Join Us for Morning Announcements with the Miller Family on Facebook Live

Set the Tone for Your Learning Day at Home…

Jennifer Miller of CPCK and her family — son, Ethan and husband, Jason will be doing morning announcements for families (just like schools do morning public announcements). Join us at 8:15 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on Facebook Live each weekday morning through our feed: https://www.facebook.com/confidentparentsconfidentkids or if you are in another time zone, visit the feed and watch the recording when you are ready to begin your home school day.

Our Morning Announcements will include:

  1. What’s going on (in our community and our world);
  2. A global pledge of allegiance;
  3. Inspirational Words, Wisdom (through poetry or other readings) or Intentions;
  4. Deep breathing.

We intend these announcements to last only fifteen minutes. Here is the Global Pledge of Allegiance we’ve written that we’ll recite:

Global Pledge of Allegiance

We pledge allegiance to the families of our world

that we recognize we are closer and more connected than we may seem.

And through the love for which we stand, one world, many beliefs, indivisible, with liberty, health, safety, and justice for all.

We hope you’ll join our family in getting the learning day off to a positive start!

My Kid’s School is Closed, So Now What?

Supporting your Children’s Social, Emotional, and Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Guest Author, Pamela McVeagh-Lally

As the spread of COVID-19 causes more and more school closures across the United States, we, parents and caregivers, are faced with the daunting reality of needing to stay at home with our children for weeks and possibly months. While educators are working hard to prepare take home packets and online resources to support our children’s continued academic learning while schools are closed, intentionally supporting our children’s emotional well-being during these unpredictable and stressful times is our job.

With relentless, confusing media coverage about COVID-19 and discussion about it in our everyday conversations, it is important that we talk to our children about the virus and reassure them that, as disrupting as it may be, schools are closing to help to keep us all healthy and safe. Our role as adults is to offer accurate, age-appropriate information while gently correcting any misunderstandings they may have. Giving your undivided attention and really listening to and empathizing with their fears (while managing and not projecting our own), while being clear about how best to stay safe is essential. And this won’t be a one time conversation. As the situation changes, we’ll need to continue our proactive, honest conversations with our children aimed at keeping them informed but not overwhelmed. National Association of School Psychologists and Child Mind Institute have great resources to guide you.

Setting Up for Success While At Home Together

Other than frequently and empathetically checking in with your kids, what else can you do to support their well-being and maintain a sense of normalcy while they’re out of school (and while you’re attempting to work from home)? Here is a list of ideas to consider for your family:

  • Stick to a consistent routine daily. Set expectations about getting up, getting dressed, and eating breakfast. (Many schools are finding ways to set up food programs during closures.)
  • Limit endless snacking. (We know this will be a tricky one for some of us who have stockpiled granola bars!)
  • Create a schedule for each day with your children to break up the time. Include “class time” when they complete school work, dedicated time for play, physical exercise, and emotional and mental health activities (see “Coping Kit“ below for ideas). Though there’s no need for a rigid agenda, all family members can be soothed by a  predictable structure.
  • Put a limit on social media. Encourage staying connected to friends but not obsessively reading news or discussing the virus online. 
  • Don’t have the TV on in the background all day. The worry for children will escalate if they repeatedly hear and view adults panicking or reports of deaths.
  • For children without their own phones, set up a FaceTime playdate with a friend and let them chat using your phone.
  • Dedicate time every afternoon to organizing and cleaning up to keep chaos and germs at bay.
  • Talk about and plan for ways in which you’ll deal with family arguments or sibling rivalry. Check out the Family Peace Rose for more.
  • Make dinner together.
  • Go old school! Have story time, play a board game, or try to learn a new language together during evening family time.

Create a Family “Coping Kit” To Deal with Anxiety

It is expected that we will experience anxiety during times of uncertainty and stress. One way you can help your child address their anxiety is through building a simple “Coping Kit.” A “Coping Kit” includes practical strategies that empower children to manage difficult feelings productively. Depending on your child’s age and needs, their “Coping Kit” could include:

  • This simple feelings wheel to accurately name and acknowledge emotions they may be experiencing. Remember, there are no “bad” emotions–it’s ok for them to feel whatever they feel and your job is to help them use strategies to cope.
  • Calming breathing techniques and mindfulness activities to reduce stress;
  •  Yoga or other movement and stretching activities;
  • Relaxation techniques like guided imagery or progressive muscle relaxation;
  • Fun indoor physical activities and games;
  • A private journal or sketchbook where they can express their emotions through writing or drawing;
  • For older children, find a social cause to learn more about together and support remotely. Or cultivate compassion by encouraging them to reach out via phone or text to potentially isolated elderly family members, neighbors, or their peers who are home unsupervised; and 
  • Practical strategies to help maintain their physical health including: 1. Picking out a fidget bracelet, button, or other small wearable item (that can be disinfected daily) to redirect the urge to touch their face. 2. Choosing part of a song they love that is at least 20 seconds long to sing while washing their hands

Finally, children take their emotional cues from us. Being honest about our fears is important to model but we should express our feelings appropriately. How can we find ways to regain calm, and also model and verbalize compassion for others? How can we notice when our stress level is rising to stop, breathe, and use our own coping strategies before responding to our children? Plan ahead for those big feelings and you’ll proceed with confidence that you are ready to handle the stress.

