One Important Characteristic Teens Will Need As They Navigate A “New Normal” This School Year

Teens will need the skill of self-regulation. According to Murray and Rosanbalm (2017), self-regulation is the act of managing thoughts and feelings. Your teen will have to be able to successfully navigate uncertainty and ambiguity in the age of ‘coronavirus.’ When their thoughts elicit strong emotions, like those that could be caused by online learning, hybrid learning or going back to in person school, your child will need the internal capacity to persevere, problem-solve, and manage their frustration and distress. Contrary to what you may have heard or believe about the “independence” of teenagers, your teen does need you to help them develop self-regulation skills. So how can parents help? Here are 3 ways to help your teen learn how to develop self-regulation skills:

  1. Parents, the most important thing you can do is to model self-regulation. Show your teen how you handle your thoughts and feelings (especially the negative ones). Coach your child and provide opportunities for your teen to practice self-regulation skills.
  2. Be warm and responsive to your teens needs, especially during this new normal. Make your child feel safe to come to you with struggles or challenges they may be having. Provide mentors, tutors or coaches to support their learning and growth.
  3. Structure the environment in your home to make self-regulation easier. Make sure your teen has an appropriate space to work in. Help them eliminate distractions and create a peaceful working environment.

Parents, you can help your teen self-regulate through this 3-step co-regulation process: model the behavior, respond in a warm and approachable way and structure your teen’s learning environment. And do not forget that your teen will need you now more than ever as they navigate this new normal school year.

Reference: Murray, D.W. & Rosanbalm, K. (2017). Promoting self-regulation in adolescents and young adults: A practice brief. OPRE Report #2015-82. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

5 Actions To Help You Grow During Challenging Times

It may seem counterintuitive to think that growth is possible during challenging times. But actually, it is possible. I heard recently that the Japanese call crisis a “dangerous opportunity.” Just imagine, whatever you are going through right now could be an opportunity for you to grow. I’d like to help you grow. Here are 5 actions you can begin to integrate into your life in order to grow during challenging times.

  1. INVEST in others, yourself and especially your BIG DREAMS. Now is not the time to shrink back from big dreams you were formulating for this year. The best way to see those dreams come to fruition is to invest in them, by investing in yourself and others (who support your dreams). Make sure you’re leveling up your skills. Have the dream conversations with yourself. Enlist the support of your dream team to ensure that your dreams come true!
  2. REPLACE negative thoughts that do not support who you are becoming or the direction you’re heading in. Our vision is who we are becoming, while our mission is the active steps we are taking to get there. We must have all of our thought align with the vision we have for ourselves. Our thoughts must also support the direction we are heading in. You will never rise above the internal thought structure (or image) that you have for yourself. You can’t achieve ‘10’ dreams with a ‘5’ self-image! Do all that is in your power to shift your thinking by replacing negative thoughts with ones that move you forward.xan-griffin-eA2t5EvcxU4-unsplash
  3. KEEP TRYING—trying counts toward your success. Sometimes we discount effort. Not all plans work out, but we can give ourselves credit for trying. Trying leads to practice and practice leads to having (if you keep trying!). So the next time you try (and fail) count that a small win and keep trying!
  4. SEARCH FOR SILVER LININGS! My friend Dacher Keltner is the founder of the Greater Good Science Center. He recently interviewed me on his podcast: The Science of Happiness. When you’re going through tough times (like this pandemic) it’s critical to find the good. But you have to be intentional about looking for it! This exercise, Finding Silver Linings, created by Dacher’s team at UC Berkeley is an excellent practice to start today so that you can intentionally look for the good in your life.
  5. EXIST for a reason. Be driven by your PURPOSE. We learned about the phrase ‘purpose-driven’ through Rick Warren’s best-selling book. But what does it mean to be driven by your purpose? Well think about your car. Whomever is behind the steering wheel with their foot on the gas pedal is the one who will decide (among other things) where you go, the speed you travel and the route you take. In our lives, it’s best if we put our purpose behind the steering wheel and let it drive us forward. People driven by their purpose definitely end up where they want to be (and they are happy to get there)!

 

 

How Parents Can Help Their Kids Develop Emotional Intelligence

We all want to raise or children to be strong! That’s the whole purpose of my new book #StrongKids. One of the ways our children can be their best is by developing emotional intelligence. That’s the ability to be aware of, control and express one’s emotions and to handle interpersonal relationships empathetically. Here are 4 key ways to help foster emotional intelligence in your children.

