Imagining Our World and How Your Family Can Help It this Holiday Season and Beyond

As we enter the season of giving, my partner and I – as you might be experiencing too – have received a number of requests by mail and email to give to local, national and global charities. My husband threw a stack of requests on our dining table for us to quickly review together and select which ones to donate to. When I sat down, I dove into looking at each ready to check this task off the list. And then, we paused. And we recalled our family practice of involving our son each time we make this kind of decision ensuring he has a voice in who we give to.

This year, in addition to charities we typically support, E, now 16 years old, was eager to support a Native American nonprofit that does important work in our regional area and that over the past year, I’ve begun to learn about and follow. As we give to new charities, it’s easy to pay online with a few clicks and be finished. But giving is ultimately about a relationship. So when we create a relationship, we follow up. The nonprofit we are learning about has food trucks and caters large platters of various traditional tribal foods so, with some friends, we plan to share in a dinner including these foods as a way to further develop our new friendship with this organization (and we’ll benefit by enjoying Indian fry bread, a worthwhile indulgence!). 

Here are a few questions to prompt your own reflections:

  • How are you making giving meaningful in your family life? 
  • How are you discussing community needs with your children? 
  • Are you asking your children or teens what they are passionate about; where they find injustice; or who they care about serving? 
  • How are you creating relationships with people and organizations that you are giving to? 
  • Are you considering other ways to give beyond financial – of time, of energy, of your personal strengths and expertise, or of items needed?

As you honor Giving Tuesday each week of the holiday season, here are some ideas for making your giving a more meaningful experience for your whole family.

1. Gather and Imagine our World. 

Maybe you designate a family dinner in which to discuss your giving? Pause and consider all that you have to give – of your time, energy, passions and love. In that pause, create empathy first by taking a moment (close your eyes if it helps you) to imagine our world at that very moment. Imagine babies being born and elderly who are dying. Imagine people engaged in war. Imagine people doing the hard work of peacemaking. Imagine children eating a meal with their families all over the world. Imagine the top country leaders moving through their day. Imagine the homeless person identifying where they will sleep for the night. And don’t forget about our planet too… imagine the birds outside, the life in our oceans, elephants on the African savannah, and penguins and polar bears in Antartica. What brings up passion and love and care for your family? Direct your attention there. And if there are far too many passions to pursue, pick a couple to learn about and begin to develop a connection with. Through this process, you’ll be cultivating social awareness and responsible decision-making skills – key to your children’s success today and in their future.

2. Learn.

With the voices of your children and teens involved, It’s likely that their passions will stir care for populations and issues that may not be typical for your family’s giving habits or even on your radar at all. So if your children say they care about supporting Native American causes, do a search. If you can’t discover enough about the organization to truly understand how they serve, then subscribe to their newsletter. Take a first small step to become informed and begin the relationship with your family. 

3.  Think Global, Act Local.

Remember this saying? Because meaningful giving involves a relationship and healthy relationships are reciprocal (meaning you give and they give, you graciously receive and they graciously receive), giving in person matters. So consider: how can you meet people you are giving to this season? How can you interact with the community you are concerned about or sharing care for? I love this article and story from one of Confident Parents’ lead author’s Nikkya Hargrove on what she did with her children last holiday season who were concerned about the homeless people they saw when they were driving places during the holidays. For her story and ideas, check out “Gifting Social and Emotional Learning during the Holidays.”

We, as adults and change-makers, are entering this season with the difficult knowledge that war is impacting far too many lives in our world. This awareness can make us feel a sense of helplessness. Yet, we are never helpless. Small actions do make a difference. And this process of serving with our families can help us feel a sense of agency — that we are not alone, that we are working with others toward positive outcomes. Every bit counts! You and your care matter. And training your children and teens how to give meaningfully is a service in and of itself. You are offering them a sense of hope and a knowledge of their agency –  the fact that they too can make a difference – today and for a lifetime.

For Educators and Homeschoolers – Service learning is a powerful teaching strategy for offering children and teens authentic practice with social and emotional skills. There are numerous ideas and resources here at the National Service Learning Clearinghouse.


Check Out the New CPCK Online Shop…

Give the Gift of Family Connection and Practice the Most Important Social and Emotional Skills this Holiday

Don’t forget to check out our shop as you are shopping online this season! Check out Dr. Jenny Woo’s collection of multi-award winning card games! Play them with family and as our family did, laugh, cry and feel excited and inspired by the depth of conversation your children and teens can have with you! Yes, you’ll build social and emotional skills in yourself and in your child as you play (but you’ll hardly notice since it’s a true joy!). Deepen your family intimacy and genuinely enjoy time together!