There is no way around it. This moment requires us to dig deep and take deliberate action to make sure we stay mentally healthy for our kids. Even small acts of care for ourselves are important like watching a TV show that makes you laugh, taking two minutes each day to write down something you’re grateful for, or talking honestly and privately about how you feel with a friend. 

Though we may be practicing social distancing, remember to stay in touch with other parents and caregivers to share ideas, seek support, and stay connected!

About the Author:

Pamela McVeagh-Lally is a founding partner of the SEL Consulting Collaborative and a philanthropic and non-profit education consultant, dedicated to helping all children thrive through building the field of social and emotional learning (SEL) and advancing the effectiveness and impact of SEL-focused organizations. Her clients include school districts, state departments of education, grantmaking foundations, multinational education non-profits and start up social and emotional learning organizations. She lives in Ohio with her husband and two children.

*Our hearts go out to the many families who cannot afford to take time off work and are facing major childcare and/or financial dilemmas. 

* CPCK Note: Many thanks to author Pamela McVeagh-Lally for quickly and expertly writing this helpful article to support parents and families during a particularly stressful time!  

 

Need Your Help!


Help Spread the Word…

With this new book, I set out to inspire and support parents and offer a new way to view their roles and their children through an empathetic, loving and informed lens in this incredibly tough and meaningful journey raising kids. This represents a decade of research, writing, and practice work along with a lifetime career focused on children’s social and emotional development. Most of the work of spreading the word about the book comes through the author’s efforts in partnership with you, caring readers, commenters and deep thinkers and practitioners of parenting with social and emotional learning.

Help me reach my goal of fifty reviews on Amazon! The book is at the halfway point with 26 reviews. Amazon will add the book to the suggestions’ list when it hits 50 reviews. Help this important book stand out on the crowded virtual bookshelf! IF you’ve ordered and read it, thank you! Now take just a brief moment to write an honest review!  If you scroll down, on the left side, it will say “Customer Reviews,” and then, “Write a customer review.”

And of course, spread the word!

Eleven Simple Tips for Parents Supporting Children Dealing with Anxiety

There’s a lot of worry swirling in the world right now. From the book, here are some simple strategies for addressing worry with your child or teen. Print off this one-pager to serve as a helpful reminder as you interact with your child.

Thank you for your support!

Parenting and Dealing with Illness

Healing takes courage, and we all have courage, even if we have to dig a little to find it.

– Tori Amos

With one dear friend parent recovering from surgery, another quarantined with her family for Coronavirus (COVID-19), and our family dealing with walking pneumonia, I’m reflecting a lot on the set of challenges facing families when dealing with illness. When a parent gets sick, life goes on. Kids have to get up and get ready for school. Lunches must be packed. Homework has to get accomplished. It can be a real struggle for moms and dads to get through the day when they have come down with the flu. Harder still, parents go through major life transitions such as beginning a new job, losing a loved one, or struggling with depression. And parenting goes on.

How can you deal with those times in a way that allows you to heal yourself and parent healthy children? And how can you avoid placing more burdens on your children than they can reasonably handle? There seems a fine line between asking your children for help and giving them adult responsibilities for which they are not ready.

While I was sick over the past couple of weeks, I reflected on this topic and how I might channel the little energy I had in the direction of healing and being a responsive parent without doing more than I could handle. “I’ll help you feel better,” said E. However, he grew moodier and at times, angry. Children often become angry, upset and worried when a primary caregiver is sick. Their own sense of safety and stability is shaken. They wonder, “Is she going to be able to take care of me and my needs?” and “Is this going to go on forever?” Children are acutely aware that their very survival depends upon their parents despite their desires for independence. So in addition to dealing with your own problems and lack of energy, you also are likely to encounter a child who is not at his or her best.

Here are some thoughts about what you might do in these circumstances.

Ask for understanding.
Communicate with all family members what you are able to give and what you are unable to give. Set clear expectations so that they know in advance what you are unable to do. For most of us, this is incredibly challenging since it feels like admitting a weakness. However, it is a strength to be self-aware and understand your limitations. Communicating with them will allow your family members to support you in the ways that are needed. Model this for your children and they will learn how to become more self-aware and ask for help when it’s necessary.

Acknowledge that the problem is time-limited.
Children often feel as if the current situation will last forever. It helps to assure them that temporary adjustments need to be made while you are recovering.

Arrange for adult supports.
Ask for help or simply accept help when offered from other adults around you. This too can be a real challenge. However, asking your child for emotional or physical support for which they are too young crosses a critical boundary line and can create tremendous anxiety for a child and in turn, you. Create mutually supportive adult relationships and look for chances to help friends and family when they are sick or in a crisis. We all can have those relationships if we are the first to give and reach out when others are in crisis. Reach out to others and they will likely be at the ready to support you when you most need it.

Stick by your child’s routine.
Being consistent with your daily routines will provide a greater sense of security for your child. They will still likely feel uneasy that you are not doing well. However, they will relish in the comfort of your typical routines.

