New Podcast with Highlights! How Reading Can Help Deal with Fear and Anxiety

Use reading at home during #COVID19!

Listen in to the latest episode of our new podcast, For the Love of Reading ❤️📚 In this episode, Highlights Editor in Chief, Christine French Cully, talks with Jennifer Miller of Confident Parents, Confident Kids, and shares how books and storytelling can help kids deal with their anxiety, especially in these unprecedented times. Listen now on YouTube or Apple Podcasts 🎧

In researching for this podcast, we discovered many helpful read-alouds of picture books and first chapter books on YouTube that can support parents and children in discussing fears and worries. Check out these recommendations!

Picture Books

Ruby Finds A Worry by Tom Percival

YouTube Read Aloud

Ruby is a young child who develops a very small worry that slowly gets larger over time. It becomes so huge that it begins to overcrowd her happiness. At a park one day, she finds another child with a worry and discovers she’s not alone. After talking with each other about their problems, they both begin to feel better. 

Jack’s Worry by Sam Zuppardi

YouTube Read Aloud

Jack’s Worry is about a boy who loves playing the trumpet but can’t seem to shake his nervousness at his first concert. The story is a perfect way to teach kids about anxiety or reassure them after stressful situations.

“I Can Handle It” by Laurie Wright

YouTube Read Aloud

A boy runs into a number of challenging situations and experiences emotions like frustration, disappointment, shame, and upset but he figures out multiple ways he can handle it and regain his calm and sense of control.

Don’t Be Afraid, Little Pip by Karma Wilson

YouTube Read Aloud

All of the young penguins are learning to swim but Pip is too scared to try. Instead Pip decides she will try and learn to fly. But as tries to learn to fly, she realizes that swimming and flying just might require the same kind of courage and she has it.

First Chapter Books

Dr. Brad Has Gone Mad! By Dan Gutman

YouTube Read Aloud

An elementary school counselor wants everyone to just get along and stop arguing. Now he’s decided to turn everything upside down. The boys have to play with dollls. But girls have to play with action figures. And that’s just the beginning of Dr. Brad’s weird methods!

Magic Tree House Series

Mummies In The Morning by Mary Pope Osborne

YouTube Read Aloud

Jack and Annie magically transport through the Magic Tree House to Ancient Egypt and get lost in a pyramid. They find a ghost queen inside. She asks Jack and Annie to help her find the Book of the Dead so that she can go to the afterlife.

Magic Tree House Series

The Knight at Dawn by Mary Pope Osborne

YouTube Read Aloud

Jack and Annie find a castle with a secret passage when the Magic Tree House whisks them back to the Middle Ages for another wild adventure. In the Great Hall of the castle, a feast is under way. But Jack and Annie aren’t exactly welcome guests.

Also, check out the terrific videos for kids on YouTube at Highlights for Kids!

Thank you, @HighlightsforChildren for being such an outstanding resource for parents and the children we love!

On the Front Lines…Parents and Educators In Service

Our Call to a Greater Purpose

My twelve-year-old’s history assignment this week was to read and reflect on the book, “Attack on Pearl Harbor” by Shelley Tanaka and Paintings by David Craig which offered perspectives on the experience of families in Hawaii at the start of World War II.1 As he was reading, he pointed out all of the commonalities between that moment in history and this one. “Mom, people were lined up outside of grocery stores just like they are here,”  he told me. And schools were closed. People were ordered to stay in their houses especially after dark. But of course, there were differences too. Some classrooms were damaged as in the photograph taken in Honolulu. Families had to fully blacken their windows so that no lights shone at night for fear of air raids. Uncertainty and danger defined their lives.

There’s much we can learn by revisiting times in which survival – health and safety – determined how we lived day to day. In sustained crisis, we can lose our ability to reason, to think rationally. Our mind feels paralyzed as the “emotional hyjacking” of our brain to our primal state focuses us on fight, flight or freeze. The word “crisis” in Japanese means both danger and opportunity. In fact, my son relayed that the U.S. military accidentally shot down five U.S. planes in their panic and worry. There is a danger if we allow our panic and worry to consume our daily lives. That fear or sense of overwhelm can block our ability to consider how we are making responsible decisions and connecting with our immediate loved ones each day.

