Dear Amazing Principals and Peacemaker Liaisons,
You are AMAZING!!!!
Dear Wonderful Peacemakers,
• Normally at this time of year, you would be having your End-of-Year Peacemaker Party with your Principal and Peacemaker Liaisons. Since that is not possible this time, we Peacemaker Trainers have a little something for you, by video instead. Whether you had Dara, Arek or Jill as your Peacemaker Trainer this year, all three of our vidoes are for ALL of you, below…and your entire family, too! 🙂
Arek shares stories and useful home practices for CHECKING IN WITH FAMILY, to help everyone get along wonderfully well.
Jill and some adorable friends share the benefits of DROPPING YOUR STORY, to help people (and puppets!) get back to peace and fun at home.
Before you watch the next video, grab some paper and things to draw and color with! Dara shows how to make your very own PEACEMAKER CELEBRATION CERTIFICATE, plus how to set up a Peacemaking Station or Peace Corner for the whole family to use and enjoy.
Whatever grade you are in, whatever peacemaking you have done, and whatever peace you continue to bring into the world, we are so proud of each and every one of you. You have worked so hard, with so much courage, dedication and love. You make this world a more beautiful, happy and peace-filled place for everyone.
Thank you, Peacemakers!!!!!
We want to send you gratitude for being part of our community.
At our celebration, we heard the voices of our AMAZING student peacemakers. We listened as our educators spoke to the deep transformation that happens in a school’s community over years of working with Soul Shoppe. And… we had a ton of fun dancing and winning fantastic prizes!
Just this week, a parent sent a donation with a note about Soul Shoppe’s positive impact on their family and home:
“Our 7yr-old matured in just a few sessions more than he did through most of virtual learning and has taught the methods in our household. Inspiring!”
Yes, we are INSPIRED!
We crunched some numbers… over these 20 years, we’ve supported 7,500 parents and 18,000 teachers to be empathetic adult role models for our next generation.
We have delivered over 48,000 workshops to schools… which for those of you who have seen our work means we have hit the play button on Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” 48,000 times 🙂
We have worked directly with over 560,000 individual kids, some of whom are now grown up… paying taxes, voting, and beginning their careers.
Of course it is our community (you!) who enables us to continue our work. You. Are. Amazing!
We’ve listed a few incredible ways you can take action to help Soul Shoppe launch into the NEXT 20 YEARS of big-hearted school programs.
- Donate! We’ve raised $14,750 towards our June 30 goal of $20,000! We are SO close to our goal. If you’d like to help us close the gap with a donation, please click here to support.
- Record a short video! Please let us know why you love Soul Shoppe! Record a 30-60 second video about our impact on your life! Click here to record your video!
- Connect us to more schools! Maybe your friends’ kid is starting at a new elementary school and you suggest they look into Soul Shoppe. Or… maybe you are at a barbecue and someone mentions they work in the local school district? This is a GREAT opportunity to tell them about Soul Shoppe, and maybe connect us all over email.
- Share our content online. We put a lot of work into our newsletter and social media efforts. Please spread the Soul Shoppe love by sending to friends and family! Good goes around when we all pitch in and engage when we are able.
Thank you again for what YOU have done to make our 20 years a success, and the next 20 years a reality!
Key adult figures in any child’s development include their parents, guardians, and teachers. Sometimes those are the same people if the children are homeschooled.
It’s valuable for every adult involved in the development and preparation of children to approach that responsibility seriously. It’s good to grow more familiar with the tools currently in use and to learn more about the other ways of doing things with proven value.
According to the National Library of Medicine, there are four different parenting styles (NIH). Parents will tend to default to one parenting style depending on their personality, but they will also use tools from the other parenting styles depending on the demands of a given situation. A balanced approach to parenting overall may prove most effective in the long run. So, it’s important to understand all four styles of parenting and the impact of parenting styles on child development.
4 Different Parenting Styles
What are the Four Basic Parenting Styles?
Let’s break down what the four basic parenting styles are and then take a look at their impact on the development of children.
These four different parenting styles were identified by the psychologists, Baumrind, Maccoby, and Martin (MDPI).
Here they are summed up briefly (NIH):
Authoritarian parenting is rules-based parenting. It’s a parenting style based on structure and the understanding of consequences if rules are not followed. Authoritarian parenting tends to set high expectations and limits flexibility.
When children develop in an authoritarian environment, they are usually well-behaved, because they tend to grow up used to associating misbehavior with negative consequences. Children who grow up in an authoritarian parenting environment are generally good at following rules, since they develop a sense that things go well when they follow rules.
Children who grow up in an authoritarian parenting environment may also develop tendencies toward aggression. Or, they may develop shyness and social ineptness. It is possible that children developing in mainly authoritarian environments will develop poor self-esteem without the situation getting tempered with other parenting styles.
A communication-heavy style of parenting, authoritative parenting is based on guidelines and clear statements of expectations by both parents and children. In an authoritative parenting style, while parents retain their role as provider and primary decision-maker, children are encouraged to participate in decisions around setting goals and expectations.
Authoritative parenting strategies create a developmental environment where children gain confidence, responsibility, and a sense of self-regulation. Children who grow up in an authoritative parenting environment tend to develop a sense of their own value. As a result, they are more likely to aim for and achieve high performance in whatever endeavor they set their minds to.
While the context of permissive parenting might create a warm and nurturing environment, it can also create an environment where children develop a sense that their actions have no consequences. Parents with tendencies towards permissive parenting styles often act more like friends than parents.
Growing up with few rules can encourage children to develop habits of indulgence with potential negative consequences. For example, poor self-regulation around snacks. Children who grow up in a permissive parenting environment may also develop lax habits about homework and excessive habits about entertainment. A lack of significant moderation in parenting can lead to an absence of sense of urgency in a child’s development.
An uninvolved parenting environment is an environment with little to no structure or involvement between parents and children. Uninvolved parenting environments still provide for a child’s basic needs, but do not create much structure for the child.
Without any particular discipline or encouragement structure, children who develop in an uninvolved parenting environment often grow to possess a high sense of self-sufficiency and resilience. On the other hand, these children might also have trouble controlling and expressing emotions. Or, they might develop ineffective or relatively non-existent coping strategies. They may also have trouble academically and socially due to an untethered sense of accomplishment and consequence. Children who develop in an uninvolved parenting environment may also have trouble building strong relationships with their peers.
Impact of Parenting Styles on Child Development
It is fair to say that a child will develop in profoundly different ways depending on the most prevalent style of parenting.
Different children and different situations need different kinds of nurturing. Everyone with the responsibility of nurturing children should develop their own parenting skills in order to foster the best possible developmental environments for the children in their charge.
Soul Shoppe provides social emotional learning programs for children. For more than twenty years we’ve created tools and empowered educators to incorporate emotional intelligence into curriculum. Soul Shoppe strategies encourage empathy and emotional awareness in children. Whether helping in the classroom or assisting parents at home, Soul Shoppe brings social skills to the forefront of the discussion. Click for our parent support programs.
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Here at Soul Shoppe, we believe that good goes around. That’s why we wanted to keep the good times rolling with more exciting events and innovative programs especially designed to help kids and adults navigate these challenging times.
November’s event was 5 Days of Fun!, a virtual recess series that brought together hundreds of kids every day. We want to express our deepest gratitude to the kids and adults who joined us to throw down some fresh beats, laugh it up, dance out our affirmations, and take an inside look at our emotions. Thank you for helping us spread joy and infuse the school day with more fun!
Recess gives kids the chance to flex their imaginations, develop complex social relationships, and consolidate the lessons they’re learning – not to mention get their wiggles out! But with distance learning, it can be hard to find the time to design activities that will genuinely engage your students.
Our facilitators will drew on kids’ real world skills to ground them in their physical environment and foster genuine connection with their classmates so they can continue to thrive whether they’re in the classroom or at home.
As countless studies show, that 15 minute midday break can mean the difference between academic breakthroughs and mid-lesson meltdowns. Kids aren’t designed to sit still, let alone stare at a computer screen for five hours a day. That’s why recess is more important now than ever! ⠀
Stay tuned for the highlights reel and read on to learn more about how Soul Shoppe is adapting to these uncertain times to help your kids thrive.
The phrases “tolerance” and “acceptance” are often used to talk about diversity. Sometimes, they are seen as words in posters around classrooms. Other times, their words are echoed in assembly rooms. However, teaching diversity requires meaningful, planned activities and discussions. There also needs to be a clear distinction between both words. Sometimes they are used interchangeably to mean the same thing. However, these words have their own unique meaning.
Diversity is defined as differences in race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, political beliefs, physical abilities, and more (CUNY). There is a philosophical divide on whether to tolerate or accept diversity.
In this article, we explore the difference between acceptance vs tolerance. Next, we include 10 fun ways to teach diversity concepts.
Acceptance vs Tolerance
There are significant differences between acceptance and tolerance. Let’s explore:
Tolerance is the “level of ability that someone has to recognize and respect other values and differences” (Psychology Today). This includes restraining oneself from negative expressions or opinions about people who are different. However, the word “tolerate” means to put up with something that is possibly painful, harmful, or is simply not wanted (Psychology Today). Consequently, it means something that must be endured. When we consider the root of this definition, we must consider the underlying implications.
Acceptance of diversity means to respect other people’s differences and backgrounds. Similarly, it means recognizing individual differences (CUNY). These differences can include race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and much more. While tolerance simply endures people that are different, acceptance moves past that and promotes an environment of equity, mutual respect, and appreciation. Acceptance also encourages others to see people as individuals versus groups of people.
Which one is better?
When it comes to tolerance vs acceptance, acceptance is the better concept to understand and apply. Anyone can tolerate another person or group of people. It’s acceptance that lets us see diversity as an asset, not a threat. When we strive for acceptance, we also strive for equality and mutual respect.
Best Ways to Teach Diversity
Some of the best ways to teach diversity are through activities. Here are 10 activities, grouped by age, that students can enjoy.
- Listen to songs in different languages. Some of them can include nursery rhymes or fun learning songs. If the song is different from one they know, include lyrics so they can follow along. You can even teach your students a new song to sing to their families!
- Have students put together a world map puzzle in groups or as a whole-group activity. Discuss how big the world is, landmarks, and geography. (Naturespath).
- Make multicultural crafts like those listed here.
- Use online courses to supplement learning. Soul Shoppe’s Respect Differences course teaches elementary students how to appreciate the things that make us different and unique.
- Go out and experience a local ethnic restaurant.
- Have students write to a pen pal abroad (penpalworld.com).
- Listen to multicultural music as students journal, or have a mini dance party. (Naturespath).
- Go on a field trip to a local museum to learn about different cultures.
- Take students to a local cultural festival.
- Have students read books on other cultures.
- Have students cook foods from their own culture or different cultures and share dishes. (Be sure to offer resources for those who need them.)
It’s important to teach students to do more than tolerate diversity. Being accepting and striving to understand other cultures is an important part of childhood emotional development. Furthermore, it helps create a culture of inclusion where students of different backgrounds can reach their full potential. It is important for educators and caregivers to help children learn these skills.
Soul Shoppe has social emotional learning programs dedicated to the mission of creating safe learning environments. Soul Shoppe helps schools, parents, and businesses teach empathy, emotional literacy, conflict resolution, and more.
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Childhood is an incredibly precious and precarious time in one’s emotional development. According to Rasmussen University, this development process can be characterized by three stages: noticing emotions, expressing emotions, and managing emotions.
The journey of managing the overwhelming emotions of childhood isn’t always an easy one, let alone a straightforward one. In fact, the process can become especially challenging to handle when implementing tools on anger management for kids.
If you want to know how to help your children with anger management, whether inside or outside of the classroom, here’s how you can respond to that anger within a compassionate, empathy-focused framework.
Anger Management for Kids
Anger Management in the Classroom
The classroom is a great source of togetherness and community as children learn alongside their peers and come to form their first friendships—bonds that could potentially last a lifetime. However, typical school stressors, from bullying to challenging work, can also turn the classroom into a source of tension.
Even older children encounter challenges with regulating and controlling their emotions in the classroom. In a study conducted a decade ago, nearly 1 in 12 American adolescents (nearly 6 million people) were found to exhibit traits of Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED), a condition characterized by uncontrollable, particularly volatile outbursts of anger. (Harvard Medical School)
Anger often stems from intense feelings of being provoked, hurt, or wronged. Since it takes children some time to fully and properly discern the differences between right from wrong, it also takes them some time to formulate proper responses and strategies to cope with feeling wronged.
This is where effective, empathy-focused education plays a crucial role in demonstrating healthy examples of anger management for kids. Even planting a few positive seeds now can prove vital for promoting positive growth long into the future. One great strategy for cultivating these positive seeds could involve teachers facilitating group activities for anger management. Here’s what that would entail.
Group Activities for Anger Management
Group activities and games offer a myriad of insightful, fun opportunities for young students to learn the fundamentals of cooperation. These activities not only help with anger management in the classroom, but healthy emotional management at large.
As an educator, there are a number of creative group activities for anger management you could consider incorporating into your classroom. We hope these suggestions will help spark some inspiration.
Below are some popular group activities for anger management worth some consideration:
- Art Therapy: Drawing, painting, sculpting, and sketching all offer ways for children to let their expressive creative abilities flourish, and in turn, creatively visualize their feelings. Art therapy has been shown to effectively work with 68% of children. (Frontiers In Psychology)
- Role Play: Acting, charades, and puppet shows are all excellent options for children to externalize their emotions in safe, controlled environments. Rather than yelling or fighting, role-playing offers students a fun, healthy outlet to voice their anger.
- Anger Worksheets: Getting kids to express, process, and challenge angry thoughts through creative writing prompts and in-depth worksheets can offer an invaluable resource and means of therapeutic expression. You can find many printable anger management worksheets on the web.
- Mindfulness Exercises: Breathing exercises are a remarkably effective lesson to impart on students if you’d like to teach them how to better regulate their emotions. During break time, consider facilitating group meditations or breathing exercises, encouraging students to mindfully reflect on their emotions. Learn the Stop and Breathe technique from Soul Shoppe here.
- Board Games: Group-focused board games promote the ideals of collaboration, working together, and hashing out conflict.
- Safe Learning Environments: A safe learning environment is a calmer, happier one, where students are encouraged to implement research-backed conflict resolution techniques. You can find conflict resolution activities for kids here. Additionally, Soul Shoppe provides a peace path to help students learn how to work out their conflict and emotions in a healthy way.
These group activities can provide positive emotional benefits as kids learn to navigate challenging emotions in a safe environment.
But what if all else fails, and little Timmy’s still having trouble controlling his temper? Here are some key steps to keep in mind while trying to manage a child’s anger.
How To Handle An Angry Aggressive Child
- Talk Calmly: A parent or authority figure may feel tempted to meet a child’s anger with anger of their own, by yelling back at them. This will likely exacerbate the child’s emotional tension even further. A quiet voice is a great tool to help minimize tension.
- Stay Present: While you shouldn’t meet anger with retaliatory yelling, you also shouldn’t capitulate to the child’s anger. Be firm, resolute, composed, and try to teach the child a more peaceful means of conflict resolution after they calm down.
- Discipline Appropriately: You can discipline the child with appropriate consequences when they choose bad behavior. However, you should not use overly harsh punishments. Disproportionate punishments will only make the child more angry. Instead, once the child is calm, talk about why they received the punishment they did and how it related to their choices in the given situation. It’s important that they understand cause and effect.
- Stay Connected: Connection is extremely important in a child’s life. Help encourage connection through social emotional learning programs. Validate their emotions and teach them how to channel them in a better way.
Anger management and emotional development is a lifelong journey, not only for kids, but well into adulthood. For roughly two decades, Soul Shoppe’s helped thousands of children find their first steps in that journey. We connect with over 60,000 children each year, teaching them new empathy-based approaches to conflict resolution and emotional regulation.
Our SEL programs for elementary schools have yielded proven results in helping teachers and parents teach emotional regulation. Contact us today if you’d like to learn more about our innovative social-emotional learning programs!
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In a turbulent world where stressors are abundant, (Harvard) providing students with sufficient anxiety coping skills is important. Stress has consistent mental and physical effects on one’s health. The classroom is one place where children can learn skills to cope with stress.
Anxiety Coping Skills for Kids in the Classroom
Creating classroom-appropriate coping skills activities for kids requires an imaginative approach. In principle, everyone needs to practice calming techniques to deal with stress. In practice, children are more likely to remember anxiety coping strategies when they’re incorporated into interactive activities.
Creating coping strategies for students requires a dual-pronged approach. On the one hand, it means creating activities with a foundation on the causes of stress and anxiety. On the other hand, every classroom is different, with different challenges and resources. Therefore, different stressors drive each student’s anxiety and may need to be addressed separately.
Here’s a quick rundown of stress and anxiety coping strategies to help educators teach activities around anxiety coping skills for kids.
Anxiety Coping Strategies
Stress and anxiety shadow the day-to-day lives of millions of Americans. Children are no exception. Stressors that cause anxiety are on the rise, and the prevalence of younger children dealing with them is also increasing. (HarvardGSE)
Recent studies were conducted on the most effective techniques for coping with stress and anxiety. It was found that coping with anxiety should be based on executive function through self-regulation (HarvardCDC).
In the context of teaching coping strategies to kids, this refers to a practice of cultivating the foundational mental capacities for active self-regulation. These are skills fundamental to a child’s development.
Cultivating executive function through self-regulation prepares children for success in life. There are technical bases for practicing executive function. (HarvardCDC) Put into usable terms, these bases are:
- Working memory. This includes the capacity to retain information learned from experiences and lessons. In this context, manipulation refers to an ability to examine the information from different perspectives, to synthesize the information with other information to come to new conclusions, and other mental practices useful for problem-solving.
- Mental flexibility. This refers to the ability to adapt to new circumstances. For children, a lot of their experiences are new experiences. Fortunately for them, children tend to have good mental flexibility. That’s why early childhood is such an opportune time to design activities to encourage children to cope with stress.
- Self-control. In the long run, self-control will be one of the most important fundamental skills children will need to practice to help them cope with anxiety. Self-control involves self-reflection on the part of children, as well as active decision-making regarding their behavior. Educators can create coping skills activities that cultivate opportunities for kids to practice self-control.
These processes for cultivating executive function through self-regulation will build strong foundations for developing coping skills activities.
Coping Skills Activities for Kids
There are many potential coping skills activities for kids that educators can add to their curricula. Educators should bear in mind the foundations of anxiety coping strategies when developing classroom activities, and at the same time adapt any activities to the students in their individual classrooms.
Here are a few suggestions for activities that have proven effective in teaching anxiety coping strategies. Educators can start with this list and then develop their own activities from there (Pathway):
- Schedule daily emotional check-ins. These check-ins create the chance for students to practice self-reflection and self-awareness.
- Have children make something creative that shows them messiness is okay. Painting, coloring, or clay gives children something to focus on and control, helping them practice spatial reasoning, working memory, and active mental flexibility.
- Gratitude journaling/compliment list helps with positive thinking and reflection. This activity helps children cultivate a practice for seeing scenarios from calmer and more down to earth perspectives, helping them with working memory and self control.
- Practice deep breathing. This go-to strategy is important when coping with anxiety. A wide body of research has substantiated the benefits, both mental and physical, of deep breathing. (Routledge) At Soul Shoppe, we use the Stop and Breathe Technique. This is a valuable anxiety coping strategy that any educator can incorporate into their curriculum.