Understand and empathize with your child’s emotions.
Realize that your child is likely to become angrier, needier, sadder and generally more upset when you are sick or stressed. If you meet their anger with anger, it will only escalate the problem. Instead, acknowledge and accept their feelings. Encourage all family members to give each other grace in a stressful time. Be gentle with one another and forgiving as one member attempts to heal.

Release yourself from extraneous commitments.
During the normal course of the week, we likely have enough commitments to fill our calendars with little time to spare. Ask for understanding from those commitments and minimize what you are responsible for so that you can focus on healing. Gain time later as you invest now in your health.

Set clear, non-negotiable emotional boundaries.
If your burdens are partially emotional, be certain that you are only sharing them with appropriate adults in your life. Your children are unable to shoulder your emotional problems though they will try because they love you. Don’t put them in that position. When you are tempted to talk with them about your troubles, remember that there is a critical boundary line. You remain the adult to allow them their childhood. The book Chained to the Desk; A Guidebook for Workaholics, Their Partners, and Children and the Clinicians Who Treat Them talks about the adult consequences of parents who required children to share in their emotional challenges. For those individuals, it can be a life-long struggle of never measuring up, high anxiety in trying to serve others’ needs and not being able to ask for support or help. Allow your partners, friends or a counselor to provide that adult support to ensure you are getting your needs met and are not tempted to unload your worries on your child.

If it’s a life transition you are facing, raise your awareness of what you can expect emotionally. The book, Transition; Making Sense of Life’s Changes by William Bridges explains that in each transition (whether it’s perceived socially as positive like the birth of a child or negative like being fired from a job), there is a death which requires letting go (and the sadness that goes with it). There is a state of limbo, an in-between period in which, like the caterpillar in the chrysalis that turns to “goo,” one must release the past and embrace the unknown of the present and future. And finally, the birth of the next phase of who you are becoming. Each phase of a transition produces a bundle of emotions. Raising your awareness about what you can expect will help you deal with them and allow you greater self-compassion.

Forgive yourself.
This can be our most difficult task as we strive to be the parents we most want to be. Investing in your own self-care including forgiving yourself for not being the best version of you while you are undergoing health or transition issues can serve you and all those around you. Often times, the stress and pressure of sickness can add to your anxiety and impede your ability to heal. Kristin Neff, leading researcher on self-compassion, defines it in three ways. She writes that self-compassion involves:

…being kind and understanding to oneself in instances of suffering or perceived inadequacy. It also involves a sense of common humanity, recognizing that pain and failure are unavoidable aspects of the shared human experience. Finally, self-compassion entails balanced awareness of one’s emotions—the ability to face (rather than avoid) painful thoughts and feelings, but without exaggeration, drama or self-pity.

Her research supports the theory that mental health and a healthy self-concept are dependent on self-compassion.

All of these recommendations are easier said than done. However, as I strive to become the best version of myself through continued learning, I strive for my own optimal mental health in order to raise a confident kid. I wish for you gentleness and healing as you do the same.

 

1 Robinson, B.E. (1998). Chained to the Desk; A Guidebook for Workaholics, their Partners and Children, and the Clinicians who Treat Them. (3rd Ed.) NY: New York University Press.

2 Bridges, W. (2004). Transitions; Making Sense of Life’s Changes. (2nd Ed.) Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press.

3 Neff, K.D., Rude, S.S., & Kirkpatrick, K.L. (2007). An examination of self-compassion in relation to positive psychological functioning and personality traits. Journal of Research in Personality. 41 (2007) 908–916.

Originally published on April 10, 2014.

Families, Food, and Children’s Social and Emotional Development

Food is a daily part of our experience with our children. It serves as the convener at every holiday, social occasion, and meaningful event. Food is inextricably linked to our children’s social and emotional development contributing to a sense of belonging, connection, well-being, security and nourishment. Because food is such a consistent presence in our family life, we have an opportunity to influence our children’s healthy habits that can last a lifetime.

Last year, CPCK’s Jennifer Miller had the pleasure of talking with parenting experts Cecilia and Jason Hilkey of the Happily Family Conference on a topic that is near and dear — food! If you did not have the chance to participate in this outstanding online conference, Happily Family has made our conversation available so you can check it out! In it, we discuss…

  • how food impacts our children’s development;
  • our ability as parents to influence our children’s relationship with food;
  • creating healthy habits around nutrition in family life;
  • dealing with power struggles related to food and other stressors at mealtime;
  • what we can do about picky eating; and
  • how we manage our own stress particularly if there are medical issues involved.

Jennifer mentions a tool to use with children to promote healthy food choices including snacking based on the USDA’s healthy portion food plate. Check out the printable My Favorite Foods.

Enjoy!

Interview with Jennifer Miller by Happily Family’s Cecilia and Jason Hilkey

 

Anger in Families: Understanding It and Teaching Children to Manage It

“That’s mine!” Sophie heard her daughter scream at her younger sibling from the next room. As Sophie turned her attention to the unfolding scene, she saw her upset child swipe a doll out of the hands of her sister and hit her across the shoulder. What should Sophie do next?