So what can help? Research confirms that in times of struggle, a focus on the bigger picture can create a wiser mental state.2 In truth, parents are the front line of this germ war, the danger/opportunity we are currently facing with #COVID19. Parents who are staying home, preparing home-cooked meals, and supporting their children in their education perhaps while working or going to school themselves are indeed engaged in national service, global service. Educators too who are supporting families from their homes are deeply engaged in service. If we focus on the bigger picture – our public health – and the fact that every human around the globe is impacted, then service begins at home. And we, as parents and as educators, are the servant leaders. No task is too small or mundane to contribute to this service. Our perspective shift can contribute to seizing the opportunity of this moment to learn and grow stronger together.

Parents, by the very nature of our roles, serve in a leadership position while we raise our children. A servant leader realizes that his or her ability to significantly influence others and achieve any vision comes from serving others. Understanding the qualities of a successful leader – that of a servant leader – can assist any parent in further refining his or her values and skills to better perform her role. Research on power demonstrates that the skills required to rise to leadership are empathy and social skills.3 However, interestingly, those are the very skills that become the most challenging to leaders once they have acquired power. So when we are parenting, we may have a greater challenge than in other roles with our ability to be empathetic and to demonstrate social intelligence.

Robert Greenleaf, author of “The Servant as Leader” and management researcher who consulted with major corporations like AT&T and lectured at MIT and Harvard, defined what it means to be a servant leader.4  He writes that leaders always have a larger goal in mind and can well articulate it. That goal may not be fully achievable in a lifetime but offers sufficient inspiration and vision to motivate all members to pursue it. For example, our family’s vision is to love one another unconditionally while supporting each other as we pursue learning and working toward our highest dreams and potentials. And we measure our major life decisions based on that vision. Parents as servant leaders prioritize and build trust as a critical foundation for their family’s interconnected relationships and individual successes. They are responsible decision makers, and they exercise sound judgment showing competence in what they do.

The concept of servant leadership can offer a frame of mind as parents and educators consider their role and how they might focus on the bigger picture so this moment in history becomes defined by opportunity in the face of danger. Here are some of the main lessons from Robert Greenleaf ‘s concept of a servant leader that I’ve translated for our roles.

Listen for Understanding
When a family member has a problem, Greenleaf would advise listening first for understanding. And though it may require some time and possibly awkward silence with children, taking the time to listen to truly make sense of what the child is both feeling and thinking can result in a much richer dialogue between parent and child. Instead of rushing to fix as we so often tend to do, we offer a significant show of respect by actively listening. Instead of projecting our worries on our child, we can better tune into their cues and listen deeply to discover what they are feeling. It’s often said, the better you define a problem, the better the solution. And in this case, stopping to listen can help prompt a child’s thinking and uncover the sub-text – their feelings – so that your child is able to accept and manage their own stress and create their own best solutions. If you are interested in exercising your listening skills in family life, check out a number of ideas in the article, “Say What?”

Communicate for Connection
At this moment when a constant stress pervades our household, parents can create opportunities for learning by communicating for connection. In the busyness of our lives, at times, we forget to take time out to explain why we are so busy about our pursuits. And it helps to relate our rationale to a child’s life such as their learning goals in school or our care with getting food. For example, there are sacrifices we are all making right now by supporting our children in home education, by taking pay cuts or losing work, and by not going to restaurants or other public places. So it’s important to make meaning out of these sacrifices and connect it to a larger picture, our health and the health of those in our community. This helps us all stay focused and endure the temporary stressors while working toward a bigger vision.

