Dealing with Summertime Injuries…

…while building emotional skills in yourself and your child

“Are you okay?” I asked as E made a beeline from the outdoors in straight to the upstairs bathroom and shut the door. “No,” he uttered angrily coming out and showing me bloody elbows and knees and scraps up and down the side of his body. It was his first day out of school. And I truly cannot recall one first day out of school when the weather was beautiful and he was free to run outside that he didn’t wind up with at least one scraped knee. Yes, tis the season for “boo-boos”. And for some children, they’ll deal with more serious injuries this summer like concussions, sprains, or fractures.

So how do you manage your own big feelings when your child is in pain? These circumstances test our emotional intelligence because of the mounting emotions we’ll have to confront. After all, we are reacting to our child’s upset which may be expressed in inconsolable crying, yelling and anger (that could be directed at us), or running away and hiding. We have to cope with our empathy as they endure pain which can be no small feat as we desire their suffering to go away as quickly as possible. We may get squeamish at the sight of blood or have a sense of disgust or revulsion as we view their injury. We may also fear greater internal injuries that we cannot detect on our own so that we have to deal with anxiety and feelings of incompetence when we don’t know what to do.

This seemed an important day for me to consider how we can respond in ways that support our children, acknowledge their big feelings, and deal with our own in constructive ways. Here are a few well-considered tips.

Prepare.

Before your child comes to you with her first scraped knee, make it a start of summer ritual to stock up on first aid supplies (yes, we are not past the mid-point of summer but it’s never too late!). I carry band-aids in my purse everywhere I go. And I’ve helped out other parents in the grocery store or in the park. When a child needs a band-aid, they really need one. Don’t mess with feeling helpless and unprepared. My favorite supplies to keep on hand are: band-aids of all sizes, foaming anti-bacterial solution (it goes on fast and easy), cut strips of clean, soft t-shirts (thank you for this, Mema) to use to clean wounds or as flexible wraps, surgical tape so that it doesn’t hurt badly when you remove it (drug stores have this), ice packs, and popsicles. It’s nice to have a ritual popsicle on hand to soothe your child and help them get cool and calm down.

Why does this all help with your emotional intelligence, you ask? Because you have no control over when and where injuries take place, this will help you feel more competent and ready so that you can take action and not feel helpless.

Clear your schedule.

Injuries, even if just a scraped knee, take your time and attention. A work conference call, a haircut appointment, or a lunch date cannot compare – in the big scheme of things – to taking care of your hurting child when they need you. Time pressures wear away at our patience and add a layer of anxiety to an already charged moment. So remove the time commitment so that you can focus your attention on your child.

Remember to breathe.

There’s typically a time when a parent is sitting and waiting. Whether a child is crying hysterically or shut inside her room or turned away and refusing treatment, there’s waiting time involved with children’s hurts. Use those times to deep breathe. This will prepare your mind and body to respond in the way you most want to respond — with empathy and compassion.

Acknowledge and accept feelings.

It can be tempting – particularly in sports’ settings – to utter words like, “you’re fine,” “power through,” “walk it off” (Okay, I never understood this one but I do hear it.) or “stay in the game,” when you are not sure the degree to which your child is genuinely hurt though you see him crying or wincing in pain. After all, it’s likely this is how you were coached or parented as a kid so it can become a reflexive response. In addition, you may have a hidden (or not-so-hidden) fear that acknowledging a child’s feelings might encourage the child to seek sympathy or over-emphasize their hurts. In fact, that is a fallacy. The opposite is true. When we ignore or downplay our children’s feelings, they come back stronger in order to get your attention. Their upset wasn’t good enough the first time so in order to prove it to you, they have to up the emotional ante. 

Use your own inner coach in these situations. Breathe first and think “what’s my best response?” Then, acknowledge and accept what they are expressing or what you are observing they are feeling. “It looks like you are really hurt. I’m here to help.” This simple comforting statement will offer your child acceptance. You understand. And you are there for them.

Manage your own reactions. 

If you are indeed feeling disgusted or appalled or terrified by a child’s injury, there’s no way to bury those big feelings nor should you be expected to. But become aware of your big feelings and do something about them. Put your hand on your heart and attempt to slow it down. Stepping aside and taking a few deep breaths or intentionally relaxing your tense body before addressing a crying child can help you respond in a more effective, calming manner which, in turn, will better support your child through the pain.

Wait for consent to treat.

Your child may just refuse to have a wound cleaned for fear it will cause additional pain, as mine did. After you’ve let your child know that it’s necessary to clean it first or it can get infected, you may need to give him time. No need to nag, insist, or force the issue. Being compassionately clear that you cannot move on until you treat the wound is enough. Eventually, your child will consent. Bravery takes time. Be sure and allow your child the time he needs to agree to treat his wound. Of course, in an emergency, you would indeed rush to treat and not offer a choice. But with everyday cuts and scrapes, it gives a child a chance to practice self-management skills, caring for and giving permission with their own body, and handling their emotions with courage if we allow for it.

When in doubt, check it out.

Perhaps you’ve treated the scraps but you see bruising emerging which could indicate an internal injury. When in doubt, check it out. Call your pediatrician triage line and talk with the nurse on call. If you don’t, you risk greater problems down the line so why not take care of it on the day of the injury? If you have questions you might want to research first, check out the site, Kids Health: https://kidshealth.org.

Distract! And offer comfort.

Throw a bag together before leaving for the doctor with some favorite books or card games. Joke books, Seek and Finds, “Would You Rather,” and other puzzle books can be helpful. For young children, pack favorite comfort items like a beloved stuffed friend, blanket and book. And yes, for school age and up, this is the ideal time to use handheld media to help your child through a tough time. Waiting while a child is in pain can be challenging so have some distractions on hand to help get through those time periods.

Children learn to self-soothe by first watching how we help them feel better. So after the wounds have been cleaned and bandaids carefully placed, how can you offer a quiet, soothing activity in which they can return to feeling better? Can they snuggle up with a bear, pillow, or blanket? Can you read a comforting storybook together? This will help both you and your child transition back to feeling better.

Tell the story.

Reflect together with loved ones on the surrounding events and recount how the injury happened including the feelings’ journey your child took. “I felt so hurt, then scared, then relieved.” This offers your child invaluable practice with discussing the difficult pains in life to help learn the lessons involved, process the feelings experienced, and also solidify the memory that he endured pain and survived.

Fortunately, my son was back up and running outside the very next day and though he had moments of pain, he was healing quickly. Summer injuries can test our patience and ability to show compassion at a time when our child most needs it. But with a little forethought, you’ll get through feeling competent, modeling ways to react to the pain that maximize your ability to support your child and help all feel better.