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  1. Self-Awareness. As a parent you can teach your child to accurately recognize their thoughts and emotions, and the impact these things have on a child’s behavior. By setting aside the time to bond with your child while reading #StrongKids, you can help your child accurately assess their thoughts and feelings. This practice helps increase a child’s self-awareness.
  2. Self-management. Once children recognize their thoughts and feelings, then they are better prepared to regulate what they feel. #StrongKids highlights common emotions, and encourages children to use their “strength” to control their thoughts and feelings. As a parent, you can use the book to teach your children how to manage their stress and anxiety. You can also use #StrongKids to help them control their behavior. These skills are essential for children’s ability to self-regulate.
  3. Social awareness. As your children learn how they think and feel, they can start down the pathway of learning how others feel. Social awareness is the ability to empathize, and take the perspective of others into consideration. #StrongKids helps put into practice, prosocial skills and behaviors that will aid children in becoming more socially aware.
  4. Relationship management. By using #StrongKids to give children practice in expressing their thoughts and feelings in a productive way, you can help your children develop relationship skills.  Communication is a key element in every successful relationship. As children gain the ability to communicate their thoughts and feelings daily, they develop the ability to communicate their thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

Children who have poor emotional intelligence are at risk of not being successful in life. #StrongKids is a book for children 3- 7 years-old that will help them experience, express, and manage their thoughts and feelings in order to thrive in life! Visit http://www.strongkids.me for more information.

An Interview About My New Book, #StrongKids

Recently, I did an interview about the new book that my daughter, Naomi and I wrote for kids. While I am a new children’s book author, I’m not new to children! As a mom of four, I know the struggles I had raising emotionally healthy kids. It’s not easy helping them to navigate their thoughts and feelings, while you’re trying to make sure they do important things like eat and stay out of harm’s way! #StrongKids is for today’s parents. My hope is that it helps moms and dads raise children who are emotionally intelligent. Here’s the interview. Enjoy!

Question: Why is a book like #StrongKids relevant in today’s day and age?

Jennifer Keitt: #StrongKids is a fun, interactive tool that parents can use to empower their children. In the scary times we are living in, children need a way to cope and handle their emotions. #StrongKids gives them the power to have control over what they think and feel. Children as young as three are already constructing essential thoughts and feelings; #StrongKids gives them additional help. Books that help children learn what to do are vital in these challenging times.

 

NK & JK picQ: Why did you and your daughter, Naomi, write #StrongKids?

Keitt: Naomi and I teamed up together to write this book to give kids and parents a way to connect around a vital subject: how we feel! We’re both journalists and write every day for a living, so collaborating on #StrongKids was a dream come true for me. The focus of my work for Naomi’s entire life has been giving evidence-based information to people to help make their lives better. With #StrongKids, Naomi and I are communicating a message of hope and inspiration for children and parents.

 

Q: Why is it important for kids as young as three to learn this information?

Keitt: Children are proactive and are always trying to make sense of the world around them. As young children are constructing important thoughts and feelings about themselves, their parents, friends, and life in general, it’s critical to help them in this process. #StrongKids gives parents an easy, quick, and fun way to work with their children in determining what they’re thinking and feeling every day. Emotions play a vital role in so many areas, so it only makes sense to give kids the chance to learn how to use their thoughts and feelings productively.

 

Q: How can #StrongKids help parents cope with their children’s normal behavior problems? What’s the thought-emotion-mood connection highlighted in #StrongKids? Why does it matter?

Keitt: #StrongKids is based on a simple premise: kids act based on how they are thinking, what they are feeling, and the mood they’re in. For toddlers and young children, common behavioral problems arise when they don’t have the skills to assess what they’re thinking, how they’re feeling, and the impact their thoughts and feelings are having on how they’re behaving. With #StrongKids, parents can now help their children make the thought-feeling-behaving connection. Children need help framing the thoughts and feelings that make them act out, and #StrongKids is the tool that parents can use to help children “turn around” the thoughts and feelings that are driving unwanted behaviors. It takes practice, but if parents can help their children tune into their thoughts and feelings, they will have a better chance of curbing unwanted behavior by supporting their child’s positive thoughts, feelings, and actions.