Young children, as they begin the negotiations of playing with others, particularly in preschool and kindergarten, get angry and frustrated but are unsure how to manage their feelings. It’s common for children to lash out or run away or melt down in a puddle of angry tears. In addition to not knowing how to handle their big feelings, the upset can be compounded by the fact that they do not yet have the emotional vocabulary at the ready to clearly articulate what they are experiencing. In considering how to teach young children how to manage anger, it helps to combat some myths or misperceptions about this sometimes feared, and often avoided emotion.

Anger Misconceptions

We tend to believe anger is…

  • bad or negative and avoid or shut down the experience of it. There’s good reason for it. We have all experienced someone(s) in our lives who has lost control and acted in ways that harm themselves or others when angry. However, we know that every emotion, including anger, serves a critical purpose. It provides information about who we are, what emotional or physical needs are not getting met, and where our boundaries lie.
  • expressing anger such as yelling will dissipate it. In fact, research confirms that the expression of aggression whether it’s yelling or hitting (and that includes for parents, spanking) exacerbates the anger.1 Our bodies produce a surge of energy through hormones when angry that gives us a jolt if we need to run from a tiger or fight an attacker. When we yell or hit, more of those hormones are produced so that instead of a single jolt, our bodies refill with more angry energy.
  • venting such as complaining, ranting or even mumbling gets out the upset thoughts and feelings. In fact, venting is to anger as rumination is to worry. We can churn through worrying thoughts in our minds repeatedly but those thoughts go nowhere and ultimately, are unproductive. So too venting, whether we are listing off our complaints to another or talking to ourselves, tends to reinforce our negative thinking. That’s because it does not offer an alternative view of the situation nor does it pose any solutions. Because venting doesn’t change thinking, the feeling persists.
  • avoiding or pretending you are not angry will make it go away. Because the emotion – like any other emotion – is emerging to send a vital message to its owner, it cannot be avoided or denied. When turned inward, that anger can become destructive in the body. Also, when anger is buried, it can be stuffed down for a time but may contribute to a larger explosion (that may not have occurred otherwise) because of the build-up of heated emotions over time.

Your young child is learning to respond to her emotions primarily by watching how you respond to your own emotions. Because modeling is her first teacher, there are a few steps you can take to deal with your own anger. By adopting these practices, you can feel confident that you are simultaneously teaching your children how to deal with their own upset.

How You Can Model…

Recognize your anger.
This self-awareness can come from a number of cues. First, notice – how does your body typically react when you are mad? Do your ears turn red and hot? Do your hands shake? Does your heart beat rapidly? Those physical symptoms – different in every person – can cue you to the need to calm down before choosing your next words or actions. Are you raising or lowering your voice volume? Notice the signs, discuss what signs your child notices and take the following steps.

Breath first.
Slowing down your breathing serves a critical biological function. It allows those hormones that have surged from your anger to recede. Your body is able to regain its composure. And your brain is able to think beyond fight, flight or freeze. Practice deep breathing audibly. If you’ve practiced yoga, try using ujjayi breathing (or “ocean breath”) in which you breathe deeply through your nose while constricting your throat slightly producing a sound like the waves of the sea. Not only will the sound help calm you, but it will also emphasize and call attention to your breath for your young child to observe.

Use strange calm.
Switch into slow motion. Use the burst of energy to become extremely slow and intentional about using your body. Drop down to the floor or in a chair. Close your eyes. Breath and go within to regain your calm. No matter what chaos is happening around you, you can be assured that you will accomplish nothing – except perhaps to make matters more contentious – by reacting in an angry moment. To learn more, check out the article.

Walk outside.
Yes, the fresh air does help you breath better and the natural surroundings are instantly calming. If you cannot get away, just walk into your yard and pace around your patch of grass. Look up in the trees. A few moments can help restore your grounding.

Distract.
Research has found that distraction really does work to calm rage. Books, television, or movies can help. That’s because they focus your mind on a differing perspective and remove the thoughts that are feeding the anger. But be careful not to rely on this as your only strategy since it can serve as an avoidance mechanism too. If you use distraction, then after you’ve calmed down, use the next step – writing – or talking with a confidante to reframe your thinking to understand what you can learn from your current challenge.

Write.
Writing down your angry thoughts (versus ruminating in your head about them) can offer you a chance to re-evaluate your situation. You can reframe it, look at it from another perspective or search for the silver lining. When you reflect in your writing on what you can learn from the situation, it has a calming effect.

Young children will require practice with new strategies for dealing with their angry emotions. So make a game out of the practice! Go through the steps as a family team. Or engage your child in learning it in order to teach the game to a stuffed friend. Either way, use the teaching of understanding and managing anger as subject for play. Then when she is upset, you only need remind her of her practice. The main points you want to emphasize in your teaching are:

  • Emotions are helpful signs from ourselves that we need to pay attention to our needs.
  • We know when we are feeling angry when we feel the signs in our body. Find out what your child’s signs tend to be.
  • Using feelings words helps us feel better and helps others understand us.