* This article was authentically researched by the author as she endured a basketball bouncing full force into her nose mere days before publication experiencing her own injury and offering greater empathy for her son — challenging her once again to react with emotional intelligence. Ouch! 

Originally published June, 2020.

Summer Road-Tripping with Device Breaks and Cooperative Games

Need Device Breaks? Try these fun, connecting and skill-building games!

We’re going on a road trip, a road trip, a road trip.
We’re going on a road trip to see what we can see!

During the past few years, we have embraced the glory of road trips. We’ve driven to interesting places near and far – farther than we ever imagined driving versus flying in order to discover beautiful sights and differing vistas. Yet again, we are packing and preparing for our next family adventure on the road with our 13-year-old. And yes, he’ll have plenty of time on his device. However on our journey, we create fun breaks from social media or gaming to give his weary eyes a break and his brain and heart a chance to focus on live, in-person connection and interacting as a family. We’ll use some of the following that seem more teen-appropriate while others may suit your needs with younger children.

You may typically venture out on a number of small road trips during the summer months taking advantage of the freedom and warm weather. Or like us, your family vacation has involved more driving and less flying. It’s tempting to hand a child an iPad and allow the video games and programs to fill the idle time. Then I think back to my own road trips as a child, sometimes thirteen hours in a non-air-conditioned car, and of course, with no handy portable device to fill my time. I recall being happily consumed with my crayons and a sketch pad. I filled every single page with drawings of sand castles, mermaids and sea creatures anticipating our vacation at the beach. But now, my son, who is so used to easily accessible entertainment and high level of stimulation, seems to require more than just that trusty old sketch pad. But engage him with a family game, and he is delighted to play. If packing and getting out of the house is a stressful time, these silly, playful games help reconnect you as a family and set the tone that you are leaving the stress behind and on your way to more good times together.

The following car games can offer ways to connect as a family and build cooperative skills all the while enjoying your time together. It can set a collaborative tone preparing all family members for a positive adventure together.

Cooperative Storytelling

One person begins a story with a main character and a setting. Start with a few juicy details – “One day a giant sea turtle named Freddy sauntered down the isle of a grocery store looking for his favorite potato chips…” and then pass off the story to the next person to fill in what comes next. Offer a few sentences and then continue to pass the story along with each family member contributing key details to move your adventure forward. In my experience, the stories that emerge from these games are a joy and delight with surprises around every corner! Our family loves this game!

Where in the World Guessing Game

“Where in the world is E?” we ask and E begins to describe his surroundings. He picks any city, community or habitat in the world and offers details about the attributes of his environment without naming it and we have to guess the place.

Creature Guessing Game

Similarly, one person thinks of a creature. All of the guessers ask questions of the individual with a creature in mind. “Is it small, medium or large? Does it live in the forest? Does it eat plants or animals?” When you have enough details, guess the creature. Go around and give each person the chance to think of an animal.

Name the Face

See if you can express an emotion with only your facial expression. (This could be tricky for drivers!) Think of the emotion and perform the facial expression of that emotion. See if others can guess what you are feeling.

More, More!

Select a category such as ice cream flavors, popular songs or amusement park rides. Call out as many different kinds as you can until you’ve exhausted your list of ideas. This offers practice in brainstorming, a valuable skill used in coming up with solutions to a problem.

Cell Phone

Do you remember the old game Telephone? Think of a sentence. Start simple and make them more challenging as you go. Whisper it into the ear of another family member. Each person whispers to the next person exactly what they heard whispered in their ear. Have the last person say what they heard aloud. It’s ideal if you can go quickly and try it a couple of times. Then you are able to see if listening and communication improves with practice and focus.

You Write the Songs

Pick out a family favorite song – one that everyone knows. Now select a favorite animal (your pet?), place (your school?) or person (your best friend?). Change the words of the song to describe or tell the story of that creature or place. Make sure all family members have the chance to contribute. Practice and sing it with gusto!

Radio Story

Turn on the radio. Listen to the first station that plays. Is it a song or a commercial. Now cooperatively tell the background story of the song or commercial. How was the song written? Why was the product developed (if a commercial)? What story does it really tell? Make it imaginative, the crazier, the better. None of it should be based on real facts. Each family member can add details to your radio backstory.

Social Dilemmas

Tweens and teens are often fascinated with social dilemmas since they are dealing with more complex social issues regularly. This may interest that age group. One person offers a social problem such as a friend wants to get on the highway with her friends and drive out of town without telling anyone. What do you do? Or an animal is about to get run over by a car in the road at the same time your toddler brother is running down the street. What do you do? These can offer interesting ethical considerations and turn into involving conversations. The trick for parents is to remain in open-minded dialogue mode, offering ideas and not criticizing.

Try out these road trip games or create your own and watch the time fly past as you laugh and creatively, cooperatively play with your family. Happy adventures!

IMG_1321

Resource:

Our Grandma Linda sent us a gift this Spring that we’ve started to use at our Sunday night family dinners entitled And Then, Story Starters, 20 Imaginative Beginnings. It’s a book-size deck of cards, each with its own riveting story starter. These prompts offer rich details from which to build and could be of great use if you want to try the cooperative storytelling and would like help in getting started.

We also like to use Story Cubes to help us initiate storytelling.

This is a CPCK favorite article originally published in May, 2017.

Making Room for All Children at the Table

Summertime is a time when we may have the chance to slow down, step back and reflect on our roles as parents in the moments when our kids are exploring nature at camp perhaps and we create a little quiet space. Nikkya’s article may offer inspiration as you consider the ways in which you want to be, to teach and to act as a model of living your values in the world through your important role as a caregiver.

By Nikkya Hargrove

Anyone who has had the privilege of being a parent knows it is hard. It is a role we take head-on and as flawed and incomplete as we are, we say “YES” to being a parent. It is a decision. When we do sign up, we also take on the responsibilities which come along with it from cleaning the dirty diapers to teaching them how to drive to lending them money for their first apartment. Parenting is a job that never ends. We all have a purpose as parents, and as such, we too are “works in progress” as are our kids.

Have you read the book “Are You My Mother” by P.D. Eastman to your children? If not, the gist of it is that a little birdie goes around asking anyone (a dog) and anything (a bulldozer) if they are their mother. When reading it to my now 6-year-old twins, even while I know how the story ends, I say to myself, “Sure, the dog can be your mother,” because the dog can give you love, compassion, and provide you with a family little birdie. In my household, I am the birdie and my kids are the exclamation points. The question I ask all three of my kids is, “Were you the only brown person there?” I ask them this almost daily. Why? Because being the only brown person or the only person of color in a room always, can be exhausting, uncomfortable, and frustrating.