- Encourage children to read books that are age-appropriate with themes of stress and anxiety. Reading is a great way for students to see anxiety coping skills for kids in action through the stories of others. Dissect and discuss these stories to encourage deeper thinking.
At Soul Shoppe, we offer special social and emotional learning techniques for coping with anxiety. Learn more about the Stop and Breathe Technique and how to create a peace corner to help kids cope with anxiety and other big feelings. Soul Shoppe provides social emotional learning programs and encourages self-awareness and self-soothing techniques in children. Click for more information on SEL Programs for Elementary Schools.
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After Stoneman Douglas, making NEVER AGAIN a reality…
In the wake of the shootings at Stoneman Douglas High School, we at Soul Shoppe must confess a painful truth. We have been stunned, paralyzed and silent, wondering what else there is to say that hasn’t already been said. How could we contribute to lasting healing and change? But as we watched our young people say, “Never Again” and rise up to use their voices, we finally found ours. Two letters follow: one to young people and one to adults.
Dear Young People
We’re sorry. We, the adults in this country, have failed you in so many ways. When you were born, you looked to the adults in your world to meet your needs, to feed you, clothe you, keep you safe and give you love. We have not done our job (keeping you physically and emotionally safe) leaving you the task of doing that for yourselves.
We have created communities where a young person can feel isolated, depairing, and in such pain that they could inflict so much violence around them. Although we know the cycle of violence and how pain can be turned into healing when it is met with empathy, we did not respond to your cries for help.
As you stand up in larger and larger numbers, demanding action and accountability to keep our schools and all communities safe, you inspire us. We recognize that in our inaction, in our growing cynicism coupled with increasing numbness, we grew to believe that nothing could be done. Or maybe that we were doing all we could.
You shouldn’t have to do this. We don’t want you to wonder if you and your friends are safe at school. Taking your time to advocate to reduce weapons in our communities. We don’t want you to plan marches in order for people to notice what’s wrong— and that your voices matter–and that the time is now.
The power in your voice has been evident since the moment you started speaking as a child. Your leadership is an asset. We see you in communities planning innovative ways to raise your voices as well as speak truth to your power. And connecting to each other across geographic and racial divisions. We will surround you with all the love and care you need. As adults, we will be true allies and use our own power–our skills, our resources, our access–to shine more light on your brilliance.
We promise to do right by you.
We must have the backs of our young people in our schools, in our communities and in our homes. Let’s recognize the voices of our young people for they are always the best authorities on their own experience. Let’s listen deeply to what they say and then take action. Here are some suggestions on where to start:
Learn to listen with an open heart and mind. Sometimes it’s challenging to listen. We have opinions, ideas, and so much advice! Our young people need our listening, not our judgment or feedback. Cultivate our listening by taking a moment to slow down so we can truly hear. We might be surprised by what we learn. Emma Gonzalez Opens Up
Create safe spaces at home to talk about and work through conflict. Use I-Messages and learn how to clean things up when our words or actions have caused hurt.
Intervene in the persistent stereotype of young people as problems to be solved and break the cycle of adultism. Name and change our own participation in adultist behaviors.
Recognize when we are numbing out, overloaded or unable to be our full selves. Tap on someone else to carry the load until we are fully charged again. Model self-care so that this rising generation of activists will have the tools to thrive as activists in the long term.
- Have the backs of our young people as they lead and plan actions around the country. Become informed about student rights. Show our full support of their voices by joining them and following their lead through the March for Our Lives Petition and March for Our Lives on Saturday, March 24th.
Every day at Soul Shoppe, we witness brave, powerful young people who step into their vulnerability, share their experience and then receive the empathy and love of their classmates. We watch them stand up with courage and speak out, and as a result they inspire us. At the core of what we do is a commitment to be open and vulnerable, therefore having our young people move us with what they have to share. It’s time for all of us to stretch ourselves and have the same courage our young people are demonstrating. We promise to support these young leaders and their teachers, and to amplify their efforts as they show us how to create big-hearted communities where everyone belongs.
Online learning shook up the way educators had to think about building community in the classroom. The effects of lockdowns and social distancing have created an aftershock that’s still present. Creating a sense of community and belonging has never been more important as students are more distanced than before the pandemic.
Building community in the classroom is vital because it allows students to form positive relationships and feel included. It also teaches them social skills and collaboration.
In this article, we’ll explore activities that help to build community in the classroom. We’ll also identify characteristics of successful community building to evaluate implementation.
How do you build community in the classroom
Building community in the classroom is more than assigning group work or teams. A community is created through sharing. Shared beliefs, shared values, shared ideas or attitudes all play a part. While classrooms are shared spaces, that doesn’t mean learners share the same ideals. When fostering community, it is important to encourage sharing, even when this leads to disagreement.
When utilizing small groups, sometimes it is best to let children choose their own groups to give them more autonomy. However, it is also important to assign groups on other occasions to get students interacting, who might not otherwise talk on the playground.
Community is about sharing but it’s also about compromise. This means that the best approach to building community is both fostering existing relationships and developing new ones. Use a balanced approach and keep it fresh.
Online learning and classroom community
Online learning can make it difficult to replicate the methods used in classrooms pre-pandemic. Missing from virtual learning is the opportunity for children to regularly converse in small groups, not only to learn but also to develop their social skills. While some teachers do their best to create small group opportunities, there are fewer of them, and interaction is often limited. Social interactions are sometimes limited to typing on a keyboard or “raising” a virtual hand. While teachers work to nurture discussion, some students are less responsive to the new medium.
When online learning is present, it’s important to utilize breakout rooms and create social games to give students a sense of connection. Icebreakers like human bingo, where children record a short video introduction, and students must match listed interests on a bingo board to a name, are a great way to promote classroom community. In this activity, students discuss answers through microphones and typed messages. Find more examples of virtual social learning activities, here.
Activities to build community in the classroom
There are methods for creating community in the classroom that can be used both offline and online. Here are core ideas to create classroom community activities:
- Create classroom goals and rules together. To promote teamwork and community, have students help create group goals and rules together. This creates a shared purpose.
- Encourage your classroom to discuss their ideas. Through sharing beliefs and values or even approaches and methods, children are able to understand more about each other. They can also figure out their own position within a team. This helps them to become more aware and mindful in general. It also helps to combat assumptions to enable children to learn, rather than make judgments.
- Develop social awareness. Children require knowledge about their peers. They need to understand that differences are common parts of life and can be celebrated. Use a range of tools such as stories relevant to younger people to give them reference points and something to identify with. Implement games that encourage children to discuss likenesses and differences. That’s Me is a game where the teacher makes a statement, such as “I have a brother” and the children who can relate, chime in and say “that’s me” if it applies to them. Implement social icebreakers regularly throughout the year, rather than restricting to the beginning of the year. More substantive interactions may occur when used more frequently.
- Develop emotional awareness. Children need to grasp their own feelings to manage them. This also helps them to understand others through empathy. Ask your class to get introspective with creative writing and role play. Using their own feelings and emotions, and collaborating or sharing this with others will develop their personal and social awareness. Playing “Feelings Charades” where a child demonstrates an emotion and students guess the emotion is one activity that promotes emotional awareness.
- Take inspiration from businesses. Businesses are always looking to improve their working communities through team-building exercises. These are fantastic opportunities to create a social learning environment. Adapt online team-building games and activities meant for business to the classroom.
How to identify characteristics of classroom community
Characteristics of classroom community can be identified in multiple ways. Look for these moments to confirm that a classroom has indeed become a community.
- Note whether classmates are answering questions for others. Not only does this take a bit of pressure off of you as a teacher, but it also demonstrates that kids are willing to share with one another.
- Take moments to discuss things beyond the curriculum. If children are sharing details about their personal lives it shows that they are comfortable with each other. It also helps them to build trust because they begin to understand their differences and build their empathy skills.
- Use self-reflection to measure how well activities are working. After working in a group, children can fill out a worksheet to detail what they have learned, how they have learned it, and also indicate areas of improvement. This helps you plan future sessions that incorporate community building activities.
- Identify leaders in the classroom. Children might not always be confident in taking charge. Assigning a group leader, especially ones that wouldn’t normally occupy this position, gives them the opportunity to develop leadership skills and show that they are willing to engage. It also prevents children from being excluded when more confident kids automatically fill these roles. It’s a balancing act where you may reward natural leaders but also persuade others to take on the challenge.
These are just a few ways to build community in the classroom and evaluate the results. Soul Shoppe provides professional development for teachers online with social emotional learning opportunities for students. See how our online courses can help.
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It is often assumed that children are quick to bounce back from difficult situations by default. People tend to think kids have less stress and worries than adults. However, this is not the case. It’s important to implement actionable strategies to help your children grow into more resilient human beings. Emotional resilience is something that requires development. When children are resilient, it reduces anxiety and allows them to cope in healthy ways with life’s ups and downs. Additionally, this is a skill that is necessary in adulthood. In this article, we’ll provide ideas to nurture building emotional resilience in kids.
What is Emotional Resilience
Emotional resilience is defined by the American Psychological Association (APA) as the ability to adapt to adverse, traumatic, or tragic events. It is a life skill to cope well with stress, anxiety, and emotional pain. For kids, this can come in a variety of situations from minor to more challenging cases.
Minor events that may trigger stress in children can include falling out with friends, taking tests, or managing difficult emotions. Major events that create stress can include moving houses, divorce, bullying, or dealing with the impact of COVID-19.
Building emotional resilience in kids is important because you cannot always be around to solve problems for them. Children must learn to cope with minor problems to help them when coping with major ones in the future. Teaching emotional resilience to kids helps them to lead a healthy, fulfilling life.
The Fulcrum of Resilience
There have been various depictions of emotional resilience in the academic community. Harvard furnishes the image of a seesaw with positive and negative outcomes, all balanced on a fulcrum. Even if a child has more negative outcomes than positive ones, as long as they have coping skills and some positive outcomes, this can shift their fulcrum. According to Harvard, “Protective experiences and coping skills on one side counterbalance significant adversity on the other. Resilience is evident when a child’s health and development tips toward positive outcomes — even when a heavy load of factors is stacked on the negative outcome side.”
We cannot always protect children from stressful events. However, we can teach children emotional resilience to make it easier for them to overcome problems when they occur.
How to Build Emotional Resilience
There are many different methods and strategies to help build emotional resilience in kids. The most common factor in children who are emotionally resilient is at least one stable, loving, and supportive relationship with a parent, caregiver, or other adult. These relationships have the benefit of buffering developmental disruption (Harvard).
The list below offers some examples and scenarios to help you identify when opportunities arise to nurture emotional resilience:
- Discuss the child’s feelings with them. When children face complex emotions, they might struggle to communicate their feelings. Use these situations as a chance for them to learn about resilience. For example, cancelled plans can lead to a child feeling disappointed and confused. Use this as leverage to explain that disappointment is a natural feeling and that they can expect to feel the same again in the future. Share times when you felt disappointed or let down to demonstrate that you can get over these kinds of feelings. Modeling emotional resilience and how to express feelings in a healthy way teaches your child how to do the same.
- Try not to rush a child’s feelings. This can create false expectations. It is important to teach children that getting over negative feelings can take time. Help them understand that patience is vital to recovery. The pandemic has made it difficult to provide certainty to all our lives and children are no exception. Help them to take things one day at a time so they can manage unknowns at a reasonable pace.
- Create milestones and goals. Breaking down resilience into small steps will help a child to have something to look forward to. It also helps them understand that resilience is a process.
- Help the child learn to accept change. Many situations in life are hard to control, no matter who you are or how resilient you have become. Encouraging children to accept change will enable them to build a more resilient attitude. Moving from elementary school to middle school is a common example of this. Focusing on the new and exciting journey they are embarking on will help them recognise a positive outlook rather than draw attention to what they have lost.
- Step back. We want to protect our kids from bad experiences. However, too much intervention may be detrimental to building resilience. Children must learn self efficacy to become more resilient individuals. This means supporting them where they need help, but making sure they have opportunities to find solutions by themselves. For example, if a kid falls out with their best friend, then point them in the direction of apologising or playing with others rather than picking up the phone yourself to call the best friend’s parents or getting teachers involved.
Parental Strategies for Building Emotional Resilience in Kids
- Spend one on one time with your child. Try spending 15 minutes reading to them every day, and playing their favorite board games. Other ways to build connection include floor play for younger children, cooking together, and creating art. For older children, card or board games, finding a family hobby, and playing music together are great options. Children who feel like they have an adult they can rely on tend to experience greater emotional resilience.
- Model emotional resilience. For example, if you are faced with a difficult life situation, show your child how to cope. Use tools like therapy, talking about feelings, and developing a self care routine. When kids see healthy ways of coping, they learn how to develop their own resiliency.
- Help kids keep a hopeful outlook despite tough times. Some strategies for this include maintaining as much normalcy as possible and fostering conversations to express their feelings. Some other tools include encouraging your child to talk about positive events and starting a family gratitude journal.
- Make monthly or yearly goals to help build confidence and resilience. Have your child write down goals. The goals should be measurable and reasonable for maximum success. By writing goals as a family and individually, and then following up for accountability, the whole family will become more connected.
- Keep the environment as similar as possible. Give as much warning before a change as possible. This will help your child to cope. Similarly, take time to talk to your child about the changes that are occurring and listen to their feelings.
- Sometimes, it is necessary to step back to let children learn coping skills. This strategy requires self restraint as a parent or guardian. However, it is necessary for developing their coping skills.
Resilience is like a muscle and must be exercised. The more children are able to exercise their coping skills to everyday life, the more resilient they will be.
Soul Shoppe provides social emotional learning programs for students, parents, teachers and schools.
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When we think of children developing skills, our thoughts often drift to milestones such as learning to ride a bike or acing their first test. However, children need more than physical achievements to thrive in life. Child emotional development includes several skills that help children understand themselves and others better. These skills help them navigate life in a fulfilling way. Furthermore, these skills promote future success well into adulthood.
What is Social and Emotional Development?
Social and emotional development refers to a child’s experience and expression of emotions and how they manage them. It also includes the ability to establish positive and rewarding relationships (Cohen and others 2005).
Social and emotional development is crucial in the first five years of life. However, emotional development continues well into adolescence.
Why is Teaching Child Emotional Development Valuable?
Nurturing a child’s emotional development helps to promote future happiness and success. Studies have shown that teaching emotional development improves students’ social and emotional skills and behaviors. Furthermore, it positively affects classroom organization, classroom management, and more.
4 Skills of Emotional Learning
Emotional development leads to five important skills, according to the National Center for Safe and Supportive Learning Environments. These include: emotional regulation, self and social awareness, learning how to establish positive relationships, and good decision making. These skills are vital to the success of children and adolescents.
Emotional regulation is an essential part of development. It is defined as “The ability to exert control over one’s own emotional state. It may involve behaviors such as rethinking a challenging situation to reduce anger or anxiety, hiding visible signs of sadness or fear, or focusing on reasons to feel happy or calm” (PsychologyToday). Emotional regulation is critical to children’s relationships with themselves and others. Those that don’t have this type of regulation often experience emotional outbursts and isolation. It can also lead to depression and self-harming behaviors. However, it is a teachable skill. Through workshops and lessons in the classroom, we can teach children how to regulate emotions and have control over their thoughts and feelings.
Self and Social Awareness
Learning self-awareness is a critical aspect of emotional development. Self-awareness helps children acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses. This allows them to actively participate in their own success.
Self-aware children typically have more social awareness. Social awareness is the ability to have empathy for others. This leads to understanding the perspective of other cultures and social groups. Both self-awareness and social awareness are vital to the growth of each child and help children grow up to be conscientious adults.
Learning How To Have Positive Relationships
When children learn self and social awareness, they are better able to experience positive relationships. Building positive relationships encompasses several skills. One key aspect is knowing how to express emotions appropriately. At the same time, children need to learn how to respond to others with empathy. Empathy is the ability to emotionally understand the feelings of another.
Other skills children need to learn when building positive relationships include how to:
- make friends
- respond to conflict in a relationship
- listen to others
- give and receive feedback
These are just a few of the wide array of skills needed to build and maintain relationships. Successful relationships and rich social lives produce lasting benefits throughout life.
Good Decision Making
We tend to think good decision-making skills are developed through “trial and error.” However, that is a fallacy. Good decision-making is more than learning from successes and failures. It is a way of thinking about making decisions before a consequence occurs. This skill involves teaching children how to identify the problem, and possible solutions and consequences. By thinking critically about decision-making, they can make better choices.
Good decision-making affects children well throughout childhood and helps them to become more responsible and self-confident.
What are the Emotional Development Stages?
Early Childhood Emotional Development
Social and emotional development occurs rapidly in the first five years of life. This time of development is essential to the ultimate happiness and well-being of children.
In the early stages of child emotional development, children begin to learn self-awareness. In addition, they start exploring how to express emotions. They also learn how to interact with others. Furthermore, they learn how to safely explore their environment. In the early stages, children look to others to learn social cues. These cues help them navigate how to respond and play with others.
These building blocks of emotional development in early childhood are nurtured through positive reinforcement.
Elementary and Middle School Emotional Development
Between the ages of 5-13 emotional development progresses to include more self-regulation, problem-solving, social awareness, and more.
The child emotional development stages are listed below. Note that the time frame may be different for each child: (Source: Child-Encyclopedia).
Early Elementary (K-2nd Grade)
- Learning how to fit in with other children
- Continuing to learn self regulation
- Learning self conscious emotions (such as embarrassment)
- Needing support from adults but growing their self reliance skills
Middle Elementary (3rd-5th Grade)
- Increased problem solving skills
- Distancing self from adults and becoming more peer focused
- Focus on problem solving
- Understanding of multiple emotional states in the same person
- Typically following norms for behavior
Middle School (6-8th grade)
- Increased dependence on peers
- Focus on social awareness and roles
- Learning how to differentiate between close friends and acquaintances
- Becoming more fluent in problem solving with multiple solutions
- Increased emotional empathy
- Learning impression management
- Learning how to communicate emotions and thoughts effectively
- Becoming more proficient with impression management
- Character integration and moral development
- Increased self awareness, particularly emotional awareness
We can increase children’s emotional intelligence to provide them with a better quality of life. Self-confidence, better relationships, and resilience can all be achieved through emotional development. When children are emotionally resilient, they can manage adversity and difficult times. In addition, research has demonstrated that intervening in children’s emotional development has a positive impact on their academic success. Whichever stage of emotional development children are in, there are appropriate lessons and support.
Soul Shoppe has workshops dedicated to the mission of creating safe learning environments. They help eliminate bullying, as well as teach empathy, emotional literacy skills, and conflict resolution. Learn more about social emotional learning for elementary students and social emotional development for middle school programs.
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Among the highest goals of education is preparing children for rewarding lives and success in whatever field they choose. A large part of that comes from instilling a sense of confidence and faith in their own value. Because confidence is such an important life skill, it’s a good idea to incorporate confidence-building activities for kids into classroom curriculum.
Confidence-Building Activities for Kids
When creating confidence-building activities for kids, the unique personalities within a class will inform the development of the curriculum. At the same time, there are quite a few fundamentally useful thoughts to help you get started.
How to Build Self-Confidence in a Child
Self-confidence comes from several sources. Some learn how to be confident at home, and others from external accomplishments. Additionally, some children develop confidence more easily than others. In a classroom setting, understanding confidence as a teachable skill means approaching it directly, instead of trusting that it will come as a result of other experiences. Techniques indicating how to build self-confidence in a child begin with lessons in self-sufficiency. (Harvard)
For instance, when small children are provided with opportunities to be “big kids,” it shows them how to take responsibility and achieve growth. If children have choices for how they dress or decorate their spaces, or, if they are encouraged to ask questions when shopping or on field trips, then they have the chance to practice forming their own opinions and seeing those opinions rewarded with respect. Ultimately, autonomy and a sense of accomplishment can occur through choices and opportunities. This can lead to confidence.