How You Can Guide and Teach…

  1. Move to privacy and safety.

So often, our children melt down in the least convenient places. Whether it’s at the grocery store or in the preschool parking lot, we are often in the midst of moving through our daily routine in public and not at home. That’s why this first step is important. Young children are becoming increasingly aware of peers and the perceptions of people around them. Though they may lose emotional control, their upset may grow more intense as they feel embarrassed they are “losing it” around friends, teachers or strangers. So practice joining hands and moving to a safe, private space closest to where you are. You never want to have to drag a child or force them to move. For that reason, this practice is essential. You could position yourself in various places during your game and say, “Where can we go to be safe and alone?” When you are at the store or at a restaurant (any usual place your family frequents), try it out when all are calm and make it a part of the game.

2. Breathe.

There are numerous ways you can teach your child to deeply breathe. You could begin by simply placing your hand on your own heart feeling it beat and encouraging your child to do the same. Now run in place a few minutes and feel again as it beats more quickly. Explain that you’ll have a faster heartbeat when you’re upset. But as you practice any one of these breathing games, your heartbeat will slow down again. Here are a few methods.

  • Hot Chocolate breathing

Pretend to hold your hot cup of cocoa in both hands in front of you. Breathe in deeply the aroma of the chocolate. And then blow out to cool it in preparation for drinking. Do this to the count of five to give your child practice. Then, look for chances to practice it regularly.

  • Teddy Bear Belly breathing

Blissful Kids wrote this wonderful article on teaching deep belly breathing by balancing a teddy bear on a child’s tummy and giving it a ride with the rising and falling of her breath. Great idea! This would be ideal to practice during your bedtime routine when you are lying down and wanting to calm down for the evening.

  • Blowing Out Birthday Candles breathing

You can pretend you are blowing out candles on a birthday cake. Just the image in your head of a birthday cake brings about happy thoughts. And in order to blow out a number of small flames, you have to take in deep breaths. This is one you can try anywhere, anytime.

  • Ocean breathing

Practice making the noise of the sea waves while breathing deeply from your diaphragm. Close your eyes with your child and imagine that your anger is a fiery flame waiting on a sandy shore. And as you breathe life into the ocean waves, they grow closer and closer to the flame to extinguish it. Check out my poster for a home or classroom on ocean wave breathing!

  • Play Turtle

In the research-based social and emotional learning curriculum for schools, the PATHS (Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies) curriculum encourages children to pretend they are a turtle. When they are upset, they can sink back into their shells (they can place their arms over their head) and breath inside the shelter of their own arms to regain calm before re-entering their environment. This could inspire wonderful play with young children and stir their vivid imagination of what it might look like and feel like when they are calming down.

I’ve also created a poster to help adults remember to take deep breaths each morning before starting their day.

3. Distract, Reflect and/or Reframe.
There may be times when distraction works better than other times. Guiding a child to sit with an engaging picture book, an activity book or a puzzle can be a way to distract from the upset of the moment. Drawing or writing can also serve as calming activities. But if your child has shown big feelings – anger, frustration, sadness, anxiety – be sure that you return to discuss it. Ask what she’s feeling and name it. “It seemed like you were frustrated. Is that right?” That will offer her the chance to identify and articulate her feelings. Find out why she was feeling upset. Offer some alternative perspectives and help her reframe her own thoughts to see a bigger picture if possible.

This is the time to brainstorm other ways to handle a problem situation. Could she and her sister set a timer and take turns playing with the doll, for example? Challenge yourself to find and offer a compassionate perspective whether that means guiding your child to think empathetically about other children in the situation or to seek self-compassion for her situation. When you are practicing this particular step, have your child use a stuffed friend to reflect on the situation. Ask her to tell her bear what happened, what she was feeling, what she was thinking and how she might help her bear feel better.

Anger can challenge any of us to act with the emotional intelligence we ideally want to possess. The trick is becoming aware, stopping the escalation and calming down before we have fully lost our sensibilities. The hope and opportunity (and also, the challenge) is that our young children are watching and learning. If we avoid the chance to get angry and deal with it, then we lose the chance to show our children what it looks like to regulate our emotions. If we practice, plan and remind ourselves about the ways in which we’ll act and how we’ll calm down, we’ll be prepared to model an essential life skill and know we can face our greatest parenting challenges with a plan at the ready.

 

*Thank you, collaborator, R. Keeth Matheny, co-author of School Connect, a research-based high school social and emotional learning curriculum, for raising this issue.

Resource:

Lerner, H. (2014). The dance of anger; A woman’s guide to changing the patterns of intimate relationships. NY: Harper and Row.

Reference:

Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional intelligence; Why it can matter more than IQ. NY: Bantam Books.

Originally published March 17, 2017.

On NTD News…”Parent-Teacher Bond to Teach Social, Emotional Learning”

Recently, the following news story aired on NTD News emphasizing that 1.) schools are increasingly focusing on children’s social and emotional development, and 2.) children will benefit from social and emotional learning in a broader and deeper way if parents, children’s first social and emotional teachers, are meaningful partners in the education process. Thank you, Journalist Melina Wisecup! Check it out…

Parent-Teacher Bond to Teach Social, Emotional Learning

The Reviews Are In!