I am a Black mom with biracial children who are half Sri Lankan and half Black. I know what it feels like to be in their shoes. I have often been the only Black child in my elementary school classroom and now I am often the only Black professional woman in meetings. I hope that we can change this fact. But it will take work. If we, as a community, put in the work now to do more to be more inclusive, our society will reflect it. Do we say, “it is what it is” or “my hands are tied” or “I don’t control who is in my kid’s classroom?” We are parents who have a purpose and while our job as a parent is a role we take on without pay or reward, we do it because we love our kids and we want the best for them. Embracing racial inclusivity now, while our kids are young, will invariably shape their futures as professionals and as young adults. Here are some steps we can take.

Be Mindful

It’s simple. Read the room, the classroom, the cafeteria, the playground and see who is there. See how diverse the room is. As a mom of color, I certainly scan the room and just take a mental note of who is showing up in the room from the teachers to support staff to the kids. When we are more aware of our surroundings, we can sit with what we have opened our eyes to, and have discussions with our kids. 

Learn Because It Matters

If our children have taught us anything, it is that we must continue to learn, to keep up with them. We must learn the names of their friends and understand how our kids are being treated by their classmates and their friends. Here is where we can discuss race with our kids because it matters. When we talk about race with our kids, it helps them be more self-aware and aware of their surroundings in a crucial way.

You Can Be The One

You can promote inclusivity. My kids are often “the two” kids of color at the party or on the playground because their friends are predominantly white. We, as a family, are comfortable being “the” one because it is what we know. Given that fact, as moms of color, we must also be proactive in befriending more people of color, inviting more people of color, and bringing them to the proverbial table, even on the playground. It’s not a one size fits all approach to being more inclusive. We all have a role to play in bringing inclusivity onto the playground. 

Educate Ourselves

I know in my household, we promote inclusivity. I’ve found myself, as of late, being more aware of how to be more inclusive picking up tools, mostly reading articles, and truly listening to others. With birthday party invitations arriving monthly to my email inbox and playdate requests showing up via text, I am conscious of who is inviting whom to playdates, birthday parties, and everything in between. 

Keep your eyes open. I know, when things get tough, when my day-to-day seems unbearable – the tantrums, the fights, the overload on social media, the screen time, the forgotten homework, the calls from teachers – I want to throw in my hat. I want to quit. But most often, when things are calm, when dinner is served and we are sitting around our dinner table, with a meal that I made with love, and the belly laughs begin, I am reminded of my purpose. I will continue to be intentional, to sit and ponder what the “right” decision for my kids might be, and today, the right decision is to put them in environments that invite them to the table, belly laughs and all. And if that space does not exist, it is my job to make room for them.

Nikkya Hargrove is an alum of Bard College and a 2012 Lambda Literary Fellow. She has written for the The New York Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post, Taproot Magazine, Elle, and more. Her memoir, Mama: A Black, Queer Woman’s Journey to Motherhood, is forthcoming from Algonquin Books. She lives in Connecticut with her one son and two daughters and is a staff writer for Scary Mommy. Learn more at https://www.nikkyamhargrove.com.

Understanding Social Intelligence and Growing Skills in a New Day

As a result of the tough times of the past few years, we all seem to be on guard. It’s taking time to heal and adjust and we may be less inclined to trust others’ intentions or motivations now. Our safety or our trust – or both – has been challenged one too many times. We’ve found ourselves disagreeing wholeheartedly with others we once viewed as close allies including family and friends. We’ve dealt with mixed information and misinformation about issues related to our well-being. We’ve endured losses of individuals to COVID and stress-related illnesses and perhaps, also sustained losses of relationships because of disagreements or destructive choices. And we’ve been more isolated than perhaps ever in our lives. 

This social distance has created an emotional as well as a physical divide. Add to it our daily consumption of social media and we may sit in judgment of others more often than we’d like to admit. Our “othering” tendency may just be at an all-time high. 

Some reflections I’ve heard recently reinforce this notion. “You’d think we’d have less stress with COVID restrictions are mostly gone but it feels like there’s more!” “Why is it people seem to be so on edge and making more destructive even outlandish choices when we are back more fully in the world?” Indeed stress is cumulative. The very definition of anxiety involves the world changing around us faster than we are able to adapt. Generally, many have tapped their resilience reserves to cope with the stressors of our times one too many times. For those who haven’t been doubling-down on renewal and care, their reserves may just be empty.

What happens when our patience, our resilience, our self-management reserves are depleted? We react instinctively, defensively, impulsively. We may blame others for our unhappiness and have less of a willingness to accept our own limitations or poor reactions to our emotions. We may react more from our reptilian brain (fight, flight or freeze) which offers us very limited choices. And our children and teens may be reacting in their own uniquely challenging ways. Those actions can resemble more of a reptile’s reaction versus a rational thinking person… hissing, snapping back, even lashing out. Our kids may surprise us or we may even surprise ourselves.

This can become particularly challenging in family life as our lives speed up with summertime activities, working in-person, increasing our travel, and generally spending more time away from home. Additionally, as we engage in relationships beyond our home in person, we may approach those interactions with more caution, fear or skepticism. And perhaps we are hearing about or experiencing behavior from our kids that is new, different or disturbing. 

So it’s time to rebuild our social intelligence – in our kids and in ourselves and fortunately, we can work on both simultaneously. Daniel Goleman, in his book “Social Intelligence; The Revolutionary New Science of Human Relationships” offers two core components of social intelligence: 1.) social awareness and 2.) social facility. Let’s take a look at how these have specifically been impacted by the pandemic.

Social awareness:

a. Empathy = we feel for and with others

b. Nonverbal signals = understanding others through tone of voice, facial expressions. and body language.

c. Attunement = listening fully to another

d. Empathetic accuracy = understanding another’s thoughts, feelings and intentions

e. Social cognition = knowing how social situations and interactions work.

Potential Pandemic Impact:

a. Empathy – There has been so much pain over an extended period of time that if we are feeling it for and with others, it can wear us down. In fact, we/our children may actively work to block others’ feelings because we’re worn with our own emotions. But when we shut emotions down, we do not have the ability to empathize with others. This can lead to destructive choices in our relationships so our awareness is key! On the plus side, there’s been a greater, wider sensitization to injustices, misinformation campaigns, and other’s suffering as we are keenly tuned into local, national and global news.

b. Nonverbal signals – For a few years prior, masks have covered half of our faces when out of our homes making it more difficult to read nonverbal cues. This is particularly salient for our children who have been in- person in schools. Much of the past school year for many has been spent missing some of the social cues offered and straining to figure them out. For professionals, we’ve spent our days on Zoom with a limited view of the face and shoulders of the other person missing the rest of the body’s nonverbal cues.

c. Attunement – Masks may challenge us to fully listen to another person particularly when there’s ambient sound like noisy hallways.

d. Empathetic accuracy – We have a heightened sense now of stranger danger – and not just strangers! – family and friends too. Do you recall when the news first told us to assume everyone we come into contact with has COVID? This lack of safety can skew our perceptions of others. We may assess ill intent where none exists. 

e. Social cognition – We are simply out of practice!