And don’t forget parents and educators too!

Check out the new Confident Parents, Confident Kids Online Shop (with more family and parenting goodness to come in the new year!).

Discover Holiday Gifts for the Whole Family that Promote Confidence and Connection

Introducing the Confident Parents, Confident Kids Online Store!

What if gifts given to children, teens and families helped build social and emotional skills and deepened family intimacy?

Check out Dr. Jenny Woo’s collection of multi-award winning card games this holiday season! Play them with family and as our family did, laugh, cry and feel excited and inspired by the depth of conversation your children and teens can have with you! Yes, you’ll build social and emotional skills in yourself and in your child as you play (but you’ll hardly notice since it’s a true joy!). Deepen your family intimacy and genuinely enjoy time together!

And don’t forget parents and educators too!

Shop our new online store and contribute to your child, teen, and family’s social and emotional development this holiday season!

Check out:

Generating Gratitude for our Children and Teens this Season

As we look forward to our break for the Thanksgiving holiday, I am reflecting on how I might bring more gratitude into my life and my family’s life. My last responsibility before time off will be attending my son’s parent-advisor conference at school. I feel well-prepared for that meeting thanks to this article Dr. Jenny Woo on How to Have Honest and Productive Dialogues at Parent-Teacher Conferences. If, as she advises, your conversation begins with problems-to-fix, she’ll offer ways to shift the conversation to talk of progress, learning growth, social and emotional well-being and strengths on which to build.

Bringing those reflections into how I manage holiday preparations, I realize there’s more I can do to ruminate less on the details of the meal and the household (problem-fixing!) and more on the gratitude I have for my son and my family. It’s easy to slip into a habit of ruminating on worries but that only produces more of the same (and doesn’t fix anything). Additionally, we are often engaged in trying to get others to reflect and participate. But change starts within particularly with a mindset like gratitude which can serve as a lens through which we view our lives and our loved ones.

So consider with me the benefits of ruminating a bit this season on the gifts, assets, and blessings of the children in your household. I see multiple benefits including:

  • a mindful awareness of loved ones and how they contribute to your life;
  • An enhanced sense of your own well-being as you not only accept but appreciate your children right where and as they are (not in some imagined successful future state);
  • Empathy for their lives, their stress, and their hopes and dreams for the season;
  • Presence and really seeing and valuing them for who they are right where they are;
  • An opportunity to model for others of what it means to deeply appreciate others in the family; and
  • Extended patience, understanding and forgiveness for anything that might go awry (a spilled juice mess at the dinner table?) because of your appreciative thinking.

Though the clock always seems to be ticking with our children and teens, for me, having a teenager in the house has sensitized me to the fact that we have less of a time horizon with him around in our household. How can I make the most of it?

This holiday, I’m going to practice reflecting on gratitude for him, his friends, my niece, our neighbor’s kids and the many children and teens in our lives. Here are some fun ways you can do just that:

  1. Intentional Presence

It’s no small event in our busy lives when we become intentional about turning off our notifications, putting away our phone and fully becoming present to our child. Though we offer those times as a gift to them, in fact, we feel a benefit ourselves. It enhances our sense of connection and well-being. Take a walk together. Go to the park. Or stay home and draw or paint together or read a book. Consider that these simple moments are more valuable than any stress over making desserts or ironing table linens.

2. The Best of Each Age

Lay out photo albums or pictures from various ages and stages. And let the family stories begin to emerge! Be sure you name the top things you loved about that age. Spend time thinking this through while you are peeling potatoes or cleaning up your home. Share in dialogue about it with your partners or other family members or even keep a notebook or journal out to capture memories. Imagine what you might learn about the appreciations of other family members’ experiences of your child at each age.

3. Follow a passion.

In preschool research and practice, this is called “sharing the focus.”2 Yet focusing on someone’s passion at any age may offer one of the most significant demonstrations of love. Commit a full hour, half day or full day during the break to be mindfully present to learning about a passion of your child or teen. We’ll be spending time setting up a refurbished drum set for our son’s music studio in the basement, our son’s passion. What are your children passionate about? How can you offer the gift of your full attention to show that what’s important to them is important to you.

