Video Series – Helping Students Manage Challenging Feelings in Challenging Times

We are honored and grateful to partner with Redwood Credit Union in Santa Rosa, California, a large bank that serves families throughout northern California, to share a video series to support children and the parents who love them deal with these tough times. Families have been adversely impacted by the pandemic, by wild fires, by political and social unrest, the economy, and by racial injustice. We all – kids and parents alike – can benefit from learning simple, practical ways in which we can cope with the difficult feelings emerging in these challenging times. Friends, family members and colleagues join Jennifer Miller to act out these important tips. And for teens, a local mental health organization, NAMI Sonoma County along with local youth, offer their tips. For follow up resources including a big feelings list, healthy coping strategies lists by age/stage, a family emotional safety plan and mental health resources, check out the Redwood Credit Union Student Wellness Resources page. Hope you enjoy!

Special thanks to Brett Martinez, Mary O’Neil, and Matt Martin of Redwood Credit Union, Diversified Stage and also, our family actors and directors including Nikkya Hargrove and Aviah and Lera De Silva; Pamela, John, Imogen and Theo McVeagh-Lally, Mike, Mya and Demi Wilson; Susie, Megan and Alex Fabro; Jeremy, Kelly and Leilani Miller; and Jason and Ethan Miller.

Courageous Families, Courageous Kids; Dealing with Big Feelings During Challenging Times Presented by Redwood Credit Union for Grades K-2

Courageous Families, Courageous Kids; Dealing with Big Feelings During Challenging Times Presented by Redwood Credit Union for Grades 3-5

Courageous Families, Courageous Tweens; Dealing with Difficult Feelings in Challenging Times Presented by Redwood Credit Union for Grades 6-8

Coping with Stress; Tips from Youth for Youth Presented by Redwood Credit Union for Teens

Parenting Site from Infants to Teens

Updated to include the early childhood years…

Confident Parents, Confident Kids’ Founder Jennifer Miller has been grateful to partner with the Center for Health and Safety Culture at Montana State University along with collaborator Shannon Wanless at the University of Pittsburgh’s Office of Child Development to further develop tools related to parents’ biggest concerns at the earliest ages including the infancy, toddler, and preschool years. This site, https://parentingmontana.org, funded by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, offers guidance and support on topics that Montana parents stated (on an extensive statewide survey) were important to them representing their hopes and dreams for their children and also, their concerns for their development. New tools for ages 0-4 include critical issues such as, building confidence, reading, setting routines, handling tantrums, teaching empathy, developing resilience, and more.

Additional updates to the site include information for current foster parents and those considering fostering, increased access to the information through audio files, informative “how-to” videos, and a new podcast series featuring national parenting experts all incorporated into a newly designed website. The tools for parents of 5-19-year-olds include critical topics like bullying, listening, friendship, homework, lying, anger, conflict, and more.

Check out one of the new videos on “Guidance and Discipline for Skill Building” which shows examples of how parents have can build skills like self-management in their children instead of punishing when mistakes are made. And do check out the whole site for the many resources based on solid research created to support you in your parenting.

Patience with all that is unresolved…

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

 -Rainer Maria Rilke

Happy, Healthy New Year!

One of Greater Good Science Center’s Favorite Parenting Books of 2020

We are so grateful to the University of California at Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center for reading and reviewing the CPCK book. Here’s how their review begins…

In Confident Parents, Confident Kids, Jennifer Miller busts myths that many parents have about confidence, a quality that most of us want our kids to gain. According to Miller, it’s not about being an extrovert, gaining power at all costs, having a high IQ, getting straight As in school, or repressing our feelings. Confidence—feeling sure of your own abilities—comes down to emotional competence...

Miller shares insights to help parents understand kids during different life stages, from birth to the teenage years. For example, preschoolers and early school-aged children experience many transitions in their lives—including daily travel from home to school to after-care and back home, with different rules and relationships with adults in each setting—at a time when they are still developing the skills to think flexibly across settings. These transitions can elicit lots of big feelings. She provides age-appropriate tips for parentsRead the review and check out the full list of parenting picks for 2020!

Thanks Roger Weissberg, co-investigator in original research shared in the book, for your own review and support of the book and for letting me know about this review! And get your own copy of Confident Parents, Confident Kids; Raising Emotional Intelligence In Ourselves and Our Kids From Toddlers to Teenagers for yourself or a parent you treasure!