This is just scratching the surface of social intelligence. Here’s the second half involving social facility.

Social facility:

a. Synchrony = smooth interactions through nonverbals.

b. Self-presentation = presenting ourselves effectively.

c. Influence = Shaping the outcome of social interactions.

d. Concern = Caring about others needs and making choices that reflect care.

Potential Pandemic Impact:

a. Synchrony – It’s difficult to achieve synchrony if we struggle to see nonverbals behind a mask or with a limited view on Zoom.

b. Self-presentation – For kids, they may have felt safe hiding from social pressures behind their mask and may now struggle as masks come off. 

c. Influence – We may experience increased discomfort and even a lack of agency as we have to literally face individuals we’ve disagreed with or know they’ve voiced very different views.

d. Concern – This is compassion at its finest. This involves our moral compass and consequential thinking. But we can find it challenging to make decisions that care for others when we ourselves feel depleted.

There’s much we can do to help rebuild our social intelligence! First, acknowledging what we are going through is key. Our raised awareness will be an important first step toward accepting our circumstances and offering family members more grace as they deal with their own stressors. Easing back into social situations in moderation can help with making adjustments too. Here are some additional steps we can take to ensure our children and ourselves are rebuilding our social intelligence.

Replenish the Empty Well with Daily Mindfulness and Gratitude

Our families will continue to struggle until we become committed to refilling the empty well. Since anxiety is contagious, we inadvertently share it with one another. So taking care involves the entire family. Here are some key questions about potential daily practices that can nourish your soul and allow the water to flow back into your life-spring!

  • Do you have a daily deep breathing ritual? Nothing replenishes your body, mind and spirit at once quite like deep breathing can.
  • Do you reflect on or voice gratitude with your family at least once per day? Families that do experience greater well-being. Consider that you and your children get plenty of doses of negativity through social media and news. How will you balance those sources so that you see the good in your life?
  • How do you take in fresh air and get into nature? Summer is the perfect time to simply get outside. Forest bathing is not the only way to experience nature. Just a walk around the block can be replenishing.
  • How do you limit your screen time – your children’s and your own? Too much screen time can reduce quantity and quality of sleep at night and make you feel lethargic not to mention the content that is often negative or destructive. Limiting screen time matters.
  • How do you reflect and reframe? Do you journal or write down your thoughts and feelings? It’s not enough just to reflect. Reflection alone can turn into rumination, or a churning of the same thoughts over and over. Instead, how can you read wisdom in books, podcasts and through your best sage sources to help reframe your thinking (we hope this is one place you can do that!)?

Accept and Validate Even the Most Challenging Feelings

There are a huge range of feelings we just don’t want to show to the outside world. Yet, they are a part of being human. If we hide them or shove them down, not only will they come out stronger (and produce reactions we may later regret) but also, we’ll model hiding and shoving for our children. Instead we offer our children strength when we name the mix-up of feelings we hold – hurt, anger, shame, jealousy, disgust – and validate that ours and their own feelings are normal.

Initiate the Pause Principle.

When our self-control has been depleted, we run a much greater risk of hurting someone we love — at any age. It’s as simple as that. So get into the habit as a family of pausing when emotions run high. Take some beats to breathe. This super simple step allows for impulse to turn to feeling to turn to thought. It happens within seconds but those are precious seconds that help us consider the impact of our words and actions on others.

Discuss the Impact of Choices.

Have a difficult decision to make? COVID has offered a million opportunities for them. Talk as a family about challenging decisions to gather thoughts and feelings. Include your children and teens in these valuable discussions. Consider the impact today on yourself and others? Is there the potential for harm to anyone with a particular course of action? What about next week? How will the potential decisions impact yourself and others in a month or a year? Now play out making the debated choice. Imagine telling the story of your decision later to someone you admire greatly. Did you demonstrate moral courage? Will you be proud of your choice in the days to come?

Repair Harm After A Poor Choice.

Though you may need to wait to let emotions cool, don’t wait too long if your child or even you make a poor choice. Often one poor choice can spiral downward into more to cope with the first. There’s always a next opportunity to make it right. Guide your child (or model for yourself) to take responsibility for your role in the problem (even if others made poor choices too). You might ask your child: how do you feel? And how can you repair the relationship? What can you do to make him feel better or safer or trust you more? Children may require your hand-holding through the process of repairing harm. And that’s okay! In fact, adults struggle to do this effectively. So support your child as needed when they apologize to a friend or mend a toy for a sibling. They will learn a critical life lesson as you support them through the courageous act of taking responsibility for their choices. 

Also, check out our Fighting Fairly Family Pledge which lists specific ways of fighting to avoid because they destroy trust and ways in which we can build up trust and come through disagreements stronger and more connected.

We have been facing perhaps the biggest tests of our relationships in recent history throughout this pandemic and its ongoing many ripple effects. If we didn’t quite fathom our interconnectedness before, we have evidence of how we are inextricably linked locally, nationally and globally. As we’ve reentered the world, we’ve begun to realize that our ability to care for ourselves and our family has ripple effects for each person with whom we come into contact physically, socially and emotionally. It will take time, mistakes, and many rehearsals to rebuild or for young children to build their social intelligence. But we know the steps we need to take. If we become intentional about this process, we will meet the times and more importantly each other with a sense of gratitude; grateful for the freedom, meaning and life-giving enrichment of being with one another and growing together.

How To Disagree While Showing Care

By Mike Wilson, Confident Parents Lead Team Writer

History tells us there are critical events which alter what we once thought of as our “normal” way of life. Normalcy is what we are used to and creates our comfort zone.  However, we now continue to live in complicated times.  It seems that since Covid-19 hit, it created a storm of unknowns that shook our normalcy. Additionally, the effects of political commentaries on issues such as the social justice movement, policing, elections, the events of January 6th and biased news outlets have popularized opinions that have created divisions among us. As a result, our conversations have shifted from “I have my rational opinions on fixed topics” to “I have an emotional response to changing, uncertain topics.