We are given the gift of a holiday this season that poses the opportunity to center our focus on family and gratitude. This break from school and work can bring us social comfort as we deeply connect with those we love. It can offer emotional support as we focus our mind and energies on appreciating the abundance in our good lives, a feeling that fundamentally alters anxiety and brings us into a more peaceful state. I wish you all these benefits by being intentional about where you focus your mind and energies this Thanksgiving.

Here are some of my favorite books on gratitude!

We are Grateful; Ostaliheliga by Traci Sorrell

Adult Books Nonfiction:

The Power of Showing Up; How Parental Presence Shapes Who Our Kids Become and How Their Brains Get Wired by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson

Making Grateful Kids; The Science of Building Character by Jeffrey J. Froh and Giacomo Bono

Gratitude Works; A 21-Day Program for Creating Emotional Prosperity by Robert A. Emmons


Center on the Developing Child.  Five Steps for Brain-Building Serve and Return. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.

Parent-led Communities of Practice Dialogue Today at the SEL Exchange…

We didn’t just speak, we offered plenty of dialogue opportunities for participants to consider some of the following questions:

  • What are the roadblocks or limiting beliefs to engaging parents in meaningful ways?
  • How are you engaging in your own parenting learning?
  • How are parents engaged with their own learning in their school/organization?
  • How is community being created among parents in your school/organization?
  • How are you lifting up parent voices in your community?

We also shared the models of practice. Here are some thoughts that were shared:

(As I work with families,) “I’m suspending my judgment and it’s really hard. It’s very hard. The knee jerk reaction is to be judgmental. But I do suspend that because I used to be them. I was judged because I was a young mom. I try to suspend that judgment and let them tell the story, start a conversation like we did here, and let them tell the story of their life and don’t probe too much. Let them give you what they want to give you. And I promise you the floodgates will open.” – Rhonda Hall

The work starts with us as parents and it was very important that we created a space for parents themselves to look at their own bias, their own internalized racism, and to really unpack some of the things that we have learned as adults and then finding ways to connect that to the school and also to supporting our own kids.” – Lorea Martinez

The language that parents use may be different from educators, but when we connect with parents’ hopes and dreams and we make the connection between their hopes and dreams and the skills that they can build in their home life, there is a direct link between social and emotional learning and parenting. In other words, parents said, I want my kid to be happy, I want them to be kind, I want them to be responsible, I want them to be confident. These are all things we know we can achieve by building social and emotional skills.” – Jennifer Miller

The length of time that a group is together, whether it’s digital and online, whether it’s virtual, whether it’s a blog, whether it’s actually coming together and meeting in a center in your neighborhood, it sounds to me like the true component behind it is the relationality and the centering of parent voice. No matter what structure or format works with the group you’re working with, that being able to center voices of people who are often not listened to in their own child’s lives is the key component.” – Shannon Wanless

And we gave away books! Check out this beautiful collection!

For Home: Confident Parents, Confident Kids

For School: Teaching with the HEART in Mind

Check out some gems from our dialogue at the #SELExchange!

We also gave away a picture book Rhonda Hall shared that offers such a beautiful story about parent modeling. Check out “A Day with No Words,” on a parent modeling communication skills with a child on the autism spectrum who does not speak.

THANKS TEAM! And special thanks to Lorea Martinez for leading us!

Parent-led Communities of Practice at the SEL Exchange…

Three of the Confident Parents Leadership Team – Lorea Martinez, Author of Teaching with the Heart in Mind, Shannon Wanless, Director of the Office of Child Development at the University of Pittsburgh and Jennifer Miller, founder/author of Confident Parents, Confident Kids – along with Rhonda Hall, Director of Family and Community Partnerships at the University of Pittsburgh will be presenting together on our models of parent-led communities of practice and how we’ve worked to create spaces for parent leadership and growth.

If you are planning to attend this year’s Social and Emotional Learning Exchange hosted by the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), be sure and register for our session on Thursday, November 9th from 10:15 – 11:45 a.m. Hope to see you there!

To learn more about the conference, check this out.

Confident Parents, Confident Kids Audio Book – Free with Audible Trial!

Jennifer Miller, Author of “Confident Parents, Confident Kids” was delighted to partner with Blackstone Publishing and award-winning actor Coleen Marlo who narrates the audio version of the book. Coleen Marlo also won the Audiobook Reader of the Year in 2010 from Publishers Weekly.