Embrace the Art of Withdrawal
The art of withdrawal is the ability to step back, to step out of the throes of current circumstances, and to reflect. This withdrawal could involve taking a walk or simple getting outside. It could mean removing yourself from the room to another place to cool down. Or it could be as simple as employing “Strange Calm,” sitting down in the midst of chaos to regain your centered focus. This is such a critical point for our roles as parents and servant leaders. Not only does it give us permission to “leave the building,” it’s encouragement to do so. Yes, we need to make family members aware in advance that we will be withdrawing at times. Yes, we need to ensure that our children are safe before we withdraw. But we can use this technique to fuel our own sense of well-being as we treat our feelings and thoughts with the care they deserve in leading our family. We return from our withdrawal with a sense of renewed purpose and clearer thinking to retain their trust and make sound decisions.

Accept and Empathize
Family members need to feel accepted in the group at all times. Their membership needs to be treated and viewed as essential. Nothing could cause them to be cast out. E said to me last night at bedtime as we were saying goodnight, “Will you love me no matter what?” with a teasing tone. But I know that he needs to hear it “Yes, come what may, no matter what, I will love you.” All kids do. And not just once but often, especially in times of stress and strain. Greenleaf writes, “Parents who try to raise perfect children are certain to raise neurotics.” Getting comfortable with and expecting mistakes as a part of our children’s learning process is a core part of our own acceptance in our parenting. That acceptance demonstrates our empathy for our children who hold us and how we regard them in their highest esteem. And we can further work on cultivating our empathy and understanding for our children by regularly learning about their development so we can relate better to their particular kinds of challenges.

There are numerous ways to learn about your children’s development. As a start, check out the site Healthy by the American Academy of Pediatrics or read “Confident Parents, Confident Kids” with its age by stage guide of social and emotional development.

Cultivate Foresight
Foresight is the ability to make responsible decisions combining factual information with our intuition. But in addition, we have to consider the consequences down the road for the choices we are making today. And helping our children become responsible requires us to model that skill. Talking aloud about the ethics of a choice — like planning our meals and food purchases to enable us to stay at home for extended periods — and how others might be impacted in future days or years can help children become aware that they need to consider their own and other’s futures in their decision-making. It’s rare when all of the pieces of information required are fully at hand when we need to make a choice. Usually, there is a bit of a leap of faith involved particularly when it’s a larger decision. Children will learn to better trust themselves as you show faith in your own inner wisdom to guide you.

Deepen Awareness
We cannot lead a family toward a vision without self-awareness. And that self-knowledge is not a one-time event but a process of introspection, looking within to understand what patterns we might be repeating that we want to change and what values are core to who we are and how we want to show up in the world. The art of withdrawal can assist with our awareness as we take time out to reflect on what our deepest self is telling us. That pause is necessary if we are to make choices not on impulse but on a deeper knowing. In addition, we need to cultivate an awareness of our family members’ feelings which can be strengthened over time with practice. “What’s Dad feeling tonight? Can you tell by his facial expression how his day went?” Taking small opportunities to notice other family members’ feelings can strengthen this skill in yourself and your children.

Taking a step back and evaluating your role as a parent or educator servant leader can be nothing short of revolutionary. Since change always begins at the individual level, we can seize this chance to improve our world right at home. If we desire leaders – whether they serve in our communities, our workplaces or our governments – who are caring, socially responsible and compassionate, we plant those seeds daily by modeling it as servant leaders with our own children. How will you take leadership at home during this time when you have the opportunity to serve on the front lines?



  1. Tanaka, S., & Craig, D. (2001). Attack on Pearl Harbor: The True Story of the Day America Entered World War II. NY: Scholastic.

2. Stillman, P.E., Kentaro, F., Sheldon, O., & Trope, Y. (2018). From “me” to “we”: The role of construal level in promoting maximized joint outcomes. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 147: 16 DOI: 10.1016/j.obhdp.2018.05.004

3. Keltner, D. (2016). The power paradox; How we gain and lose influence. NY: Penguin Press.

4. Greenleaf, R. (1991). The servant as leader. Indianapolis, IN: The Robert K. Greenleaf Center.

CASEL Cares Webinar Recording – Social and Emotional Learning at Home

There was a large turnout of professionals and parents who joined live for the dialogue Friday afternoon for the CASEL Cares webinar. Thank you to the many who joined! For ideas on how to promote social and emotional skills at home during #COVID19, check out the recording: “So What Now? Supporting Social and Emotional Learning at Home.”