Expressing personal thoughts on our current reality can be challenging. This is especially true when conversing with family and friends. The consequence of sharing our feelings with individuals we are not emotionally close to frequently does not result in a sense of loss. Yet, the outcome of tense discussions with family and friends is different. With these people, there exists strong emotional ties and a back history of shared experiences which have linked us together. Family and friends are people with whom we have established long-term relationships. Consequently, disagreements can create a devastating emotional response. Debates in these types of relationships can create a situation where the discussion becomes heated with each person stating justifications for their opinions and adopting an unwillingness to concede. The conversation becomes a tug of war of beliefs as opposed to a conversation based on facts and evidence. The result can involve each person becoming defensive and feeling as if the other person is trying to put them on the spot.

Because of previous discussions my two teenage daughters have shared with me regarding difficult conversations they’ve had with some of their friends, we came up with strategies they could use to handle disagreements. They attend a school in which the majority of the student population has similar opinions on current events which, in many cases, meant their friends’ thoughts differed from the opinions of my girls. So, during these discussions, several of their friends just assumed my daughters thought the same way as they do. My kids come from a household where we are open to all types of diverse dialogue and thoughts. Even if we disagree, we talk it out and move on.  However, when somewhat controversial topics with their friends came up, my daughters’ initial reaction was to just smile and say nothing. Then when they got home (their safe zone), they would share the conversations with me.  My response was that their approach worked but when they didn’t share how they felt, their friends really never got to know them.  So, as we continued to talk about it, we brainstormed some non-threatening ways they could share their opinions. That’s how the following list of strategies came about.  For example, the strategy they’ve found the most useful is: “That’s an interesting point and in my opinion…” If the person wants to argue about it, they simply say that we can agree to disagree, and they move on. They also try not to talk about politicians or use names of individuals because the conversation becomes personal. Instead they focus more on the impact of policies and try to keep the discussion open-ended. 

The following are simple strategies we can use when disagreeing with family and friends while sustaining a positive relationship.

Accept the other person’s personality type. 

When interacting with friends and family, you know in advance if they are argumentative, passive, sensitive or open to divergent views. As a result, you should know how they will respond to opposing beliefs.

Listen to the other person’s entire thought.  

Don’t interrupt no matter how much you disagree. 

Validate.

Once the person has finished talking, use validating terms such as, “I know many people feel the same way” or “that’s an interesting point.”

Avoid judgment.

Don’t use judgment phrases like “you are…” or “people like you…”

Own your response.

When responding, use I-statements” such as “I think…” and “In my opinion…”

Try not to take it personally.

Although individual thoughts are based on opinion, remember you are expressing your point of view and not trying to change the opinion of another. 

Agree to disagree.

You don’t have to work to find an agreement in order to end a conversation in a satisfying way. Instead, it’s important to accept that close friends or family might continue to hold differing opinions. You can hold that difference and even tension that might go with it and still show care and respect for one another.

Having honest and meaningful conversations with family and friends is essential in strengthening our relationships. Through dialogue, we learn about the thoughts, feelings and interests of other people. However, holding opposing viewpoints can cause conflict. What we must remember is that family and friends are part of our support system. As a result, maintaining positive relationships with these key individuals is more important than any opinion regarding a current issue.

Author Mike Wilson is the Outreach Coordinator for Harris County Department of Education, CASE Program and host the Making After School Cool podcast. Mike is the father of two teenage daughters in Houston, TX. Check out the Making After School Cool Podcast at https://case4kids.podbean.com.

Summer Renewal and Fun with Family Contributions and Healthy Boundaries

“Mom, what do you really want to do this summer?” my son asked me during our bedtime pillow talk last night. I had to think. I wanted my summer sunshine dreams of lemonade stands, library visits, and creeking at local parks to roll off my tongue but instead, my mind was a-jumble.

In our race to the finish line of school, my head was swimming with work agendas and teacher recognition tasks to complete. It wasn’t easy to get my mind quickly focused on summertime fun though that’s precisely the hope of my ten-year-old boy. And as I attempt to, waves of anxiety tend to rush through my veins as I figure out the windows of time in which I can accomplish work during those sunny summer days in the midst of playtime.

I know, though, that if I take some time over the coming weeks to do some collective summer dreaming while establishing some “lightweight” routines, our summer will be filled with cooperation, shared responsibility, and opportunities for those precious moments of spontaneity — the ones that I truly want to define our summer.

So with that in mind, here are the ways in which we’ll establish a foundation for fun. Perhaps some of these tips will help your household enjoy the summer as well.

Take Time for Sunny Summer Dreaming.

Grab a poster board or newsprint and brainstorm together a list of favorite activities you want to be sure and get in over the summer. Separate into “at home” and “out.” Make sure there are some ideas that can be done as solo play away from digital devices. Hang it on the refrigerator or somewhere you can refer to it throughout the summer. This serves as a terrific way to anticipate the fun of summer and can be an invaluable support for pointing to when your child comes to you bored and unsure of how to spend his/her time. I’ve done this every summer with great success. This summer, my son took the initiative himself without prompting and wrote out thirty-five ideas for summer fun! 

Talk about Your Routine “Lite.”

Though you may be eager to relinquish the rigor of the daily school routine, children still thrive with some sense of predictability. So talk about changes in your routine while your family is together. Consider your morning, bedtime and meal times and other transitions in the day. How will things stay the same? How will things change? Perhaps, you’ll agree that getting dressed should happen by a certain time in the morning? Perhaps, this is the time you’ll teach your child how to make her own delicious breakfast or lunch each day? Having this discussion can help set expectations for the summer and also provide that sense of stability children can thrive on through routines.

Set Up a Regular Quiet Reading Time.

Sure, you may be out of the house some days during a typical quiet time. But consider assigning a particular time of day to serve as a quiet time whenever you are around the house. After lunch could work, late afternoon or right before dinner. Turn off devices and media. Haul out blankets and books. You could include snacks. But it should be a time when all in the household “power down” and take it easy. Set the expectation for this at the beginning of summer and kids will assume it’s part of their summer routine.

Create a Simple Camp or Pool Checklist

Is there a place you tend to go daily in the summertime whether it’s day camp or a pool? Make sure you’ve set up your children for success in getting ready and out of the door with ease. Create a simple checklist together of what’s consistently needed. Bug spray? Check. Sun tan lotion? Check. Water bottle? Check. Use a dry erase board and kids can actually check off items each day. It will help them take responsibility for their own preparation and you won’t have to become the summertime nag! 

Discuss Responsibilities and Consider Adding a Job List

Hopefully, your children understand their household responsibilities throughout the year. But anytime there is a transition, it’s a good moment to revisit. And you may consider one added responsibility to contribute to the household that’s age-appropriate since there tends to be more time in the summer. In addition, if you’re child is eager to earn money but too young to go out and get a job, you may consider putting together a list of jobs beyond their typical responsibilities such as, sweeping the first floor carpet for a $1.00. This will add to their practice of taking responsibility for jobs and offer a chance for your child to earn money this summer while helping you out! Consider a time when you do chores and offer that time for all family members to work together. 

