Upcoming Event on Life After High School

NBC News Education Nation Presents: “Build the Future” – Live from Boston

NBC News Education Nation is bringing together students and community members who are invested in their achievement for a robust discussion on the issues facing young adults after high school, and solutions to ensure their success. Produced in partnership with NBC Boston, the town hall will feature topics ranging from college access and equity to skills all young adults need now and for the future.

The two-hour broadcast will be moderated by NBC News Chief Education Correspondent Rehema Ellis and include six-panel topics, with each featuring multiple panelists from a variety of perspectives. Questions from audience members at the town hall and online will be seamlessly integrated throughout the program. While the broadcast will take place in Boston, the discussion and topics will be relevant to a national audience, as the event aims to inspire youth and adults across the country to both become mentors and support students on their path to success.

Are you a parent of a late teen or early twenty-something? Are you a high school or college educator? Do you work alongside young professionals? Don’t miss this important discussion. Do submit your questions and comments online to participate! 

Mark your calendars for Wednesday, October 11, 2017, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time. The discussion will be broadcast from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.

For those in the Boston area, you can catch the broadcast from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time on the New England Cable News, as well as 7:00 – 8:00 p.m. ET on NBC Boston.

For all others, join the live-stream nationwide at EducationNation.com.

For more information, visit EducationNation.com.

@EducationNation @ParentToolkit

New Resources for Increasing Respect and Caring in Schools

Check out the following resources to help create equity in schools…

Two organizations with shared missions to create equity in our schools – Beloved Community and Ripple Effects – are partnering to share resources and a survey to nurture respect.

For Educators or Parents Involved In Your Children’s Schools…

Check out the “I to I” survey. 

It’s a FREE, ANONYMOUS, DIGITAL tool to help students, parents, teachers, and non-teaching staff learn more about how each person, and their community as a whole, sees different groups of students. All four groups separately register their level of agreement or disagreement with the same three sets of 8 statements. Everyone gets a picture of the results, showing how what they see compares with the rest of their group, and how their group compares to the other groups in their setting. The more people use it, the more power it has as a national picture of how we see each other.  See the survey here and note protections for participant privacy.

If you are a parent looking for ways to get involved in your child’s school, this survey could be a wonderful tool to introduce at a Parent-Teacher Association meeting.

Check out and add your ideas to the Free Resource Bank!

It’s a list of simple practices from which members of the school community can draw to see each other more clearly, more deeply. You can add to it by describing in one line one way students, parents, teachers, and staff could call attention to or initiate a small habit for cultivating safety, caring and respect for one another. For example, Ripple Effects contribution is simply: Invite kids to tell a story about something they love about their ethnic background. These ideas will be listed at the end of the survey, along with a link to your organization as a Resource Contributor. Schools can sort through this bank of suggestions and find one to try.

Confident Parents, Confident Kids shared the following ideas:

  • Hang a banner (roll paper) along with markers in a highly-trafficked area. Label it “The Strengths of Our Families” and ask all to contribute drawings and words that best represent the family cultures who make up the school community.
  • When collecting contact information for the school directory, ask for one attribute of each family that is a source of strength or pride to list with contact information.

Thanks, Jessica Berlinski for sharing these new resources! You can check Jessica’s latest article on Ending One-Size-Fits-All-Programs for Social and Emotional Learning in the Hechinger Report.

How Do You Teach Your Child To Be A Responsible Digital Citizen?

by Guest Writer, Ruth Dearing

If only I had a penny for every time I’ve been asked this question! It’s a big question most parents have, and unfortunately, there is no simple answer. There are lots of factors to take into consideration that work together to help a child become a responsible digital citizen, and we’ll look at a few of these now.

What Is A Responsible Digital Citizen?

According to wikiHow, “Being a responsible digital citizen means using technology appropriately and operating online safely and knowledgeably” (wikihow.com/Be-a-Responsible-Digital-Citizen). Clear as mud, right? What does “using technology appropriately” mean? And what’s involved in “operating online safely and knowledgeably”? No wonder parents are confused!

A more helpful explanation of responsible digital citizenship can be found at raisingchildren.net.au, where they explain that responsible digital citizenship means:

  • cultivating the social skills to take part in online community life in an ethical and respectful way
  • behaving lawfully
  • protecting your own as well as other people’s privacy
  • recognizing your rights and responsibilities when online, and
  • thinking about the impact of what you do online — on yourself, other people you know, and the wider online community

Let’s take a closer look at two of points above, the first and last ones in bold.

Getting Back To Basics

These two points come back to teaching your child basic social and emotional skills. Being a responsible digital citizen really isn’t that different to being a responsible citizen in the physical world. The technology used is simply a communication channel that often makes it easier to connect with people you might not otherwise see very often.

Being a responsible digital citizen is about human behavior and the underlying factors that influence that behavior. Technology on its own doesn’t demonstrate poor digital citizenship, it’s all in the way humans – both adults and children – choose to use the technology.

Three Tips To Teach Your Children To Be A Responsible Digital Citizen

Though there are numerous opportunities, we’ll delve further into just three ways you can help your children become responsible digital citizens based on the definitions above.

#1. Lead By Example

No doubt you’ve heard this before. Our children look to us as their parents to show them the way. They see what we do whether we like it or not. We can tell them what to do until we’re blue in the face, but our words will fall flat if we’re not leading the way by example.

If you’re in “Do as I say, not as I do” mode you’ll find it extremely difficult to make any positive progress with this challenge, or with any parenting challenge for that matter.