Here’s what readers are saying about the new book, “Confident Parents, Confident Kids: Raising Emotional Intelligence In Ourselves and Our Kids — From Toddlers to Teenagers.” Thank you to the readers who submitted an Amazon review. The reviews offer alternative perspectives from a diverse range of parents (mostly unknown to the author) that helps others discover the book. Read below and if you haven’t gotten the book yet, it may just be that time! Also, if you are an educator who is working on social and emotional learning in your school, consider proposing the book as a study for your school family community. Learn more here! Check out what people are saying…

Insightful and Actionable Read for Fathers:

I’m a father of two. A eight year old son and six year old daughter. Too often I find myself losing patience with my little ones and knew there had to be a better way than what I was doing. Well that brought me to this book. I loved this. I’m not one for parenting books but this one was fact based, and actionable. I took pages of notes, and am already applying this to our little household. This is a wonderful book.

– Almost Mike

Practical:

I have worked with teenagers my whole adult life and thought I had a pretty good handle on kids until I had my own. I quickly discovered that the emotions of the little ones are out of my expertise. This has been really good at making me slow down and look at my parenting approach. I was able to use some of the advice already with my emotional six-year-old and I believe it helped both of us calm down and understand the situation better. Some of the advice may seem obvious, but it’s stuff you don’t really think of until you actually apply it in the moment. While reading this I had a lot of “OH!” moments that I couldn’t wait to share with my husband. I’ve had a few occasions where just taking a moment to breath and assess my son’s feelings helped diffuse the situation. I’d say that if you have a child who is overly emotional this book will help you understand him/her better. I was never an emotional child and I just didn’t understand how I was “blessed” with such a tender hearted one. I’m grateful to have stumbled upon this book.

– Frankie and Chet

Informative and Helpful:

After our second child was born, I noticed my daughter was struggling with her feelings and behavior. Our son was born with a CHD and needed open heart surgery at a week old, and because of that we were in the hospital for a month and have had some issues with his progression since then. Which meant adjusting to having a sibling has been a bit more difficult than it would be if we had no issues with our second child.

This book has given me a better understanding on how to get my daughter to express her feelings and filter them appropriately. It has also given me the ability to know how to help my daughter be more confident with herself and her emotions. I believe it has changed the way she acts out and expresses her emotions. I have seen an improvement in her behavior and how she handles herself. Instead of just crying or throwing a fit, we are able to talk through what she is feeling and thinking. Granted, because she is only 6, there’s still some tantrums here and there but far less intense and often as they were before. I finally feel like I have a better grip on “handling” my daughter, if that makes sense. I also believe she now knows that I am here for her, and I do want to hear what she has to say and what she is experiencing. I will be able to carry these “tools and tips” onto my son as he gets older!

– V. Anderson

New Parent Enjoyed Reading this Book!

Kids should come with a manual. They don’t however. So I spend a lot of time reading on different milestones and behaviors to see if my son fits societal’s “norm”. When I saw the title I knew I wanted to read this. I wouldn’t say I’m a confident parent because I literally have been winging this every day since he was born… so I thought wow maybe I need more confidence to raise confidence.

I appreciate the different concepts being put in a cartoon form for understanding purposes. I can see how other people feel it may be too simplistic, but it makes it easy to digest the information you’re getting. There was a few concepts in the book that I immediately wanted to share with my husband, because often we don’t realize the emotional tone we’re bringing in a situation yet don’t understand why our children are acting up.

Both my husband and I work in high stress jobs and have realized we can’t bring home any of that stress home… easier said than done… but it’s an important concept for is to work on and one we often didn’t realize were doing.

I appreciated the book and I appreciate learning from different sources. Print quality was great and I definitely will use this book as a reference for awhile.

– Amanda Nichole

Worth reading to help your children develop emotional maturity:

I came from a home where academic success was valued. I was successful and I emphasized this with my children. It is easy to ask for and get measurable things from our kids, so we tend to focus on those, but this book talks about developing emotional intelligence–something that may drop to the bottom of our lists because we don’t know how to do it. To develop emotional intelligence, we can focus on our own emotional maturity and develop our child’s at the same time.

Author Jennifer S. Miller uses an abundance of illustrations, many of them musical in nature, and her middle section is divided by age: infants to 3-year-olds, 4- to 7-year-olds, 8- to 12-year-olds, and 13- to 17-year-olds. I am impressed with a lot of her input. Her section on helping babies sleep was pretty common knowledge, but other sections give lots of practical suggestions regarding how to create a helpful environment and interact mindfully and maturely to help children develop emotional resilience.

If you are serious about parenting, you probably read lots of books. This is one that is worth adding to your list to help you develop good, but unmeasurable emotional maturity in your children.

– E. Burton

If you’re new to the idea of “emotional intelligence,” this is a great primer.

I’m a neuroscience/psychology geek, so a lot of the ideas in this book were familiar to me. But I like the way they were presented (very readable and accessible) and I like the way the book gave specific examples and approaches to implement them. The book is broken down further into age groups, which is helpful. I do wish the author would have broken down the 13-17 age group even further, because middle schoolers and, say, a junior in high school are VERY different- a lot of change and personal evolution takes place during those years, and it would have been helpful to have a set of parameters for a middle schooler and then another set for an older teenager as they prepare to go to college (or whatever their next step is).