For more on establishing household responsibilities with children, check out this article.  And for an age-appropriate household responsibility list, check out this printable!

Talk about Screen Time Limits and Expectations.

Avoid a daily battle or the chance your child might become addicted to screens and not flourish through multiple activities this summer beyond screens. Learn as a family the reasons why it’s important to limit screen time. Focus on the positive benefits of using time in other ways. Then, be clear together about what limits you’ll agree upon. 

For more on facts about why it’s important to limit screen time as well as, a family media meeting agenda and a family screen time agreement, check out this article.

Have a teen in your household?

Seeking Jobs including Volunteer Opportunities

In addition to sleep-away camp, you might want to expose your teen to the world of work to get some job experience, make some money, and discover the responsibilities and commitments required of an employee. You might consider together the places that your son or daughter visits that he/she loves and then ask about employment. Perhaps it’s her favorite ice cream shop (that’s where I worked) or perhaps it’s the world’s largest train display (yep, that’s where our son is working!)… Finding a place and environment that already gives your teen joy will help engage them in the learning and hard work that is required of a new entry level job. Don’t forget that volunteering their time is equally valuable in discovering their ability to contribute to others, developing important job skills and logging experience for their resume that will help them acquire future jobs.

Establishing Boundaries Together

Since our teens are keenly aware of fairness and justice, they can hold us accountable when it comes to the rules and routines that govern their lives. If we are arbitrary or inconsistent, they call us out on it immediately. They may feel we are too strict or unfair as we set up boundaries to keep them safe and healthy. Yet, our teens require our support and guidance particularly as they gain more independence with their friends. Sitting down creating a sacred time and space to talk about some of those boundaries is a great way to ensure that they feel you are taking into consideration their feelings and offering them fairness as you take their input into consideration about the subject. Whether its a curfew in the evenings or a limit on online gaming, discussing it together can help your teen take responsibility for their own actions.

The warmer weather brings about so many opportunities for laughter and exploration together. May your summer be filled with those kinds of magical moments with your family!

Check Out the Mom of Teens and Tweens Podcast

Teens and tweens with strong emotional intelligence are more self-aware, good communicators, and have strong relationships with others. We all want this for our children, but how do we help them when many of us have never been taught?

Jennifer Miller, M.Ed. of Confident Parents, Confident Kids joined Sheryl Gould of the awesome podcast @MomofTweensandTeens! How do we deal with the emotional roller coaster ride that is parenting teens? How can we push the pause button when challenged and rethink our interactions so that we can consistently build their social and emotional intelligence? Check out our conversation!


What you will learn:

  • What is emotional intelligence and how can we teach our kids when no one taught us?
  • The five core skills of emotional and social intelligence.
  • How parents can coach their children through issues that arise within other relationships.
  • How you can use questions to help your child develop a sense of higher-order thinking skills.
  • When to step in and when to allow your teen to take a risk.
  • The value of parents expressing confidence in their teens’ abilities.
  • When talking with your teen, how you can help them see things from different perspectives?
  • What impact does it have on our families when parents take a “time out” to process their emotions?
  • Why you should have a phrase with your teen that means you both need to take a step away.

Check out the podcast here!

And did you know that you can listen to “Confident Parents, Confident Kids; Raising Emotional Intelligence In Ourselves and Our Kids from Toddlers to Teenagers” for free when you sign up for Audible? Find it here free!

Perfect for your summer reading list!

Here’s the video of our podcast conversation…

How to Process the Pandemic for Emotional Growth

By Jenny Woo, Ph.D.

If you are a parent of primary school-aged children like me (I’ve got 3), then you may be familiar with the “I Survived” books by Lauren Tarshis. In the series, each book recounts one of history’s most terrifying events through the eyes of a child who…you guessed it, survived to tell the tale. The destruction of Pompeii, the attacks of September 11, and Hurricane Katrina are examples of “I survived” events.

Since my kids love action-packed stories, I bought a few “I Survived” books, hoping to expose them to real-world events by reliving the crises…in the comfort of their homes.

Then, the pandemic hit. I had forgotten all about the books. I was drowning in a sea of responsibilities: supporting kids’ distancing learning, running Mind Brain Parenting, and teaching Emotional Intelligence at the University of California-Irvine. Repeat.

By the time my daughter came down with COVID-19, I was running on fumes and masks. We immediately kept her in her bedroom, hoping to keep the rest of the family healthy. On day three, our oldest tested positive, and into his bedroom, he stayed. On day ten, we were down to the last kid standing. I was running around the house in a flurry of homecare and homeschool activities.  My COVID-free kid suddenly declared: “Mommy, this is just like ‘I Survived.’” “Huh?” I looked at him blankly, and it took me a good minute to figure out that he was referring to the “I Survived” book series.

Isn’t it ironic that we could be in survival mode without ever realizing so? This especially rings true for us parents/caregivers and teachers. We have mouths to feed, minds to nurture, and bodies to hug. Every. Single. Day. Our “get it done” resolve propels our minds forward, alternating from planning to predicting—no time to look back. Or perhaps, we don’t want to.

You live life looking forward, you understand life looking backward.” – Soren Kierkegaard

But how do we process the depth of our vulnerability, loss, and grief during the pandemic and still manage to emerge emotionally replenished and resilient? 

I recently conducted a half-day workshop on how to support children’s social and emotional development during the pandemic. To prepare, I combed through the latest studies and reports on the impact of the pandemic on mental health. I also dived into the crisis and resilience literature to understand why some people experience posttraumatic stress while others express posttraumatic growth.

I found that people—across all socioeconomic statuses—fare better when they engage in what I call perspective-setting. Like perspective-taking, perspective-setting is our attempt to interpret our personal circumstances through different lenses. To do so, we draw on our beliefs, values, and goals to reframe a perceived threat into a challenge. For example, young people who coped well during the pandemic saw it as an opportunity to learn to be grateful and to focus on what matters the most in life (August & Dapkewicz, 2021). In doing so, we shift our tone from helpless to hopeful, without the discounting the risks and vulnerabilities in our lives.

Perspective-setting is particularly useful for our tweens and teens. Children at this age have yet to develop the long-term perspective of “this too, shall pass.” As a result, they see life’s difficulties and obstacles as unrelenting and permanent. For example, children ages 9 – 11 reported more PTSD symptoms than younger or older children 2-3 years after a disaster such as Hurricane Katrina (Kronenberg et al., 2010). On the other hand, a study on students’ following the September 11 terrorist attack found that those who expressed feeling grateful to be alive and closer to loved ones were less likely to develop depressive symptoms (Fredrickson et al., 2003).