Schools/Districts – if you are doing book clubs for parents and caregivers, the audio book is a great way to give access to this content for a group of parents to generate dialogue about children’s social and emotional development by age and stage.


I think you can safely assume, but the insane amount of notes I took while reading this book, that I loved it! For me, it will become my “parenting bible”. I will refer to it every time I will encounter a problem with my kids. Jennifer Miller offers plenty of advice for any situation that you can have with your kids, from birth until their teens.

– Melissa, Good Reads

This is a fantastic book for any parent, but a relatable one for fathers. It helped bring a lot of awareness to my emotional state and how that influences my kids. My frustration with them can create a shameful feeling and I realized I needed a different approach of kindness and listening. A lot of the advice seems common sense yet so few actually act that way. I am intentionally working on being a better parent realizing there is no “perfect parent”. Love this book.”

– NicbachDVM, Amazon

This book is packed full of psychological and developmental tidbits so that parents not only are told what to do but they understand the why. Despite being so packed full of knowledge it is done in tidbits spread throughout the book making it an easy read. This book should be a must for new parents as it covers both emotional intelligence AND social skills. Confidence is the best indicator of success in life, NOT intelligence. This book teaches the ultimate backbone of parenting. And it does it for every age group. You can read the book cover to cover or skip the ages that no longer apply to your children. This makes it an even easier read.

– Mom2HowMany, Amazon

Thank you Coleen Marlo and Blackstone Publishing! And always thanks to literary agent Tina Wainscott of The Seymour Agency!

Find the Audio Book (with Kindle and Paperback versions too!) here:

Confident Parents, Confident Kids; Raising Emotional Intelligence In Ourselves and Our Kids from Toddlers to Teenager

More Halloween Collaborative Games!

For Classroom or At-home Parties Alike!

This week, I’m excited to work with the Girl Scout troop in Hoboken, NJ to cooperatively tell ghost stories! Perhaps you volunteer in your child’s classroom and are helping plan the annual Halloween party? Maybe you are a teacher looking for ways to both entertain, celebrate, and build skills on the holiday. Or you could be planning an indoor celebration with siblings or a small friend group with rain threatening trick-or-treating plans. Whatever your role or goal, the following ideas are sure to make your little ghouls or goblins laugh with delight as they collaborate with their peers, approach scary characters in an entertaining way and build social and emotional skills.

I’ve listed which ones could be used in person or over Zoom for an online classroom or group experience and there are a few extras this year! To ensure a fun time, go over Zoom rules first including muting yourself until it’s your time to speak and using hand signals like raising a hand or using the sign language for clapping so that all are prepared to contribute. Check out these games appropriate for eight-years-old and up!

Monster Back Story

Materials: Monster masks, or construction paper, glue, markers and large popsicle sticks (to create monster masks)

Gather on Zoom or in-person. Hold monster masks up to your face. You can either create them together as a craft at home prior to the event or ask children to bring any mask they might have to share. The leader can introduce one monster at a time. “This is Dracula. He’s a vampire who survives by sucking peoples’ blood. But he wasn’t always as he is today…” Then go around the circle and ask each child to provide a detail from his childhood explaining why he came to be the person he is today.

Be sure to offer the “pass” option if a child cannot think of an addition to the back story.

Social and Emotional Skills Practiced: Collaboration, Empathy, Perspective-taking

Witches’ and Wizards’ Charades

Materials: Index cards, marker, stick or wand

Gather on Zoom or in-person. For Zoom, create slides with each of the magical enchantments below. If in-person, make index cards prepared with the illusions listed below, one per card. Ask each participant to bring a stick or better yet, a wand for casting spells. Explain the rules of the game. One person is the witch or wizard and they get to select a card from the pile. They also hold the wand and cast the spell. The students seated directly to their immediate left and right will serve as their team. They read the card together and whisper a plan for acting out the illusion. No talking aloud or sounds can be made just acting. They continue to act out the illusion while the rest of the group guesses what they are doing. The person to guess correctly first is the next wizard or witch.

For the index cards, here are the magical illusions to be acted out: levitation, or a floating person or object; invisibility, person or object disappears; grower taller; shrinking; growing longer hair; changing from a person to a toad; flying on a broomstick; making it light and then, dark; making limbs disappear; disappearing in one part of the room, reappearing in another, charming a snake.