Thank you Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) for hosting this event in which so many family tools, resources, and research-aligned strategies could be shared!



#COVID19 #parentingtips #SEL #educatortips #emotionalintelligence


A Parent Manifesto and an Educator Manifesto for Tough Times

Asserting Intentions During #COVID19 Stay-at-Home, Educate-at-Home Days

It seems this is a moment to assert our beliefs to create a sense of unity and also, understanding for one another’s strengths and challenges. Here is a proposed manifesto….

Dear Parents,

  • We believe that all families have the highest intention to keep their loved ones safe and healthy, and their children loved and secure.
  • We believe that all families are doing what they are able to ensure an education for their children that will lead them on a successful path.
  • We believe that educators and families are learning, adjusting to major change, and giving their best.
  • We believe that, despite the hardship that may come from this unique moment in time, the love and support families can provide for one another is more important now than any other specific learning goal and will be the force to win out over any threat – bacterial or other – beyond their home base.
  • We believe that educators and families can be stronger together if they work to manage their own stress and pressures with healthy coping strategies and support their students and children in doing so as well.

We know learning happens when loving relationships are present and children’s hearts and spirits are cared for as well as their minds. We believe their homes can serve as the ideal place for this deeper life learning to happen. We offer you grace as you do the best for your family.



Dear Educators,

  • We believe that all educators have the highest intention to keep their students safe and healthy, loved and secure.
  • We believe that all educators are doing what they are able to ensure that their students are receiving what they need to lead them on a successful path.
  • We believe that educators and families are learning, adjusting to major change, and giving their best.
  • We believe that, despite the hardship that may come from this unique moment in time, the love and support families can provide for one another is more important now than any other specific learning goal and will be the force to win out over any threat – bacterial or other – beyond their home base.
  • We believe that educators and families can be stronger together if they work to manage their own stress and pressures with healthy coping strategies and support their students and children in doing so as well.

We know learning happens when loving relationships are present and children’s hearts and spirits are cared for as well as their minds. We believe children’s homes can serve as the ideal place for this deeper life learning to happen. We offer you grace as you do the best for your students.



This Friday — Join CASEL Cares Webinar on Supporting SEL at Home during COVID19

Join the new CASEL Cares series through the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning this Friday where we’ll discuss how to support children’s social and emotional development at home during the #COVID19 pandemic. This webinar will address:

What does social and emotional learning look like in family life? How can parents, caregivers and educators incorporate social and emotional skill building into their daily lives at home with their children? And how might parents hone their own skills at home?  Jennifer Miller will show how this unique time may just be the opportune moment to practice resilience and advance social and emotional skills. During this shelter-in-place, stay-at-home time period, caring adults can use new practical strategies and tools to support their expanded role as 24-hour caregivers and educators. Jennifer will discuss how you can plan ahead for big feelings — your children’s and your own; how you can set up your home for learning success; how to facilitate social connection in a physical distancing world, and how to turn it around when stress gets the best of us and things go sideways. Sign up here! 

We Need Your Input!

Please write in the comments’ section or if you have numerous ideas, you can email

What are you doing to stay socially connected?

What are you doing to help your child stay socially connected?

Families are Stronger Together Staying Home and Safe

For all of the Harry Potter fans out there, do you recognize this illustration concept borrowed from the Battle of Hogwarts in “Deathly Hallows”? My son and I just completed reading and watching the Harry Potter series and this image came to mind when, in the final “Deathly Hallows” movie, each witch and wizard used their magic to protect Hogwarts when the battle began. It may be challenging at times to stay at home, but we are stronger and healthier when we do. If you are struggling with parenting challenges, I hope you’ll use and search the Confident Parents, Confident Kids site for free support. There’s guidance on helping children deal with fears, monkey mind at bedtime, setting up your home for learning, power struggles, a fighting fairly family pledge and much more!

