Excerpt from New Book on Inside SEL…

Check out an excerpt from the new book in the newsletter that offers information, news and resources for the field of social and emotional learning. It begins…

In an exclusive excerpt from her new book — “Confident Parents, Confident Kids” — author Jennifer Miller shares a poignant example of how parents can nurture and coach their children when faced with various social and emotional obstacles.

“I hope you’ll become a brave, confident boy, mi corazón.” Mateo’s Mom would whisper to him when he was a newborn. And every day of those first months, his Mom would tell him the many dreams she had for him. READ THE FULL EXCERPT AT INSIDE SEL: 

Confident Parents, Confident Kids: Raising Emotional Intelligence in Ourselves and Our Kids

 

Tomorrow – World Kindness Day! Partnering with Go Noodle

“The Enduring Gift of Kindness; Raising Children Who Show Gratitude and Act with Generosity” on Go Noodle!

This week, Confident Parents, Confident Kids is partnering with an important organization. Have you heard of Go Noodle? They produce short 1-2 minute, high quality videos for children to be utilized by teachers and families. They reach an estimated four million children in public schools across the United States. These videos offer children joyful opportunities to move, dance, and practice mindfulness including focusing attention and activating compassion. In fact, as we spoke with other parents about Go Noodle, many were familiar from their children’s experiences at school. Teachers use these videos during transition times of the school day to get the wiggles out, change focus or direction, create a joyful climate, and boost social and emotional skills. We are delighted to learn about this incredible resource. And parents, there are videos geared for use in the home. Some of them are included with the article from Jennifer Miller this week including:

  • “Empower Tools: Have Compassion”
  • “Talk about It: Be Kind”
  • “Empower Tools: Tune into your World”
  • “Talk about It: Help Others”
  • “Best Tees: Be Nice”

“The Enduring Gift of Kindness; Raising Children Who Show Gratitude and Act with Generosity” begins…

A few days ago, my son and I approached a crowded grocery store entrance together. I watched as he noticed an older man walking with a cane. He quickly positioned himself so that he could open and hold the door for this man and then ushered me in as well. “That was kind,” I said to him as I felt lit up inside. And that warmth lasted through our shopping excursion. I found myself smiling more easily, speaking gently and kindly to the cashier at the checkout, and feeling more patient with the crushing crowd of pre-football game shoppers.

Research confirms my experience. Kindness is contagious. Studies have shown that people can merely read about acts of kindness without witnessing one and act more kindly going forward.1And it’s not necessarily the specific act that is contagious but rather, the expression and intention of kindness whatever the act may be. READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE AND CHECK OUT THE FOLLOWING HIGH QUALITY VIDEOS FOR THE KIDS YOU LOVE!

 

 

BIG Thanks for the Birthday Wishes for the “Confident Parents, Confident Kids” Book!

My heart is filled with gratitude!

Check out all these photos that have been sent to me in the past couple of days! What a birthday for my baby book! Thank you all who are sharing in the joy of this birth!

Photo credits and great gratitude go to: David Smith (a.k.a. Dad), Sharon and Julius Perez, Tina Wainscott, Surabhi Talesara, Liza Bloomfield Adams, Melanie Wildermuth, Katie McGann Conway, Maria McCabe, Jennifer Haney Bennett, and Jill Abbott.

TODAY On NBC Learn’s Parent Toolkit… “How to Tap into Your Child’s Emotions at Every Age”

Want to learn a little about the content of the new book? Long-time collaborator NBC Parent Toolkit just published the following article today to get the word out. Thank you, Esta Pratt-Kielley and Gabbi Timmis for your partnership!

It begins…

Do you ever treat your children’s challenging emotions like a bug you spot in your home? If it’s flitting around you, you might swat at it feeling annoyed. If it’s a small bug, you could squash it. “Stop it. You’re fine,” you might say when your daughter is buzzing with worry. Or if it’s a larger bug, you might fear and run away from it or bring out the poison to kill it. In reaction to your child’s anger, you might yell, “Go to your room!” or “I just can’t right now!”