Another example of this is introducing a chore chart. Chore charts are valuable learning tools from the earliest ages. If children get to participate in the upkeep of their space, especially if that upkeep is part of a community effort, then it gives children the opportunity to understand that their actions affect their environments, and at the same time they can intentionally change their environments. When children understand they can improve their world with purpose, they gain confidence.
You can design activities to boost a child’s sense of self-worth and self-sufficiency. When deciding how to build self-confidence in a child, there are many possible activities that educators can implement.
Classroom Activities to Build Self-Esteem
Designing classroom activities to build self-esteem will depend on the specific needs of the students in the classroom. That being said, there are plenty of fun games to boost self-esteem that an educator can use as a template to begin planning their own classroom activities.
Here are some self-confidence activities for students:
- Letter to yourself- In this activity, students will write a letter to themselves. Either to their future self or to their past self. Or, they can write a thank you note to themselves right now. The essence of this activity is to provide children with the tools to look at themselves with an encouraging eye and constructive self-critique.
- Gratitude journaling- In this activity, students will make regular entries into a notebook with the sole purpose of appreciating something about themselves or the world around them at a regular interval, such as every day or every week. Part of building a child’s self-esteem includes introducing the habit of believing positive things about themselves. Additionally, when children regularly note positive things around them, it can create a habit of gratitude and positive thinking.
- Goals journaling- Accomplishment in all its forms can contribute to confidence. A helpful activity is for students to regularly update a journal in which they write down the goals they would like to achieve in their lives. They should then note what kind of progress they have made in achieving those goals. As a bonus, incorporate a reward system when they achieve their personal goals.
- Cooperative board games- A sense of self-worth can come from feeling like you are a valuable member of the community. Children can feel empowered when they can see how their contributions improve their team. Cooperative games can also provide valuable self-reflection opportunities when children work with each other to accomplish common goals.
- Achievements collage or journal- When students can see evidence of what they’ve accomplished it can boost their self-confidence. They can create a collage of pictures or drawings. Older students can also create lists. Helping students to get into the habit of seeing the results of their achievements can help their self-confidence improve.
Building confidence is a skill that requires attention and nurturing. Children might not have the benefit of acquiring confidence elsewhere. Therefore, implementing ways to build self-confidence in the classroom gives students an advantage in academics as well as in life. People who are confident generally perform better at tasks, and they thrive in the workforce as they get older. (Chron)
Soul Shoppe provides online SEL programs such as building self-confidence, respecting differences, and more. Soul Shoppe encourages empathy and emotional awareness in children. Click for more information on SEL Programs for Elementary Schools or our parent support programs.
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With the school year underway, it’s time to talk about conflict resolution for kids. The pandemic has made it difficult for children to engage with each other. Therefore, many have missed out on crucial opportunities to build and develop their skills for dealing with conflict.
Teaching kids about how to resolve difficult situations is important because it equips them with resilience and confidence.
Conflict Resolution For Kids
Conflict resolution education is the act of instilling problem-solving skills in children who are in a dispute. Teaching children about conflict helps them to identify problems. It also helps them choose the best solutions on their own.
A good place to start is demonstrating that problems start small and tend to grow. Teaching them to identify problems as soon as they take place makes it easier for kids to quickly overcome the obstacles they face.
Sometimes problems may go unnoticed in the early stages. This can lead to emotions becoming more intense. Therefore, it is important to teach children about their feelings. Having them identify their own emotions will also enable them to understand the emotions of others around them.
In cases where conflict has snowballed into a large problem, it is imperative that children understand responsibility as well as compromise. Knowing that conflict is a two-way street will encourage kids to act and will enable them to preserve their friendships when things go wrong. Practicing compromise will also help to resolve conflicts where children are not destined to be the best of friends. This will help create a peaceful environment and a productive learning space for everyone.
Occasionally two students will not be able to come to a satisfactory conclusion with their problem. There will be times, even though we want them to figure it out on their own, when adults have to step in and guide them further. Reassure your kids and students that they are able to talk to you about their problems.
Conflict Resolution Strategies in the Classroom
Students need to find strategies for resolving different forms of disagreement. Four major conflict resolution strategies identified by educators are: mediation, process curriculum, peaceable classrooms, and peaceable schools.
Many schools use peer mediation programs to reduce conflict. Students have the opportunity to talk through conflicts with trained students or adult mediators. Mediation programs are put in place to reduce punishments such as suspension or detention. Learn about Soul Shoppe’s Peacemakers program.
Some schools dedicate an entire course to conflict resolution. This is called process curriculum. It introduces problem scenarios before a conflict ever arises.
Peaceable classrooms integrate conflict resolution into the classroom daily through classroom management and daily tasks. This is not a separate curriculum but brings a lifestyle approach to teaching conflict resolution. This approach reinforces cooperation and the acceptance of diversity. It also teaches caring and effective communication.
In peaceable schools, all three of the above approaches are implemented. Everyone in the school including teachers, students, and administrators work together to remain proactive about conflict.
These four conflict resolution strategies work together to reduce school absences, decrease referrals and suspensions while increasing self-confidence and self-respect among students.
Conflict Resolution Activities for Kids
Conflict resolution for kids can also be fun. Here are some easy activities to get kids thinking and learning about conflict resolution:
- Brainstorm solutions to specific conflicts with your kids. Preparation will help them when any conflict arises. It will also help you gauge how much work you need to do to develop a child’s conflict resolution skills.
- Fill a mason jar full of popsicle sticks with solutions to problems. When a child is finding it difficult to find a way to resolve their issues, they can take a stick from the jar and try that. Kids will learn to think on their feet and use the jar less over time.
- Create stories individually or in groups. Ask the kids to think about a story that involves conflict and an ending with a solution. They can present the stories to the rest of the class or to their siblings if done at home.
Tip: Reward good conflict resolution by sending a letter home or by creating a gold-star chart.
Conflict Resolution Games for Kids
Gamifying a child’s learning is a good way to create a rewarding environment that will help to create a lasting impact. Here are some ideas you can use in the classroom or at home:
- Role-playing is a fun way for children to safely engage in conflict situations. This can be done with each other or with an adult for more challenging conflict scenarios.
- Create a simple game of pairs where children have to match the conflict to the solution.
- Play problem-solving baseball. This game is great for more complex conflict situations. Start with the conflict and then work through each base until they reach the solution.
Conflict resolution for kids is imperative for social and emotional success. Soul Shoppe provides conflict resolution training for educators through our Peacemakers program. The Peacemakers program aims to create schools where children are empathetic and peace thrives.
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Anyone who spends time with children understands that play is more than a frivolous pastime. It’s the work of childhood. Work through which the next generation learns skills like effective communication, conflict resolution, problem-solving, and cooperation.
In this article, we discuss learning through play, cooperative play, and provide examples of cooperative games for kids that can be used in the classroom.
Cooperative Games for Kids
The Six Stages of Play
American sociologist and researcher, Mildred Parten, dedicated much of her career to studying the art of play. As a result of her research, Parten identified six stages of play through which most children progress. She was careful to note that each child is unique and can progress at different rates. Even so, the stages do tend to follow one another eventually.
The six stages of play, as outlined in a study by Michigan State University include the following:
1. Unoccupied play (0-3 months)
Unoccupied play is that which we observe in babies or young children. In this stage, children explore materials around them in an unorganized fashion. The focus of this stage is learning how the world works.
2. Solitary play (0-2 years)
During this stage children are content to entertain themselves. The main skills they acquire as they are preparing to play with other children are new motor and cognitive skills.
3. Onlooker play (2 years)
Children involved in onlooker play are actively watching others. As they observe, children learn about the social rules of play and relationships–rules they will eventually employ when they feel ready to jump in for themselves.
4. Parallel play (2-3 years)
This play occurs when children play side-by-side but aren’t interacting with one another’s games. This stage does not include social engagement but it does teach children further social skills and gives them a framework for inviting others into their play in the future.
5. Associative play (3-4 years)
During this stage, children shift their focus from activities or objects of play to other players in the game. The focus of this stage is practicing what they’ve learned through observing others and building social skills with other children or adults.
6. Cooperative play (4+ years)
This is play categorized by cooperative efforts between players. Children become interested in both the game and the players. To this end, they begin to communicate desired outcomes and collaborate toward a common goal while understanding that each person has a distinct role to play.
The way our children learn to play is an excellent example of the constructivist theory of education. This theory is based on the idea that learners build on their existing knowledge to learn new information. As such, cooperative play is not only a capstone achievement for our students, it is also a catalyst from which they can grow into healthy adults and effective members of society.
The skills children derive from cooperative play that, in turn, provide the crucial foundation upon which they build future success include working together to achieve a common goal, developing the ability to problem-solve, sharing and exploring ideas, speaking and listening, and improving social, mental, emotional, and physical agility.
Additionally, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a professor of psychology at Temple University and co-author of Becoming Brilliant: What Science Tells Us About Raising Successful Children with Roberta Golinkoff, breaks down the skills kids need to succeed with the “six C’s,” which include— collaboration, communication, content, critical thinking, creative innovation, and confidence (NPR). Cooperative play helps children to learn these C’s.
Examples of Cooperative Games for Kids
Chief among cooperative games for kids are those that teach team-building skills. To that end, we’ve compiled a list of team-building games that have been proven to build both confidence and skill. Those listed are mainly cooperative games for the classroom but can also be adapted for online learning.
Here are our top five cooperative games for kids from various resources:
Set-Up: For this activity, prepare a tray with 20 unrelated items. For example, a spool of thread, an eraser, a juice box, etc. Once you’ve selected your items, create a document with 20 images of your selected items to put up on the screen. Divide your class into even groups.
Instructions: Set a timer and have each group divide the 20 items into four categories that make sense to them. For example, they may put an earring, a glove, a headset, a sock, and a smile into the category “things you wear.” Have groups work quietly so that their ideas are kept secret. When the time is up, give each group time to present their categories and the rationale behind each category.
Connect This (Teachhub)
Set-Up: Provide each team with four different images and ask students to come up with a short story that connects all the objects together. For example, the images can be a person, an object, a location, etc.
Instructions: Give students about 15-20 minutes to discuss and come up with a story, then present their story to the class.
Guided Reciprocal Peer Questioning (The University of Tennessee Chattanooga)
The goal of this activity is to generate discussion among student groups about a specific topic or content area.
Set-Up: Faculty conducts a brief (10-15 minutes) lecture on a topic or content area. Faculty may assign a reading or written assignment as well. The instructor gives the students a set of generic question stems. Question stems help students to come up with or write questions about a text or topic.
Instructions: Students work individually to write their own questions based on the material being covered. They do not have to be able to answer the questions they pose. This activity is designed to encourage students to think about ideas relevant to the content area. The students should use as many question stems as possible.
Grouped into learning teams, each student offers a question for discussion, using the different stems.
Sample question stems:
What is the main idea of…?
What is a new example of…?
How does this relate to what I’ve learned before?
What conclusions can I draw about…?
What is the difference between… and…?
How would I use…to…?
What are the strengths and weaknesses of…?
What is the best…and why?
Three-step Interview (University of Tennessee Chattanooga)
Three-step interviews can be used as an ice breaker for team members to get to know one another or can be used to get to know concepts in-depth, by assigning roles to students.
Set-Up: The teacher assigns roles or students can “play” themselves. Teachers may also give interview questions or information that should be “found.”
Student A interviews Student B for the specified number of minutes, listening attentively and asking probing questions.
At the teacher’s signal, students reverse roles and B interviews A for the same number of minutes. At a second signal, each pair turns to another pair, forming a group of four. Each member of the group introduces his or her partner, highlighting the most interesting points.
Share Experiences and Feelings (University of Central Arkansas)
Set-Up: The teacher selects a short video (10-15 minutes) on the topic of their choice. The topic should have some relevance to the lives of the students watching.
Instructions: When the video is over, organize students into groups and ask them to discuss the following questions:
- What is my experience with [the topic]?
- What are the major feelings associated with the experience?
- Discuss how this affects our interactions with others.
At the teacher’s signal, the class comes together as a whole and one representative from each group shares the overall feelings expressed in the group. Once every group has been represented, the teacher can ask one debriefing question, “What are the implications of these experiences to you?” Or, for younger students, “How does understanding your classmates’ feelings about these experiences help you understand them better?”
Cooperative Games in the Classroom
As you plan to lead cooperative games for your students, be sure to choose games that are appropriate for their stage of development. Equipping our kids to engage with one another productively helps build healthy students, classrooms, and communities.
Soul Shoppe provides social emotional learning programs for elementary schools, parents, corporations, and more. We also provide a peacemaker program with both training and certification. View our online courses or contact us for more information here.
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Educators might assume that their classrooms feel safe to all their students. However, creating an inclusive classroom requires active work and a plan.
Creating An Inclusive Classroom
The process of creating an inclusive classroom may come intuitively to some educators, while some features might be surprising. Actively creating an inclusive classroom requires educators and students alike to learn more about what’s going on in the lives of other people in order to more effectively create an inviting and inclusive classroom environment for children of all backgrounds.
To start, here are a few inclusive classroom examples to get educators thinking about nurturing a more inclusive classroom setting.
Inclusive Classroom Examples
Creating an inclusive classroom includes many different aspects of education. Active pursuit of fair-minded and empathy-driven educational practices requires a holistic approach to education and development. While in essence, inclusive education is as simple as being fair to everyone, like so many simple ideas it isn’t easy to implement.
So what does an inclusive classroom look like? According to Harvard University, educators have to, “Learn high-leverage Instructional Moves to make your classroom discussions more inclusive, student-centered, and purposeful.” (Harvard)
Here are some inclusive classroom examples to guide educators in their educational strategy (Harvard):
- Active learning: It might sound only obliquely related, but the pursuit of active learning strategies and incorporating active learning techniques into curricula will promote an inclusive learning environment. This is because active learning promotes complex thought processes and active attempts to understand other perspectives and ways of thinking.
- Growth mindset: The inability to accept alternative lifestyles tends to stem from a habit of seeing the world as restrictive and very much set in its ways. Promoting a growth mindset in the classroom enables students to see value in attempting to understand alternative perspectives.
- Get to know your students: Not every fix will work the same for every student. An educator can create a curriculum designed to promote inclusiveness, and with the very best of intentions, they might neglect the tools necessary for some group that they themselves might never have encountered, for instance. It’s essential for educators to get to know their students and make adjustments to their inclusive classroom activities.
- Build opportunities for work outside the classroom: The essential purpose of a classroom is to prepare students to succeed in life. However, there are other opportunities to grow ideas. Seek opportunities outside of the classroom to give students the chance to see how ideas work in the wild.
- Group expectations and guidelines: In order to make the environment safe for all students, it’s important to communicate to all students why it’s important to create an inclusive learning environment for everyone.
Educators may have to ask, “What does an inclusive classroom look like?” The answer will vary from one classroom to the next. In principle, however, the characteristics of an inclusive classroom will include the opportunities for students to learn empathy and the tools for understanding different perspectives.
Inclusive Classroom Activities
An inclusive classroom often looks like a thoughtful classroom. The characteristics of an inclusive classroom create a sense that all perspectives, and therefore all students, are embraced and valued. There has to be a sense of belonging achieved through an active pursuit of learning the values and perspectives of all students.
In the pursuit of this strategy of active learning to create an inclusive learning environment, here are a few activities to get educators started (LSA):
Core Values Exercise
Students may have never expressed their values before. While they might not need to define their values to the precision that some adults decide to define theirs, creating a sense of inclusiveness in the classroom might be easier if students have the opportunity to express what they value. This can help them recognize that some people share their values, and some people don’t. The goals of this activity include:
- Helping students determine their own values
- Helping students appreciate diversity in values
- Prompt discussion among students about values
How to do it:
- Moderated in-class discussion
Dialogue Blocker Exercise
Classrooms are microcosms of the greater community, and community runs on effective communication. Sometimes listening and empathically responding during conversations is excluded. This exercise is meant to create a scenario where students can learn to recognize dialogue blockers, or communication strategies getting in the way of effective communication. In recognizing them, students are better able to avoid them. The goals of this activity include:
- Helping students recognize dialogue blockers
- Encourage students toward more introspection during conversation
How to do it:
- Find an example from a book or show where a conversation was ineffective and left its participants dissatisfied with the results.
- Through moderated discussion, lead students through the poor communication displayed and talk about possible improvements.
Name Story Exercise
This inclusive classroom activity is designed to help students see each other and appreciate each other. At the same time, it gives every student the opportunity to feel like they have something inherently valuable about themselves that they can share with the class. The goals of this activity include:
- Building community
- Promoting a sense of diversity in the classroom
How to do it:
- Give every student a chance to tell everyone their first, middle, and last names.
- At the same time, every student has an opportunity to tell any story about their name that they know or like.
In addition, Soul Shoppe provides an online curriculum that can help promote inclusiveness and understanding within the classroom. Respect Differences, Tools of the Heart, and Allies Against Racism are all programs that help children overcome isolation and strengthen relationships. Find out more about Soul Shoppe’s SEL programs from elementary schools here.
Inclusive Classrooms in a Diverse World
Since every classroom and every set of students presents different needs and challenges, it may be necessary to design exercises more specific to a given classroom or set of students. Everyone comes from different backgrounds, and in order to prepare students for success in life, educators need to create inclusive classrooms to help students feel safe and connected.
Soul Shoppe provides social emotional learning programs and can help you learn how to create a safe space in the classroom or at home. Soul Shoppe encourages empathy and emotional awareness in children. Click here to get into contact with us.
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A Culture of Inclusion
A culture of inclusion is defined as creating and maintaining an environment in which people of different backgrounds can achieve their fullest potential (Harvard). It is a culture where different strengths are valued and celebrated. Whether in schools or in the workplace, building a culture of inclusion benefits both students/workers and the classroom/organization as a whole.
The Difference Between Diversity and a Culture of Inclusion
Though a culture of inclusion and diversity can sound similar, they are very different. You can have a diverse classroom or work environment and still not have a culture of inclusion. Diversity is simply referring to demographics. A culture of inclusion means that everyone is contributing their different voices, ideas and experiences to the overall classroom or workplace culture. This contribution supports a richer and more successful environment.
How to Create a Culture of Inclusion
Importance of Respect and Empathy
Empathy is a critical skill and a building block of creating a culture of diversity and inclusion. It is defined as the ability to emotionally understand the feelings of another. Commonly, it is described as being able to “walk in another person’s shoes.” This skill is necessary in order to create emotional growth, as well as a culture of compassion and connection. When people learn empathy, they are better able to respect other people’s thoughts, feelings, and world experiences. It is a transformative skill that changes our behaviors and the way we see others. Consequently, this is a strong focus of creating a culture of inclusion.
Culture of Inclusion in Schools
Creating a culture of inclusion in schools is important because it’s the main place young people will learn and emulate team behaviors. They are likely to carry these behaviors into the workforce and society as a whole. In addition, a culture of inclusion creates a safe classroom environment where children from all backgrounds can academically thrive.