Show your children your social media activity so they can see first-hand what it means to be polite and respectful to other people online. Show them how you think about any possible impacts of your posts before you share them with others. And let them see examples of posts that are not polite or respectful.

If you don’t think your social media activities are a good example of responsible digital citizenship, step one is to change the way you use social media. Make the decision to use social media only for good purposes. Delete any posts you feel are not congruent with responsible digital citizenship and start fresh. Protecting your own online reputation can only be a good thing for you in any case!

#2. Teach Your Children The Online Golden Rule

The golden rule online is the same as the golden rule offline: treat other people how you wish to be treated. It seems amazing to me that the majority of children I speak with at schools who are aged between five and twelve years have never heard of the golden rule!

It’s never too early to discuss the golden rule with your children. If everyone just treated others how they wish to be treated the world would be a very different place – just imagine it! It starts with you and your children, one family at a time.

Share the concept with your children that it’s best to focus your energy on what you CAN control (how YOU treat other people), rather than on what you CAN’T control (how other people treat you).

#3. Treat People The Same Way Online As You Would In Person

For some reason, a lot of people say things online that they would never say offline. Maybe they gain courage because they’re hiding behind a screen. Maybe they think they’re anonymous so there won’t be any consequences for their actions. Or maybe they just lack empathy because they don’t see the face of the poor person on the receiving end of their comments.

The irony here is that if anything, it’s even more important to be polite and kind online than offline. Messages posted online form part of your digital footprint. They’re much more likely to be seen by more people online. A message posted online is more permanent and can affect a child’s chances of getting into their dream school, dream job or even dream relationship years down the track.

The other challenge with online communication is that the tone of a message can easily be misinterpreted. And of course tone and body language are far more important in communication than the words being used. It’s no wonder so many people are offended and upset by comments made on social media, even though it’s often not intended by the sender.

If you’d like your children to become responsible digital citizens it’s helpful to stop separating online and offline social skills. Those skills need to be ingrained in our children from a very early age. To get along socially, we need to be nice to other people. Cliché’s like “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all!” are very helpful, regardless of whether the communication happens online or face-to-face.

The Key To Teaching Responsible Digital Citizenship

There’s so much more to responsible digital citizenship, we are really just scratching the surface here. If there was one key to teaching your child how to be a responsible digital citizen, I would say it’s about encouraging your children to be considerate of other people online based on their own INTRINSIC VALUES. In other words, your children should want to be responsible online because they know it’s the best way to be within themselves, rather than for fear of external punishment.

Teaching your children to be responsible digital citizens, and in fact teaching them to be safe online in general, comes down to effective communication and ongoing education. If you’re struggling for time and you’d like more help to guide your children safely online, you’ll find lots of help at http://childrenandtechnology.com

My sincere thanks to author and educator Ruth Dearing for contributing her knowledge, experience and helpful tips here.

About the Author:

Ruth Dearing is an international best-selling author of How To Keep Your Children Safe Online…And Put An End To Internet Addiction, public
speaker and mother of two from Australia. Her passion and expertise lies in “Peaceful Digital Parenting” – helping parents guide their children safely online.





In NYMetro Parents Magazine… “How to Help Your Child Build Emotional Intelligence”

NYMetro Parents Magazine published an article in their October issue including interviews with Kathryn Lee, Director of Yale University’s RULER for Families and Confident Parents, Confident Kids’ author, Jennifer Miller on tips for how parents can support the development of emotional intelligence at various ages and stages. The article also points to important research from the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) making a direct link between kids’ social and emotional skill development and academic performance. Here’s how it begins…

How to Help Your Child Build Emotional Intelligence

by Katelin Walling
High emotional intelligence translates to success across the board—in children academically and in adults professionally.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is a hot topic these days, from the slew of articles discussing characteristics of those with high emotional intelligence to the business articles revealing the emotional-intelligence job skills everyone needs to be successful. And members of Bachelor Nation will undoubtedly remember the showdown between Corinne Olympios and Taylor Nolan on Nick Viall’s season of ABC’s The Bachelor, when Nolan told Olympios she lacked emotional intelligence.

But what exactly is emotional intelligence, and how can parents ensure their children have a high level? We spoke to experts to get a clear picture of EQ, its benefits to children, and how parents can help children build their emotional intelligence skills.

Emotional Intelligence Explained… Read the full article.

#parenting #SEL @NYMetroParents

Safety and Caring First; Inclusion and Equity Plus Kindness Equals Learning

When ethnographer Angela Valenzuela spoke with immigrants in Texas – Mexican-American parents and students – and dug into the meaning of the Spanish word “educacion,” (in English: education) they understood it to mean “caring before learning.” 1 And that interpretation makes practical sense for any and all school communities. Children not only need to feel physically safe in order to learn at school, they require psychological safety too. If care is a prerequisite to learning, then it must be an explicit goal of any school community. We need to ask: How do students regularly have the chance to get to know one other on a personal level? How are teachers actively cultivating trust with students? How are families engaged and valued as partners in learning? And how is community cultivated among all stakeholders?

We, as parents and educators, have significant challenges to face. When children and families in our schools fear losing their homes whether it’s a result of flooding or new U.S. policies, those individuals will face great learning challenges. When lockdown procedures become the norm in schools who are attempting to protect the many against a few of their very own hurt children who may become active shooters, we have significant challenges to face in creating safe, caring learning environments.