But what if we thought about emotions instead as a musical instrument? Indeed, if the vocal cords are the instruments of the body, emotions are the musical instrument of the heart, mind, and spirit. There’s no school requirement directing us to train our children on a musical instrument but if we do, it offers them a new voice for self-expression. The same is true for emotions. If we specifically train our children in how to identity, name, interpret and use their emotions, then they will learn a new language for self-expression. This language is one that doesn’t stifle, shove down, repress, and then explode, but rather helps them understand why they are feeling what they are feeling. Even in challenging moments, children can practice ways of responding to those feelings – or “notes” — in ways that do no harm to themselves or others. Ultimately, children who learn that emotions are vital messages from their core and practice healthy ways of responding grow their own sense of well-being and are capable of developing and sustaining healthy relationships. READ THE FULL ARTICLE ON NBC’S PARENT TOOLKIT SITE.

Sound the Trumpets! It’s Publication Day!

After years of hard work (dozens of proposals in the bin), research, collaboration, and loads (and loads) of anticipation, here we are — publication day! If you pre-ordered, you should have a beautiful package awaiting you today at your doorstep. Because you’ve been an essential part of this book coming to life, I’d like to offer a toast to you, Confident Parents, Confident Kids’ reader…

May you deeply believe in your power to contribute meaning and goodness to the world.

May you deeply believe in your child’s power to contribute meaning and goodness to the world.

May you love each family member deeply and love yourself in kind.

May you dream big for one another and support one another in the pursuit of those dreams.

May you commit to grace and gratitude. Grace for the mistakes we will make today and tomorrow. And gratitude for the care we give as we try, stumble, and persist.

May you embody confidence by listening to and accepting the hearts and spirits of your children through their emotions – even the challenging ones – and do yourself the same favor.

May you recognize and be open to receiving your children’s assistance in your own development as you assist in theirs.

May you leave a legacy of love that will make your ancestors struggles worthwhile.

Want to help?

Copy and paste any of the following into your posts today on social media and spread the word!

How can we become confident parents raising confident kids? It begins with teaching our children to honor their feelings and respond in healthy ways. Learn more in the new book out today! “Confident Parents, Confident Kids; Raising Emotional Intelligence In Ourselves and Our Kids — From Toddlers to Teenagers.”@confidentparentsconfidentkids

Wished you had a guide to your child’s changing big feelings by age and stage and how to deal with your own big feelings in the process? Here it is — out today! “Confident Parents, Confident Kids; Raising Emotional Intelligence— From Toddlers to Teenagers.” @confidentparentsconfidentkids

What are your hopes and dreams for your children? And for yourself as a parent? Discover how you align those hopes with research-backed skills that can be built in small ways each day! Check out: “Confident Parents, Confident Kids; Raising Emotional Intelligence— From Toddlers to Teenagers.” @confidentparentsconfidentkids

It Takes a Village…

…to write, publish and promote a book. Check out the incredible village for this book and please know – each one of you – how grateful I am to have the honor of collaborating!

 

Darkness, Monsters, and Snakes–Oh My! How Parents Can Support a Child Dealing with Fears

Based on Powerful Research…

It’s flu shot day. I have a feeling that today will go smoothly. But two years ago, it didn’t. And I notice a sense of dread creep up on me like a zombie in a haunted mansion. A few years back, E asked about whether shots would be involved with his upcoming doctor’s appointment well in advance. And when we got to the doctor’s parking lot, he started bawling and refused to get out of the car. I took a number of deep breaths while I watched the clock. An astonishing half hour later (seriously, I timed it), he finally emerged from the car to go into his appointment. After his shot that day, he seemed traumatized and it took the whole evening to recover. That next week, I took him with me when I got my flu shot at the local drug store. I let him watch and I asked a number of questions of the pharmacist who administered it. I quizzed her about all of the safety factors involved while E was listening. The next year, we talked about why flu shots are important and what can happen as a result of not getting the shot. And he, though scared, went into the appointment. This year was similar but E set out to prove how brave he truly was. Though I could tell he was nervous, he didn’t resist any step of the way. And I am proud he was able to face his fear.

Understanding fear and how it impacts our children can help us be more responsive and empathetic parents. We can learn how to raise kids who are courageous. Fears begin in infancy when babies under a year old cry when they encounter strange people or things that they do not recognize. The emotional response serves as a key biological function to help babies and children survive. A threat is detected in something or someone unknown and a baby seeks your help in those moments. Toddlers may fear loud noises, separation from parents, and large objects. Preschoolers may fear storms, the dark, monsters, supernatural or magical forces, or noises. And school-age children begin to fear issues we fear as adults such as failure, death, peer rejection, and natural disasters.