Winter Solstice, The Great Conjunction, and Making Meaning as a Family

So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us – Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, fest, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!!

The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper

HOW WE CAN MARK THIS PASSING FROM DARK TO LIGHT

December 21, the shortest day of the year, will mark the turning from dark to an increase in sunlight. In the Northern Hemisphere, it is the coldest time of year and in the Southern, it marks the Summer Solstice. The traditions that recognize this passage seem to touch numerous cultures around the world and date back to ancient times in which the Mayan Indians, ancient Romans, Scandinavians and others celebrated. Years ago, my own neighborhood friends would gather on this day, say some words of gratefulness for the gift of light in our lives, and each person would contribute a stick or evergreen branch to the fire. This tradition has remained in my memory as one of the most sacred I have attended. All of the major world holidays involve an appreciation for light in the darkness as a previous article explored including Christmas, Hannukah and Kwanzaa. 

Never have the themes of the solstice seemed more relevant than this year in which we faced such global strife. It’s no surprise that the universe might underscore the importance of this moment with the Great Conjuction, with Jupiter and Saturn’s (our galaxy’s largest planets) orbits converging and appearing like a giant double planet in the night sky and visible around the world. Approaching this passing of dark to light, nature offers us a moment to reflect on the themes cultures throughout the world have recognized, appreciate our commonalities and consider how we can learn from their wisdom and reinforce those themes in our own family.

Tonight we will go outside to view the Great Conjunction at sunset (it should be visible for one hour after sunset in the northern hemisphere). Then, we’ll light a fire and talk about the following themes. I’ve included questions that we will ask and offer them to you as well to consider around your own family fire or dinner table.

Theme: Connection
Our connection to one another during this time is one of the most valuable. Ironically savoring our moments with our loved ones can get buried under a mound of anxiety, expectations and commitments. With COVID restrictions, we’ve needed to find new and different means of connecting. and perhaps because of those limitations, offered a greater appreciation for times when we can connect.

When it comes to focusing on our appreciation for one another during this passage from dark to light, we can be made aware, if we stop long enough to notice, that we are more alike than different. Numerous religions, nations, indigenous cultures and popular culture celebrate light with a wide variety of rituals and traditions. We can enter into our own celebrations, whatever our traditions may be, with the awareness that we are inter-connected and inter-dependent with one another and our environment. We can begin to explore the many other ways we are connected to one another regardless of how different we feel or seem at times.

Question for our Family Dinner: How have the ways in which we connect changed this year? What connections have been nourishing and satisfying that we want to keep or promote more of? What connecting have we left behind that we do not miss? What are ways that we are connected to people from places far from us in the world? What are the ways we are connected to people who are different from us or challenge us in our own community? If there have been disagreements among family and friends, how do we remain connected to those individuals?

Theme: Relationship of Light and Dark
Darkness has long been a symbol for emotional turmoil, sickness and violence in the world. The darkness seems to hold fear and danger but with the light of day, the perspective changes dramatically to one of hope and possibility. Moving from short, gray days to lighter, brighter days can help remind us that there is always another chance to make a pastedGraphic_1.pngbetter decision. There’s always an opportunity to be who we really aspire to being. Our actions can reflect our deepest values.

Question for our Family Dinner: Is there sadness, fear, disappointment or other darkness you want to leave behind? How can you let it go and begin again? What hopes do you have for the new year?

Theme: Gratefulness for the Natural World
It is humbling to step back and watch the changing of the seasons unfold. In ancient times, people feared that the lack of light would continue. They worried that if they did not revere the Sun God, “he” may move further away from their days. Take this moment in time to appreciate the sun, the moon, the trees, the birds and all of the natural world around us that profoundly influences all of our lives.

Question for our Family Dinner: What aspects of nature influence you regularly? What do you appreciate about the environment you encounter each day? Have you gained more appreciation or new view of the natural world during the pandemic?

Theme: Rebirth, Purification and Forgiveness
In ancient Rome during the solstice, wars stopped, grudges were forgiven and slaves traded places with their masters. Today, the theme of rebirth and forgiveness is carried out in a diverse range of religious and cultural practices. The burning of wood to create light in the darkness also symbolizes that we can let go of old wounds or poor choices and begin again. For children, it’s a critical lesson to learn that one choice does not determine who they are. There is always the light of a new day to offer a chance for forgiving the old and creating the new.