Have we really embraced the fact that every individual – parents, teachers, students, receptionists, bus drivers, janitors, after-school program coordinators – in our school community impacts our own child’s school success? It’s an important step forward as we attempt to meet these challenges.

A focus on creating safe, caring school communities is vital. And research-based social and emotional learning in schools can facilitate that ongoing cultivation of care. Those schools learn ways to build trusting connections between peers so that when problems arise, relationships have been already been established. Instead of marginalizing or disparaging individuals or groups, those relationships foster support for one another. And communities can quickly rally around solving problems together. Students have chances to authentically engage with peers to not only begin to understand them as unique individuals who offer learning opportunities but also, begin to view their differences as strengths.

Our children will not be able to accomplish inclusion, equity and kindness on their own. They require adult supports. That includes our clearly-expressed expectations that we will reach out to those who are being marginalized. That we will take an interest in those who are different so that we can become more by learning about others. It will require our own self-reflection and course correction as we catch our own judgments being uttered. We’ll need to do our best to be models of inclusion if we are going to expect our children to include.

We can begin by having these conversations in our own homes with our families. We can examine our own assumptions about others. And we can reflect on the ways in which we strive to contribute to a more caring, inclusive school community. They are numerous opportunities if we only look for them. Here are some suggestion dinner conversation starters:

  • What do you appreciate about getting to know someone who is different from you?
  • Can you think of an example of a friend who introduced you to a new toy or movie or song that you now love that you wouldn’t have known about otherwise?
  • Are there some kids who are ignored or not included at school? When does it happen? Why does it happen? How does it make you feel?
  • What do you know about those children who are excluded? What are their interests, hobbies, or extracurricular activities?
  • What would you like to learn about a child who is different from you?
  • How could you show you care when others are being excluded? What little ways could you reach out to others?

When homework is brought home like the Scholastic News (Sept. 11, 2017 Edition) my son brought home just last night, it offers a perfect entry point for discussion. I asked:

  • How do you feel when you look at that picture?
  • What do you think those kids felt when they needed armed guards just to go to school?
  • In what ways do kids struggle now with feeling safe at school?
  • Do you feel safe at school always or are there times when you feel unsafe? Does anything at school help you regain your sense of safety?

Learn more by exploring the various resources below.

If you have a middle or high schooler, check out this opportunity!

Participate in the Kindness Challenge!
Making Caring Common and The KIND Foundation have once again partnered to launch the KIND Schools Challenge. Middle- and high-school students nationwide are invited to submit a project to make their school community kinder and more inclusive.
Applications are open now through October 20. Learn more, apply, and share with friends, colleagues, and students! http://kinded.com/kindschoolschallenge

Explore your own family’s heritage and learn about immigrants in your families’ past! 

Exploring the Past to Appreciate the Present – Though this activity was originally designed for a family game at Thanksgiving, it can be used at any time to learn about your family’s history!

I was delighted when August Aldebot-Green of Child Trends, an organization that works to improve children’s lives through high-quality research, shared this carefully curated list of resources for making schools supportive and safe for students from immigrant families. Thank you, Child Trends! Check these out!

Positive #schoolclimate is crucial for students affected by recent decisions about #immigration. Check out the resources from Learning First: https://learningfirst.org/topic/school-culture.

Parent Teacher Associations can work with schools to make sure every child is supported and included. Check out resources from the National PTA: https://www.pta.org/diversity.

Good relationships at school and high personal expectations promote #immigrant kids’ academic success. 

All students, regardless of #immigration status, have a right to public K-12 education. Check out Child Trends’ Moving Beyond Trauma Report. 

With Charlottesville in mind, and now DACA, the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (@CASEL) has put together resources for educators who want to promote respect and understanding in children. Check out: http://www.casel.org/safe-and-respectful-environment-for-learning/

Supporting diversity at school may be more important than ever. Check out the @ParentTeacherAssociation’s diversity and inclusion toolkit.

In one study, 42% of Mexican immigrant students perceived themselves to be the target of teacher discrimination. You can help immigrant students feel supported by creating a class environment where cultural backgrounds are okay to talk about. Check out: http://www.migrationpolicy.org/research/educational-psychological-and-social-impact-discrimination-immigrant-child.

When we teach children to include others, we teach them to be kind and compassionate. How do you talk to your child about including others at school? Check out Be An Includer from PBS Parent Tips.

For educators looking to take leadership on racial equity, these three lessons from the Aspen Institute can apply to promoting constructive dialogue about immigration:
1. Start with facts and put them in context.
2. Create safe spaces for people to talk about race and strategies for achieving equity.
3. Emphasize that today’s racial inequities don’t depend on intentional racism.
Check out: https://assets.aspeninstitute.org/c

Check out the CPCK article, Expanding the Circle; Teaching Children the Values and Actions of Inclusion.


1. Valenzuela, A. (1999). Subtractive schooling; U.S.-Mexican Youth and the Politics of Caring. NY: State University of New York Press.

Kindergarten Exhaustion

How Can You Help Your Five-Year-Old during the Major Adjustment to All-Day Kindergarten?

“We have to go back every day?!” exclaims five-year-old Simon incredulously in the first week of kindergarten. I was reminded of when the nurse told me “only 20 more minutes of pushing and the baby should be out,” during drugless labor. It felt like I lifetime and I had no clue how I would survive a minute longer more or less 20 minutes! This is how a typical kindergartner feels. They are nervous and scared about the many new faces, places, and expectations. They are sad missing play time at home with you and a much shorter day with far fewer responsibilities. They feel guilty because they know they should be “big” and act “big” but deep inside, they want to snuggle back under the covers.