Social and Emotional Skills Practiced: Social awareness, Active listening, Collaboration, Negotiation, Problem-solving, Nonverbal communication

Cooperative Ghost Story Telling

Gather on Zoom or in-person. The leader establishes the rules to get the game started. Let the group know that each person will have a turn to contribute one sentence to the ghost story. Pass around a talking stick and let participants know that only the one who possesses the stick may talk. The others must listen carefully in order to build upon the story. The leader can begin with the classic line, “It was a dark, stormy night and…” This requires no setup and no materials. Kids will delight in the creativity and imagination involved. This is also a wonderful transition game that can be used on the spur-of-the-moment when waiting for a next class or activity.

Social and Emotional Skill Practiced: Collaboration, Creative Thinking, Active Listening

Robbery Report

This is a great one for Zoom or in-person. This one was created for Classroom Conflict Resolution Training for Elementary Schools in San Francisco, California and reprinted in the A Year of Student’s Creative Response to Conflict curriculum. It has been used effectively in classrooms. Children love it!

The parent relays a robbery report and children must remember the details of the report by listening to it. Say it once and see what they can remember. Then, read it a second and perhaps, third time and see if they’re listening improves.

Parent: “Please listen carefully as I have to go to the hospital right away. I just called the police from the gas station on the corner. Wait here and report the robbery to them. I was walking into Johnson’s Convenience Store and this guy came running out and almost knocked me over. He was carrying a white bag and it looked like he had a gun in his left hand. He was wearing a Levi jacket with the sleeves cut out and a green and blue plaid shirt and blue jeans with a hole in the right knee. He had skinny legs and a big stomach. He wore wire rim glasses and high top red Converse tennis shoes. He was bald and had a brown mustache and was six and a half feet tall, probably in his mid-thirties.” 1

Social and Emotional Skills Practiced: Active Listening

Mummy Wrap

Materials: One roll of toilet paper per three kids.

Divide kids into teams of three. Each team gets a roll of toilet paper. One child is the designated mummy and the other two are mummy creators/wrappers. Give the teams time to wrap up one team member by working together encircling the mummy with toilet paper leaving holes for breathing and seeing and hearing, of course! Teams can be challenged to wrap the mummy in such a way that he is able to walk while keeping on the costume. See if the completed mummy can walk across the room without unraveling.

Social and Emotional Skills Practiced: Collaboration, Problem-Solving

Swamp Monster

Material: long rope, Halloween music (and music player)

Leader shares the rules of the game. Leader lays down rope winding it around the room representing a safe bridge while Halloween music plays (think: “Monster Mash” and “Ghostbusters”). Students link arms and follow one another in a line along the rope. Students must keep both feet on the rope while moving forward to the beat. If a student is struggling, she or he needs to ask his teammates on either side for help. Then, the surrounding students can provide strength and support to help them stay on the rope. If a foot goes off the rope onto the floor (a.k.a. the swamp), the swamp monster “eats that student” and they have to sit out while the others try to stay on. Eliminate down to the last team of three students linked and clap for that last team of three who remained strong.

Social and Emotional Skills Practiced: Collaboration, Asking for help when needed

Enjoy engaging in one or more of these games with your family, friends, or students. Happy Halloween!


1. Nia-Azariah, K., Kern-Crotty, F., & Gomer Bangel, L. (1992). A Year of Students Response to Conflict: 35 Experiential Workshops for the Classroom. Cincinnati, OH: Center for Peace Education.

#Halloween #Parenting #SEL

Learning to Parent for Neuro-diverse Learning Needs

I see her whole strength,” says Amelia Menk-Brown, Mom and Educational Technology leader, about her daughter who thrives academically in a highly challenging private school while managing her neuro-diverse learning needs.

Neurodiversity describes any person who thinks, learns or perceives differently than others but often refers to a person who is on the Autism spectrum or has been identified as having Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) or Dyslexia. And there are numerous other designations that fit the neuro-divergent term like mental health challenges (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder), Down Syndrome, Dyspraxia, Dysgraphia and more.1 The guesstimate is that 15-20% of the population are neuro-divergent thinkers and learners.2 Not only do traditional modes of learning in the classroom and at home not work, but also students are more likely to be bullied and picked on for their differences. For example, children with ADHD are twice as likely to be bullied than their neuro-typical peers.3

Though currently the types of learners who fall under the neuro-divergent umbrella are labeled with “disorders,” there’s newer research that suggests that the mental illness perspective may not be accurate at all.4 Indeed, neuro-divergent learners and thinkers may be an evolutionary adaptation of the human species to assist in quicker mental activity, extra-sensory sensitivity (as culturally we become more de-sensitized) and more.