Question for our Family Dinner: Are there hurts that you are holding onto from the past? How can you heal and move on? Have you disappointed yourself? With the burning of a candle, can you imagine those disappointments burning into the ash, forgiven, and offering you a new chance?

There is a silent calm that comes over me when I light a candle or watch the flames rise in our fireplace. That calm gives me the space to reflect on the meaning of this time of year and connects me to the many individuals and cultures today and of generations past that have recognized this passage. May you find ways to appreciate and focus on the people most important to you during this emergence from dark to light. And simultaneously, may we appreciate our common ground and connection to people around the world, past and present, who require light for life.

Reference
The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper retrieved on 12-17-14 from http://wintersolsticemusic.com/solstice-traditions/winter-solstice-poetry-celtic-mid-winter-poetry.htm.

Originally posted on December 14, 2014.

New Highlights Blog Post – Children and Mask-Wearing

Highlights for Children has been getting a range of letters with reactions from parents about mask-wearing since the pandemic began earlier this year. They chose to respond directly to questions and challenges through the following article articulating their commitment to showing a diverse range of children as they are currently living and experiencing the world. I was honored to partner again with Highlights for Children on the following blog post, Why We Show Kids Wearing Masks in Highlights Magazines. I hope you’ll check it out! It begins:

“Why are the children shown in my child’s magazine wearing masks?” This is a question some parents of our readers are asking us in emails and letters and on our social sites.” Read the full article here.

New COVID Resources Page

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The physical health challenges posed by COVID-19 has brought home the need for parenting with social and emotional skills. It’s challenged all of us to create new ways to manage big feelings and promote social and emotional development in a time when our children are frequently isolated. There are some truths that cannot be ignored as we live through this global pandemic:

  1. Social and emotional skills are vital for parents and families to manage stress, fear, and challenging times in ways that build strength and intimacy and not deteriorate it.
  2. Our children’s social and emotional skills are cultivated in relationship with others through modeling, coaching, practice and supportive (recognizing and reinforcing) environments.
  3. Schools cannot operate without families as partners. Education begins at home and requires community to support it.
  4. Relationships are a cornerstone to learning.
  5. Children and parents can thrive during tough times but it requires a commitment to their own social and emotional learning.
  6. The active inclusion of all individuals who may be categorized as “different” because of race, culture, learning ability, gender identification, or sexual orientation among other factors (such as, arts-oriented boys, science and engineering-oriented girls) is vital to a safe, healthy and just community.
  7. Our individual self awareness, social awareness, self-management, relationship skills and responsible decision-making have a significant impact on the health of our family, community and planet.

Here at CPCK, our community of writers and thinkers have produced a number of articles and resources in 2020 to support you. We’ve placed our “best of…” COVID-times resources here to help you as we continue to manage life during a pandemic. Here’s to you and your families’ health, safety and well-being over the coming year!

Articles

My Kids’ School Is Closed So, Now What? by Pamela McVeagh-Lally

On the Front Lines… Parents and Educators as Servant Leaders; Our Call to a Greater Purpose

The Missing Link in Social and Emotional Learning; Why Social Justice and Equity Are Essential to Social and Emotional Learning by Shannon Wanless and Tia N. Barnes

Learning about our Planet Together

Big Worries, Small Steps

High Stakes Conversations

Social and Emotional Learning Around the Clock

Helping Children Understand Death

Navigating the COVID Storm — Together; Understanding Group Dynamics to Improve your Family’s Collaboration and Resilience by Julea Douglass, Ph.D. and R. Keeth Matheny

Resources

Learning about Racial and Social Justice at Home – A Series of Resources including children’s book recommendations

Tools

Family Relationships, Conflict and Communications:

Do You Have a Family Emotional Safety Plan?

Family Responsible Decision-making – includes the traffic light problem solving model by Roger Weissberg

Developing Family Guidelines for Fighting Fairly

Family Fighting? Use the Peace Rose

Challenging Feelings:

Daily Feelings Temperature Checks

Healthy Coping Strategy List for K-4

Healthy Coping Strategy List for Grades 5-12

School and Home:

30 Ways to Build Caring Relationships on Zoom

The Stress of School, The Safety of Now

A Parent and Educator Manifesto

Mindset:

Gratitude Prompts…

Media

Highlights for Children Podcast: For the Love of Reading – How Reading Helps Social-Emotional Learning (and dealing with anxiety and fears) – Listen now on YouTube https://bit.ly/2XvOFgA or Apple Podcasts https://bit.ly/3cgK1ap 🎧

Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) Cares Webinar with Jennifer Miller:

So What Now? Supporting Social and Emotional Learning at Home

Upcoming Radio Show on Dealing with Fear and Anxiety in Family Life

Creating Calm in the Midst of a Chaotic World

Do you need help managing your fear and anxiety with your family during times of uncertainty? We are going to talk about how to deal with your feelings and help your children deal with theirs. How can you create a calm home environment amidst a chaotic world? We are grateful to the REACH Council of Johnson County just south of Fort Worth, Texas and hosts Shari Phillips and Jen Heggland for bringing Jennifer Miller back to discuss this important topic. Join us on their live Facebook feed this Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. Central and 6:00 pm Eastern on JoCo Community Radio.

Learning About the Beloved Holidays around the World

Children Celebrating Around the World by Jennifer Miller

We may feel closer than ever to the neighbors of our world. COVID-19 shows us, among other key lessons, that we are deeply and biologically connected to one another. Our children and teens may be socializing more online with friends in other countries who may share interests that children in their own neighborhood do not. As we homeschool this year, we are learning about countries, cultures, and history to increase our family’s understanding of the unique gifts each culture brings to the expression of being human. One of the most beautiful and illustrative ways to do that is to learn about another culture through their celebrations and rituals.

Because of the numerous holidays celebrated through the fall and winter months, it is an ideal time to discuss how people celebrate around the world – both the uniqueness of traditions and also the many commonalities. I was struck by the number of similar themes and symbols when I did the research for the following world holiday facts. Most notably, the major holidays celebrate light in the darkness, show gratitude for food, family and life and pause for reflection or prayer. I was so enriched by learning about the beautiful traditions of celebrations around the world. I hope you will take a moment to share these with your family. Happy holidays!

Christmas
Cultural or Religious Origin: Christianity and Secular
Purpose: To celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, believed by Christians to be the son of God. For the non-religious, the purpose is to give gifts, receive gifts from Santa Claus and celebrate with loved ones.
Symbols/Practices: Santa Claus who was originally named after St. Nicolas, a bishop in Turkey, who was a giver of gifts to children. The evergreen tree was originally a German tradition. The star is the guiding light that led to the animal manger where the baby was born.
Traditions: Presents are delivered in secret by Santa Claus on Christmas Eve while families are sleeping. Families and friends exchange gifts.
http://www.history.com/topics/christmas

Hanukkah
Cultural or Religious Origin: Judaism
Purpose: To celebrate a miracle that one day’s worth of oil lasted for eight days in the temple.
Symbols/Practices: For eight days, Jews light a special candleholder called a menorah.
Traditions: On Hanukkah, many Jews also eat special potato pancakes called latkes, sing songs, and spin a top called a dreidel to win chocolate coins, nuts or raisins. Families also give one gift each of the eight days.
http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday7.htm

Kwanzaa
Cultural or Religious Origin: African-American
Purpose: Started in the United States to celebrate African heritage for seven days based on African harvest festivals and focused on seven African principles including family life and unity. The name means “first fruits” in Swahili.
Symbols/Practices: Participants wear ceremonial clothing and decorate with fruits and vegetables.
Traditions: They light a candleholder called a kinara and exchange gifts.
http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/kwanzaa-history

Chinese New Year
Cultural or Religious Origin: China
Purpose: Celebrate the new year.
Symbols/Practices: Silk dragon in a grand parade is a symbol of strength. According to legend, the dragon hibernates most of the year, so people throw firecrackers to keep the dragon awake. Each new year is symbolized by a Zodiacal animal that predicts the characteristics of that year. 2016 will be the year of the monkey.
Traditions: Many Chinese children dress in new clothes. People carry lanterns and join in a huge parade led by a silk dragon. People take time off of work for seven days and celebrate the feast with family.
http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/chinese-new-year

Diwali
Cultural or Religious Origins: Hindu, India
Purpose: The festival of lights honors Lakshmi, India’s goddess of prosperity. It celebrates the inner light that protects all from spiritual darkness.
Symbols/Practices: Millions of lighted clay saucers with oil and a cotton wick are placed near houses and along roads at night.
Traditions: Women float these saucers in the sacred Ganges River, hoping the saucers will reach the other side still lit. Farmers dress up their cows with decorations and treat them with respect. The farmers show their thanks to the cows for helping the farmers earn a living.
http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/explore/diwali/