Fear is experienced differently by every person. There is no predicting what particular fears your child will have or develop. The key is to pay attention to fears and work to understand them. Modeling is a critical teacher so first, take note of your own reactions and anxiety. We can unwittingly contribute to and escalate any fear if our child reacts and we respond with anxiety. So becoming self-aware and practicing our own self-management over anxiety in those moments is fundamental to helping our child. I notice that I can hold greater patience in those times of struggle when I put my “teacher hat” on. All of a sudden, instead of being an annoyed parent, I become an intelligent and empathetic adult whose role is guidance, modeling, facilitation, and support.

We can learn a lot from a study done at Virginia Tech with expert scholars who have had a 60-75% success rate in tackling severe child phobias. I have summarized their steps here for addressing a child’s fears adding in my own perspectives and context for parents.

Promoting Resilience and Courage with Kids in the Midst of Fear

Unpack the fear. Talk through the emotions with a child in an open time when you don’t have other pressures. List out all aspects of what they are afraid of. If it’s the dark, what parts of the dark don’t they like? What do they see? What do they imagine? What’s the worst thing that could happen to them in the dark? Find out all of the aspects of what’s worrying them and be sure to discuss their worst case scenarios.

Begin with the least scary on the list of fears and become informed together. Provide education and safety information about that topic and the more interactive, the better. For example, what causes the dark? Are there more safety risks in the dark? What are they? How can you address them? Do you need night lights in the bedrooms and in the hallways? If there are issues you can research in children’s books together, that is a great process for exploring a high anxiety topic. Or else go and pick out night lights to serve as a safety measure. Involve your child in addressing the issue.

Take small steps toward facing their fear. Ask your child first with each step forward. And make it a fun. The experts at Virginia Tech made it a game with the kids with whom they worked. They did not push but stopped if children were getting upset. They “proceeded slowly through the fear hierarchy and did not move on without the children’s consent.” 1 For example, you might throw dice and take the number of steps rolled toward the chair. Or you could advance stuffed friends along with your son to see who might be brave enough to step forward.

Continue with small steps as your child consents. With each small step, your child will learn to trust working with you on his fear (because you are not pushing but allowing him to set the pace). You will offer practice in facing his fear through these small steps, inching closer to the darkness until he is ready to turn out the lights altogether.

Practice in varied settings. Even if your child has been able to face turning out the lights and has come through it triumphantly, he will better internalize the lesson if you practice in a few settings. So go to your living room, ask his readiness and perhaps take a smaller step first in the new setting by turning out one light in the room.

Return to safety. If your child struggles along the way, you can always return to safety. Turn on the lights. Talk more about safety issues such as checking to see if all of the doors are locked so no strangers could possibly get in your home. Help your child feel comfortable at each stage of the process.

Astonishingly, these researchers at Virginia Tech had a 60% rate of extinguishing debilitating phobias in merely a three-hour session doing what I’ve listed above. They claimed their success rate would increase to 90% if parents did follow up practice over time and in various settings with their child. If this method worked for serious phobias, then a process of modeling, defining, educating, taking small steps, practicing in a variety of settings and following a child’s pace can work for you and your child’s fears. Imagine the courage he will feel when he no longer gets tummy aches and sweaty palms when you turn out the light. Most importantly, the experience he has had in conquering his fears will equip him to face larger challenges down the road.

Debunking the “Toughening Up” Myth

First and foremost, we want our children to survive and thrive in what sometimes may seem like a cruel world. It is a common belief that we must toughen up our kids for what they must face in life. Sometimes that belief translates into pushing kids beyond their coping capacity. We may force them into petting a dog they are terrified of approaching because it is our belief that they have to face their problem. Indeed it does make children strong for them to face their fears but the only way they can truly conquer them is on their own terms. No amount of pushing, forcing, punishing or yelling on our part is going to help. In fact, it will do the opposite. Children may squash their fears so that they are not pushed by a parent anymore or don’t have to disappoint them again. But as a result, they might not only increase their fear but also become shameful, angry, and hurt in the process. That shame will contribute to an inability to take healthy risks which directly impacts their ability to achieve success. “Toughening up” in its many forms, whether it involves ignoring a child’s upset feelings or pushing him into his fears, places a child in crisis. And that feeling of crisis results in a fight or flight mental state. The child may become more defensive and trust you less. This method works in opposition to its intended goal.