 

Q: You say that #StrongKids helps kids take back their power. How?IMG_8800

Keitt: Think about those times when you feel most powerful. I bet those times are marked by being in control of your thoughts and feelings. It’s the same for our kids. Children are in the process of becoming adults. They think and feel just like adults do, except they don’t have all of the social and emotional skills to help them be their best. #StrongKids helps children understand just how powerful they are, and it gives them the chance to tap into and claim their power! I’ve seen pictures of kids holding the #StrongKids book in their hands with huge smiles on their faces. The book speaks directly to them and tells them how strong they are and how to use their feelings to stay strong in their lives.

 

Q: What are the major challenges that families are having today? How does #StrongKids help?

Keitt: Just like the thermostats control the temperature in our houses, the feelings of the people who live with us control the “emotional temperature” in our environments. Today’s families are challenged with keeping the emotional temperature in their homes comfortable. #StrongKids gives parents and children the ability to speak the same language and understand themselves better. To help with setting the right emotional temperature, we’ve also created an interactive reading guide so parents can engage their children and hopefully keep a stable emotional temperature in their homes.

 

Q: Tell us more about the work you are doing to promote social-emotional competencies through your empowerment non-profit: The Keitt Institute?

Keitt: The Keitt Institute is co-founded by my oldest daughter, Morgan, and myself. I really love working with my kids! At K.I., we are striving to be a leading teaching, research, and empowerment organization. We specialize in creating social-emotional leadership development experiences for professionals, women, teens, college students, and young adults. We use the CASEL model of social-emotional learning to help our constituents develop self-management, self-awareness, and social relationships to help people become transformed in their thinking, pursuing their unique purpose, and unlocking their full potential.

 

Q: As a mom of four, how did you raise emotionally stable children?

KEITTFamKeitt: I did not have the understanding I have now about human behavior when I raised my four kids. Honestly, much of what I did was through trial and error…a lot of error! That’s why I’m so passionate about helping today’s parents. I didn’t understand my children the way I do now. With that said, I knew I wanted to raise productive, active, stable kids. Growing up, my parents did the best they could, but I struggled a lot. When my husband, Tony, and I started having children, we agreed that we wouldn’t put our old baggage on them. I took off the limitations and supported my kids in soaring. I helped them focus on their strengths, and to know themselves in order to control themselves. We taught them how to have a work ethic and why education is vital for success. I prayed a lot! And as I learned new strategies for human development, I shared it with them. All four are now amazing people. I want today’s moms and dads to have tools and resources to help them raise strong, successful kids too!

When Sibling Disputes Turn Physical Here’s One Powerful Way To Stop It

Prosocial behavior is the way our children help, share, and cooperate with those around them. As parents, we need to foster this skill as early as possible. For siblings who tend to pick fights with each other, whether it be hitting or touching or yelling, instead of “losing it,” try the strategy I’ve dubbed “silent treatment.”

I raised four children who are only 7 years apart from the youngest to oldest. I had plenty, “Mom tell them to stop,” moments (More than I care to admit). I learned early on that my kids’ behavior was directly tied to what they were thinking and feeling. Those thoughts turned into unwanted action, hitting, screaming, yelling, when they were mad, frustrated, or annoyed. I helped them stop their unwanted behavior by putting everyone on “silent treatment” in the heat of the moment.

When I said, everyone’s on “silent treatment,” they knew that meant they had to stop talking immediately. The house would shift from level 1000 to 0 in an instant! After 3 to 5 minutes (which is an eternity in kid time), I asked “the instigator” what they were thinking and feeling. Then, I guided that child into apologizing to their sibling. “Silent treatment” wasn’t finished until an apology had been given (sincerely), and received (genuinely). This process helps your children develop self-management skills that are key in ending sibling fights.

Inside Blog ImagesWhen a child self-manages, they are able to regulate their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively in different situations they may encounter. “Silent treatment” gave my kids the strategy they needed in order to self-regulate, calm down, and process what they were thinking and feeling. In other words, it gave them an anchor to use in order to change their behavior.

So the next time your kids start fighting, put them on “silent treatment,” and give them a moment to get their thoughts and feelings under control. That way, you can bring sibling love back into your home! Visit http://www.strongkids.me for more parenting resources.  

Color Your World!

I’ve got a confession to make. I love to color. Coloring relaxes my heart and mind! Whenever I feel stressed or have a moment waiting for an appointment, I color. (Don’t laugh)!

In my coloring book, lions are green, clouds are pink and butterflies soar in multiple hues. The BEST part is that in my coloring book, I don’t have to color inside the lines! I don’t have to conform to what is and what is supposed to be. Every crayon, every colored pencil is used to bring to life the characters and scenes on each page. My rules are the only rules! My perspective is the only one that maters. Grizzly bears can be cute and girlie. Trees can be purple. And everyone is smiling because everyone in my coloring book is loved by me.