Building a culture of inclusion in schools requires all stakeholders to share responsibility for inclusion. Some ideas for creating a more inclusive culture include:
- Anti-bullying workshops
- Diversity training
- Writing a value statement
However, it goes beyond that. Even when enacting inclusive policies and practices, inclusive culture requires a shift of attitude. The entire school must embrace it and share the responsibility for it to come to fruition. This is where empathy and teamwork is important. Building a culture of inclusion takes everyone.
How to Promote Inclusion in the Workplace
Community building in the workplace is an important aspect of cultural inclusion. Workplace community is the culture of a company and its morale. It is influenced by individual perspectives and experiences. Therefore, it is critical that the workplace community is safe, productive, and cohesive. When workplace culture is positive, employees bring their authentic selves to the team and value their work. In order to build community, a sense of belonging and connection is required. This can be done by appreciating individual and group contributions, and being responsive to employee concerns. Similarly, holding spaces to listen to employees is necessary. Inclusive behaviors in the workplace begin at the leadership level first. Leaders can model empathy in their daily interactions, which demonstrates how employees should act. Actively demonstrating empathy and respect, helps businesses and individuals to thrive.
Creating policies that promote inclusiveness is an important first step. In addition to policies, empowering team members to solve problems and come up with new ideas promotes inclusiveness. Along with empowerment, a work culture that promotes courage is one that fosters inclusiveness. Employees should feel they can stand up for what they believe in. Lastly, promoting humility in the workplace is important for creating a positive workplace culture. Humility allows team members the ability to take constructive criticism and overcome limited viewpoints by listening to others.
Building a culture of inclusion is more than just a one time training event. It is creating a shift in the overall culture. It requires commitment from everyone from leaders to employees to students alike. By creating positive environments that foster empowerment, humility and courage, both schools and workplaces are more likely to succeed.
Whether you want to improve your school, community, or workplace, Soul Shoppe provides social emotional learning programs and resources. We offer programs on cultural inclusion from teacher professional development to workplace culture training. Our team is highly trained, informative, and makes training fun. We offer a transformative experience that will leave lasting results.
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Embodiment practices are important for self-growth, learning, and awareness. Read about embodiment practices for kids in school and at home.
What is Embodiment?
The word embodiment can have several different definitions, depending on how it’s used. In the dictionary, it’s defined as having a tangible form of a feeling or an idea. While this leads to thoughts of mind-body connection, the idea of embodiment practices takes this definition a step further.
Embodiment practices suggest the idea that there is an unbreakable link between the mind and body. The University of Minnesota, defined it as, “our movement and body makes visible all of who we are.” Uniting mind and body is important work because it enhances our relationships with ourselves and others. Also, embodiment supports self-growth, awareness, and the development of mindfulness. As one therapist said, “we might say embodiment is a state in which your entire intelligence is experienced as a coherent unity attuned to the world” (EmbodiedPresent). Because our minds and bodies are strongly connected, we learn best when we use both.
To put it simply, embodiment practices in the classroom involve learning and connecting through both movement and thought.
Why Teach Embodied Learning?
It’s easy to overlook learning through movement or mind-body exercises. However, implementing these practices can be extremely beneficial. Embodiment practices incorporate the relationship between the brain, academic achievement, and bodily movement (Educational Media International). Therefore, there is great value in teaching embodiment learning. It helps children develop kind, enriching relationships with themselves and others. In addition, it creates impressive results in cognitive abilities and short-term learning.
Research shows positive outcomes when implementing embodiment practices. In one study, 52 elementary students participated in embodiment learning activities. The students were tested before and after the duration of 4 months. Areas tested included cognitive and academic performance, general learning, observations from their teachers, and interviews. The results showed remarkable effects. Children’s short-term memory and academic performance improved dramatically (Educational Media International). There are additional studies that show similar outcomes.
In a study exploring embodied cognition, college students were given a math problem about a triangle. The students were then broken up into two groups. The control group sat in front of a computer that projected the problem. They had pens and paper available to use. The second group, however, had to stand in front of the computer and had no supplies, though they could use gestures. Those who did not use any strategies were the least successful (11.5%). Those who used pen and paper were more successful (27.3%). However, those who used hand gestures, or whole-body learning, did the best. Of those who used smaller gestures, 34.3% were successful. But those that used bigger movements, or “dynamic depictive gestures,” were correct 63.6% of the time (Shapiro and Stolz). In this instance, we can see that embodiment practices helped both academic performance and cognition.
Embodiment Practices in the Classroom or at Home
Embodiment learning involves the whole body during the cognitive process. As a result, there is a connection between new ideas and movement. One example of this learning style is children adding by tossing bean bags and counting. Another embodied learning activity is children singing and clapping out a spelling song. All of these methods combine movement with cognition. There are many ways to incorporate the mind and body, whether through academics or through other mind-body exercises such as yoga. Each activity has its own unique benefits.
Embodiment Learning Activities
There are many creative embodiment learning activities you can use at home or in the classroom. Some of them include:
- Acting: Act out a story, event, or article.
- Dance: Implement dance in your curriculum, using movement to express math, science, or other subjects. Whether stomping to create counts or dancing like wildlife ecosystems, it is a great way to connect the body and the mind.
- Mazes: Make a maze out of sticks, stones, rope, or other material and have children navigate through it.
- Music: The brain absorbs information extremely well through music. Whether teaching a formal music lesson, or implementing a musical activity, music is a great way to get students singing and moving. Sing songs for different subjects to assist with learning anything from science to social studies to math. Add hand movements to the songs for embodied learning.
- Yoga: Bring a little yoga into the classroom or your home. An easy way to start is to watch or download free yoga videos online.
- Sensory Play: Create with play-doh, make slime, and include a variety of other sensory play activities in your schedule.
- Games: Some motion censored games, such as using a Wii or virtual reality can help teach skills. They can even help with teaching English as a second language.
- Art: Draw comics, or paint a scene from a book or an event in history.
There are many easy, fun ways to incorporate embodied learning activities. They do not have to cost a lot of money, and yet they are well worth it to improve retention and understanding.
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The classroom is a place that impacts a child’s social development greatly. Including friendship group activities in classroom curriculum can have a significant, positive impact on a child’s social emotional development.
Friendship group activities for elementary students, whatever form they take, can create positive associations between happiness and community engagement. (Harvard) These activities also promote important lifelong skills of cooperation, empathy, and respect.
Friendship Group Activities
We’ve provided a few friendship activity ideas below. They range in complexity between activities that only need a few minutes of prep and no supplies, to activities that require a longer timeline and need a few items. It would make sense to incorporate a handful of friendship group activities into classroom curriculum throughout the academic year.
The Greeting Game
How to do it:
- This game is good for the beginning of the school year when everyone is still learning names. The students take turns saying, “Hello, [name]” to everyone in the classroom. The student who remembers the most names without stumbling wins a small prize.
Why it’s a good idea:
For a lot of children, one of the most intimidating things they will face is starting a conversation with strangers. (Wired) Helping children create positive emotional associations with saying “hello” to people is a valuable skill they can carry throughout the rest of their lives. It will help them to get past nerves that come with meeting new people.
Group Art Activities
- Paints, sidewalk chalk, crayons, or other art supplies, and a big surface that children can work on together.
How to do it:
- Suggest a theme–birthdays, space, friendship, etc. Children will create a big mural on that subject.
Why it’s a good idea:
- There are a lot of reasons creative group activities foster a sense of community. (HarvardGSE) Students have the opportunity to plan together, to see how other students solve problems, and to share in contributing to something they can all feel excited about. A shared sense of accomplishment is impactful.
Group Storytelling Activities
- Notebooks, whiteboards, computers, or anything else where children can record the events of the story.
How to do it:
- Start with a prompt. Either ask for volunteers or call on students to contribute a sentence or event to a story. Work together to build a cohesive story. Ensure that every student gets a chance to contribute.
Why it’s a good idea:
- The stories that we tell hold our communities together. (Ed) When children cooperate to create a story, it promotes a sense of accomplishment and community. Because every child in the classroom gets a chance to contribute, every child receives the opportunity to feel a sense of personal accomplishment, as well as an opportunity to hear the ideas of their classmates. This activity also provides a give and take structure which is important in social interactions.
Blindfolded Obstacle Course
How to do it:
- First, have the children rearrange the furniture in the classroom into an obstacle course. Next, children will take turns putting on the blindfold and navigating the obstacle course. All the other students in the classroom call out instructions to the blindfolded child to help them get through the obstacle course. Take turns with different students and rearrange the course each time.
Why it’s a good idea:
- Learning trust, earning it, and instilling it in other people, is one of the most important emotional learning skills a child can develop. (Visibly) An activity where students have to help each other out and trust that the help they are receiving will provide a positive outcome provides a chance to create strong social bonds.
Finding Things in Common
- None, or create a bingo card.
How to do it:
- Organize students into small groups. Children sit down with their groups and find out things they have in common (e.g. like pizza, have a brother, love dogs). Make it a game by setting a certain number of things in common they need to find. Whichever small group finds that number of things in common first wins a prize.
Why it’s a good idea:
- Finding common ground with others is an essential part of developing strong social bonds. (Gazette) A friendship group activity that encourages kids to learn more about each other is a great way to learn how to make friends in and out of the classroom.
Friendship Social Skills Group Activities
Educators who need assistance in developing friendship group activities for their students or other social emotional activities can receive help through Soul Shoppe. Soul Shoppe provides social emotional learning programs, online or in-person, for children and educators. Soul Shoppe strategies encourage children to build community and meaningful relationships with their peers. Whether helping in the classroom or assisting parents at home, Soul Shoppe focuses the discussion on social skills and emotional learning. Click for more information on SEL Programs for Elementary Schools, homeschool social emotional electives, or our parent support programs.
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Planning for the school year is an opportunity to add new educational layers to curricula. Adding elements of social and emotional learning through classroom activities is always a good idea. Social-emotional learning fosters better development that can improve the classroom environment and prepare children for challenges and opportunities in their futures.
Fun Indoor Classroom Games
Developing fun indoor classroom games for kids with social-emotional learning requires choosing and framing fun interactive activities. (MakingCaringCommon) Several common indoor classroom games already provide social-emotional learning opportunities. They just need to be framed so that students get used to approaching activities with the right mindset to practice social and emotional skills.
Here are a few suggestions to start with:
Social-Emotional Games for Students
Most games are already predicated on skills like paying attention, practicing memory, understanding how to use rules to make goals and follow through on decisions. As a result, turning a fun indoor game into a social-emotional learning game might be as simple as pointing out the skills the game asks the students to practice. (GSE)
This reliable game is predicated on several important social-emotional skills. For example, it relates to focus, such as:
- Practicing filtering between senses and impressions
- Focusing in spite of distractions
- Reacting to detailed instructions in a timely fashion
Framing this game to turn it into a social-emotional learning game might look something like this:
Tell students that this game is about exercising their “focus power.” Additionally:
- Tell students they get to use “focus binoculars” to help them pay better attention to details. For younger kids, this might include miming holding a pair of binoculars to their eyes.
- Make it clear that “focus power” involves more than just their sense of sight. They need to look, but they also need to listen for clues, and they need to make a point of thinking about using their minds to hush distractions.
- When the game is over, moderate a conversation with the students. Get them talking about frustrations or distractions that made the game difficult, and discuss strategies for improving attention.
- An important aspect of turning a game into a social-emotional learning activity is the roundup at the end. Educators can ask students to think about other times they need to use their “focus power,” and what that looks like to them.
The Name Game
- Practice active listening
- It helps with memory, in particular, as it relates to social interactions.
- It also helps with social skills.
Arrange students into a circle. Students take turns saying their name and accompany it with some kind of movement. Examples include raising their hand or sticking out a foot. Then all of the other students say that student’s name and imitate the motion. Go around the circle, repeating every new student’s name and motion and add it to a sequence. Frame this game by talking to students about engaging their “memory power.”
- Before starting the game, ask students why remembering is important in and out of school.
- Talk about all of the activities in life that involve “memory power.” Things like remembering where grandma lives, or which snacks you and your friends like in common, or the rules to games.
- When the game is over, review with students the challenging parts of the game–talk about the easy parts too.
- Talk with students about how to use memory power in their lives as it relates to making friends or other social skills.
The game of Simon Says creates opportunities for students to practice the following skills:
- Community participation
- Active listening
- Paying close attention to what they’re doing
Frame Simon Says as a social-emotional learning activity by telling students how they can use their “stop and think power” to do well.
- Set it up by talking about how powerful our minds are over our bodies when we are in the habit of stopping to think about our actions.
- Talk through all the times, in and out of the classroom, that we need to stop and think about what we do.
- When the game is over, students can talk through how they paid attention and what they did to help themselves control their bodies.
- Have a class discussion about ways to practice stop and think power throughout the rest of the day.
Classroom Games for Kids
Games make excellent teaching tools. They create classroom bonding activities, and they provide learning opportunities that might not otherwise arise. In most cases, fun indoor classroom games can be turned into social-emotional learning experiences, if they’re framed correctly.
Soul Shoppe provides social emotional learning programs for schools and homeschooling families. Our in-person and online programs provide training to educators to help them learn how to create social-emotional learning classroom activities. Additionally, Soul Shoppe provides direct-to-student curriculum such as the online course Tools of the Heart. Contact us for more information here to learn more about our online courses.
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In order to become a change-maker, you must first learn to adapt to change in a healthy way.
Let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment — although change is necessary, it can also be extremely difficult.
It can cause our emotional balloons to fill up and be on the verge of leaking.
It can cause us to seek comfort in ways that are harmful to ourselves.
It can even cause us to have a negative outlook every time we are approached with something new.
But here is a reminder that how you adapt to change depends on how you react to change.
Read that again.
If we dig deep, lean into our resiliency and approach change with a curious mind, we can face big changes with more confidence, we can build better habits to manage uncertainty and most importantly, we can manage difficult emotions and empty our emotional balloons.
Then change not only becomes possible, it becomes fun!
And who doesn’t love fun?
In this month’s community event, we explored many healthy ways to cope with change that leave us feeling comforted, energized, and excited to move forward with the unexpected.
Get Your Change On! was a truly transformational experience where we played fun games, shared insightful stories, and even shook a tail feather!
Don’t just take our word for it! Check out this exciting recap video from Dr. Pooch:
Get Your Change On! centered on creating an open and safe space to hold important conversations around change and learn different ways to adapt, express emotions, and approach change differently in the future.
… and as you know, change is something we will have to constantly deal with it.
Something that has definitely shifted in the lives of our kiddos and even adults, is that there are now many conversations being had or shared in the media around the differences in the world — differences in cultures, race, and status. These conversations are far from easy but they are so necessary to have so that we can strive and hope for a future filled with community and compassion…
… a future where we can recognize and appreciate all differences.
The harsh reality is that when we recognize differences, we are forced to change how we look at the world.
And frankly, if you don’t know where to start with that shift, change can feel really scary and that’s okay.
Here at Soul Shoppe, we take pride in honoring, recognizing, and appreciating all the things that make each of us unique. Now, we want to share that same outlook with you and your kiddos.
We invite you to join Respect Differences, an on-demand course where kids are guided through lessons that will help them build up their self-esteem so that they can show more empathy toward people with ideas, appearances, likes, and dislikes different from their own.
This can ignite a beautiful change in our hearts, our lives, and our communities.
And that’s a change we’d love to see!
Interested in learning more about Respect Differences? Click the button below for more information!
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!
Now, we want to know what you thought of our virtual event. Whether you’re a parent, a teacher, or a school administrator, we’d love to hear from you so we can continue to improve our programs to best serve your kids and students.
Simply click here to take a very brief survey (only 3 questions!) and give us your feedback!
JOIN THE SOUL SHOPPE FAMILY!
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In this monthly email, we provide you with the tools and resources to help your kids learn how they can embody and express their truths. We’ll also share upcoming events and other opportunities to engage with Soul Shoppe’s rich community of educators on a deeper level. Simply sign up below.
Soul Shoppe’s virtual holiday celebration – Gifts, Giggles & Goodness – made it an incredible week for us. We hit record numbers of participants with well over 1200 kids joining in over the course of 3 days!
Together we got crafty with homemade holiday gifts, giggled in more ways than we could count, and shared how small acts of kindness can make a big difference. Thanks to all who participated, our days have been a whole lot more joyous and bright.
The Good Goes Around! All it takes is one small act of kindness to turn someone’s day around and light up their face with a smile. Our big-hearted facilitator Ryan taught us to get creative with crazy gifts and how we can practice more kindness to spark joy this season. Our big-hearted facilitator Dara helped us get our giggles out!
Now we want to know what you thought of our virtual events this year. Whether you’re a parent, a teacher, or a school administrator, we’d love to hear from you so we can continue to improve our programs to best serve your kids and students.
Simply click the button below to take a very brief survey (only 3 questions!) and give us your feedback.
We wish you lots more laughter, love, and joy this holiday season, and look forward to seeing you again on Zoom in the new year!
Students can quickly become overwhelmed when they have a lot of work to do but haven’t yet been equipped with the skill of goal setting. Overwhelmed students may act as though they are disinterested, aloof, or even lazy. They may appear to engage in an approach-avoidance cycle that adults interpret as a lack of motivation when the reality is that they aren’t sure how their present assignments will lead them to achieve their future goals.
Goal setting for students is vital. Every child needs to be equipped with a clear objective, as well as tactics to help them achieve their objectives when obstacles arise.
This article will discuss the importance of goal setting for students and practical ways to teach it.
Goal Setting for Students
The Importance of Goal Setting
EducationWeek states, “Goal setting helps students to be more aware of the learning that they are expected to experience. This awareness helps students to be engaged in the learning process. Mastery-oriented goals give students the opportunity to focus on learning standards and their own growth.”
As indicated above, there is a strong connection between a student’s understanding of their trajectory in the classroom and their ability to self-assess their learning progress.
For example, most teachers clearly define the student objective inherent within any given lesson plan. Most lesson plans begin with the words, “At the end of this lesson the students will be able to . . . “ Or some such similar statement. Clearly defining the objective of the lesson helps guide the teacher in their planning.
Why not share the objective of your lesson with the students?
Research shows that when you write the day’s objective on the board for all the students to see, they learn how to compare and contrast the day’s goals with their own experience. If a teacher writes, “At the end of this lesson, the students will be able to list the elements of a structured essay,” you are giving clear instructions as well as setting clear goals for your students. Students can, in turn, learn what goal setting looks like and how to measure their progress.
When objectives are social emotional rather than task-based, the objective may sometimes go unspoken. When implementing activities related to social-emotional learning, sharing goals is important. In addition, creating a chart of classroom goals together can help students see what outcomes the classroom wants to achieve while taking an active role in deciding the desired outcome. In this case, the class may come up with ideas like “be respectful to others.” Because the goal is their own and not just given to them, they may take a more active role in ensuring that outcome.
The importance of goal setting for students is that they learn to recognize a goal and outcome so they can eventually create roadmaps for themselves in any area of their lives.
Practical Ways You Can Teach Goal Setting for Students
Goal Setting for Older Students
One of the most widely accepted and practical approaches to goal setting for students is found in the acronym SMART.
Smart goals for students include the following tenants:
Let’s get more specific about how to set a smart goal.
The career search website Indeed discusses smart goals at length. Indeed explains, “By setting objectives and creating a clear roadmap for how you’ll reach your intended target, you can decide how to apply your time and resources to make progress.” This sentiment is a good reminder that what we teach our students about setting goals will follow them into their adulthood and careers.
When you are teaching smart goals for students, you can begin with helping them understand what it means to make a specific goal. The guidelines for setting a specific goal include the 3 S’s:
Simple. Sensible. Significant.