La Posada
Cultural or Religious Origins: Mexico and parts of Central America, Christian
Purpose: Reenacts the journey Joseph and Mary took to find shelter to give birth to their son, Jesus. It is a festival of acceptance asking, “Who will receive the child?”
Symbols/Practices: Candle light, song, prayer, actors dressing as Mary and Joseph
Traditions: People celebrate through song and prayer doing musical re-enactments of the journey. In Mexico and many parts of Central America, people celebrate La Posada in church during the nine days before Christmas. It is a reenactment of the journey Joseph and Mary took to find shelter before the birth of their child, Jesus
http://gomexico.about.com/od/festivalsholidays/a/posadas.htm

Boxing Day
Cultural or Religious Origins: United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Holland
Purpose: To share gratitude and give to the poor.
Symbols/Practices: Alms boxes were placed in churches to collect donations for the poor.
Traditions: Servants were given the day off as a holiday. Charitable works are performed. And now major sporting events take place.
http://www.whychristmas.com/customs/boxingday.shtml

Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr
Cultural or Religious Origin: Islam, Muslim
Purpose: An entire month is spent re-focusing on Allah (God) and participating in self-sacrifice to cleanse the spirit.
Symbols/Practices: The crescent moon and a star are shown to indicate a month of crescent moons in the night sky. Participants pray daily in mosques. On Eid al-Fitr, they break the fast by dressing in their finest clothing, decorating homes with lights and decorations and giving treats to kids.
Traditions: Not only do celebrants abstain from food, drink, smoke, sexual activity and immoral behavior during the days of Ramadan, they also work to purify their lives by forgiving others and behaving and thinking in positive, ethical ways. They break their fast each day by eating with family and friends after sunset. Breaking the fast on Eid al-Fitr involves making contributions to the poor and gratefulness.
http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/ramadan

Omisoka
Cultural or Religious Origin: Japan
Purpose: This is the Japanese New Year.
Symbols/Practices: Thoroughly cleaning house to purify it.
Traditions: People remove any clutter and clean their homes to purify them for the new year. They have a giant feast with traditional foods. There’s a national talent competition. Bells ring at midnight and people go to pray at Shinto shrines.
http://www.kidzworld.com/article/26414-omisoka-japanese-new-year

St. Lucia Day
Cultural or Religious Origin: Sweden
Purpose: To honor a third-century saint who was known as a “bearer of light” through dark Swedish winters.
Symbols/Practices: With a wreath of burning candles worn on their heads, girls dress as Lucia brides in long white gowns with red sashes.
Traditions: The Lucia brides wake up their families by singing songs and bringing them coffee and twisted saffron buns called “Lucia cats.”
https://sweden.se/culture-traditions/lucia/

Gratitude Prompts…

Check out these conversation starters to inspire your family’s grateful thinking…

Though our family writes down our grateful thoughts every year in the month of November, this year our thoughts are overflowing. We used to forget or get too busy and skip over days. But this year, we are home every day homeschooling. And we’ve written down grateful reflections as a daily ritual to begin our day. Instead of simply asking, “what are you feeling grateful for?”, we’ve used specific prompts to help us think more deeply and broadly.

Many are feeling sad as we move toward a holiday that is likely not going to involve the large gatherings of family or friends we may be accustomed to in past years. For that reason, you or your family members may be more focused on what they are lacking or missing this holiday. Because of this focus, it becomes even more important to reflect on what’s good in your life.

I’m reminded of the quote that inspires me each time I read it: “Everything can be taken from a (hu)man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way,” written by Victor Frankl, Holocaust survivor and author of “Man’s Search for Meaning.”

If you need a little help this holiday season, here are some prompts to get the grateful thinking flowing through your Thanksgiving celebration, no matter how small.

What animals are you grateful for?

What are you grateful for in the natural world?

What place or space are you grateful for in your home?

What basic needs are you grateful are met?

What family members do you feel particularly grateful for?

What friends do you feel particularly grateful for?

What neighbors or community members are you grateful for?

What organizations are your grateful for?

What experiences this Fall are you grateful for?

What opportunities has the pandemic created you are grateful for?

What activities that nourish or refuel you are you grateful for?

What close relationship are you grateful for?

Whose life example are you grateful for?

Hope you’ll use these or come up with your own. We are healthier and less stressed when we can focus on what’s good in our lives. Wishing you a gratitude-filled Thanksgiving!

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