The transition from preschool to kindergarten can feel like a gigantic leap for many children. And unfortunately, parents get the brunt of their raw emotions when they come home from school. Whereas they may have remained brave and strong on their first day, the second and third and fourth may lead to utter exhaustion and crankiness. If you are a parent of a kindergartner, you’ll recognize some or all of the following signs and symptoms. It helps with our own patience to understand how, at times, the circumstances of their transition may conflict with their developmental urges and create tension. For us, it can be frustrating not knowing what we can do to help. So I am also sharing some ideas of ways you can support your young child.


It’s likely that for the very first time, your child will be required to sit at a desk quietly with minimal movement and heightened attention. The movement they are typically asked to make will focus on their fine motor skills with activities like writing, drawing and cutting. Considering that the agenda prior to this moment has been play with large, free movements most of the day all his young life, this change takes an enormous amount of self-discipline. Young children have physical energy to spend but at the end of a school day, they are mentally and emotionally worn out.

Developmental Urge: Children recognize and have the desire to move as their play guides them. And this wise developmental urging exists because deep learning occurs best when play and movement are involved. Fives are just becoming adept at large movements like running and jumping and want to use those newfound skills. Thank goodness for recess! They struggle still with fine motor skills like writing and cutting. In addition, five-year-olds are eager to be “good” and learn rules and routines. They want to please their teachers and other adult authorities but also, test limits as they attempt to figure out their new boundaries.

Ways You Can Offer Support: Your young child may need free, physical exertion after school. Is there a playground on the school grounds or a park nearby? And in fact, a home backyard will serve the need just fine. Encourage your child to run around and play if you can see and feel that he needs it. Include a high protein snack (cheese stick, peanut butter crackers?) in your after school routine to provide the necessary fuel after a long afternoon at school. Be sure to avoid sugary snacks which offer a quick jolt of energy but can turn quickly into a meltdown as the energy sinks just as rapidly.


You are likely to experience emotional overload at the end of the school day when your child is with you. She has worked hard to bottle up any emotions throughout the day. Some may struggle to do this especially in these beginning weeks and may have the added humiliation of “losing it” at school. But for the most part, your child will be doing her best to hold back her feelings just to get through the long day. When she sees you, she may just feel an overwhelming sense of safety and let it all out. That can be challenging for a concerned parent who is trying to support this major transition. Rest assured though that the rush of feelings you see her dealing with are normal. And as she progresses and becomes more comfortable with what is expected of her at school, she will have less and less reason to meltdown.

Developmental Urge: Young children are learning to identify and communicate their feelings at this age. Meltdowns will become shorter and less frequent as they feel capable of describing their feelings and see that the adults around them understand and empathize with those emotions.

Ways You Can Offer Support: Make sure that you are using feeling words and reflecting on your own and your child’s feelings frequently to offer regular practice. You might say, “It seemed like you felt tired and frustrated earlier, is that right?” That practice will become invaluable for both in-school and after-school self-management. Also, you can work together on creating a cool down spot that becomes a safe haven for your child. Place a pillow, a favorite stuffed friend and a calming book in the corner of a room with your child’s help. Offer it up if she needs some time to self-soothe. For more ideas on how to create a safe haven for cooling down, read Home Base. Lastly, work on your daily routines – morning, after school, dinner, bedtime – and stick to them consistently. That consistency will offer safety and security and enable her to focus on resting and recovering for the next day.

Lack of Self-Control

You may be noticing an uptick in boundary-pushing. She may be swiping away a sibling’s toys or pushing household rules that have not been in question prior to now. Research confirms that we have the greatest capacity for self-control in the morning when we are rested and refreshed. 1 As the day wears on, we use up our daily store and it becomes more challenging to exercise self-control. This is true for both adults and children.

Developmental Urge: Along with the learning of rules and routines in school, children must learn the skill of self-control. In these early weeks of kindergarten, children are working that muscle regularly. And just like when you begin a new exercise regime at the gym, those muscles are sore and worn at the end of the day. The good news is that it’s time-limited and it’s also critical for the cultivation of this skill that will contribute to their school success. In addition, they are feeling unsure about the expectations of their teacher. But at home, they are aware of your expectations and can push boundaries because they feel safe with you.

Ways You Can Offer Support: As with the meltdowns, keeping routines and rules consistent while at home will help as your child as he adjusts to his new reality. Having a cool down spot, practicing deep breathing, and offering quiet time can help him cope with the stimulus overload he may feel and offer a break from using that self-control muscle.

Ruminating on the Tough Stuff

Part of this transition and your child’s ability to cope may include her ruminating (circling the worry wagon over and over) on the challenges she faces at school. “It’s too hard.” “I can’t go back!” and “I just can’t do it.” may be some of these expressions of frustration.

Developmental Urge: Fives will focus on their learning goals and that may involve anxiety about making friends, understanding the teacher, and performing academic tasks.

Ways You Can Offer Support: Listening with an open mind and heart and with empathy for all that is new in their world can be a real asset to a young child. But when worries spin out into repetitive and defeatist messages – “I hate school!” – they can ultimately subvert a child’s endurance and persistence in working toward figuring it out. If you have listened but witness repetitive worries, distract! Find an old, familiar toy or game and take solace together in simple joys. Then after calming down, talk about times he’s persisted, times he’s stayed strong. These will bolster his feelings of competence as he tackles another day at school. In addition, spend some time talking about the positive aspects of school. Has she made new friends? Does she like her teacher? Is she learning something interesting? Ruminate a bit on some of the positives of school to help reframe the sense that because it’s new, it must be bad.