Happy First International #SEL Day

Yes, this is the first time that the world comes together to celebrate and recognize the critical importance of social and emotional skills in our roles as parents and educators and for raising confident kids!

Social and emotional learning is a framework for understanding and cultivating essential skills that help us come to deeply understand who we are as individuals, our thoughts, feelings, impulses, values, strengths and limitations and also, how we relate to others in ways that are meaningful, fulfilling, and sustainable. Those competencies include self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.

Educators have the ability to practice these skills everyday through the academic curriculum and many schools use research-based curricula and professional development to help them do that in a high quality manner. Families also have the ability to teach social and emotional skills, not through a formal curriculum but through their everyday interactions — their routines, their power struggles, and challenges. In fact, research conducted in partnership with Shannon Wanless, a child development psychologist at the University of Pittsburgh and the “Grandfather of SEL” Roger Weissberg showed a direct alignment between the hopes parents expressed for their children and for their own roles as parents and social and emotional competencies. For more on that research, check out “Parenting For Competence, Parenting With Competence: Essential Connections between Parenting and Social and Emotional Learning.” And to learn specific simple strategies for promoting social and emotional competence at each age and stage, get your copy of “Confident Parents, Confident Kids; Raising Emotional Intelligence In Ourselves and Our Kids — From Toddlers to Teenagers.”

Hope you’ll join the first of the CASEL Cares webinars today with author of “Permission to Feel” and Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, Marc Brackett. Register here! 

Spring Breaking At Home

A Week of Joyful Challenges and Shared Responsibilities

This year it seems we’ll have an enforced staycation for spring break. Ours falls this week – earlier than most as we began on Monday with our first official no-school day. I took comfort in the school schedule last week. So admittedly, I was daunted by the thought of a whole week home with a twelve-year-old who, if plans and expectations were not established, would indulge in screen time most of that time or else whine about boredom. Yes, we’ll be playing card games and board games and doing puzzles together. But I also wanted to promote independent play. So what’s a caring parent to do? I reached out to a wise friend to see how she was handling the expanse of time and she was ready with some reliable ideas.

If you too find yourself daunted by an enforced staycation, let the following ideas guide and inspire you! 

Establish Expectations for your Morning Routine

By what time will you get up and how? When will you eat breakfast and who will provide it? By what time do pajamas come off and day clothes go on? Though you want your child to have some freedom, the morning routine can cause considerable stress if all family members are not clear about expectations and also, take some responsibility for their own roles. Get together as a family. Discuss each of your respective roles and responsibilities. Agree on a plan together. Check out this video short on ways to create a smooth morning routine.

And consider joining Jennifer Miller of CPCK and her family on Facebook Live every morning at 8:15 a.m. to start your day off on a positive note. We’ll discuss what’s going on in our community and our world. We’ll say a global pledge of allegiance. We’ll do a short inspirational reading and also, some deep breathing, all within 8-10 minutes.

Work Together to Manage Screen Time 

Learn together about the brain development impacts on children and teens so that it’s not just you, the “meanie” parent saying screen time should be limited but an understood science-based principle about healthy development. 

Create a System for Screen Time Tracking

The American Association of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours of screen time per day for children three years and up including teenagers. If children must work on screens for school work, that time can be assigned or limited differently since that may be the only way they can get their school work accomplished. But for video gaming, YouTubing, Netflixing and any other entertainment, the recommendation is two hours a day.

My friend’s method is simple and elegant. Her girls each have four 1/2 hour popsicle sticks (color on one end is red to designate used-up time and on the other, green for unused time). Each half hour they use, they flip over the stick in a cup to designate time used.

My son keeps a chart on a white board. He knows he’s allotted fourteen hours per week (or two hours per day) and can go over on any given day but knows he must keep that fourteen hour balance and sacrifice screen time at the end of the week if he uses it up.