So how do we help our children and ourselves heal and grow through perspective-setting?

Write your own “I Survived the COVID-19 Pandemic” story.

Circling back to my personal experience, after my COVID-free son declared our circumstances as an “I Survived” book, I asked him to write a story (see an excerpt of his story below). What started out as a way to buy me time turned into an insightful window into how he interpreted the pandemic. I found discrepancies between what I thought was affecting him and what actually bothered him. I was then able to help him engage in perspective-setting.

The opening of Jenny’s son’s story

No matter what phase of the pandemic you are in, have each family member write (or record) an “I Survived” story. Here is a list of questions to discuss in your story:

  • What were your achievements (big, small, and silly) during the pandemic?
  • What were three things that bothered you the most during the pandemic?
  • What advice would you give your younger pandemic self in 2020 if you traveled back in time?
  • What are you grateful for now? What can you do now that you could not do a year ago?

Swap and share the stories. Discuss similarities, differences, and surprises.

For more prompts and exercises categorized by social and emotional learning skills, check out my award-winning series of card decks to experience with your family: 52 Essential Conversations, Relationship Skills, Critical Thinking Skills, and Coping Skills.

References:

August, R., & Dapkewicz, A. (2021). Benefit finding in the COVID-19 pandemic: College students’ positive coping strategies. Journal of Positive School Psychology, 5(2), 73-86.

Kronenberg ME, Hansel TC, Brennan AM, et al. Children of Katrina: lessons learned about postdisaster symptoms and recovery patterns. Child Dev 2010; 81:1241–1259

*CPCK Note: Major congratulations to Dr. Woo who just completed her doctoral degree and so deserves those extra letters behind her name!

Jenny Woo, Ph.D. is a Harvard-trained educator, TEDx speaker, and founder/CEO of Mind Brain Parenting. Jenny conducts research in social and emotional learning, emotion regulation, and resilience. She is the creator of a series of award-winning emotional intelligence games: 52 Essential Conversations, 52 Essential Relationships, 52 Essential Critical Thinking Skills, and 52 Essential Coping Skills. Her games have won the 2018 Parents’ Choice Awards, 2021 National Parenting Product Awards, and were featured by Harvard and CASEL.

School Violence Is Preventable…

I drew the above illustration in 2012 when the Sandy Hook school shooting took place where twenty children – six and seven-year-olds – and six adult staff members were killed. There have been 948 school shootings since the Sandy Hook tragedy ten years ago. More than 311,000 students have experienced gun violence at school since the Columbine High School shooting in 1999.1

Since Scarlett Lewis lost her own child in the Sandy Hook school shooting, she has been turning her trauma into activism by inspiring educators and parents to invest their time, energy and resources in social and emotional learning. She believes that her son would never have died had the shooter gone to a school with social and emotional learning in which he learned to identify, understand and manage anger in healthy ways.

Please watch the following short video produced by Equip Our Kids of Scarlett Lewis sharing her story and what she’s learned about the ways we can prevent future school violence. We are all responsible for taking action to prevent yet another community from suffering such heartbreaking and avoidable loss. Our hearts go out to all those impacted by the losses in Uvalde, TX at Robb Elementary School.

Reference:

  1. Woodrow Cox, J., Rich, S., Chiu, A., Thacker, H., Chong, L., Muyskens, J. & Ulmanu, M. (2022). School shootings database. The Washington Post, May 25.

Closing Out the School Year

Reflecting on the Year (Have you Heard the Good News?), Recognizing Our Resilient, Hard-working Kids and Looking Ahead…

NPR/Ipsos conducted a recent poll and found the following good news:

  • More parents indicate their child is ahead of where they should be in math and science, reading and writing, social skills, and mental health compared to February 2021. Only about one in ten indicate their child is behind where they should be in each of these areas.
  • Nearly half (47%) of parents say that the pandemic has not disrupted their child’s education (up from 38% in February 2021).

More good news from a parenting survey conducted by the Commission for Children included:

  • Among the 54% of parents who believe social and emotional learning (SEL) is being taught at their child’s school, 52% believe that schools should continue teaching SEL (with 29% wanting schools to do more on SEL).
  • Parents prioritize a range of skills that SEL supports – with confidence and good self-esteem, communication, decision-making, and self-discipline topping the list of those that students need in order to be successful throughout their lives.
  • Over 75% of parents responded that the reason they support SEL is because they see how teaching SEL creates a positive classroom environment where children learn the skills they need to succeed – in school and their future.

A focus on social and emotional learning is NOT a nice-to-have, it’s necessary. Parents are also recognizing the work yet ahead of us.

  • From NPR/Ipsos: “In the wake of COVID, 31% of parents report their child has shown symptoms of, or been evaluated for, mental health issues, including anxiety (19%) and depression (12%).
  • From NPR/Ipsos: “More parents (73%) indicate their child would benefit from mental health counseling now than in February 2021 (68%).
  • From Committee for Children: “For parents who responded that SEL isn’t being taught at their school or were unsure, 86% would support their child’s school teaching SEL.”

This was indeed a big year for learning – learning not only subject matter but also how to live and learn in the midst of a continued global pandemic. As a nation, we feel a growing urgency that our children’s social and emotional well-being needs to be at the forefront of our focus if we are to help this generation achieve their hopes and dreams today and in their future lives. We have learned flexibility, emotional courage and resilience during by directly in watching and supporting this generation. And now we say goodbye to another school year a little more nimble, a little more capable, a little more courageous (and weary) as parents in dealing with the uncertainties of our lives.

Because of the monumental growth that we have witnessed in our children and ourselves as we came together and supported one another in unprecedented times for us, it’s important that we pause and take a moment to reflect on what we’ve been through. If your children or teens have achieved academically, if they’ve made new friendships, if they’ve demonstrated care for their teachers or their neighbors or their siblings, this is the time to call it out and recognize it. Educational Reformer John Dewey wrote, “We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.” 

Your child will never experience this grade level again. Children may be sad to leave their teacher, their connection to class friends and the predictability of the school-home routine. Despite the stress (or however they have experienced school this year), they may worry about the loss of the stability and consistency that the school schedule and connection provides over the summer.

There are some small, simple steps you can take to ease the transition and also deepen the lessons of their year through reflection. Because this can be such a hectic time of year, we find it helpful to share ideas. Here are a few suggestions.