Separation Anxiety or Regression

You may have thought that separation anxiety would end with preschool. But if you can think back to the time when you left home in your late teens or twenties, perhaps you remember feeling a surge of homesickness? Separation anxiety is healthy and normal at multiple ages and stages but can be stressful for parents.

Developmental Urge: In times when insecurity strikes (which is often when everything seems new), fives will desire the safety of home and time with you. This attachment is a positive sign that you have cultivated a secure bond. Fives will also tend to regress and show behaviors or interests they may have long left behind. This too is normal and time-limited.

Ways You Can Offer Support: Show your trust in a child’s teacher. Remind him of when you’ll return and see him. Express your love for him and confidence in his new circumstances. Then, leave him in the school’s capable hands trying not to linger. If it continues, you can offer a small trinket or scarf to go in his backyard that represents you so that he can have a “piece” of you during the school day if he needs it. Also, if your child desires getting out old toys at home, get them out and let him relish in the days past to bolster him for the trials of his new surroundings.

You can also make certain that your child is getting enough sleep at night. That required rest will contribute to his ability to hone his self-control during the day. Begin earlier than usual if you need more settling down time for your bedtime routine. Fives require between 10-13 hours a night depending upon the child.

Because kindergartener exhaustion leads to parental exhaustion, this time of transition can test your patience. Be sure and plan for your own heated emotions. How will you calm down when tested? Now is a good time to double down on your own self-care, with the knowledge that you are educating yourself, supporting your child as best you can and managing this major life change with confidence.


  1. Hagger, M.S., Wood, C., Stiff, C. & Chatzisarantis, N.L.D. ( 2010). Ego Depletion and the Strength Model of Self-Control: A Meta-Analysis. National Institute of Education, Singapore: In Press, Psychological Bulletin.

Home Systems Set Up: How to Prepare for the School Year Launch in Your Home Environment

N.A.S.A. (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) is doing a check of your child’s learning environment to make sure all systems are ready to support a successful launch. At school, they might look for the following:

________safe, caring school environment?
________building trusting connections between students, teachers, staff and families?
________stimulating, well-managed, and participatory classroom environment established?
________academic, physical, social and emotional developmentally-appropriate (challenging but not too challenging) curriculum ready?
________family culture represented in/through school displays and artifacts?
________additional learning supports ready if needed?
________learning tools, books and other resources ready for student exploration?
________clear routines and responsibilities?
________student and teacher plan for big emotions?

Now is the time to get our home prepared for learning success. You’ve purchased the school supplies, packed lunches and sent your children off to school. Teachers have had the time and space to thoughtfully prepare the learning environment to provide optimal conditions for your child to learn. Now, it’s our turn.

Though we know we play a critical role in our child’s learning success, it’s often unclear exactly what that role is or should be. On “Meet the Teacher” Night, we learn about what our children will be doing in school and how the teacher will guide them but little to nothing is mentioned about our roles and responsibilities in that equation. So where do we fit? What do we need to do? N.A.S.A. uses checklists for all of their rocket launches so that no detail is forgotten. After all, people’s lives are at stake. Similarly, our children’s education is critical to our family life and their future success. So with that in mind, here’s a checklist for us as we turn to our own home environment and figure out how we can best support our children’s learning.

Have we created…

________well-rehearsed routines with clearly defined responsibilities?
________healthy sleeping, eating and hygiene habits?
________an organized, well-equipped and calm working environment?
________a plan for managing big feelings?
________the mental space and discipline to listen when kids are ready to talk?

Well-rehearsed Routines with Clearly Defined Responsibilities

Whereas getting dressed by 10:00 a.m. may have been your casual summer routine, the school year requires an earlier morning with more tasks completed in a timely manner. This can be an enormous adjustment for children who have fallen into the slower-paced habits of summer. Pair this with the fact that they do not hold the same desire to get to school on time that you do and it can become a struggle fast and often. Here are my resources for setting up your routines so that each family member – even preschool age children – learn to take responsibility for their roles. Jobs get accomplished on time and your family can begin the day positively connecting with one another and setting the mood for a great day of learning! Check out these…

Home Routines
Whether the routine is your morning wake up, extracurriculars after school, or a family dinner, these ideas will help your plan for them to run smoothly.
Check out Refreshing Your Home Routines for the School Year.

Morning Routine
Check out this video short to help create A Smooth Morning Routine.

Healthy Sleeping, Eating and Hygiene Habits

Perhaps precisely because, as parents, it’s our responsibility to ensure that our kids get enough sleep, eat well and keep clean, those are the very issues that become power struggles. Kids know that they can wield control and so, they attempt to. They are numerous ways we can prompt a sense of responsibility and even, confidence in our kids as they learn to manage these critical life habits on their own. Here are some simple ideas…

Bedtime Routine
Getting enough sleep at night is vital to our ability to function and we know it’s vital for our kids to learn. Creating a consistent bedtime routine to ensure that your children get enough sleep is a significant way you can contribute to their school success! Check out The Opportunity of Bedtime.

If you have a “wiggle worm” who seems to derive newfound energy from your sleepy-time routine, here are some additional ideas. Check out Monkey Mind at Bedtime, Reflecting on Children’s Thinking.