My friend allows exceptions for family movie nights. Those do not count toward her girls’ hours. For us, we’ve created an exception for piano learning on YouTube. Our son used to have lessons outside our home but now, he learns online so that we offer an extra hour a day for his online learning. How will you agree to track screen time in your household?

For a family meeting agenda and a template of a family media agreement, check out this article that will also help you learn together about why limiting screen time is important.

Create a List of your Child’s Favorite Non-Screen Activities.

Have you noticed that when a child gets off a screen, they feel lost and unsure what to do? Their hormone levels have been so stimulated and rewarded by the screen time that it can be disorienting without that level of stimulation. That’s why it’s important to develop a go-to list of non-screen activities that are favorites of your child’s. When she shuts down, she can visit her list and consider a range of options instead of looking to you to figure out what’s next. Now that the family is home together, why not also create a family list of favorite things to do individually and together?

Get Outside at Least Once a Day (Regardless of the Weather)

We all need some fresh air and simple exercise. The outdoors offers both. So set the expectation with your family that it doesn’t matter what time of day they choose, all should get outside and refresh their bodies and minds with a walk around the block, a bike ride, or a gander around the backyard. 

Ensure That Each Family Member is Responsible for a Chore (per day or per week)

Learn more about teaching how to do chores through interactive modeling, creating a team work environment, and agreeing upon age-appropriate tasks for children.

Allow for Plenty of Freedom and Offer Creative Prompts

Yes, freedom is a wonderful thing if your child will take advantage of the time. But we are so conditioned to rely on screens for our entertainment, that your child could be challenged by the large amount of free time. For our spring break time, I created daily prompts that I posted for our family. Set a tone by posting the challenge and turning on music that will inspire calm or creativity energy (and turn off news which can create a stressful energy). Lay out inspiring and novel art supplies to help with the challenge. You could choose a different theme for your week like the arts, nature, or even a favorite story book. 

Consider the fact that a focus on the arts may offer a chance for your child to express fears, worries, or other emotions they are experiencing during this unique time. Here are some ideas from our week of the arts  that offers daily choices…

Arts Week

Day One: Creative Writing

  • Decide on a friend or relative that lives in another town. Write a pen pal letter and mail.
  • Write a song entitled “We don’t know when they’ll find a cure.”
  • Write a poem on a favorite memory from a birthday.

* Offer a couple of alternatives for writing tools including loose leaf paper and pens, typewriter, or markers and plain paper.

Day Two: Drawing

  • Still Life: Place an already constructed Lego set or other interestingly shaped toy in the center of a table to draw.
  • Self Portrait: Use long paper to do a full body outline of your child. Then allow him/her to fill in their own self-portrait details.
  • Landscape: Using a rectangular-shaped paper, challenge your child to illustrate the setting for his/her favorite character’s story. Go “plein air” if the weather is nice and take your supplies outside to draw from your yard.

Day Three: Drama

  • Write a play about three kids who discover a portal to another world in their basement.
  • Create a video acting out a number of big emotions.
  • Develop a skit telling a story of a favorite animal and her friends without any words.

Day Four: Sculpture

  • Get out clay or play dough and generate a list of favorite objects. Pick one to sculpt.
  • Take a walk around your block and find interestingly shaped natural objects. Bring them back and use a hot glue gun (with a parent’s help) to glue together a found object sculpture.
  • Use multi-colored construction paper and create a three-dimensional bouquet of spring flowers.

Day Five: Dance

  • Turn on your favorite music and host a family dance party.
  • Learn new moves and techniques on YouTube together. Our friends recommend Just Dance.
  • Play GoNoodle Movement videos and follow along each time you plan to transition to a new activity – from breakfast to playtime, after lunch, and late afternoon.

Though we do not have a daily agenda or full day routine during spring break, we still have plenty of ideas to keep our imaginations fueled and bodies, minds, and spirits fully engaged. When you are spending time together as a family, check out these – anytime, anywhere collaborative games that will promote family connection!