Regardless, this was a good book, and I think for those who are looking to understand and empower their kids (and learn a bit about the emotions of a parent, as well), it’s a great read.

– C.M. and T.M.

What I like most about this book is that the title delivers on its promise:

What I like most about this book is that the title delivers on its promise. I am a much more confident parent of a tween after having read this book. It seems as if one evening I was the mother of an easily satisfied young boy and the next morning I was the mother of a more complicated tween, testing the boundaries on everything, reforming beliefs and opinions and renegotiating relationships with himself and others. He’s a wonderful boy that I want to grow up into a confident and socially intelligent young man. I want to help him navigate his emotions and the complex social world in any way I can. I’ve implemented many of the suggestions in this book. I am grateful to Jennifer Miller for writing it.

– Kindle Customer

Great informational read:

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

– mom2howmany

Insightful:

As a parent, grandparent, and teacher, I found this book to be deeply inspiring and insightful. Inspiring because it talks to parents about looking at their child directly in a way many have difficulty with. We have always struggled to see our children separate from ourselves. But this is a learned skill and one that is so important. My youngest would say I haven’t learned it.

I found a lot of things to think about while working with and living with teenagers. They are so complicated and yet they see everything. Learning to speak with their own voices is a powerful lesson. It is one we all learn.

– Trouble

Must read for parents:

This book is a must read for parents – new, old, male, female. Teaching parents to be confident in their craft, to raise confident children and to completely transform their way of thinking is really an amazing thing. If I could, I would recommend this book to most parents that I know. I thnk that the tools in this book are under utilized by many!

– Paigii

Practical with great implementable advice:

As an educator who is researching Social-Emotional Learning and a parent of a 4 and 6 year old, this book is perfect. The book explains very well our natural tendencies based on our own experiences but also gives practical advice on how to support without enabling your child. Great read for educators and parents alike.

– Adam Shields

On National PTA’s “Our Children” Blog… “Ask An Expert: How to Handle Your Kid’s Bad Habits”

The National PTA’s Podcast Series “Notes from the Backpack” hosted CPCK’s Jennifer Miller to discuss how to raise confident kids. In our dialogue, we discussed real life challenges of parents who were dealing with bad habits their children had started to demonstrate. One parent was upset that her child was calling other children names. Another parent was hearing from the teacher that her child struggled with self-control in class and kept interrupting the teacher and would not wait his turn. And yet another parent was concerned that her daughter was complaining frequently and not showing appreciation for the goodness in her life. I’ve included the podcast episode here and the article begins…

When our child display unhealthy habits, we often fret about how to redirect their actions, so they learn how to be a productive citizen and thrive in the world. But how do you address these bad habits and teach your child to independently choose better actions?

In a recent episode of Notes from the Backpack: A PTA Podcast, we spoke to Jennifer Miller, expert and author of Confident Parents, Confident Kids, to get her advice on how families can address everyday struggles—and help the whole family build social and emotional skills in the process.

Q: My 10-year-old son has started calling people stupid, including strangers. We don’t use that language at home, so we think he’s picking it up from school. What should we do?

Read the full article on the Our Children National PTA Blog.

A Valentine to Mothers: Our Love and the Journey Home to Our Whole Selves

“I cannot think of one minute except maybe my shower in the morning,” responded one Mom when asked how much time she spent on herself each day and not working or caring for her children or husband. The expectations of a Mom’s role are frequently all-consuming and never enough. And those expectations likely come from our family, our wider culture, and also the inner voice of “not enough” that enslaves us. The tasks of keeping up a household, caring for children, and being responsive to a spouse can seem endless and often times, unrecognized or appreciated. After all, it’s the most challenging unpaid job in the world.

Yet we, as Mothers, commit our whole selves to our family because we know that our core of intimate others create a sense of well-being and health for each other that is unparalleled with any other relationships in our lives. Being a mother can offer us a sense of meaning and purpose like no other. But just as we can feel overloaded by too much coffee or too much media, we can create purpose-burn out with too much mothering.

So how do we address the Mom burn? If we feel worn from our role too often, then we know that we are going to react with less patience with each oncoming challenge. If we attempt to manage the burn out through repression (a.k.a. “I don’t have time to feel this!”) then we know that an explosion of anger or frustration is not far off. 

“I’m still hungry! Can I get some home-made peanut butter crackers!” This interruption was brought to you by my twelve-year-old son for a slice of reality in the midst of my writing. “Water! I need water too!” Now back to finding our whole selves!

The original title of this article was the journey back to her whole self but we know we cannot go back. Forward is the only way through. There is no past self of our twenties or thirties, some fresh-of-hair, fresh-of-face, fresh-of-attitude girl we can bring into the now. And if we face the truth, we wouldn’t want to. There’s so much she didn’t know or understand about what it means to be human. We may be sadder but we certainly are wiser.

Carol Gilligan, a change-making thinker and developmental psychologist who developed a theory of moral development that included the feminine perspective called the Ethic of Care, suggested that it’s more difficult for women than men to affirm their individuation needs because of the enormous expectations of family relationships. But women who chose the path of self-sacrifice suffer themselves and cause harm to their children and partner because that sacrifice is life-sucking and not sustainable or nourishing. Children need parents who have a sense of agency, who feel confident in understanding, developing, and refining who they are and why they are here on this planet. 