One of the greatest challenges we face as parents is watching our children suffer whether it’s from fear or pain. We want to fix it – and quick. But because fears are about how an individual perceives the unknown, it is utterly personal. The only way for a child or any person to move through a fear and come out with confidence and bravery is for that individual to control how he faces the fear. You can play a critical role by facilitating that process and in turn, preparing a child for life’s challenges.

Happy Halloween! May you conquer your own fears and have patience as your child bravely works to conquer his own.

Resources:
Why Smart Kids Worry; And What Parent Can Do to Help by Allison Edwards, LPC

The Highly Sensitive Child; Helping Our Children Thrive When the World Overwhelms Them by Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D.

Reference

Dingfelder, Sadie F. Fighting Children’s Fears, Fast. American Psychological Association. July/August 2005, Vol. 36, No. 7.

Originally published on October 26, 2015.

In The Alliance for Early Childhood’s Newsletter… “The Powerful Feelings of Our Little Ones…”

How Parents and Educators Can Support Young Children’s Emotional Development

For the Fall/Winter Issue of The Alliance for Early Childhood’s newsletter, Confident Parents, Confident Kids’ Founder Jennifer Miller writes about the big feelings of young children focusing on 0-1, 1-2-year-olds, and 3-4-year-olds and ways in which parents and educators can support their emotional development. Jennifer will be the keynote speaker at their annual Preschool-Kindergarten Summit on February 6, 2020 and is honored to collaborate with this critical support network for those who care for young children.

Read the full article here.

Learn more about The Alliance for Early Childhood.

5 Unique Ways Families Can UnPlug to Reconnect

In the Fall, family members seem to run in different directions — to instrument lessons, to sports practice, to PTA meetings, and evening work commitments. Our family is so tired from all of the running to events that when we do have a moment to sit, we turn on screens for entertainment and to “decompress.” But our home time spent on screens is certainly not season-specific. This past summer when I asked parents what their kids planned to do with their free time, several responded, “I booked camps and programs every week, every day because otherwise, I’ll have to battle over screen time.” The unique challenge of this generation of parents requires us to contend with screens on a daily basis with our children. And when research is emerging about the dangers of digital life contributing to feelings of separation and disconnection, it’s no wonder parents are concerned. 

Questions arise for parents on how much time children are spending on screens, the appropriateness of content children are watching, and how it may be affecting them. But there’s also an opportunity cost with screens occupying every spare moment. Parents and their children may have less time to connect and continue to build the trust that is required for dealing with life’s challenges and contributing to children’s sense of emotional well-being.

For this reason, it’s critical to consider the role media plays in our family lives. We need to discuss and decide on what our hopes and priorities for our time are as a family including time to connect with one another. And then, we need to become highly practical (how will it happen?) and intentional (when will it happen?) about scheduling or planning for it. In our increasingly busy lives, scheduling may just be the only way our meaningful connections will happen. Here are some tips for unique ways families can unplug to prioritize reconnection.

  1. Share for Hopes for Playing Together.

Yes, a family that plays together, stays together. How can you hope and dream collaboratively about what you really love to do together? Create a list with all family members contributing to ideas, big and small. Then, keep the list handy for times when you are tempted to go your separate ways and hover on a device. Be certain that there are plenty of small, easy, everyday kinds of ideas like playing a card game, doing a puzzle, or raking leaves together.

2. Learn about and Collaboratively Establish Boundaries for Entertaining Screen Time. 

The American Association of Pediatrics recommends that young children only view a maximum of one hour of high quality, developmentally-appropriate content. For older children and teens, consider that they require enough sleep at night, time to complete homework, participation in extracurricular activities, alone time, family time, and free time to play with friends. Get the facts and learn together about the opportunity costs of screen time with resources like Common Sense Media. Then, discuss what your boundaries will be for family life. Distinguish between work/school screen time and entertainment screen time. Have a timer at the ready so that your child takes responsibility for tracking his own time. Consider rules like, “friends before screens,” so that when a buddy comes knocking, your child goes out to play and sets down the device. Or when you have playdates, you discover the many ways children can play together other than video gaming. Check out the new book, “Confident Parents, Confident Kids: Raising Emotional Intelligence In Ourselves and Our Kids — From Toddlers to Teenagers” for a Family Media Agreement to complete and post in a place where all can refer to it. 