Wishing you joy, creativity, and connection for your time off together!

*Many thanks to wise friend Kimberly Allison for her tips this week that inspired this post!

EQ in your PJs: Emotional Intelligence Resources for Families and Secondary Students

From Creator Rudolph Keeth Matheny

Like all of us, I have been absolutely overwhelmed and saddened by what is happening with Coronavirus. I know many are struggling, some in traumatic ways, and we are all dealing with heavy emotions. Educators are facing challenges of trying to move learning online, while balancing the strong concerns of how to support students as they cope with daily changes, fears, and challenges.

I am a social and emotional learning (SEL) teacher, speaker, and author (A.K.A. Emotional Intelligence or EQ)  who spends most of his time presenting to large groups, keynotes, and workshops. Obviously, I am not doing any of those currently, and wanted to find a way to be a help.

“When you can’t do what you do, do what you can.”- Bon Jovi

Determined to help students and families cope with challenges, I asked my filmmaker son to work with me to create some videos for online support. He was home from college and, graciously, he agreed, did some amazing early work, and the idea has inspired others to chip in. It is now a whole family project, with my wife and daughter contributing to videos and resources. We partnered with School-Connect, a national research and evidence based SEL curriculum for secondary schools to help make some of the additional resources. Truman, my son, and I spent over 60 hours filming our first video series last week, and a team of colleagues at School-Connect helped create handouts, activities, and other resources (we now have a few other colleagues chipping in with quizzes and other interactive components).

We decided to call our video series “EQ in your PJs.” The idea is to create calming, supportive, educational resources that students, teachers, and families can use to grow some social and emotional skills to help navigate the crisis and build some skills for the future. We plan to release a new unit of lessons every other week.

The first unit “Managing Stress Before it Manages You” is now up. It has been reviewed by many school psychologists, teachers, students, administrators and received some rave reviews.

These resources are 100% free and we all hope they are a light in dark times to many.

I hope you are all safe, healthy, and finding reasons to smile. Check out the resources here!

Creator of EQ in PJs Rudolph Keeth Matheny is a social and emotional learning teacher, speaker, and author. He is a co-author of School-Connect, a research and evidence-based social and emotional learning curriculum that is now in over 2,000 schools. Check out his site, SEL Launchpad!

Start Your Mornings At Home On a Positive Note!

Don’t forget to join Jennifer Miller of CPCK and her family for our daily morning announcements each weekday to begin in a reflective and connecting way with your family. We’ll post on Facebook Live each weekday morning at 8:15 a.m. EST and the recording can be watched throughout the day. We’ll give updates, say a global pledge of allegiance, offer inspirational words or a reading and do some deep breathing to start our day calm and ready to learn and collaborate as a family. Join us at the FB Feed for Confident Parents, Confident Kids! 

Do You Have an Emotional Safety Plan?

Prepare Yourself and Your Family for Emotional Fires…

Hospitals have assembled incident command systems, or plans for teams to address the extensive health care needs from the COVID-19 pandemic. States are issuing orders for statewide shutdowns of restaurants, schools, events, and even, borders. And we, as families, are encouraged to stay home. While all this flurry of emergency activity is taking place around the world, we are likely to feel ongoing elevated stress even if we are safe and warm in our own homes. So what’s our plan? What’s our system? We plan for the uncertainty of a fire in our homes with smoke alarms and exit strategies. And it’s important since one in four homes will have a big enough fire to necessitate calling the fire department. But what about emotional fires?

Every single one of us will be overcome with anger, fear, or anxiety at some point. We’ll likely discover our fuses are shorter, our patience less, as we cope with a continuous level of stress and strain during this time. And those moments of intensity are our true tests of character. How will we react when our brains are in fight, flight, or freeze mode? Without thought or planning, we risk lashing out at our loved ones and not only disrupting our routine but also our foundation of trust. And we have to live with the guilt and regret that comes with it. But what if we simply planned for those moments and discussed how we were going to cool down with our families? Particularly during this time of daily and sustained stress because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s worth giving some thought to how we can bring our best selves to most testing times in life.