Our lives could be and should be like the pages of a coloring book. Outlines of possibilities. Sketched characters waiting for our crayon to bring them to life with explosions of color and life.

Today I dare you to color your world. Take the colored pencils or crayons of your mind and go for it. Dare to dream again! Step out into new possibilities! Look at what could be instead of what is! Replace the blue of depression or sadness with the vibrant glow of orange! Turn bad into glad and can’t into can!

Color your world (and DON’T stay in the lines)!

3 Ways to Change the Mood in Your Home

When my kids were young they spent summers “playing school.” With Naomi as the “teacher” the foursome spent time in the basement “learning.” Here’s Naomi’s version of what took place: “I kindly suggested (read forced) my siblings to play school with me. When I think back, it’s strange why four children, with everything in the world to do, would want to pretend to be back in the classroom for the precious summer months, but we did it with reckless abandon. We would learn from each other, and teach each other the basics like math and science and history. But most importantly, I think, I learned how my siblings thought and processed information and reacted to the pressure of my “strict” (read bossy) teaching style. Play school would generally end up with a loud argument followed by mom or dad being called from the top of the basement stairs. But it did give me some invaluable insight into my closest family members.”  

When I think about what’s going on across the country and the world with the coronavirus pandemic, it may seem like you are “playing school.” School buildings across the country are closed. Educators are moving to the Internet and social media to teach your kids. And as parents, you’re on the front lines of the whole process, trying to navigate the new way your kids are learning while potentially teaching a lot of their lessons to yourself to know what’s going on.  We’re in a peculiar time, where it’s never been more important for your children especially to be able to process what’s going on around them in a structured way.

strongkids1Right now, I’ve seen children more curious than ever before. The kids in my neighborhood are taking the lead on walking around, exercising and finding activities to do with their families. But they still crave structure. I was talking with a mom friend who told me her kids still wanted a school-like routine, a schedule laid out with planned activities every single day. #StrongKids can help you navigate these challenging times. It’s the perfect 30- minute activity add on to any coronavirus school schedule.

What we’re going through right now, may be different and a little scary, but I think it’s vital that your kids know exactly what’s going on inside of them. Being able to understand and vocalize their emotions, recognize the thoughts behind what makes them happy or sad or bored or stressed.  It’s time for them to “play school” with #StrongKids. They can sit down with the book or with the book and their siblings and learn where their strength comes from (spoiler: it’s in their thoughts), and how their feelings “stick” to their thoughts to control their moods for the day. Here are three ways to help your kids process all that’s going on inside of them using #StrongKids as a guide:

CREATE THOUGHT-FEELING EMOJI GAME

Print and cut out “emoji’s” representing different emotions. Then have your children write on the back of each emoji cut out what thought makes them feel that way (e.g. cut out a happy face emoji and have your child write on the back (or you do it for them) what thought makes them feel happy, etc.). Cut out a variety of emojis (including sad or afraid faces) and have your child “process” what thoughts make them feel those emotions by writing out what makes them feel that particular emotion. This is a great way to help them “think about what they’re thinking about” throughout this challenging time.

PLAY THE “UP AND DOWN” EXERCISE GAME

To help your children understand that thoughts and feelings take us “up or down” have your kids sit on the floor. Then have the leader grab the emoji cut outs that you’ve made and show an emotion. If the emotion is positive (e.g.: happy, excited, love) have everyone jump up. If the emotion is negative (e.g.: sad, afraid, angry), have everyone sit down (or fall down to the ground). Continue playing until everyone is exhausted! You can add the element of thinking by having everyone shout out what thoughts are making them feel positive or negative. Be sure to end this game on a positive note.

DEVELOP A DAILY EMOTION CHECK-IN ROUTINE

Use #StrongKids as a way to do daily “emotion check-ins” with your children. At the back of the book there are four faces representing emotions that children experience every day. After reading the book (at bedtime preferably), ask your children what thoughts they’ve had during that day that made them feel the emotions in the back of the book. This is a perfect time to sort, process, examine and validate your kids’ feelings. Remember to leave this time on a positive, loving note to help them sleep peacefully through the night.

At the end of the day, it’s all about recognizing and understanding emotions and finding peace, which is more important now than ever in the midst of this global pandemic. Visit www.strongkids.me for more information and resources.

 

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