For example, if a student struggles with the concept of long division in math class, they might make a specific goal to help focus their efforts and feel motivated to achieve it. In this case, the student might decide they want to become better at long division because they want to master the skill to move onto the next level of math.
Measurable goals help students track their progress and stay focused.
Using the example above, the student might set a goal to practice long division for 20 minutes a day. This is a measurable goal because it includes a specific amount of time and defines a piece of evidence that can prove progress.
Setting attainable goals means the goal should stretch your student’s abilities but remain possible.
An attainable goal for a student who wants to become better at long division might be to get a better grade on their next math quiz. So, a student who earned a 60% on one quiz might set the goal of achieving a 70% on their next quiz. This goal is attainable because it is realistic and not overwhelming.
Relevant goals are those that matter to your students. Part of the importance of goal setting for students is that they learn to recognize which tasks are essential to spend time on and which are not as relevant to their future endeavors.
Your students’ goals should align with their values and larger, long-term goals. In the example of a student who is struggling with long division, you might encourage them to think about how mastering the skill of long division will help them move on to the next level of math, which will, in turn, help them achieve the goal of graduation to the next grade level.
Connecting tasks to specific outcomes that relate directly to a student’s vision for their future works as a motivator and a source of inspiration!
Setting a clear and specific end-time or end-date for each goal helps students maintain stamina and focus because they know there is an end in sight–especially when they’re working on something they might not be interested in.
The math student might decide, “To achieve my goal of mastering the skill of long division, I will practice these math skills every day for 20 minutes until the next math quiz. Then, I will reassess the amount of time I spend practicing math.”
Short-term goals can help students keep the end in sight, and they also give you, as the teacher or parent, an opportunity to reward their efforts. If they achieve their goal of earning a 10% higher grade on the following math quiz, you can celebrate their success, thus motivating them further. If they don’t achieve their goal, you can celebrate the work they put in and help them reassess their strategies.
Students must learn early on that not reaching a goal the first time is a natural part of learning and growth. Celebrating their determination is just as important as celebrating their victories.
Goal Setting for Younger Students
Goal setting for younger students often needs a more hands-on approach and more practice. In this case the SMART acronym will need to be broken down further. Younger students will need regular instruction on how to set effective goals. Here’s how to break down SMART goals for younger students:
Specific: What exactly do you want to accomplish?
Measurable: How will you know when your goal is set?
Attainable: Is it possible to meet this goal?
Relevant: Is the goal worth your work and effort?
Timely: What is the deadline you want to set to achieve your goal?
To help younger students understand concepts of specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely, it’s helpful for them to explore opposites. For example, “What is specific versus vague,” or “What is measurable versus non-measurable.” This activity can help them better understand the meaning and importance of each term.
Actively having your students participate in classroom goals, having them set specific goals for their tasks, and leading by example are all great ways to introduce goal setting into the classroom. Implementing SMART goals is also helpful because it gives students a framework that is easy to remember and repeat.
At Soul Shoppe, our mission is to transform schools and communities by cultivating awareness, empathy, and connection. Soul Shoppe transforms learning communities into inclusive, empathy–based environments by teaching kids and adults the social–emotional skills they need to navigate life’s difficulties with compassion and self–awareness. From the Peacemakers program to online elementary school SEL programs, and parent programs, Soul Shoppe brings social emotional programs directly to you.
Reach out to us for more information on supporting you as you support our kids and communities!
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Do you believe your intelligence and talents are set in stone?
Or, do you believe you can improve them with hard work, commitment, and good strategies?
If you believe you can enhance your intelligence and abilities, you have a growth mindset. Conversely, if you think your potential is finite instead of fluid, you have a fixed mindset.
Research has shown that children and adults can develop and improve their intelligence. The most critical factor is believing that intelligence results from hard work and study (Very Well Mind). Those who think this, enjoy learning because they know they can succeed with effort. This knowledge creates a positive cycle of perseverance and belief in oneself.
A growth mindset for kids is essential in helping them become resilient and lifelong learners. It also has other benefits, including improving overall health and development (Harvard School of Education).
This article will list and explain the qualities of a growth mindset for kids. Next, we will compare that to a fixed mindset. Then, we will share five ways to help children develop a growth mindset at home and school.
Growth Mindset for Kids
It is critical to help instill a growth mindset in kids. The work begins at home, where children typically spend most of their time. If their home is a supportive, warm, and responsive place, children can focus on their intellectual development (Forbes). Therefore, having a stable, happy environment accelerates children’s learning ability.
Children of all ages can develop a growth mindset. Here are some of the qualities we see in kids who have a growth mindset:
- They have a passion for learning
- High self-esteem
- They tend to be open-minded
- View failure as an opportunity for growth
- Enjoy increased self-awareness
- Believe effort leads to mastery
- They can self-regulate
- Consider failures to be temporary setbacks
- They have empathy for themselves and others
- Willingly embrace change
- They are emotionally resilient
- View feedback as an opportunity to learn (Mindset Health).
These qualities help children succeed in academics and other activities, even when faced with setbacks.
How a Growth Mindset Increases Intelligence
A growth mindset can increase intelligence in a few different ways. A research study by Carol Dweck from Stanford included studying thousands of children for 30 years. Dr. Dweck separated them into two categories: those with a growth mindset and those with a fixed mindset. She discovered after years of research that our brains are malleable.
Brain plasticity can improve and form new connections with practice while strengthening existing ones. This process of practice and growth rewires the brain to make people smarter; when students believe they can improve their intelligence, they put more effort into their learning. More significant effort leads to higher levels of achievement and success.
Additionally, we can improve the speed of the transmission of information by having good habits. Some helpful practices include using good strategies, asking questions, healthy eating, and good sleep schedules (Mindset Works). Consequently, we have more control over our abilities than we may have initially believed.
What is a Fixed Mindset?
A fixed mindset believes that children are born smart or talented, and no amount of effort will change that. This belief is incredibly limiting. As a result, children with a fixed mindset did not have the same results as those with a growth mindset.
A fixed mindset negatively impacts children’s resilience, academics, relationships, and other areas. It makes them less resilient because they believe they can’t improve. These children may develop negative thinking patterns and have a deep fear of failure or making mistakes. They typically avoid challenges, give up quickly, and feel threatened by other people’s success.
How to Teach Students to Develop a Growth Mindset
Teaching a growth mindset for students is essential for their success. Here are five ways to teach a growth mindset for children at home or in the classroom.
- Have established routines.
Routines are important because they give children stability and structure. This predictable family and classroom climate supports child development and academic success (Forbes).
2. Give specific feedback.
Researchers discovered that the type of feedback children receive matters. When encouraging a growth mindset, praise children for their effort and hard work. Resist the temptation to praise children by telling them that they are “smart,” as doing so encourages kids to believe in a fixed mindset, decreasing motivation and achievement. (Mindset Works). You can praise children for their effort and work ethic instead!
3. Erase the word “can’t” from your classroom.
Take away the word “can’t” and replace it with the phrase: “yet” (6seconds). The word can’t is dangerous because it discourages children from trying. Instead of allowing your students to say, “I can’t read,” encourage them to say, “I can’t read yet.” This change encourages kids to believe they WILL learn to read with enough time and effort.
4. Model a growth mindset for your students.
It’s important to talk aloud while you’re going through challenges so your students can hear how you handle them. For example, you can say, “I’m struggling to finish this task, but I’ll complete it.” Such sentiments exemplify a growth mindset.
Other phrases you can avoid include, “I can’t do this,” or “it’s too hard.” Continue to show a growth mindset, and eventually, your students will emulate.
5. Teach children about the brain.
Teach your students about the parts of the brain responsible for learning. Understanding the mechanics of the mind helps children know that they can improve their brains with practice and dedication. Also, teach that it is possible to become smarter with effort.
You can use the following lessons as a guide:
Lesson plan for high school
Children can improve their intelligence with dedication and effort. A growth mindset allows children to reach their full potential and their goals. The most successful people are lifelong learners, resilient, and view failure as room for growth. Teaching this skill to children empowers them with the tools they need to have a bright future.
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Education in general, but especially for children, rests on an assumption that new ideas will be explored–new thoughts will be thought. Some ideas cause discomfort, and some thoughts feel dangerous. When encountering new ideas or thinking new thoughts, children will worry sometimes whether what they think is somehow bad or wrong. Even if the thought isn’t wrong or bad, if it feels uncomfortable children are less likely to speak about them out loud or ask questions to better understand the new information. This new information might be an unsettling experience in life. Other experiences might include interactions with discrimination which makes environments feel unsafe.
For this reason, it’s essential to create a safe space in every classroom setting where children feel they’re allowed to ask any question without attracting negative reactions. In this article, we’ll explore what makes a safe space and how to create a safe space in the classroom.
How To Create A Safe Space
What is a Safe Space?
Safe space can refer to actual space, such as a classroom, or can even indicate a safe space ideologically. These can also be the same thing. Regardless, it’s important to create some clear and specific context where the boundaries clearly define where and when there will be no judgment.
There are different schools of thought around how to create a safe space, inside and outside the classroom. It’s vital that classrooms are safe spaces, and that they lend themselves to becoming safe spaces. Ideas are being tested already, and so some thinkers push a narrative of embracing a strategy of turning classrooms into “brave spaces.” In a brave space, educators tackle controversy with civility and moderate conversation to aid in ownership of intentions and their impact.
How to Create a Safe Space in the Classroom
Creating a safe space in the classroom starts with the teacher. An educator sets the tone of their classroom before students even set foot in there.
Since the crux of safe spaces stems from First-Amendment rights, it’s possible to begin with a conversation about the First Amendment. Every student–every person–has to understand the content and the implications of the First Amendment of the U.S. constitution. At the same time, it weighs on an educator to mediate productive dialogue, rather than permit a conversation that goes anywhere. While the goal is to create a classroom environment where students feel free to speak their minds, there are ways to be honest while showing respect.
Understanding how to speak both freely and respectfully is a necessary step in creating a safe space.
Educators might moderate this dialogue about First Amendment rights by…
- Leading conversation on the subject of hurtful terms and what terms to use instead. If a child has never had an opportunity to learn that a given term may offend in some cases, then it is valuable to hear that in a safe environment.
- Cultivate empathy. In the context of the classroom, conversations about understanding and empathizing with the perspectives of others turns into a skill. Skills have technical aspects, and they can be improved by practice and repetition. Discussions about what other people might think or feel helps create an environment of mutual respect.
- Moderate conversations between peers when one of them has offended the other. Sometimes children haven’t learned the tools to communicate their feelings honestly and with empathy. Educators are in a position to use social situations as teaching opportunities.
- Encourage students to speak up when they hear potentially damaging or derogatory speech. Children are more likely to speak up and honestly appraise what they hear if they’re not worried about possible negative consequences of speaking up. So, make it clear that nothing punitive happens when people do speak out about derogatory speech.
- Create opportunities for open discussion, like “circle time” or otherwise age-appropriate contexts that enable a sense that this time is protected–i.e., a safe space.
Try our Project Empty Challenge and create a Peace Corner. Somewhere in your home or educational space, create a protected place with tools that promote calm. Tailor it to the needs of your students (and yourself). Any art, comfy cushions, or art supplies that promote a sense of calm can create a space that feels safe and welcoming.
Creating Safe Spaces
A classroom has to be a place free of fear, or at least somewhere that encourages bravery. If an educator wants to prepare their students to have rewarding lives, then it is essential to create a safe space where all students feel welcome, seen, and embraced. To do this means teaching techniques for respect and empathy and talking about some hard ideas. In the end, creating a safe space in the classroom empowers students for the rest of their lives.
Soul Shoppe provides social emotional learning programs and can help you learn how to create a safe space in the classroom or at home. Soul Shoppe encourages empathy and emotional awareness in children. Click for more information on SEL Programs for Elementary Schools.
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Feelings can be complicated, and especially as a child, they can be difficult to navigate and express. It’s therefore important to help children find the words they need to vocalize their feelings.
When we talk about expressing feelings, a few clarifications are needed. Feelings and emotions are not the same. It’s tempting to use the words interchangeably, but it isn’t quite accurate to do so.
According to an article from Wake Forest University, feelings result from many different sensations, such as hunger or weariness. Feelings can come from emotions as well. Feelings are always conscious experiences, even if sometimes it’s unclear what’s causing them. (Wake)
Emotions are more complicated and unconscious. They are responses to layered experiences. According to the book, Discovering Psychology, they include “a subjective experience, a physiological response, and a behavioral or expressive response.” (Very Well)
The first major step in discovering how to express your feelings in words is distinguishing whether the sensations are feelings or emotions.
How To Express Your Feelings in Words
Words to Describe Emotions and Feelings
In general, expressing emotions takes fewer words. At the same time, it requires courage. Children might find it difficult to voice the emotions they’re experiencing.
Help your child or students with vocabulary that enables communication of emotions.
The six basic emotions are:
After a child identifies one of these emotions, then it becomes easier to start talking about feelings.
Feelings can come from emotions. For example:
- Envy can be a feeling that comes from anger.
- People feel panic as a result of fear.
- Relief can be a feeling proceeding from joy.
- Sometimes people feel longing because of the emotion of love.
- Humiliation can be a feeling that comes from sadness.
- Silliness can come from surprise.
Expressing Emotions Examples
Feelings and emotions can be complex. Panic might come from fear, but then it might lead to anger. Feelings of shame can sometimes stem from a moment that started as joyful.
Once an emotion or feeling has been identified, it’s easier to choose appropriate coping mechanisms.
Among the most effective tools for expressing feelings in healthy ways is the, “I feel…When people…I need…Will you please…” formation. (SoulShoppe)
This formation may need to be broken down, especially for younger children.
Start with just the “I feel…” part.
- I feel frustrated.
- I feel worried.
- I feel nervous.
After children get used to identifying their feelings and emotions, start asking them to identify the cause of their feelings. Use the formation, “I feel…when people…”
- I feel frustrated when people talk about how I pronounce words.
- I feel worried when people remind me I have a math quiz.
- I feel nervous when people talk about how I wear glasses.
Once they start getting the hang of associating their feelings with things happening in their lives, start asking them to begin looking for the reason those events matter. Use the “I feel…when people…I need…” formation.
- I feel frustrated when people talk about how I pronounce words. I need to feel safe when I talk.
- I feel worried when people remind me I have a math quiz. I need to learn my math problems.
- I feel nervous when people talk about how I wear my glasses. I need to feel safe wearing my glasses.
The point of this formation is to give children more tools to communicate what’s going on inside them.
The last step is giving children the tools to ask for what they need. For example…
- I feel frustrated when people talk about how I pronounce words. I need to feel safe when I talk. Will you please stop pointing out how I pronounce words?
- I feel worried when people remind me I have a math quiz. I need to learn my math problems. Will you please help me study?
- I feel nervous when people talk about how I wear my glasses. I need to feel safe wearing my glasses. Will you please stop talking about my glasses?
Why a Child has Difficulty Expressing Emotions
The reason a child might have trouble expressing emotions and feelings is simply that they’ve experienced fewer things than an adult, and some feelings are new. As a result, they’ve had fewer opportunities to learn the terminology necessary to express their emotions and feelings. According to Vanderbilt University, “Children get angry, sad, frustrated, nervous, happy, or embarrassed, but they often do not have the words to talk about how they are feeling. Instead, they sometimes act out these emotions in very physical and inappropriate ways.” (Vanderbilt) Children can end up experiencing frustration when they haven’t yet learned the words necessary to explain what they are feeling.
Therefore, teaching your child to identify and express emotions and feelings is of paramount importance. Gently helping children to better grasp the vocabulary and tools to identify and express emotions will prepare them for a far more rewarding life. This is because when they learn how to express their feelings in words they can then progress to learning coping mechanisms to express their feelings in healthy ways.
Soul Shoppe provides social emotional learning programs for children. For more than twenty years we’ve created tools and empowered educators to incorporate emotional intelligence into curriculum. Soul Shoppe strategies encourage empathy and emotional awareness in children. Whether helping in the classroom or assisting parents at home, Soul Shoppe brings social skills to the forefront of the discussion. Click for more information on SEL Programs for Elementary Schools or our parent support programs.
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School is a natural environment for children to make friends. Many children have a natural social instinct, though some do not. Putting several kids together and giving them activities in common creates an environment for children to develop friendships naturally at school. However, children won’t only make friends at school. After-school activities and sports, church, and other environments that encourage teamwork and socialization are also places where children will build their social circles.
Educators can help children improve their friendship-building skills. Providing strong social skills to all children in the classroom helps the whole classroom by leveling the playing field for both the socially awkward children and the socially outgoing children. Teaching children how to make friends at school and providing effective conversation starters will prepare them for one of the most useful and most frequently important experiences: connecting with people.
As for homeschooled children, it might not be as easy to teach children how to make friends while at home unless in a co-op. However, homeschooled children will still be able to learn how to make friends through learning social skills taught by the parent or third-party educator. Learning effective conversation starters, and strong social skills, in general, will prepare homeschooled children for successful and rewarding social lives as well.
How to Make Friends at School
According to WebMD, “Healthy friendships are also linked to better cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure, less depression, and a longer life. So it never hurts to try to make new friends.” (WebMD)
It’s a comfort to know that there are health benefits for friendships. However, children don’t need to know that there are health benefits to recognize that making friends is a good idea.
The job of educators is to create environments where children have equal opportunities to make friends, regardless of whether children are shy or outgoing.
Skills to teach children how to make friends include:
- Saying yes to invitations
- Taking initiative in social situations
- Starting conversations (Sharing something about themselves is a good way to start.)
- Showing interest in what other people are saying
- Smiling and making eye contact
- Share details about themself
- Practicing small acts of kindness
- Demonstrating persistent interest
Social skills aren’t necessarily obvious to some children. In fact, some children might find the prospect of trying to make friends both frustrating and intimidating. Even outgoing children might not have any natural instincts for how to pursue a rewarding relationship. Designing classroom activities that encourage the social skills listed above will help children start pursuing rewarding friendships.
While children learn what skills help them make friends, some children will also benefit from learning a few things not to do in a conversation to foster stronger friendships.
- Act with honesty.
- Avoid bragging. While educators should try to show children they can be proud of their accomplishments, there should be some distinction made between talking about things they’re proud of themselves for and bragging about them.
- Limit aggressive conversation tactics. Children might need to learn not to be too forceful with new acquaintances. They may also need to be introduced to spacial boundaries.
- Learn patience. Children might need to learn that friendships can take a long time and need to be nurtured.
Another important and not necessarily intuitive skill that children need to learn about making friends is recognizing when they have successfully made a friend.
- Another child takes the initiative in the relationship
- When it feels comfortable to be around a person and talk to them
- When it becomes natural to share feelings with the person
The skills involved in learning how to make friends might not seem like teachable skills. However, nothing could be further from the truth. There are objective and clear indicators related to making friends, and anything objective and clear can be taught.
A fairly straightforward skill educators can create activities around is conversation starters. It’s a mystery to some children how to initiate a conversation. It may be an effective use of classroom time to design an activity where children come up with conversation starters.
- What animal would you like to be and why?
- What’s the longest walk you’ve ever taken?
- What would you do if you didn’t have a TV?
- If you could go anywhere, where would you go?
- What’s your favorite story?
- What’s your favorite song and why do you like it?
- If you had a superpower what would it be?
Implementing this activity in the classroom allows children to think of things they would like to use in conversations without the pressure of performing on the spot.
A follow-up activity to this is roleplaying these conversation starters with other kids in the classroom. Roleplay provides the opportunity of helping children practice starting a conversation and thinking about what happens after the conversation continues.