Healthy Family Dinner
If you make dinner with your family a priority and spend time cooking a balanced meal, it can be unbelievably frustrating when your kids don’t want to eat or sit at the table with you. Check out this video short and actually enjoy your family dinner! Watch Creating an Enjoyable Family Dinner.

An Organized, Well-equipped and Calm Working Environment

Homework Routine
This article offers specific, simple ways to create a conducive environment for getting homework accomplished. Check out Getting Set Up for Homework Success. 

Organizing school supplies and having them at the ready to help homework time run smoothly can serve as a comfort when kids have to get their work accomplished. Here are some simple ideas for creating a well-equipped work space. Check out Tools for Supporting Learning At Home.

A Plan for Managing Big Feelings

Whether you have a kindergartener adjusting to an exhausting new schedule or a puberty-stricken teenager, there will be mood swings at the start of the school year. In fact, any age child will have to utilize extra self-management skills as they transition from summer to school. With any major change, you can expect emotions will run high. So what’s your plan? If you’ve discussed it and each have a plan for calming down, for finding some space, and for talking about your feelings, you’ll be ready when upset reigns. Here are some helpful resources.

Big Feelings Plan
Engage your family in creating a plan for when you are really angry, frustrated or fearful. Check out the Family Emotional Safety Plan and be sure to print off the template that can guide support your plan creation.

Safe Base
Establishing a safe base that is comforting and for your child only is a great way to offer respite when he/she is upset. Read about this simple way to help your child learn to self-soothe. Check out Home Base – Creating a Safe Haven for Calming Down.

Listening When Kids Are Ready to Talk

It can take great discipline and understanding to listen when kids need to talk. They often will shut down when we are ready like right after school when we want to learn about their day. But after they’ve had a chance to rest and eat a snack, they may be eager to discuss challenges they’ve had. The idea of a parent as a servant leader can offer a helpful lens through which to see our roles. We are facilitators of development and often, our ability to listen to our children is critical in order to fulfill that role and promote their success. Check out Parents as Servant Leaders.

Working on your home systems can offer your child a sense of security as he deals with the challenges of school. He will understand his roles and responsibilities. He’ll know how to take care of his emotions. He will feel organized and ready to deal with the homework coming his way. Here’s to a successful launch sequence this school year!

On NBC Parent Toolkit… “How to Get Kids Emotionally Prepared for Back-to-School”

Though we know our children’s emotional well-being will play a significant role in their motivation to learn and school success, how do we influence their ability to understand and manage their feelings especially in this time of major transition? Along with the pencils, markers, and erasers you are diligently buying, how are you helping your children prepare for the changes they are facing? What can you do to help promote their emotional readiness? This article examines specific and simple ways at each age and stage you can build upon a child’s emotional intelligence to contribute to their school readiness. Here’s how it begins…

How to Get Kids Emotionally Prepared for Back-to-School

Who will I play with at recess? Who will I sit next to in class? Will my teacher be nice? These were the top concerns of my fourth grader before starting school this year and his friends agree. It seems the social aspects of school are top of mind for students. As parents, we know that if those social issues are working well, our child’s daily happiness will follow.

In fact, U.S. parents consider emotional well-being of their children a top priority. A recent 2017 poll by Learning Heroes of a diverse range of caregivers showed that the vast majority were more worried than last year about their child’s emotional well-being and academic progress. Three out of five parents were more concerned about their child’s happiness – feeling safe and loved, engaging with friends, and enjoying a happy home life – than about his or her academic performance in school. READ THE FULL ARTICLE ON THE NBC PARENT TOOLKIT BLOG TODAY! 

#SEL #parenting #EducationNation




The Connection Trifecta: Building Relationships between Students, Teachers and Families from the Start

“Mom!!!” E, my now fourth grader, exclaimed with a big smile as he greeted me in the first week of school at after school pick-up time. “Guess what my new favorite class is?” I quickly flashed through the likely answers in my mind including gym, lunch, and recess. “It’s Spanish!” he responded urgently wanting to tell me more.

His new Spanish teacher, he went on to tell me, had only spoken Spanish to them, no English. The students’ challenge was to communicate with him. And the homework he gave was to involve parents. He taught his class how to introduce themselves to him in Spanish and assigned them the task of teaching the introduction to their parents. Then when parents have the chance to meet him in person at Meet the Teacher Night (tonight), we’ll get to try out the Spanish introduction our child taught us. It was remarkable to me how 1.) excited this got my son who has been practicing each day since and 2.) how simply and brilliantly this brand new teacher began a positive relationship with our family before we’ve even met.

There are numerous reasons to prioritize making this caring connection from the start. As educators, we know that parents play an essential role in the physical and social and emotional aspects surrounding school. A healthy breakfast and a good night sleep’s both contribute significantly to a child’s ability to focus and learn. But also, the motivation and attitude a child brings to school can be evidence of their home life. Do they feel organized and ready? Do they feel stressed and chaotic? These are all factors that educators must lean on parents to influence at home.

And in addition, parents must rely on teachers to advance the learning of their children each day considering where they are in their development. That’s no small feat! And though children are influenced by the adults around them, they are responsible for their own learning and bring their own set of opportunities to the relationship. So often, we focus on the adults while forgetting that the child is just as critical a voice in the grand trifecta as parents and teachers.