Being a parent of a neuro-divergent student can be particularly challenging since most schools are set up for neuro-typical learners and many struggle with ways in which to support different and individualized learning needs.

Both “kids,” “A,” a sophomore in high school, and “B,” a freshman in college, struggled mightily with school. At a young age, each was diagnosed with ADHD and Dyslexia. As they grew, Amelia saw their identity emerging as “other” because she explained, “when you are neuro-divergent, you constantly question yourself. You feel like a square peg in a round hole all of the time because you just don’t learn in the same way others do.” She watched it taking hold of their self confidence — feeling guilty about struggling to do their schoolwork and labeled by teachers as “lazy, unwilling and hopelessly disorganized.”  

Even though her daughter has the equivalent of an individualized learning plan (or IEP) at school, she still feels like “nobody steps into her shoes and thinks ‘what’s it like for her and how can we optimize her journey?’.” Amelia confesses, “The worst nights are Sunday nights when she has avoided her work all weekend.” Amelia reads aloud so that A can consume the information in a way that doesn’t exhaust her so that she has energy to do the critical thinking and analysis (the thinking work) that is required of older students and adults. Those times Mom, Dad who is also on the learning support team and daughter are all exhausted and staying up late to get the work done. And the week has only just begun.

The family spent time advocating with teachers who were not well educated in the ways in which learning can happen differently for her children. That advocacy created the need for school changes. But also much of the educational process had to take place at home because school just wasn’t equipped. Both parents spent considerable time reading and learning about ADHD and Dyslexia and experimenting with new ways of taking in school material that could better support learning. But their parent learning supports go far beyond the mechanics of learning like reading aloud. 

Amelia has come to realize that a critical part of her role is to model and promote social and emotional skills in order to support Ada’s learning success. Frustration is naturally a part of learning but for those who experience the challenges and opportunities of neuro-divergent thinking, frustration is frequent and persistent. So self regulation is a critical higher order thinking skill to be developed and practiced. “When I’m frustrated” Amelia relays, “losing my self regulation helps nobody. I have to take a step back.” So she has adopted habits of pausing, of breathing, of taking time out and then, expressing her feelings. That emotional awareness serves as a crucial tool as A moves into high stakes academics during the school day and has to find ways to self manage. Amelia is aware that she has to model those skills first if A is to do the same. It also helps Mom let go and allow A to try and even fail at times but learn to do things for herself.

Amelia also engages her in metacognition, or thinking about her thinking processes and ways in which she learns best. Metacognition is a key higher order thinking skill that has shown to contribute to any student’s academic success and a particularly important strategy for neuro-divergent learners. They can approach a learning task understanding how they think and learn and take approaches that align with that awareness. 

Amelia feels passionate about helping her daughter reinvent her self perception as fully intelligent and fully capable. “I see her as a whole person with tremendous strength. There’s nothing wrong with her.” So she recounts stories to A of her persistence despite struggles and those stories of strength help build a new identity of resilience and confidence.

These social and emotional strategies contribute to the whole family’s sense of well-being as the parents feel agency that they can be supportive and the daughter and son feel they are capable and competent in their learning.

Other ideas for supporting neuro-divergent learners include:

ask first how they learn best and listen reflectively for needs, helpful supports and goals.

be present, observant and calm. This requires that both educators and parents adopt their own self management strategies including mindfulness practices.

use empathy. Articulate feelings. And remind yourself how your student feels when approaching more challenging tasks.

become sensitive to the environment and all five sense stimulations – sounds, sights, smells, and limit those to create quiet learning spaces.

create movement opportunities regularly – both small and large through hand manipulatives (fidgets, knitting, drawing) brain breaks, and outdoor time. Movement is not a distraction! It serves a key purpose to help integrate information in the brain.

use clear, direct language. Sometimes referred to as “clean language,” communications avoid sarcasm, euphemisms or subtle implied messages. 

break down tasks into small steps and if helpful, put in writing.

ask for help and find support! 

Be sure you have tools at the ready to support your efforts! We like the Zones of Regulation because it’s simple and they pair feelings with healthy responses. Also, check out our coping strategies lists — or make your own! – and keep it posted so your child can easily refer to it when frustrated. There’s so much more to learn about this topic on how we can better understand and support neuro-divergent learners so this is just a start!