Conversation skills are just as important as any other life skill. Activities that foster learning opportunities for children to learn how to make friends will prepare children for success in life.
For an online program on social emotional learning that includes social engagement exercises, view Tools From The Heart.
If unable to teach social skills in the classroom, or if an educator would like assistance teaching social skills, you can receive help with virtual social learning activities. Soul Shoppe provides social emotional learning programs for children and educators that can be completed online. Soul Shoppe strategies encourage empathy and emotional awareness in children. Whether helping in the classroom or assisting parents at home, Soul Shoppe brings social skills to the forefront of the discussion. Click for more information on SEL Programs for Elementary Schools, homeschool social emotional electives, or our parent support programs.
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A key aspect to understand in social and emotional learning is the importance of managing emotions. Incorporating ways to manage emotions in a classroom setting can help teach children skills necessary to live rewarding lives. If children can get an education that teaches them how to deal with emotions in a healthy way, they are more likely to thrive.
Managing emotions in a positive way has far-reaching benefits. Not only will a kid with the ability to self-regulate their feelings experience better social interactions, but there are also health benefits to effective emotional management. People who know how to manage their emotions in a positive way will have better cardiovascular health. (HHP) Good emotional health quite literally gives people good hearts.
While there are many techniques that might prove effective for positive emotional management, we have a favorite. The Empty Balloon is an exercise we often implement here at Soul Shoppe.
The Empty Balloon Exercise – How it Works
The Empty Balloon Exercise is an emotional management tool. It begins by having students visualize emotional states as big balloons. As the emotion expands, the imagined balloon expands. And what happens to balloons when they overinflate?
In an effort to avoid emotional explosions, the idea is to find ways to release pressure from your emotional ballon before they pop.
The Empty Balloon Exercise serves as a teaching metaphor to describe the psychology and physiology behind effective emotional management. Click here to learn more about the Emotional Balloon Exercise.
Improving Emotional Intelligence for Elementary Students
Emotional intelligence is a critical factor in the effective management of emotions. The practice of improving emotional intelligence is a lifelong challenge for most of us. It’s valuable to prepare children with a solid foundation in understanding how to interpret and manage emotions. This includes their own and those of other people.
In order to improve emotional intelligence, teachers and parents can incorporate certain activities into their curricula. Such as: (DCE)
- Self-awareness activities. Activities like journaling and role-playing help children learn self-awareness. Reading is also a good tool for learning self-awareness.
- Practicing self-regulation. Exercises like pausing to breathe before reacting and recognizing your own emotions are important. Board games and active games like Simon Says help kids learn and practice self-regulation skills.
- Empathy is an important part of improving emotional management. It may not come naturally for children to think about how other kids feel. Activities like check-ins including the whole class, or role-playing help students practice empathy.
- Cultivating social skills. Nothing teaches emotional intelligence better than social interaction. Providing children with opportunities to practice social skills gives them practical experience in developing emotional awareness. Team sports and playing games as teams provide good aids in teaching social skills.
A lot goes into emotional intelligence. With a strong grounding in emotional awareness, students can learn lessons to help them manage and control their emotions in healthy ways. (HBS)
Sometimes children find it challenging to differentiate between feelings and emotions. It is important to develop the skills to identify when it is an emotion and when it is a feeling. Feelings are generally immediate reactions to situations, while emotions often involve a deeper psychological reality. (iMotions)
How to Manage and Control Emotions in Healthy Ways
Emotional balloons will inflate. Being human means having emotions. Developing emotional intelligence is a lifelong skill. When kids can identify what they’re feeling, they will have better luck deflating their emotional balloons.
There are a handful of good ways to deflate your emotional balloon. Here are a few: (SoulShoppe)
- Hang out with friends. Social interaction helps raise emotional awareness and helps turn negative emotions into positive ones.
- Dance it out. Engaging the body with an activity unrelated to a negative emotion helps reduce the pressure in your emotional balloon. Plus…
- Listening to music is always a good emotional outlet!
- Stop and breathe for a second before doing the next thing.
- Read a book. If the problem is getting too deep into your own head, books are great ways to change how you’re thinking.
- Give someone a hug. As naturally social animals, humans heal from positive physical contact.
- Find a chuckle. Laughing stimulates endorphin production and helps with mood regulation.
- Do something creative. Drawing a picture, singing a song, and writing some poetry, are all ways to redirect emotional energy in a positive way.
- Talking to someone trustworthy will also help relieve emotional stress a lot of the time.
- Cry if you need to!
There are a lot of ways to relieve pressure from your emotional balloon, or even empty it completely.
Where can students go during the school day when they need a moment to empty their emotional balloons? A peace corner is a safe space that can be created in the classroom or at home where children can empty their emotional balloons. Find out how to create a peace corner here.
There are many opportunities for children to learn how to manage emotions in a positive way, at home and at school. Through creating and sharing social and emotional learning techniques, Soul Shoppe helps teachers and parents at home or in the classroom. Our SEL curriculum for elementary school students help children learn positive emotional management. We have developed tools like the Empty Emotional Balloon exercise and the Peace Corner to bring SEL tools to your curriculum. To learn about online SEL programs for elementary schools, click here. For home school social emotional programs, click here.
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Taking responsibility for one’s actions can be a challenge for both children and adults. To our lower brains, voluntarily taking responsibility for actions feels like attracting consequences on purpose. It isn’t necessarily a natural instinct. On the other hand, higher executive functions tell us something different. Those functions help people live successful lives as contributing members of their communities. (DevelopingChild) Therefore, developing strength of character, to make taking responsibility for their actions a habit, helps children grow into strong community members. But how do we teach a child to take responsibility for their actions at home or at school? Let’s explore.
How To Teach a Child to Take Responsibility for Their Actions
Taking responsibility for actions as well as approaching tasks responsibly requires the development of higher executive functions. Functions like working memory, mental flexibility, and self-control. (DevelopingChild)
In a classroom setting as well as in the home, the most effective teaching method for higher executive functions is modeling them. (MCC)
- It’s important for teachers and parents to develop caring relationships with their children.
- Adults should make an effort to be strong and healthy role models. Children see everything and they’re always learning.
- It should be made clear by parents and teachers that caring matters.
- Additionally, children need to be given opportunities to practice caring. This might include volunteering opportunities or other activities that teach responsibility.
- Expose children to a wider understanding of the cares of the world, within reason, to help them to build empathy.
Modeling healthy behavior will teach children higher executive functions, such as taking responsibility for their actions. Educators and parents can reinforce the lessons through activities and games that teach responsibility.
Here are a few examples. (PetitJourney)
Activities & Games To Teach Responsibility
Role-playing helps to teach children about outcomes of scenarios that haven’t occurred yet. Set up a scenario where the person in the scenario did something that affected others negatively. Prompt the child to take responsibility for their actions, and then demonstrate a positive outcome. Praise the child in the scenario. You might say something like, “Sometimes it can be hard to tell the truth. I’m so glad you were honest and told me about what happened. Let’s work together to fix the situation.”
Tidying up their Workspace
Nobody likes cleaning up the workspace at the end of the day. Right?
What if it’s turned into a game? Maybe at the end of the day, turn tidying up the classroom into a game. Perhaps race to see who can clean up their space first.
It’s possible to reframe tidying up as a positive and rewarding activity. It can easily become an effective technique for teaching responsibility to students.
Help in the Kitchen
Kids can learn a lot about responsibility from cooking. Kitchens are full of tools that have to be used responsibly in order to be useful and not dangerous. Cooking requires attention to detail and effective planning. It also comes with an automatic reward for doing it right in the form of a cake, or a batch of cookies, or a meal.
Because most recipes also come with several jobs and tools, parents or educators can assign responsibilities to different children. One kid can be in charge of the recipe. Another kid might be responsible for the measuring cups or measuring spoons. There might be a child entirely in charge of setting and watching timers.
Kitchens come ready-made with tools that teach responsibility.
Reorganize the Workspace
Maybe a classroom, a playroom, or a reading area isn’t the most sensible layout and has the potential for restructuring. Children can learn a lot about taking responsibility for their own space if the following question is raised: “How would you reorganize this space?”
Students can learn higher cognitive skills from an exercise involving reorganizing their classroom or workspace. They will need to practice planning in order to think about making changes to the current layout. Reorganizing might involve negotiation and compromise if one kid has one idea and another kid has a different idea.
The end result will be rewarding to all children involved. They get to feel like they were responsible for a positive change in their environment.
If there is a class pet or animal at home, then caring for the animal will help teach responsibility. Children will have to learn how to make adjustments in their schedules to take care of the animal. There are also lessons in remembering to keep to a schedule. Caring for an animal comes with a sense of responsibility since a child’s actions affect the well-being of another living thing. Children can also learn community interaction skills if the whole class bears responsibility for the class pet.
Similar to caring for an animal, planting a garden as a class, or at home, helps children learn how to take responsibility for their actions. This activity requires that they pay attention to the care and needs of the plants, attending to the everyday requirements of weeding and watering. Children will need to think about how the weather might affect their garden. They might have to take responsibility for creating shelter for the plants or checking the soil. Gardens teach time management skills as well as working memory.
It’s important to teach a child how to take responsibility for their actions. By using games and activities that teach accountability, teachers and parents can help children develop higher cognitive skills. It is also important to live the lessons being taught. Kids learn by example. If their teachers and parents demonstrate responsible behaviors, children will likely model them too.
At Soul Shoppe we teach social and emotional skills to students, educators, and parents. Click for more information on our SEL programs for elementary schools and social-emotional homeschool electives.
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Thank you for attending Soul Shoppe’s virtual game show, Kids Say the Smartest Things!
We had a blast sharing superhero trivia and imitating animal sounds, talking about polar bears and playground problems, but more importantly: your kids had a lot of wise insights to share.
They showed us how to navigate tough conversations, how to face overwhelming emotions, how to stand up to peer pressure, and much, much more. All this just goes to show that kids have innate peacemaking and problem solving skills. We adults could probably learn a thing or two!
Thanks to your little ones and their profound kid wisdom, we feel that we have a much brighter future ahead of us.
Now we want to know what you thought of our virtual events this year. Whether you’re a parent, a teacher, or a school administrator, we’d love to hear from you so we can continue to improve our programs to best serve your kids and students.
Simply click the button below to take a very brief survey (only 3 questions!) and give us your feedback.
If you missed out, we’ll be sharing the recap video soon.
It takes more than academic skills to sufficiently prepare children for rewarding lives. It is the responsibility of parents and educators to provide learning experiences designed to foster life skills for children, including social and emotional skills. In this article, we’ll explore life skills for students and provide activities that help children develop in these essential areas.
Life Skills for Children
The classroom is a place where children learn both how to think and how to behave. Nurturing social and emotional skills helps to shape child behavior. It also helps to promote the long-term success of a child.
In academia, some “softer” life skills necessary for living a rewarding life are referred to as executive function and self-regulation. These are terms that refer to skills like focus, switching focus, and coping with distractions. They also refer to self-control, working memory, and mental flexibility.
These soft skills are important life skills children will grow up and use to function well in society, hold a job, and connect with peers.
Additionally, these core skills provide the underpinnings for other life skills like empathy and acceptance, or social skills like politeness and cooperation. All of these skills help children to thrive in group settings while building confidence in themselves. Exercises designed to encourage children to practice empathy, acceptance, politeness, cooperation, etc., create opportunities for children to develop core skills of executive function and self-regulation.
Teaching activities that promote life skills for children can be incorporated into the classroom or implemented at home. These activities can help prepare children for success.
Examples of Life Skills Activities
There are many life skills activities educators and parents can incorporate into the education of the children in their care. Educators might find it more useful to tailor life skills activities to the specific needs of the children in their particular classrooms. It’s not only possible to do this, it might prove essential in many cases. Different groups of children have different specific needs, and the principles of teaching core skills will be similar. Here are a few examples to give educators and parents a place to start thinking about designing life skills activities for primary school children:
Bake a Snack
Every aspect of baking contributes positively to a child’s development. It gives a child a sense of accomplishment and gratification that they can do something both positive and constructive for themselves. Baking provides an opportunity for children to practice patience and to practice recognizing the connection between actions and results. Bonus: make it a group activity and build in chances for children to cultivate social skills and communication.
Learn Emergency Numbers
There are a lot of things considered by adults to be common knowledge. As a result, it can be a worrying thing for a child to feel unprepared. Helping children with knowledge such as the numbers for their local police departments and fire departments can provide a sense of security.
Learn to Use Simple Tools
Understanding the use of tools, like screwdrivers and socket wrenches, fosters a broader understanding of how the world is put together. It encourages imagination in addition to providing a sense of self-reliance.
Grow Plants from Seeds
Growing plants from seeds provides children a chance to cultivate patience and sustained attention over weeks. Furthermore, growing living things provides an opportunity for children to develop nurturing instincts towards other living things. Make it a group activity and give children a chance to practice mutual accountability and working together.
Sew Buttons on Clothes
Culturally, many of us are getting further and further away from the source of our commodities. We don’t typically think about where our stuff comes from. As a result, children might develop a sense that if their stuff breaks they can’t do anything about it. Learning a skill like putting buttons back on clothes provides children with the opportunity to learn that they can take care of their things. In turn, this creates a sense of confidence and contribution.
Play Games as a Group
We know that playing is an integral part of childhood learning. Additionally, when children play in a group they learn social skills and how to cooperate with others. Pull out a board game, play charades in teams, or enhance listening skills with the game of telephone. Because social emotional skills are so important in a child’s development, interacting with peers in a cooperative setting promotes important life skills.
Teaching Life Skills in Primary School
It’s important to prepare children in multiple areas of life. The whole concept of life skills may include practical skills, social skills, and academic skills which all prepare children for success in adulthood. Here are some activities you can implement to enhance social emotional life skills:
When educators need assistance with lessons that encourage core skills like executive function and self-regulation, Soul Shoppe helps with online SEL programs. Soul Shoppe encourages empathy and emotional awareness in children. Whether helping in the classroom or assisting parents at home, Soul Shoppe brings social skills to the forefront of the discussion. Click for more information on SEL Programs for Elementary Schools or our parent support programs.
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When children attentively listen, both their academic performance and relationships can improve. In this article, we’ll discuss active listening and provide examples of listening skills activities to help children develop proficiency in this area.
Listening Skills Activities for Students
Listening skills are an important communication tool that requires practice. It is important to distinguish between listening and hearing, as they are not the same. Many people can recall the sound of rain or music, for example. However, listening to them requires active listening skills. According to Maryville University, active listening requires, “attention, comprehension of the message relayed, and recollection of what’s been said.” This skill is vital for teamwork, problem-solving, leadership, and conflict resolution for kids (Oxford). Listening skills activities teach children to actively listen.
What is Active Listening
Active listening is crucial to learning. These skills are necessary at home and in the classroom. Active listening is defined as giving full attention to the speaker and understanding the complete message that was sent (Oxford). This means understanding both verbal and nonverbal cues. There are four main types of active listening. They include:
This type of listening occurs when we pay close attention to what’s said and then respond to the speaker. The listener must actively listen and respond appropriately.
Empathetic listening involves hearing another person discuss their problems. It is also known as therapeutic listening. Empathetic listening means giving supportive cues, such as eye contact, and exhibiting empathy.
When we listen without judgment to the speaker’s perspective, we are using comprehensive listening skills. We pay attention to nonverbal and verbal cues. Some of these clues include body language and tone. This type of listening builds trust, friendships, and community.
We use critical listening when we analyze carefully and without bias. This type often occurs when separating facts from opinions. We often do this when we are offered a product or service (Oxford).
These four main types of active listening can be taught to children through activities.
Active Listening Benefits
There are numerous benefits to learning active listening skills. Firstly, students have better comprehension when they actively listen. By paying full attention to the speaker and deeply listening, students retain information. This improves their academic performance in every area, as well as their productivity. In addition, they are typically better critical and mindful thinkers. In short, active listening skills provide enormous cognitive benefits.
Additionally, students improve socially when their communication skills progress. They can resolve conflicts with their classmates and advocate for themselves. This helps reduce disruptions in the classroom and promotes positive action. Good listeners tend to be better liked and have stronger relationships. Therefore, providing listening exercises for students is beneficial in any classroom or home environment.
Listening Activities for Students
This stands for “Know, Want to Know, and Learned.” Make a chart using a large paper or a whiteboard with three columns labeled K, W, and L. Introduce students to a topic and then listen to what they already know about it. Write highlights of what they know under the “K” section. Encourage students to brainstorm about what they would like to know about the topic. Write their thoughts under the “W” section. Next, give students the vocabulary and background information they will need to understand the topic. Prompt students to listen for 1-2 specific items. Include tone, details, and emotions when teaching. Lastly, have students tell you what they learned and then complete the chart under the “L” section. Provide a follow-up activity such as crafts, writing prompts, or group discussions (Colorado State).
This classic game is perfect for teaching active listening skills. Students have to pay close attention to the speaker. One person stands in front of the classroom and says the task the rest of the class must perform. Then, students have to quickly perform the activity. However, they can only do it if the speaker says, “Simon Says.” If those words aren’t used, the children doing the activity are “out” for that game.
This game is great for kids from preschool up to high school. In this game, the teacher or a student makes up an appropriate phrase or sentence. Then the message is whispered to the next student until it is passed around by the entire class. The goal is to have the correct message revealed at the end. This game shows students the importance of active listening and is a fun way to hone their skills.
In this game, students actively listen to everyone’s ideas. One person starts by saying a few words (1-3 works well for younger students, 3-5 for older students). Then the next person adds to it, based on what was said in the previous sentence. For example, if one student says, “My pet bunny,” the next person should say something like, “likes eating carrots.” The goal of the activity is for students to listen and repeat the full story at the end.
Have students sit or lay down quietly. Utilize mindfulness in the classroom activities such as guided meditation or a mindful body scan as discussed here. This helps teach students to listen and focus.
Sound Scavenger Hunt
This game can be conducted in several different ways. Scavenger hunts can be inside or outside. In this activity, children hunt for sounds. Have children sit quietly and try to focus on the sounds they hear and identify the sound. They can move around the room and pinpoint sounds, or they can find sounds outdoors. The sounds can be as specific or general as you wish. (Waterford).
This game involves having students actively listen and then kinesthetically respond. A teacher or student can stand at the front of the classroom to begin. A simple movement is best to start, such as clapping hands or snapping fingers. Whatever the appointment leader does, the rest of the class imitates (Seattle Education). You can make this activity more challenging by performing multiple gestures at once or a sequence of gestures, which requires more attention to repeat.
Some listening skills activities take 5 minutes or less. They are a quick way to sharpen students’ cognitive skills. Active listening exercises for students promote success. Although it can be difficult to make the time, the benefits far outweigh the time spent.
Soul Shoppe provides social emotional learning programs, including mindfulness, inclusivity, allyship, conflict resolution strategies for students, and more. Click here to learn more about SEL programs for elementary schools.
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When people think of mindfulness, they often think of meditation for adults. However, children can learn mindfulness with incredible emotional, physical, educational, and social benefits. In this article, we discuss the benefits of mindfulness for children and provide examples of mindfulness activities for the classroom.
What is Mindfulness
The practice of mindfulness was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn over 30 years ago. This practice is also known as Mindful Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). It is defined as: “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.” (Child Mind Institute) This mindfulness practice is well known for teaching children to focus on the present moment while easing anxiety.