Parents, if you were informed that a new co-worker was starting work this week and was added to the team you are on, what would you do? Would you wait to run into the new person? Perhaps. But maybe you would consider that the new person is going to play a key role in your career so you’ll be proactive about getting to know him or her. The same can be said for a teacher whose been assigned to your child. For the next year, they will play a critical role in your family life. They are now a core team member on your caregiving staff, a team on which you play a leadership role. With that in mind, it’s worth giving some thought to how you want to make those first connections warm and caring. Here are some ideas.

For Parents:

Hopes and Commitments

Take a family dinnertime or weekend moment at home together to reflect on your hopes for the year. What do you hope for your child for this second-grade year? Then, record them together on a sheet of paper to give to your child’s teacher. Take it a next step further and discuss commitments that you’ll make as a family to contribute to your hopes. What efforts will you make at home to contribute to learning at school? How will your prioritize your child’s education? This offers multiple benefits including the opportunity to discuss how each family member will take responsibility for contributing to your child’s education including your child! I am including a template for your family to use.

Family Bio

Take a moment to write a family biography together. You can list a few attributes that make your family unique. This will offer the teacher a quick snapshot of who you are and what you care about.

In-Person Introduction

The start of school can be an extremely busy time of year. Perhaps the simplest way to begin a relationship with your child’s teacher is by finding a time to shake hands and introduce yourself. You could hang around at drop off or pick up time or stop by during lunch. It can take a mere minute to introduce yourself, offer a smile and a first impression. And when you do, you’ll get that key partnership started.

Cooperative Caffeine

Mercer Island School District in Washington state offers coffee for all of the teachers on the first day of school. My dear friend Sharon Perez championed the effort with flair in her sons’ school this year. Bringing coffee for your child’s teacher is such a simple act of kindness and can give you a nice excuse to introduce yourself at the beginning of the year. Do it cooperatively with other families or do it on your own with your child as he heads to his classroom to start the day.

Classroom Supplies

Did you know, according to the Education Market Association, that teachers spend an average of $500 of their own money to supply their classrooms with the tools, resources and stimulating imagery and messages that we have come to expect in our learning environments? Why not help your child’s teacher with this issue? Whether you organize with other families or do it on your own, offer to purchase supplies or provide a gift card to your teacher’s favorite supply store. You could send in a note through your child. Then, be certain to involve your child in picking out the supplies for the teacher. Or ask if your teacher needs items made for the classroom such as cut-outs for bulletin boards or other decorations. Make at home with your child and send in as a support. Check out the Confident Parents, Confident Kids’ posters that offer social and emotional themed messages for home or classroom!

For Educators:

The Teach Back

Building upon the Spanish teacher’s example aforementioned, teach your students something simple about academic content or about yourself personally. Then, assign your students to teach it to their parents. When you have your open house night, make the connection with the learning. If you do not have a back to school night, then find a way to connect back. Ask parents to write down their reflections on what they were taught as part of the homework. Get your connected trifecta started!

Classroom Hopes

At drop off and pick up time during the first week of school, offer parents the chance to write down a phrase or sentence about their hopes for this school year. Place a banner or poster on your classroom door or school entrance entitled “Hopes for a great year!” Encourage students and families to contribute.

Family Pictures

Either ask students to bring in family photos or take a moment to have students illustrate their families. Discuss what families do for fun. Discuss family rules and how each family has different rules (in conjunction with discussing school rules). Display family pictures.

About My Family

Form a circle and do a go-around taking turns asking questions about students’ families. Pass a talking stick to designate a question asker. Model a first question such as, “What is your family’s favorite food? What do you enjoy doing together? What makes everyone laugh?” Be sure that you share about your own family. Ask students to share what they learned about you and others at home.

Artifact from Home

Give the assignment in the first week or two of school to bring something in from home (a non-living object that can fit in a backpack) that is representative of each student’s family. Guide students to involve their parents in the selection. Have each student talk about the object they chose and what it says about his or her family.

Morning Circle

Send a note home with students encouraging parents to stay for a Morning Circle on a particular morning in the first six weeks of school. In a large circle, students could introduce their own family members to the rest of the class offering a name and one unique attribute. Teachers could first model a positive introduction.

Student Reflection

Teachers could give students the opportunity at the end of the day on Fridays in the first weeks of school the chance to reflect on their learning. They might respond to the prompts: “What I learned…”, “What I enjoyed…”, and “What I hope for…” These would be sent home to parents to help them better understand their child’s experience of his/her first weeks of school.

Though we will be attending to the logistics and the emotions of the transition back to school for our children, it is the relationships that will support those changes. Though basic, introducing ourselves to our key learning partner – educator or parent – can fall by the wayside if we do not prioritize it. Find some ways to make a caring connection at the start of the year and your partnership can only grow from those seeds you’ve planted.


Facilitating the Transition Back to School with Social and Emotional Intelligence

I’m gonna hold onto this couch and never let go!

– E. Miller, Age 6

It’s the morning after our summer vacation at the lake. E awoke and said he had had a nightmare. “My school became a haunted village. A ghost dragged me around the grounds. And all of my school friends were at my house playing with my favorite toys.” Though there were still a few weeks until the start of school, he was anticipating, not only the beginning but also the end of his freedom. And he worries about the unknown, faceless teacher who will rule over his days to come. Starting back to school can be an exciting time but as with any transition, it can also be fraught with worry, fear and a sense of loss as the freedoms of summer disappear. How can you best support your children as they go through this annual rite of passage?