3. Create a Gratitude or Connection Routine or Ritual.

If we are to change habits we don’t like, then attaching a new practice to a daily routine can support that change. So consider when you are all together as a family regularly. Is it dinnertime each night? Or do you manage to have breakfast together? Do you all connect at bedtime? No matter the time of day, you can build in a moment for reflection on the goodness in your life while leaving behind all objects that may distract you including toys, books, work papers, phones, and other devices. Maybe at the end of dinnertime, you share one appreciation for one another or one thing that happened for which you are feeling grateful. The content watched in the media often contains messages of negativity, disaster, violence and at times, the worst of humanity. How then can we balance those messages with a daily dose of positive connections and gratitude?

4. Get Out in Nature Together (and leave devices at home).

Numerous research studies have shown the relationship between being in nature and an individual’s mental health. In fact, just walking outside and breathing fresh air can be a refreshing coping strategy to deal with our busy lives. But what if you decided to make a point of venturing into nature as a family? What if once a month or every other weekend, you left all of your devices behind and explored a metro park or drove out into the country, stopped at a farm stand or picked the fruit of the month? These outings will not only help to release tension and build resilience for the hard work and stress of the week ahead but will also serve to connect you to one another and to your surroundings.

5. Follow Creative Passions.

Though we make time for sporting events in our free time, how often do we engage in creative endeavors as a family? Whether you harbor a passion for cooking, your daughter loves to draw, or your son plays an instrument, how can you engage in those passions as a family? You don’t need to all draw when your daughter is drawing but could you take in an art exhibit to connect with her passion? Or could you go listen to a local jazz musician who plays the trumpet beautifully while your son is learning? Following family members’ creative inspirations can lead to heart and spirit riches that you cannot encounter in the normal routine of days. Deep dive into what gives each other joy and discover new parts of yourself and your loved ones.

Our digital age offers an expansive connection to our global community in ways that were not possible before the internet. Yet, if that exploration takes us away from our closest family members and friends, it can result in less time to build our connectedness as a family. It may take a bit more intentionality and focus to set down the devices and spend time together. But the rewards will be great if we do. Instead of that happy hormone reward that comes from video gaming, happy hormone rewards can come from deeply connecting and engaging in joy together. Those riches – the ones that fill up our hearts and souls – are well worth fighting for. They’re worth our prioritizing.

In Youth Connections Magazine… “Children’s Growing Identity; Cultivating Self-Awareness to Inspire Confidence”

Check out the latest feature article in Youth Connections Magazine published nationally. This one focuses on children’s developing sense of who they are, what they think, and how they feel. It helps parents understand at various ages and stages how children are growing in their self-perception and how parents can promote confidence by cultivating their self-awareness skills. It begins…

In those last sweet days of summer, Mom Margaret wanted to do something enjoyable with both kids in addition to the typical flurry of school supply shopping. But, she hesitated to propose an outing when she noticed that ten-year-old Olivia was sulking around the house seeming down. When Margaret asked her about it, she snapped, “Mom! I’m fine.” 

After giving Olivia a little time and space, Margaret approached her gently, “Seems like you’ve been worried or upset lately. Are you okay?” Despite her delicate prodding, Olivia shrugged her shoulders and innocently looked at her mom. 

“I don’t know,” she said genuinely perplexed. 

“Are you upset about your friends?” Olivia had been hanging out with neighbors all summer long, and maybe they had an argument Mom guessed. But, no, that wasn’t it. “Could it be,” asked Mom, “anticipating the school year starting and all that goes along with it?” 

Olivia was no longer quiet and launched into her many worries. Ah, jackpot. Would she like her new teacher? Would she fit into her old group of friends or could she make new ones? What if she failed the new advanced placement math class to which they had moved her? READ THE FULL ARTICLE.

Thank you ParentingMontana.org‘s Center for Health and Safety Culture and Youth Connections for sponsoring this feature series on parenting with social and emotional learning. This is one of six feature articles each focused on a different social and emotional skill along with an overview of parenting with social and emotional learning.

Premiere of the Trailer for “Confident Parents, Confident Kids” — The Book

A whole lotta love, hard work, and research went into the making of this book and its trailer. Please enjoy and share!!!
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