Women feel like we are not enough. We don’t have enough credentials or experience in our jobs because we take time off to care for our children. We cannot possibly do parenting well enough because there seems to be evidence in every book, article, and disapproving look from neighbors and relatives that prove we are screwing it all up. So where’s the grace for us? And where’s the space – yes, physical space but also, the mental space to discover now who we are? Because we aren’t who we were when we gave birth to our first child. We are very different. But how many of us have had time to truly reflect and explore the vital question: “Who am I now?”

In answer to the question: how do we escape Mom burn out, we must answer the question “who are we now? What do we most care about? What breaks our hearts? What might we die for? And how can we live those ideals and values each day while nourishing our essential-to-the-whole-operation-of-family hearts? This is the beginning of finding a home in our whole selves. But that discovery will require supports and intentionality from not just ourselves but our family members too. This is a work-in-progress for me so as usual, I’m taking you along for the ride. We can support one another through dialogue. Here are some ideas and I hope you’ll share yours too!

Accept that it’s normal but don’t rest there. This is a challenge most mothers face. Yet we beat ourselves up for our big feelings including our anxiety, depression and exhaustion. But what good does that do? We may also end up taking it out on those we love the most. Again, what good does that do? Realizing this was a part of our core Mom training through our own upbringing and our cultural models is key to changing the pattern. We are part of a big Mom club and we alone are responsible for changing the rules. Once we wake up to the fact that we are sacrificing our very selves to the detriment of all then we must change. Self-care is necessary. Feeling a sense of our own power and agency is critical.

Keep daily mindfulness sacred. Yes, mindfulness is the buzz word of the day but what does it practically mean for us as mothers? It’s as simple and as difficult as carving out ten minutes (really you don’t need more but if you can carve out more, great!) to simply breathe. Turn off your phone. Leave your littles safe in a crib during nap time or plan for that time just after dropping off kids at school. If you catch yourself lining up your to-do list, gently and kindly move back to focusing on breathing. Realize that this meditation is a gift to your own effectiveness and to your children and partner. Then, how can you bring yourself into the present moment during the day? These tiny gifts of being here now will begin to heal our broken hearts.

Say no when it’s too much. This is much easier written than done. However, if we make a point of noting how many “yes-es” we utter, surely we are permitted more “no-s.” We are not talking about reinforcing the rules for your child but reinforcing the critical boundaries for your own sense of self-respect. When a child or a partner asks us for something that will require our time and hard work and our chest gets tight, our teeth clench, stop. Pause and ask, “is this something they can do for themselves?” If so, delegate! If not, recognize this will contribute to your burn out (as evidenced by your big feelings). Is it worth an explosion later? If not, say “no.”

Live in the now. This is so much harder than it sounds if you’ve tried. Moms are the social planners, the logistics coordinators, the future problem-fixers. How can we live in the now if we have to attend to the many details required of family members? I believe the answer is discipline – our own. We have to leave our phones behind at times. We have to be present to homework (even though we’d rather be just about anywhere else). Creating those in-the-now moments means that we are authentically experiencing the life that we claim we value so much and gives us purpose and meaning. After we have acted with discipline focusing on the now, we receive the nourishment of fully feeling the moment.

Accept feelings. We fight and we fight and we fight any feeling that is going to take our time, that is going to require new actions or changes. We fight. And that’s a whole lotta energy that we could be using on more creative endeavors. But what if we said, “okay, I’m feeling fearful? I don’t like it. I want to change it. But okay. Here I am.” Breathe through that one and see if it doesn’t lead you to the next moment a little calmer.

Withdraw to reflect. With the laundry piling up around you, it is impossible to reflect on the bigger questions in your life. Impossible. So if we are going to reflect on the big question of who we are now, we must get out of our home. Getting into nature helps create more space in our brain, room for the big ideas. And separation from the people and responsibilities of our household is a must. It doesn’t have to be more than once a year, but how can we retreat away from our daily lives to a place that feels nourishing and quiet? How can we create the space to do this necessary reflection?

Read wisdom. How can we possibly become wiser if we don’t read more from those who have struggled and persisted? How can you seek and find greater wisdom from those sources who challenge and inspire you? It’s critical that we discover our own sources of truth and offer ourselves regular, steady doses like vitamins of the soul.

Find and act on creative impulses. Whether you have squelched every creative impulse in you in service of family or you still feel that life blood running through your veins, it’s there. You just have to allow it to flow out of you into whatever the art form or creative endeavor might be that gives you a sense of timelessness and joy. “What will others think? Will they think my product is worthy?” Yes, you are already playing the deadening soundtrack in your head that stops creativity at its source. Don’t do it. Follow, flow, feel nourished without need to show or share with anyone. Know that it will feed your soul and in turn, your children’s and your partner’s.

I realize this is only the start to coming home to our whole selves of the now. But this is a start. And really, that’s a step forward. This is my love letter to you, Mom Readers. Wishing you the nourishment that your biggest-of-hearts deserves and requires to fulfill your role as a confident parent. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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