Say goodbye to summer.
Summer days are so sweet and fleeting. Perhaps you spend precious family time laughing and enjoying one another in ways that may not occur as often during the hustle of the school year. As a family, find a way to say goodbye to summer. It could be as simple as an ice cream sundae indulgence or a campfire in the backyard. Pitch a tent or simply throw your beach blankets on the grass and stargaze. My husband proposed sharing a slideshow of seasonal photos with the grandparents. While you are savoring those last summer moments, take a moment to reflect on some of your happiest times over the last few months. When did you laugh the most? What were your favorite moments on your travels or local adventures? What animals or plants did you encounter? What activities do you want to repeat next summer? If your school year has already begun, the Labor Day weekend offers a natural opportunity to create a way to have one final appreciation of summer.

Create rituals for the ending and beginning.
After finding a way to reflect and enjoy summer’s end together, how will you anticipate all that is positive about starting the school year? In addition to new tools including the fresh smell of a new box of crayons and razor sharp Ticonderoga twos, there are friends with whom to reconnect or perhaps new friends to be made. Haul out a few projects from last year and display them once again to remind your child of the success she has already experienced in school. Make a ritual out of getting school supplies by buying them together and then enjoying a special meal together or engaging in your child’s favorite activity as a family.

Create or recreate your routine.
Part of the annual preparations in our house for the school year is the creation of the morning routine poster. This doesn’t need to occur before school begins but in those first few weeks starting back, it’s an ideal time to go over it so that the opportunities and challenges are fresh in the minds of all family members. Going over your morning routine can offer great comfort to a child who has not gotten up at the crack of dawn or needed to get dressed and move quickly for months. Don’t expect that they will snap back into the routine easily. Pave the way by discussing how your morning will progress together. Find out what your children’s expectations and hopes are. Writing down your child’s routine formalizes it and helps provide a reminder to return to if there are struggles in those early days of school. For more on simple ways to plan for better mornings with kids, check out the video short, “A Smooth Morning Routine”.

Does your child walk to school? Do they take the bus? Offer a practice dry run opportunity to add a feeling of comfort and safety before the first day. Get up at school time. Get dressed and follow your route to school whether it’s walking or driving. If your children take the bus, go to their bus stop and then drive the route to school. Talk about where they might want to sit and how they could introduce themselves to other kids and the bus driver. When you arrive at the empty school yard, walk around and show your child where they will line up or meet their teacher. Then go to your favorite coffee shop or donut house and get a morning snack to add a sense of celebration. Though this practice may seem like an extra step, it will pay off when you witness your child entering the school year with more confidence.

Involve children in preparations.
Work on a calendar for your child’s room and place all of the major events in the school year on it including friends’ birthdays and days off. Engage your child in placing their name in notebooks, on pencil holders and other school tools. Prepare your child’s homework space. Talk about what tools they might need at home and get them organized and ready. Perhaps work together on making a pencil holder (using a well rinsed frozen juice can, paper, glue, stickers and markers) or decorating book covers. Create a binder for papers sent home. Parents often fall into the flurry of preparations and may just check items off the list. Think about how you can involve your child knowing that this will pave the way for them in thinking about the tools and organization they need in order to be successful this school year.

Show that you are open and willing to listen during this time of transition. Children will be more likely to share their worries. Perhaps begin a conversation with him about his experience with his last teacher and how he got to know her and like her. Ask questions about rich memories from last school year and offer the space for your child to tell you about his school experiences. If worries emerge in conversation, you, in turn, can address those through practice, involvement, and reflection.

Show additional sensitivity.
Children will have heightened emotions during this transition from summer to the first months of the school year. They are adjusting to major changes in their life including new faces and new expectations. Be aware that greater upset about minor issues may indicate anxiety just below the surface. If children are unable to identify or articulate their feelings, offer feeling words and ask if they are accurate: “It sounds like you are worried. Are you worried about having a new teacher or being in a new building?”

Express confidence. Because worries may run at a fever pitch this time of year, tell stories of persistence from your child’s past. Find ways to show your confidence in your child’s ability to meet any challenge by digging in and working hard. Emphasize hard work as a family value, one that all members are engaged in with their work and schooling. Reinforce ways to introduce yourself and make new friends to offer additional confidence when social anxiety strikes. Also, clue your child into becoming more socially aware. Discuss the fact that others around your child – peers and teachers alike – will show signs of nervousness too. When your child gets worried, coach her to invest her energy in empathizing with others and making others comfortable by enjoying the moment and she may just forget her worries altogether.

Introduce yourself or make brief contact with your child’s teacher. These first few weeks of school offer an important opportunity for connection with your child’s teacher. Beginning that relationship as soon as possible in a positive way will contribute to further communications and ultimately, your child’s success in the classroom so it’s worth the effort. Stick around during drop off or pick up. Extend a handshake, a smile and wishes for a great year ahead. These first interactions will pave the way for future partnership. For more on ways to initiate a partnership with your child’s teachers as a parent, check out “The Most Important Relationship To Build This School Year.”

Taking steps to prepare your children by creating rituals and celebrations, through initiating organization and reflection, and by showing of empathy for their situation and the accompanying mix of emotions can all contribute to a sense of safety and security in the midst of change. Not only will it help create smooth transitions during each day for your family, but it will also allow your children to enter the school year with an open mind and heart to experience the joy and possibility of learning.


For more ideas, check out “Back to School Butterfiles.” And if your child is moving from preschool to kindergarten, do check out the article, “In Between Here and There.”

Updated from original, published on 8-7-14.

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