve as a quiet time whenever you are around the house. After lunch could work, late afternoon or right before dinner. Turn off devices and media. Haul out blankets and books. You could include snacks. But it should be a time when all in the household “power down” and take it easy. Set the expectation for this at the beginning of summer and kids will assume it’s part of their summer routine.

Create a Simple Camp or Pool Checklist

Is there a place you tend to go daily in the summertime whether it’s day camp or a pool? Make sure you’ve set up your children for success in getting ready and out of the door with ease. Create a simple checklist together of what’s consistently needed. Bug spray? Check. Sun tan lotion? Check. Water bottle? Check. Use a dry erase board and kids can actually check off items each day. It will help them take responsibility for their own preparation and you won’t have to become the summertime nag! 

Discuss Responsibilities and Consider Adding a Job List

Hopefully, your children understand their household responsibilities throughout the year. But anytime there is a transition, it’s a good moment to revisit. And you may consider one added responsibility to contribute to the household that’s age-appropriate since there tends to be more time in the summer. In addition, if you’re child is eager to earn money but too young to go out and get a job, you may consider putting together a list of jobs beyond their typical responsibilities such as, sweeping the first floor carpet for a $1.00. This will add to their practice of taking responsibility for jobs and offer a chance for your child to earn money this summer while helping you out! Consider a time when you do chores and offer that time for all family members to work together. 

For more on establishing household responsibilities with children, check out this article.  And for an age-appropriate household responsibility list, check out this printable!

Talk about Screen Time Limits and Expectations.

Avoid a daily battle or the chance your child might become addicted to screens and not flourish through multiple activities this summer beyond screens. Learn as a family the reasons why it’s important to limit screen time. Focus on the positive benefits of using time in other ways. Then, be clear together about what limits you’ll agree upon. 

For more on facts about why it’s important to limit screen time as well as, a family media meeting agenda and a family screen time agreement, check out this article.

Have a teen in your household?

Seeking Jobs including Volunteer Opportunities

In addition to sleep-away camp, you might want to expose your teen to the world of work to get some job experience, make some money, and discover the responsibilities and commitments required of an employee. You might consider together the places that your son or daughter visits that he/she loves and then ask about employment. Perhaps it’s her favorite ice cream shop (that’s where I worked) or perhaps it’s the world’s largest train display (yep, that’s where our son is working!)… Finding a place and environment that already gives your teen joy will help engage them in the learning and hard work that is required of a new entry level job. Don’t forget that volunteering their time is equally valuable in discovering their ability to contribute to others, developing important job skills and logging experience for their resume that will help them acquire future jobs.

Establishing Boundaries Together

Since our teens are keenly aware of fairness and justice, they can hold us accountable when it comes to the rules and routines that govern their lives. If we are arbitrary or inconsistent, they call us out on it immediately. They may feel we are too strict or unfair as we set up boundaries to keep them safe and healthy. Yet, our teens require our support and guidance particularly as they gain more independence with their friends. Sitting down creating a sacred time and space to talk about some of those boundaries is a great way to ensure that they feel you are taking into consideration their feelings and offering them fairness as you take their input into consideration about the subject. Whether its a curfew in the evenings or a limit on online gaming, discussing it together can help your teen take responsibility for their own actions.

The warmer weather brings about so many opportunities for laughter and exploration together. May your summer be filled with those kinds of magical moments with your family!

Check Out the Mom of Teens and Tweens Podcast

Teens and tweens with strong emotional intelligence are more self-aware, good communicators, and have strong relationships with others. We all want this for our children, but how do we help them when many of us have never been taught?

Jennifer Miller, M.Ed. of Confident Parents, Confident Kids joined Sheryl Gould of the awesome podcast @MomofTweensandTeens! How do we deal with the emotional roller coaster ride that is parenting teens? How can we push the pause button when challenged and rethink our interactions so that we can consistently build their social and emotional intelligence? Check out our conversation!


What you will learn:

  • What is emotional intelligence and how can we teach our kids when no one taught us?
  • The five core skills of emotional and social intelligence.
  • How parents can coach their children through issues that arise within other relationships.
  • How you can use questions to help your child develop a sense of higher-order thinking skills.
  • When to step in and when to allow your teen to take a risk.
  • The value of parents expressing confidence in their teens’ abilities.
  • When talking with your teen, how you can help them see things from different perspectives?
  • What impact does it have on our families when parents take a “time out” to process their emotions?
  • Why you should have a phrase with your teen that means you both need to take a step away.

Check out the podcast here!

And did you know that you can listen to “Confident Parents, Confident Kids; Raising Emotional Intelligence In Ourselves and Our Kids from Toddlers to Teenagers” for free when you sign up for Audible? Find it here free!

Perfect for your summer reading list!

Here’s the video of our podcast conversation…

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