Benefits of Mindfulness
The benefits of mindfulness in the classroom are vast. School environments may present stressful situations for children, both socially and academically. However, these stressors can be mitigated with mindfulness. Furthermore, studies have shown that learning mindfulness helps increase students’ focus, which helps them academically, while also helping them avoid negative behaviors (Harvard).
One study, conducted by researchers at the Boston Charter Research Collaborative, showed incredible promise. The researchers included staff from MIT, Harvard, and others. They studied 6th graders who learned mindfulness in an 8-week course. The results showed that the students who participated in the research study had lower stress, and were more able to focus and regulate their emotions. Brain scans also demonstrated that the part of the brain that responds to stress had responded less to stressful stimuli.
In a similar study, Stanford University studied students in 4th to 6th grade over 8 weeks of mindfulness training. They found that the participants had significant decreases in anxiety, and were less emotionally reactive. Additionally, students felt more able to handle challenges in their daily life, and also felt control over their behavior. Lastly, like the Harvard study, students had increased focus and experienced a sense of well-being (Child Mind Institute).
These results are so important because it shows that children thrive academically and emotionally when they are able to focus and be present. Reducing anxiety and stress increases students’ ability to focus and retain information, which is critical to their success. On a social-emotional level, children experience more acceptance and positive interactions with mindfulness. By avoiding negative behaviors and reactive emotions, their interactions with peers and teachers improve. This fosters a rich dynamic where students can grow academically, socially, and emotionally. Therefore, a mindfulness curriculum can play an important part in the classroom.
Mindfulness in the Classroom Activities
How can you teach mindfulness in the classroom? There are numerous ways to incorporate mindfulness activities. Many of them take 5 minutes or less and provide an excellent start to each students’ day. Here are some mindfulness in the classroom activities you can incorporate into your classroom:
1. Guided Meditation
This is surprisingly easy with apps that do the work for you. Have students sit or lie down with the lights dimmed, and encourage all students to participate in a guided meditation. If students do not want to participate, simply have them sit quietly. Praise the students who did the activity and ease back into the classroom setting by discussing how they feel afterward (VeryWellMind).
2. Guided Activities
One example of a guided activity is to have students mindfully eat a raisin or piece of fruit (Vanderbilt). Students can touch, look at, and chew a raisin for a full 5-10 minutes. This activity encourages self-awareness and increases their attention span. Additionally, this activity can teach children to slow down and appreciate life moment to moment. Students can journal afterward about the experience or discuss it in a large group.
3. Journal Writing
This activity is appropriate for children ages 6 and up. However, younger children can draw pictures instead. Appropriate writing prompts can include questions such as: what are three beautiful things you heard today? Or, what are three urges you resisted today? For older students, these prompts can become even more thought-provoking and challenging to get them thinking introspectively. (Positive Psychology).
4. Mindful Breathing
Teaching students breathing techniques is another great way to teach mindfulness. Helping students to focus on their breathing is an important technique for stress reduction. Students can sit or stand, and inhale air through the nose for 3 seconds, hold for 2, and exhale for 4 out of the mouth. For best results, it is important that students stay focused and aware of their breath and how they feel during the exercise (Berkeley).
5. Mindful Body Scan
In this activity, students should either sit or lie down. This activity begins with focusing on breathing to relax. Then, students are asked to relax their bodies bit by bit. Instruct them to start at their feet and move upwards slowly to their head, until every part of their body is relaxed. It requires concentration and commitment, and rewards students with deep relaxation while providing relief from stress and anxiety. (University of Minnesota).
Vary mindfulness activities to help students stay engaged and focused.
Mindfulness curriculum does not have to take long—in fact, just 5-10 minutes a day. The time spent on these activities is often returned, as student behaviors and focus are improved. Less time is needed to address behavioral issues. This allows the teacher to teach and the students to learn. By providing mindfulness in the classroom, we empower children to be successful socially, emotionally, and academically. That is worth a few minutes each day!
Soul Shoppe provides social emotional learning programs, including SEL programs for elementary schools, and programs on mindfulness, inclusivity, allyship, conflict resolution strategies for students, and more.
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The pandemic has caused major disruptions in routines and social activities for children. These disruptions have led to social isolation and a crisis that is reaching into 2022.
Many children have missed their sports games, music lessons, birthday parties, and other activities. At the same time, they’ve been kept from friends and family, making it more difficult for them to enjoy much needed social support. All this has taken a toll on children’s social and emotional health. Additionally, it has affected their academic performance and led to a stark situation overall.
It is imperative that adults understand the pandemic effects on children. The more clearly we see the big picture and its overall effects on kids, the more we can help them cope with the changes and difficulties they have faced. Our ability to relate to their current trauma can improve the accuracy and effectiveness with which we embolden children with resilience and the ability to navigate the unknown.
In this article, we will explain pandemic effects on children and provide strategies to help you support your kids at home.
What are the Pandemic Effects on Children
The pandemic effects on children are broad and far-reaching. Children have been one of the most adversely impacted demographics internationally, as they have experienced disruptions, fear, and social isolation during a most vulnerable time in their lives.
Some skills that can only be developed in the company of other children have been disrupted. For younger children especially, the inability to access daycare and play dates has been problematic. Being separated from their peers and teachers has slowed their social and emotional development. For older children, the isolation has made it harder to build vital relationships (Children’s Hospitals).
According to Children’s Hospitals, the main list of childhood development skills being interrupted by the pandemic include:
- Self and social awareness
- Learning to have positive relationships
- Self regulation
- Good decision making
- Problem solving
Also at risk are learning skills, which have been halted abruptly with the need for distance learning. COVID has affected every child; it’s resulted in a collective traumatic event.
Children have been unable to regularly attend school in person. Consequently, they have fallen behind academically.
During the first year of the pandemic (2020), children’s grades and ability to learn new information began to decline. Unfortunately, they have not yet caught up in 2022.
One study by the NWEA studied 8th graders. They found that 1out of 3 8th graders are testing at lower levels than normal in both math and reading (NY Times). Additionally, the students whose test scores are suffering most are Black, Hispanic, and living near or under the poverty level. According to Michael Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, “We haven’t seen this kind of academic crisis in living memory” (NY Times).
Behavior Problems at School
Although many people believe that children’s lives have gone back to normal since being allowed to go back to school on a limited basis, they have not.
Our “new normal” is rife with uncertainty, less social interaction, and a sense of loss. As a result, behavior problems in school have increased. Children have struggled in a variety of ways. Some have become more aggressive and started fights in both the classroom and online. Similarly, some children have taken up swearing while others are vandalizing their schools. Still others are running out of their classrooms as a result of built-up pressure and panic attacks, or have stopped participating in class altogether.
School used to be a haven for many students. Over the course of the pandemic, they have become microcosms of international chaos caused by the pandemic.
Furthermore, practices such as making children sit apart from their friends at lunchtime, social distancing at school, and fear of the virus are making the situation worse. According to the NY Times, the car rides to and from school have even become fear-laden since they have been recognized as an opportunity for the virus to infect children.
The trade off of protecting children from the virus at the expense of their academic and social development is wreaking havoc on our children’s emotional well-being.
Students’ mental health has suffered. Being isolated from their friends, activities, and routines has had a profound effect. In addition, as economic effects worsened, families are experiencing a greater degree of poverty. In turn, children are witnessing more family stress. The culmination of these adverse consequences of the pandemic has led to a large increase in anxiety and depression.
It was reported in one study in late 2020 that 22% of children showed increased signs of depression, anxiety, and stress (KFF). At the same time, children have had less access to mental health services so parents have had to bring their ailing children to emergency rooms in the midst of a mental health crisis.
As a result, the American Academy of Pediatrics declared a national state emergency for children’s mental health. This was based on the number of emergency room visits for mental health crises.
At the same time, suicide attempts have risen primarily in children aged 12 to 17 (KFF). In particular, the number of ER visits for suspected suicide rose by 51% for girls aged 12-17 since 2019 (NY Times). For younger children aged 5-11, there was a 22% increase in ER visits for mental health (Yale Medicine). It’s evident that children are suffering greatly from the pandemic.
In the midst of this chaos, there are ways to help re-establish order and safety for your children at home.
How to Support Children at Home
There is a wide variety of activities that can help support your child’s cognitive and behavioral development at home during the pandemic. Here are 5 activities you can complete in less than 10 minutes a day.
1. Teaching emotional intelligence by labeling emotions.
Help them label their feelings, and then empathize with why they feel that way. If they need help, offer words to help them articulate their feelings. Questions such as, “Do you think you feel frustrated or angry, or sad?” will help them label their feelings.
2. Encourage self care activities for mental health.
Teaching your children the tenets of self-care is an important way to combat anxiety and depression. Activities such as having a dance party at home, drawing or painting, or taking a hot bubble bath are all useful. There are many self-care activities you can incorporate into your daily routine at home depending on your family’s time limitations.
3. Teach your children how to adapt to change.
The pandemic has increased stress on children. As a result, teaching your kids how to adapt to change is an important tool. Keep routines at home as consistent as possible and discuss change before it happens, if you can. Acknowledge your children’s worries and fears, and allow them to feel their emotions (WISC). It can be helpful to write a list of to-do’s for each day with your child so they know what to expect.
4. Work on mindfulness with your children.
Mindfulness is very effective at lowering stress. It teaches children to accept and pay attention to what is occurring in the present moment. This, in turn, helps them face daily challenges. There are many apps that teach mindfulness practices. There are also age-appropriate activities provided on numerous child development websites.
5. Utilize positive parenting tips.
For as long as the pandemic lasts it is crucial to be supportive of children at home. We recommend parents utilize positive parenting tips. These help children cope, build emotional skills, and adapt during difficult times. Chief among these tips is nurturing your children and building connections with them so they know they can come to you with their questions, concerns, and burdens.
Soul Shoppe provides social emotional learning programs for schools. homes, and businesses. In addition, we teach a variety of self-care activities. Please reach out to us with questions.
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Parenting is one of the most rewarding jobs in life. However, it can also be one of the most challenging. Because children do not come with instructions, it is up to parents to learn the parenting style that works best for them.
There are several parenting methods that help children develop into successful, happy adults. However, others can leave children feeling anxious with low self-esteem. That’s why we suggest the positive parenting method. It helps children become capable and resilient while bonding them to their caregiver. Although some people consider this a “fluffy” way to parent—it is not. Rather, it is effective in holding children accountable for their actions in age-appropriate ways. This system uses clear expectations and rewards to empower children to make responsible decisions.
In this article, we will detail what positive parenting is and how it benefits children. We’ll also provide positive parenting tips.
What is Positive Parenting
The movement for positive parenting began in the 1900s. Previously, it was believed that children should be “seen but not heard.” However, psychotherapist Alfred Adler declared that children should be treated with dignity and respect. He also declared that children should not be spoiled. Otherwise, they would be riddled with self-entitlement and would be devoid of empathy. Furthermore, Adler asserted that children need connections to adults and an emotionally safe environment to thrive. These ideas helped form the positive parenting method.
This style of parenting focuses on several ideas. Some of the most important include:
- Parenting children in age-appropriate ways
- Being sensitive to children’s needs, temperament, and developmental stage (Parenting for Brain)
- Nurturing children emotionally
- Having clear boundaries and limits
- Building connections with children
- Understanding that misbehaviors are underlying symptoms of problems. They are simply a cry for help. Once underlying symptoms are identified and dealt with, problem behaviors will cease (Positive Parenting Solutions)
- The idea that a misbehaving child is not bad, mean, uncontrollable, or defiant
- Having empathy for children and showing consistent love and warmth
- Focusing on the children’s best interests
- Rewarding good behavior and accomplishments
- Having clear communication between parents and children (Positive Psychology)
- Building children’s self-esteem and independence
Benefits of Positive Parenting
Research strongly supports positive parenting. In a 7 year-long study in 1997, researchers studied this method. Researchers examined supportive parenting (positive parenting) and contrasted it with less supportive parenting styles. The supportive style was defined as parent and child warmth, proactive teaching, positive involvement, and inductive discipline. Less supportive styles were harsher and had colder interactions between parent and child.
The study showed that the positive parenting style increased school performance and led to fewer behavioral problems. Furthermore, this type of parenting actually mitigated the impact of trauma and child stress (Positive Parenting). Supportive parenting was also able to overcome adversities such as single parenting, divorce, poverty, and more.
Similarly, a study on emotional coaching by Bath Spa University discovered positive outcomes for families trained by emotional coaches. Parents reported an average of 79% improvement in children’s behaviors. (Positive Parenting).
Additional research has shown that positive parenting improves social-emotional development. In fact, children increase their emotional, physical, and behavioral health. At the same time, problem behaviors, such as aggression and hyperactivity, are reduced. These benefits are shown as early as 1.5-3 years of age. Benefits last a lifetime as children have a better chance of academic success. (NCT).
The research overwhelmingly shows that positive parenting works.
Positive Parenting Tips
Here are some positive parenting tips that will enhance your relationship with your child and encourage their success.
- Teach children to self-regulate when upset. For example, if they receive a bad grade on a test, empathize with them. Say things like, “I can imagine that must be very frustrating. You must feel upset.” Hugs are appropriate if the child wants one. Respect their bodily autonomy if they do not. Also, do not try to fix the situation for them by calling their teacher. Instead, encourage your child to brainstorm ways to help themselves.
- Model behavior that you wish to see. When frustrated, count to 10 out loud, or take a 5-minute break. If children disrupt your self-regulation time, respond calmly. Tell them, “Mommy is taking a 5-minute break to calm down. I will help you when I am done.” (Colorado Parent)
- Catch children behaving well. Too often we focus on what our children are doing wrong. Instead, watch for opportunities when children are doing what they are supposed to do. Then reward them with verbal praise, a sticker on a reward chart, or other methods. For example, if a child is playing nicely with their sibling, be sure to use specific praise. Say, “I love the way you are sharing when playing together. That’s exactly what I like to see!” (NCT)
- Don’t just say “no” to their requests. If they ask to go to the park but it’s impossible to go, then use other words. For example, say “I’d love to take you now but I have to work. I can take you tomorrow instead.”
- Use distraction tactics. Distraction tactics are an excellent behavior management tool in positive parenting. They help prevent meltdowns or negative behaviors. For example, if a child is getting ready to knock over another child’s toy building, use this technique. Give the child alternative things to do, such as a different activity. Also, it could be a signal that they have energy to burn. Taking them to the park is a better option than allowing the events to unfold and then punishing them later. (NCT)
- Take care of yourself as a parent. Parenting is a difficult job, and it’s important for caregivers to use self-care methods. This helps ensure parents are the best version of themselves for their children. A hot bath, spending time in nature, taking time out with friends, and other strategies are important for self-care.
The goal of parenting is to offer children ways to develop into healthier, independent, and successful adults. These positive parenting tips are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to positive parenting successfully.
Soul Shoppe provides social emotional learning programs for parents, schools, and businesses.
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Young children tend to have psychological elasticity, and they can handle a lot. Believe it or not, childhood is the ideal time for kids to learn as many positive thinking exercises and coping mechanisms as possible.
With a foundation in positive thinking techniques, children will have a better chance of living more fulfilling and successful lives. Positive thinking is connected with lower rates of depression, longer life spans, less distress, and psychological and physical well-being. (Mayo Clinic) As a result, it’s important to routinely incorporate positive thinking exercises for students into the curriculum.
Positive Thinking Exercises
Positive Reframing and Evidence-Based Reappraisal
One of the more powerful lessons that students can learn at school is the different ways of processing information and experiences. The power of perspective is among the skills that students can use to cultivate positive thinking.
Reappraisal is an essential positive thinking technique. Two valuable reappraisal strategies for positive thinking techniques are positive reframing and examining evidence.
One positive thinking technique for students is positive reframing. (Harvard) When children encounter negative experiences or challenging situations, it can be a powerful way to reframe their experiences in a positive way. For instance, when a student doesn’t do as well as they’d hoped on a piece of homework, they might be inclined to think of that experience as a failure.
Positively reframing that experience creates a learning opportunity. A grade that doesn’t quite meet a child’s hopes and expectations indicates where a student needs to improve in upcoming assignments. However, it also indicates the areas where a student is doing well. Positively reframing the experience of getting a different grade than they expected could ultimately help that student figure out how to improve.
It can be challenging for students to think of something positive about a situation that seems negative. However, with some practice, children can learn how to find things to feel grateful for. Feeling gratitude is a great way to stoke the flames of positive thinking.
Another positive thinking exercise for students is examining evidence. (Harvard) Typically, reacting emotionally comes as a first instinct. This is especially true for children who haven’t had as many experiences making decisions before they react. As a result, many students will react emotionally without considering the evidence. In many cases, a perceived negative outcome is the result of complex thinking.
This positive thinking exercise for students is meant to help them pause and consider aspects of an experience that they might not instinctively take into consideration. Once they begin to develop a habit of examining the evidence produced by a perceived negative situation, then it will be possible to start teaching positive thinking techniques.
For example, suppose a student doesn’t obtain the grade on a piece of homework that they would like to achieve. It can be a discouraging experience, and a student’s first instinct might be to view it as an unfair reflection of them.
A reexamination of the evidence, however, might reveal that the student has some areas for improvement in their studying techniques, maybe, or in their decisions about where to place more energy studying in the future.
Reappraisal is a powerful positive thinking technique for students. As educators, it is of paramount importance to instill that even when they can’t control outcomes, they can always control their reactions to those outcomes.
Other Positive Thinking Exercises and Positive Thinking Activities for Students
Reappraisal is an effective strategy for students to learn the skill of positive thinking. However, reappraisal also necessitates abstract thinking and abstract conversation. Therefore, children might learn positive thinking strategies more easily from salient activities instead of abstract concepts.
Designing positive thinking activities for students will require different approaches for each and every unique classroom. Here are a few ideas to get educators started.
Finding Examples of Forgiveness
For this activity, students will find an example of forgiveness from a movie or book. In order to contribute to a classroom discussion, students will explain why they believe they have found a good example of forgiveness, and they will go on to give a brief explanation as to why their example speaks to them.
The purpose of this positive thinking activity is to provide students with an opportunity to practice slowing their anxious thoughts down to examine each situation. At the same time, it will provide children with a chance to think about the intricacies of forgiveness from more than one perspective.
Finding and Naming Benefits
In this positive thinking exercise, children are asked to think about an experience they had that they didn’t enjoy. Then through guided conversation, the children are asked to think about whether they experienced any positive effects from the experience they didn’t enjoy. Children then name specific benefits.
This positive thinking exercise encourages children to think about experiences along longer timelines. The benefit of this activity is learning to think about experiences as thoroughly as possible and to approach them with different perspectives.
Like any other life skill, positive thinking is something we can practice. In this exercise, students will tell a story of something they enjoyed, either as a writing exercise or verbally in a class discussion. Encourage students to reflect on things they find particularly fond of in the memory.
The benefit of this positive thinking strategy for students is the practical nature of practicing a positive thought process. If students have more opportunities to repeat positive thoughts, then they’ll be able to practice the act of thinking positively about new experiences when they encounter them.
Positive Thinking Techniques for Students
Students can learn to change their thinking by focusing on positive aspects of their experiences. If children can learn positive thinking strategies in the classroom, it will better prepare them for seeing the positive aspects of new experiences as they grow and age. The result is that children will be better prepared for life’s hurdles and more likely to appreciate the good things around them.
When educators need assistance with lessons that encourage social emotional development, Soul Shoppe helps with online SEL programs. Soul Shoppe encourages empathy and emotional awareness in children. Whether helping in the classroom or assisting parents at home, Soul Shoppe brings social skills to the forefront of the discussion. Click for more information on SEL Programs for Elementary Schools or our parent support programs.