First, why have a plan?
It helps to have a general sense of how your brain functions under great stress to know why you should have a plan. Anytime you are emotionally shaken from fear, anxiety, anger or hurt, you are functioning from your primal brain, your amygdala. There are chemicals that wash over the rest of your brain cutting off access so that your only functioning abilities are in your survival center. Effective problem solving requires access to the control centers for logic, language, and creativity though these are cut off by those chemicals and cannot be utilized when greatly upset. If, in the past, your plan when your child makes a poor choice that angers you is to come up with a logical consequence on the spot, you will not be capable of that kind of higher level thinking.

This “hyjacking” of your brain, as Daniel Goleman author of Emotional Intelligence refers to it, serves a critical role. In true survival circumstances, you are able to focus on fighting, freezing, or fleeing from the danger source. But in family life, fighting with words, freezing unable to think, or fleeing out of the door is often not constructive, safe, or practical. Creating a plan for what each member can do when they are in this state of mind and practicing it can prepare all members to act with emotional intelligence during a crisis, big or small.

Creating a Family Plan

Discuss when not emotional. Find a moment when you don’t have time pressures to sit down and discuss a plan.

Share your knowledge. Talk about the above information and educate your children and your spouse about how the brain functions in a highly emotional state. Identify what kinds of words or actions tend to trigger your heated upset. Ask your children, “in what circumstances do you get the most upset?” Also, reflect on the symptoms you and your children might experience that clue you into understanding your emotions. For example, do you get red in the face when you are upset? Does your child shake when she is fearful or anxiety-ridden? What physical experiences do you have when you are highly emotional?

Model. Children understand their emotions and how to handle them primarily from watching you. Have you ever noticed your child yelling or using words in anger in the same way you do? Modeling is a powerful teacher. So you go first! Take a quiet moment to respond to the following questions and/or fill in the blanks. Here is a pdf document with blanks to fill in to use with your family – My Emotional Safety Plan

When I am angry or have high anxiety, I will say… (Keep it short!)______________________

Example: “Mommy needs five minutes.”

Then, I will go (Describe specific place.) __________________________________to cool down.

Example: I go to my favorite chair in my bedroom. I have heard from others that it’s not safe for them to leave the room because a.) they have little ones; or b.) they are worried siblings will hurt one another. In those cases, designate a place in the room you are in or in the case of the siblings, sit quietly in-between them in the middle of the floor.

When I get to my cool down spot, I will… (Take how many deep breaths? Then I will write? Draw? Think Plan?)________________________________________________________

Example: I take ten deep breaths. This is an essential part of any plan since it removes the chemical from your logical brain so that you have access again. I keep my journal and pen beside my chair if I need it. Sometimes, in the case of a child’s misbehavior that I need to respond to upon my return, I think about logical consequences or constructive responses while there. I ask, “What does he need to learn? How can I best facilitate his learning in this situation?”

I will return to my family when…_________________________________________________

Example: For me, it’s when I have cooled down properly and know my next move when I return to the situation.

Now ask your family to write their own plans after they’ve heard yours. Make sure all know each other’s plans. An adult who leaves the room can scare a child and escalate the upset. But if you’ve already discussed it, then you merely need to remind him of your plan and implement it.

Having a plan can lend safety and security to your family life. It can create a more caring, supportive environment when all know that there is a clear response process for each person when they are at their most vulnerable. After living with and using your family emotional safety plan, you may wonder how you could have lived without it.

Wishing you and your family physical and emotional health and safety and may you discover that this time together can offer your family a chance to deepen your trusting relationships.

For more, check out the book, “Confident Parents, Confident Kids; Raising Emotional Intelligence In Ourselves and Our Kids — From Toddlers to Teenagers.”


Goleman, D. (1994). Emotional Intelligence; Why it can matter more than IQ. NY, NY: Bantham Books.

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