Offer Grace First…

to your children, to their teachers and most especially to yourself. If you try and reflect on this school year with other school years as your standard bar for performance, it’s simply not accurate. We may all fail if that’s your measure. This was yet another exceptional school year. Standards for our contributions might be more accurately measured by questions about your level of emotional support of all family members, your ability to deal with a high level of complex emotions, and your ability to get through the day maintaining safety, health and the trust of family members. Further, if you were able to get through this year with your sense of integrity and morality intact, give yourself a giant gold star (or your equivalent). We have to recognize what we’ve been through, accept our limitations during these times and celebrate the times we survived and the times we demonstrated we could thrive.

Reflect on Defining Moments.

Retell the defining moments. Be sure to discuss in what ways your family was resilient and strong during stressful times. In your ________ grade year…

  • What was the most surprising thing that happened?
  • Did you make any new friends?
  • When did you feel embarrassed?
  • What made you belly laugh?
  • What were you most proud of learning?
  • How was it challenging? And what helped you get through all of the changes?

Reflect on Learning from Home.

Did any part of your year involve learning from home including homeschooling, remote or hybrid learning? If so…

  • Do you recall the first day or week of learning at home? What were you thinking? What were you feeling?
  • What have you found that has been joyful or connecting during this past year?
  • How have we helped one another?
  • How has connecting with friends changed? Are there any new ways of connecting that you enjoy?
  • What school projects or assignments were you most proud of accomplishing?
  • What unexpected benefits came from remote learning?
  • How did you deal with your fears and stresses?
  • What bigger life lessons did you learn during this time of sustained crisis?

Reflect on Big Feelings and the Opportunity of Now: Practicing Resilience.

If we tried (in the pre-COVID world) to hide the fact that we have all-consuming, intense emotions at times, then we cannot hide anymore. The seismic shifts globally and the uncertainty of a threat that lurks right outside of our door has been enough to rattle our sensibilities, every one of us. Now the return to our public lives, the face unmasking, has cause it’s own set of stressors we could not have anticipated not the least of which is that we are collectively exhausted from this prolonged crisis. If anything, we’ve learned a thing or two from this generation – shuffling back and forth to school wearing masks and creating a new normal. Talk about resilience in times of trial! How can you take time out to recognize their resilience and all you’ve learned from them? 

No, none of us managed our big feelings throughout this process perfectly. In fact, for most of us, there was a lot of mess. But if we talk about our big feelings, accept that there’s been fear, sadness and stress, and consider how we reacted and how we might react better, we just might learn important lessons that will assist us as we move into summer. Some specific questions to guide you in this discussion might be:

  • What have been our fears throughout this school year?
  • What have we done to acknowledge or manage them?
  • When did our fears get the best of us (or we reacted in ways we didn’t like)?
  • When were we proud of how we handled ourselves and/or worked together as a family?
  • How can we learn more about managing our fears?
  • What can we do in the future when one or more of us is feeling fearful or stressed?

Tell your “Triumph Over COVID” Story

We all know this will be the story our children will share with their grandchildren. “Let me tell you how I survived a global pandemic.” In fact, I attempted to have my son write his own triumphant story and he struggled. It’s difficult to recall all that we’ve been through and articulate what strengths we’ve used or needed to build in order to deal with the many changes and uncertainties. Yet, he wrote a beautiful paper about another person’s struggle and ability to survive, one who we read about in the award-winning book “Island of the Blue Dolphins.” When his paper was finished, we substituted his name for the main character’s, Karana, and nearly every word applied with some notable additions like collaborative spirit and skill versus utter independence. How can you tell your family’s COVID story? Perhaps a slideshow of your pictures, a poster all contribute words and phrases to, or your own written story?

Share Your Gratitude for Your Teachers.

Yes, teachers also experienced a wide range of big feelings as they had to change their mode of teaching and learning in the blink of an eye. Though parents continued to figure out how to manage their households, we may have not seen the challenges teachers faced. Yet, we know they indeed endured their own set of struggles. No matter how they managed the situation, they put their time, effort and considerable worry into reaching you and educating your children. So now more than ever, it’s critical we offer our thanks. Consider creating a simple family video of your thanks to show your appreciation. Your sincere words will mean much more than a potted plant or a gift card this year.  

Talk about it a bit before getting your video rolling. You might ask your child: “What were some of your favorite activities you remember from this year? Why is your teacher so special? Do you remember a time when your teacher was especially kind?”

Go on a Digital Parade Walk or Create a Temporary Museum of Learning.

You likely have a pile, a bin or a busting-at-the-seams binder (as we do!) of school work from the past year. Before recycling or filing away, why not use the accumulated papers as evidence of learning and growth and a tangible way to reflect on that progress? Use your home as a museum. Place the school work in the order of the school year starting in the fall. Line them up across chairs, the couch and on end tables for display. I line the dining room with rope and post papers and artwork with clothespins.

Walk around as a family and talk about what you notice particularly when you note positive developments. With a little support from you, your kids may be excited to put together the museum themselves. With multiple children, use different rooms of the house and you may have a full academic museum for an evening.

Is your child’s work all online from the past months? Then do a digital parade of work and gather around the computer. Go through her assignments, comment, laugh, reflect and bask in the glow of your collective hard work as a family getting through distance learning together! 

Do the big book line-up.

It’s likely that most of the books your child read this school year are hanging around your bookshelves. Why not create a temporary display? What a sense of accomplishment to see a book sculpture with all of the stories you’ve read, learned from and enjoyed since the school year start. It may even spur conversations and reflections on your favorite characters and stories! It may also encourage further reading this summer and inspire a new stack for the coming months.

Create a time capsule.

A terrific early summer activity might be to generate a time capsule in memory of this past school year. There will likely never be another school year quite like this one! Use this free printable time capsule to help guide you. Or work with your child to find and decorate a shoe box or other container and mark with the name of the child and dates of the school year. Now ask your child to consider their older self. What if he came across this time capsule hidden in the attic years later? What items would help him remember the unique attributes of this past school year?

Celebrate learning.

Show how much your family truly values the process of learning. Celebrate together the accomplishment of a school year filled with hard work. Make a picnic in your backyard. Bake a special treat. Decorate as if it’s a holiday. Take a moment to recognize this major change.

As we learn from the past school year and consider the roles of adults – educators and parents, we know that the social and emotional well-being of our children is our call to action. How will we answer this call? It’s vital that we all play a role in meeting this moment with the social and emotional supports necessary to elevate us all.

Happy School Year’s End to You and Your Family and May You Have a Summer of Renewal Ahead!

References:

Newall, M., & Diamond, J. (2022). Parents Report Improvements in their Child’s Educational Attainment Compared to Last Year. Washington, DC: Ipsos, April 29.

Committee for Children. (2022). New Polling Data Show Overwhelming Support for Social-Emotional Learning Among Parents. Seattle, WA: Author, May 16.

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