And there’s more to Amelia’s story as well. As she took the time to be more present and put herself in daughter’s shoes attempting to see from her perspective, she grew a passion and sense of purpose for helping other students who struggle. Amelia has shifted her work to focus on building technology solutions that can help students who need different modalities for learning.

It’s clear that our support of neuro-divergent learners is mind and heart-expanding for neuro-typical learners. It can raise our social awareness and expand our creative thinking as we experience individuals who perceive the world differently.

Favorite Websites with More Support:

Conscious Discipline – on ways to support educators and parents in learning and promoting self regulation

Child Mind Institute


*Big thanks to Amelia Menk-Brown for her leadership on this topic and for sharing their family’s story!


  1. Baumer, N. & Frueh, J. (2021). What is neurodiversity? Mind & Mood. Harvard Health Publishing, Nov. 23. Retrieved on 10/18/23 at

2.  Doyle N. (2020). Neurodiversity at work: a biopsychosocial model and the impact on working adults. British Medical Bulletin. Oct 14;135(1):108-125. Retrieved on 10/18/23 at

3. Cuba Bustinza, C., Adams, R. E., Claussen, A. H., Vitucci, D., Danielson, M. L., Holbrook, J. R., Charania, S. N., Yamamoto, K., Nidey, N., & Froehlich, T. E. (2022). Factors Associated With Bullying Victimization and Bullying Perpetration in Children and Adolescents With ADHD: 2016 to 2017 National Survey of Children’s Health. Journal of Attention Disorders. Retrieved on 10/18/23 at

4. Hunt, A., & Jaeggi, A. (2022). Specialised minds: Extending adaptive explanations of personality to the evolution of psychopathology. Evolutionary Human Sciences, 4, E26. Retrieved on 10/18/23 at

How to Teach Kids about Belonging: Words from a 10-Year-Old Student

By Jenny Woo and Kalon Woo

How do you create BELONGING?

What can kids do to help their peers feel a sense of belonging?

What do students need from their teachers and school to feel like they belong?

These were the prompts from a regional K-12 speech contest. As a parent and educator with preteen twins and a newly minted teenager, I find the topic of belonging more essential than ever.

How do we teach kids to recognize “belonging?” If we label “belonging” with emotions, then what would they be when you feel a sense of belonging? And equally important, when you don’t feel it?

Taking a step further, how do we help our kids navigate and cultivate belonging for themselves? And for others? I believe these questions are crucial in the age of social media when viral trends have broadened the meaning and impacts of peer pressure. The ability to like, comment, and share has also equipped everyone with the ability to extend to or deny belonging from others.

But how do we explain “belonging” in simple words? I posed this challenge to my 10-year-old son. Below is how he recognizes belonging and his tips on what we can do to cultivate belonging for ourselves and for our community. Check out Kalon’s words of advice:

How Do You Create and Cultivate Belonging?

Kalon Woo

Here’s the Transcript from Kalon’s Video:

Have you ever wondered what belonging means? Well, belonging means that you feel safe, accepted, and respected. When you don’t belong, you feel sad, lonely, and rejected. And no one wants to feel that.

Here’s a secret that will help you feel like you belong no matter where you are: love and accept yourself. For example, if someone says something bad to you, speak up to tell them to stop. Don’t let their negative words get to you. You can also use your coping superpowers to remind yourself that you’re kind and courageous, and you can go to someone you trust for advice. Remember, it matters less what other people say about you than what you say to yourself. 

A simple but powerful thing I do to help others feel like they belong is to ask questions! I try to do this with my family, friends, and teammates. It shows that I care about what they have to say, and it helps them feel heard and valued.

We all want to feel like we belong at our school. Teachers can help us feel like we matter by really getting to know who we are, such as our favorite hobbies and the things we care about outside of school. It’s also important to make sure everyone gets to participate in classroom conversations. Schools should have activities that welcome and value participation from families with different backgrounds. I feel like I belong at my school when I feel safe and understood, and that motivates me to try harder and be my best.

DrJenny Woo is a Harvard-trained educator, TEDx speaker, and founder/CEO of Mind Brain Parenting.  Jenny is the creator of a series of award-winning emotional intelligence games: 52 Essential Conversations, 52 Essential Relationships, 52 Essential Critical Thinking Skills, and 52 Essential Coping Skills. She is a mother to two elementary-age children and one middle schooler.