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We know that social distancing, schedule changes, quarantine, and all-around uncertainties can take their toll on everyone, especially our little ones. It may feel like things are spiraling out of hand. In these times, it’s important to take care of yourself and to teach kids how to establish self-care activities of their own.
Take your arms and reach them out wide. Now wrap them around your chest and give yourself a big hug. You have just completed a simple self-care activity. Doesn’t that feel good?
What is Self-Care?
Self-care is the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health, well-being, and happiness, particularly during periods of stress. Psychology Today adds that self-care is “the joy of recharging our tanks”. For adults, it can include going to the gym, a concert, or experiencing a quiet night at home. For children and young students there are easy activities that can help with their overall enjoyment of life and help them shrug off stress.
Self-Care Activities for Students
The weather can dictate how much we want to be outside, but studies show that being outside, even for a little bit, has massive benefits. If it’s snowing, have your little ones build a snowman. If it’s raining, build a paper boat and float it down the street. Or, if the sun is shining and the weather is nice, go for a walk and enjoy the world without electronics. Being outside can lower the stress hormone cortisol, raise endorphins, decrease depression and anxiety, and strengthen the immune system. Your self-care activity for students doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate when it’s right outside your door.
Let It Rain
Sometimes the stress builds up inside and makes students (and adults) feel like they might burst. Instead of trying to hold it all in, tell your kids that it’s okay to let it out. A good cry just might be the relief that is needed. Talk with your children about their emotions and why they are feeling this way. After the crying has finished, check on them again. Crying is shown to improve spirits and mood, stimulate the production of endorphins, and restore emotional balance.
Laughter Is the Best Medicine
Doctor Patch Adams said it best: Laughter enhances the blood flow to the body’s extremities and improves cardiovascular function. Laughter releases endorphins and other natural mood elevating and pain-killing chemicals, improves the transfer of oxygen and nutrients to internal organs. Laughter boosts the immune system and helps the body fight off disease, cancer cells as well as viral, bacterial and other infections. Being happy is the best cure of all diseases.
While telling someone who is stressed or overwhelmed to just “be happy” isn’t going to work (and possibly met with a severe glare), the facts are that laughter does help with elevating someone’s mood and reduces stress. Tell a joke to get that grin. Watch a silly show or movie to turn that frown upside down. A good chuckle, belly laugh, hy-yuck yuck, hee hee, ha ha will help alleviate any dampened mood. As far as self-care activities for students go, this one is easy and doesn’t cost a dime…only a smile.
Dance Your Cares Away
Sometimes words alone cannot express what’s going on inside. Our minds and mouths don’t seem to work as one and we are left without the ability to convey what is really going on. So what can children and adults do when words fail us? We can dance. Not a dancer? Dance anyway! No choreography? Dance anyway! Never took lessons? DANCE ANYWAY! Dancing isn’t just for the ballroom, the stage, the movies, or the superstars. Dance can help everyone to let loose and free themselves of their stress and worries.
Not only does dancing lower stress, but it’s also a workout that burns calories and improves cardiovascular health (that’s what’s called a two-fer). If you can’t seem to get your child to a dance studio, there are plenty of dancing games at home that the whole family can use. Games, such as Just Dance, have a wide variety of songs for all ages, so you can get that self-care for your students without them even knowing it. If a gaming system is out of the question, just pick any song and get groovin’! After the moves have been busted and the dance floor cleared, you will see a much-improved attitude and overall feeling in the room.
Eat Healthy Foods
Your students might be tired of hearing “eat your vegetables” or listening to talking points on the five food groups, but the truth is that healthy eating does fall in the realm of self-care. We aren’t talking about going on a diet, but rather taking into consideration what’s being put into our bodies. If a student is observed with stress or fatigue, a proper meal may be the key to lifting their spirits and energy levels.
Stress can affect how your body processes foods and absorbs water. This can lead to feelings of fatigue or lagging. Adopting a proper meal plan can greatly improve spirit and health. A variety of fruits and vegetables along with proper hydration is a self-care activity for students that everyone can get behind.
Find Your Path
While there are many options of self-care activities for students, it’s ultimately up to you and your students to determine the best course of action that will yield the best outcome. No one thing works for everyone, and every self-care activity will not work for each and every instance. Like your diet, go through a variety of things to find out what benefits you and your kids the most. What works one day might not work the next, so switch it up and keep things interesting. Stress rears its head in very unusual and unpredictable ways, so be ready to challenge and defeat it, no matter where it turns up.
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Self-control is one of the most important life skills anyone can learn. By providing lessons that nurture self-control skills, parents and teachers can set children up for success later in life. (UsableKnowledge)
Classroom games are a great way to teach self-control as a social and emotional skill. Social and emotional learning skills that contribute to self-control help children succeed in academia and outside the classroom. In this article, we’ll explore the functions of self-control as well as self-control games and activities that apply those functions.
First, it is necessary to understand the functions contributing to self-control. With an understanding of those functions, it’s possible to begin developing games and activities that create learning opportunities for children.
The functions contributing to the development of self-control are: (DevelopingChild)
- Working memory. This is when a person knows how to effectively store information in their mind and use it effectively when necessary.
- Inhibitory control. This is the ability to pause and reflect on compulsions and impulses. Inhibitory control is mastery over temptations, distractions, and behaviors that might develop into habits.
- Cognitive flexibility. Identifying priorities, adjusting perspective, and adapting to the demands of new situations are all under the umbrella of cognitive flexibility. A capacity for this mental resilience is a necessary part of self-control.
Incorporating practices for working memory, inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility will be essential in creating self-control activities for students.
It’s a good possibility that parents and teachers already have activities and games in their resources that teach self-control. Many activities and games children find fun are already good teaching opportunities for self-control. They just need a little more context in order to become more effective self-control strategies for students.
Here are some self-control games that teachers and parents can use:
Card Games and Board Games
Card games and board games are excellent aids in teaching self-control strategies to students. Rule-based and goal-oriented card games and board games help children to practice using executive functions to achieve goals. At the same time, card games and board games are social. They put children in scenarios where they have to interact with other children to reach their goals. Children are well-served by practicing a habit of approaching problems with an understanding of how behaviors relate to results. (HBS)
- Card games require children to keep track of numbers and rules and exercise their working memory.
- Board games need fast decision-making in challenging situations.
- Games are built on strategic thinking, where a decision now relates to an abstract event in the future. These are especially valuable because children have to make decisions involving other people’s actions. Children will start to understand how their own choices relate to the decisions of other people.
- Complex rule sets. The mere practice of learning and playing within a complex set of rules gives children practice for higher functions.
Implementing these games with a more intentional approach will better teach self-control strategies. When children are playing, compliment how they are being cooperative and following rules. When they are frustrated, praise them when they aren’t having an outburst. This will help encourage them to continue having self-control while playing.
Physical Activities or Games
In addition to indoor activities, parents and teachers can use outdoor activities for teaching children self-control.
- Organized sports place children in situations that teach them higher cognitive functions. When children play sports they are regularly practicing the functions of self-control. Remembering rules and habits of play practices working memory. Avoiding cheating and channeling energy practices inhibitory control. Practicing ingenuity and imaginative solutions helps children with cognitive flexibility.
How much self-control children learn from physical activities like organized sports will depend on how those activities are framed for them. Organized sports already have all the teaching elements. They just need to be explained in a social and emotional learning context.
Music, Singing, Dancing, and Other Creative Pursuits
The discipline and emotional engagement of various creative pursuits create a positive learning context for self-control. Pursuing a creative discipline teaches children many higher cognitive functions. (Harvard)
- When children learn a musical instrument, it helps them practice self-monitoring and selective attention. Learning a musical instrument also teaches working memory as they memorize songs and practice using the instrument correctly.
- Musical classes can also provide social opportunities for children. Playing in a band or orchestra helps students to practice cognitive flexibility in order to cooperate with the other children.
- Dancing provides similar opportunities to practice higher cognitive skills that contribute to self-control strategies for students.
These creative activities, and others, provide students the ability to practice skills that contribute to self-control. Painting, writing, woodworking, sculpture–pretty much every creative activity has an element of disciplined goal-orientedness that helps children practice self-control. Teachers and parents can use all creative endeavors as social and emotional learning tools.
Stop, Breathe, and Think
Sometimes normal games aren’t enough to help students regulate self-control. In moments when students are having an emotional moment, they can be taught how to expel their energy in a positive way. Using the Stop, Breathe, and Think Technique children are taught to realize when their emotional balloons are full and retreat to a designated corner to control themselves. They can use fun breathing exercises like the bees breathing technique that James uses here to release that emotional energy.
Social and emotional learning means everything to us over here at Soul Shoppe. We have developed teaching tools and techniques to help teachers and parents at school and at home. With tools like our Stop and Breathe Technique and our peace corner, we give educators everywhere the resources they need to help students with social-emotional learning. Click for information on SEL programs for elementary schools or social emotional homeschool electives.
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If children leave school with a belief in their ability to successfully set then accomplish their goals, then their education has helped boost them towards success. Creating lessons that teach self-efficacy in the classroom can be some of the most valuable lessons that educators can provide. (GSE) We have created a guide for self-efficacy in teaching for elementary students.
Self-Efficacy in Teaching
Teaching self-efficacy in the classroom means showing students how to plan their actions while feeling confident in their ability to carry out their plans. (SERC) Using engaging tactics will reinforce a sense of self-determination and personal effectiveness.
Here are some things to consider when setting out to incorporate self-efficacy into a teaching curriculum. (TheEducationHub)
1. Create Opportunities that Capitalize on Successes
Few moments reinforce confidence like experiencing successes. Often children, because of fewer experiences in their lives, haven’t yet experienced as many independent successes. Therefore, beginning a habit of believing that they can succeed is a valuable lesson.
Practicing extra gestures of positive reinforcement for both minor and major achievements is a great opportunity to improve self-efficacy. (TeachStart) For example:
- Send children a letter or postcard praising them for their achievement.
- Create an award where students can nominate each other for achievements they recognize.
- Designate an achievement wall, where students can display their achievements for the class.
Creating a positive reinforcement feedback system goes a long way toward teaching children to believe in themselves.
2. Peer Modeling
Peer modeling is the practice of recognizing students who will step forward to provide clarity in classroom dialogue. Students who are asked to rise to the challenge may be viewed by their peers as someone to trust to have the right answers on a given subject. This can bolster a child’s confidence. Encouraging peer modeling in the classroom is a great tactic in building self-efficacy. This process must be approached carefully, but if done well it can be an effective aid to self-efficacy in education.
3. Goals and Feedback
Setting goals is a key skill. Implementing exercises where students have to set goals, follow through with them, and deal with windfalls and setbacks will give them a valuable skill to carry forward into the rest of their lives.
Educators should help students set and keep goals, and at the same time they should create feedback opportunities so that students can learn how to assess their plans. Additionally, this will help them learn how to make adjustments to goals where necessary.
The practice of self-assessment isn’t always used in curricula driven by test scores and grades. If children are encouraged through classroom activities to develop a practice of self-assessment, asking themselves to make critical appraisals of the quality of their own work, it will serve them well for the rest of their lives. Using self-assessment sheets that are reviewed, or even simply put into an anonymous dropbox, can help students learn how to assess themselves on a given task. Self-assessment is a powerful tool in self-efficacy teaching.
5. Create Problem Solving Opportunities
Perhaps the single most effective skill any educator can impart to their students is the ability to problem solve. When students are empowered to approach every experience in life with a problem-solving mindset, they will be prepared to cope with many of the puzzles life throws their way.
An example of a problem-solving activity is the pyramid activity. (Wrike) Arrange students into groups and have them form a pyramid. Tell them they can only move two people but must reverse the pyramid.
6. Support Affirmation
A student’s self-confidence is affected by more than academic achievement. Since children spend a lot of time in school or engaging in school-related activities, it’s important for educators to help their students learn self-affirmations, as they pertain to parts of their personality other than academic achievement. Their social skills, hobbies like juggling or origami, their creative skills, or even their skills in being a good helper, are all examples. Self-affirmation is a large part of self-efficacy.
Teachers Teaching Self-Efficacy to Themselves
Kids learn a lot by example. Children are watching us all the time, and one of the most effective ways to teach them social and emotional learning skills is by living the lessons we wish to teach.
Educators who demonstrate self-efficacy will teach self-efficacy.
Educators who need help building lessons in social emotional learning can turn to Soul Shoppe SEL programs. Soul Shoppe encourages agency, self-confidence, self-affirmation, and other skills that prepare children for success in life. Click for more information on SEL Programs for Elementary Schools or our parent support programs.
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Self-Esteem for Kids
Merriam-Webster defines self-esteem as a feeling of having respect for yourself and your abilities, or a confidence and satisfaction in oneself. Self-esteem helps children face challenges, try new things, learn well, and develop well in general (Raising Children).
A child with healthy self-esteem is more likely to be successful academically, socially, emotionally, and even physically. Conversely, low self-esteem can contribute to mental illness such as anxiety and depression, and is often a cause of poor physical health. Low self-esteem negatively affects all types of relationships: friendships, work relationships, romantic relationships, to name a few. It also impacts work and job performance, and creates a predisposition toward abusing alcohol and drugs (CMHC).
Read on to learn what self-esteem is, why it is important, and some of its characteristics. Then we’ll share actionable ways that caregivers and teachers can promote healthy self-esteem for kids.
What Self-Esteem Means for Kids
Self-esteem has been called “the mainspring that slates every child for success or failure as a human being” (CHHS). That said, nurturing self-esteem in a child is one of a caregiver’s most important responsibilities.
Children need to feel proud of themselves for what they can do, see the good in themselves, and accurately assess their own strengths and weaknesses. This will help them believe in themselves and be resilient when facing adversity (Kids Health).
Why Self-Esteem Is Important
Research by the American Psychological Association has shown that having good self-esteem is essential for positive mental health and well-being. It also helps children develop empathy and perspective, as well as coping skills and perseverance (Very Well Mind). And, as stated above, having poor self-esteem contributes to a variety of mental health issues (Positive Psychology).
Academic and Life Success
Self-esteem often means that kids hold high standards for themselves. This manifests itself in several different ways. First, these high standards can help kids set goals—in school, and beyond. As a result, they improve their ability to cope with the setbacks and difficulties in reaching their goals. They learn to persistently try until they achieve success, ultimately have more opportunities and broader life experience.
Good self-esteem is an essential component of high-quality relationships. When a child sees their own value, it allows them to better see the value in others. This leads to better interactions, which in turn leads to better self-esteem. The result is a cycle of growth that can last a lifetime.
Children who like themselves treat their bodies well. They typically take care of their physical health and are healthier in general. They are more likely to exercise regularly and subsequently recover faster from illnesses (Positive Psychology).
Characteristics of Self-Esteem
Kids with self-esteem often exhibit the following characteristics:
- Trying new things, including those that they might not be good at
- Facing challenges instead of avoiding them
- Persevering in spite of difficulties
- Coping with stress, anxiety, and pressure, whether at home or school (Very Well Mind)
- Believing in themselves (Raising Children)
- Accepting themselves for who they are
Ways to Build Self-Esteem for Kids
It is possible to build self-esteem at any age. While earlier is better, supportive parenting can change the trajectory of a child’s life no matter where they are in their development.
Warm and loving parental relationships are the basis of self-esteem. They make children feel worthy and valued. Here are some specific suggestions for strengthening your relationship with your child and building their self-esteem.
1. Set boundaries and limits.
Set boundaries and limits to help your child feel secure and grow emotionally (Sanford Health).
2. Show interest in what your child values.
If they love music, listen to or play music with them. If they love books, take them to the library. Engaging with your kids shows them they are worth your time and attention (Raising Kids).
3. Have them do chores or help around the house.
This can include helping prepare meals, making their beds, feeding pets, or washing dishes. Contributing to the household makes kids feel accomplished and shows that you trust them to help (Kids Health).
4. Treat each child as a unique individual.
Remember, one size never fits all…so parent each child in a way that works for both of you.
5. Give balanced feedback.
This means praising your child for trying their best or doing something new, not for being the best. This teaches children to value their own efforts, and to be a good teammate (Raising Children).
6. Listen to and acknowledge your child’s thoughts and feelings.
Teach them how to deal with uncomfortable feelings and, ultimately, to self-regulate.
7. Give your child choices.
Give options and allow your child a feeling of reasonable control over their life (CHHS).
8. Make family meals together.
This strengthens family ties and allows everyone to contribute to the meal. Children can set the table, chop vegetables or cut fruit, or wash lettuce for salad. Meals also give everyone a chance to connect as a family (Raising Children).
9. Show love and affection to your children regularly.
Exhibit love and affection including physical affection—hugs, kisses, etc. Do not withhold affection even if they are misbehaving. To be effective, your love must not be conditional. Continue reinforcing that your child is lovable (CHHS).
10. Encourage them to keep trying even when things are hard.
Praise the effort. Reward perseverance. This builds their resilience.
11. Coach children through difficult social situations.
Children can experience difficult social situations at school or elsewhere. Role-play them, talk through them, etc. This helps prepare children for these situations and build confidence (Raising Children).
12. Keep children connected.
Keep children connected to family friends and extended family as much as possible. This helps develop their sense of belonging and identity. Other options include being part of a religious community, sports club, or another group (Raising Children).
13. Allow them to make mistakes.
Do not expect children to be perfect. Instead, let their mistakes be learning opportunities (Sanford Health).
14. Keep realistic expectations of your child.
This helps them meet the expectations or exceed them. Their self-esteem will grow as a result.
15. Focus on the positives.
Notice what your child is doing right, and praise them for those actions. This reinforces positive behaviors and discourages poor choices (Sanford Health).
Self-esteem can be nurtured in children during their childhood development. It is essential in helping them feel worthwhile, secure, and develop self-worth. This affects every area of their life.
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We learn by doing. It’s true of everyone, especially children. And for certain things, behavioral learning is the most effective way to learn. Skills that depend on data and knowledge, such as mathematics, can start with data and theory, which might get strengthened with practice. Emotionally dependent skills, such as self-esteem, may be better suited for an activity, and an experience-based learning environment for the lessons to land.
Life experiences are the sources of self-esteem. Children want to feel included in communities, and experiences of rejection or acceptance into communities dramatically impact their sense of self-esteem. There are any number of reasons children might feel accepted or rejected by their peers. Children might highlight differences between each other, or affirm similarities. Some children may make decisions based on observations of what they see in the world, such as self-identifying that they are different. This may lead them to make judgments about themselves without any direct interactions. So many factors contribute to the development of self-esteem that educators can never anticipate all of them.
Self-esteem is among the most important factors in the development of any child. Good self-esteem can be the determining factor in the long-term success of a child, while damaged self-esteem can leave children struggling for the rest of their lives.
For these reasons, it’s imperative to include worthwhile self-esteem-building group activities into educational curriculum.
Self-Esteem Group Activities for Youth
Group activities are excellent for building self-esteem in children. Though it’s not the only deciding factor in developing self-esteem, community integration has a powerful determining effect on developing self-esteem.
This is an activity based on…
- Cultivating confidence that it’s safe to express feelings aloud.
- Recognizing there are people out there with the same fears.
All the students in the class write down something they’re afraid of. Then there’s an open discussion where the question is posed, “What would it be like if that happened?” It can be helpful to adopt an attitude that if the fear came to pass, it might not be as bad as anticipated.
The Gratitude Journal
Creating a habit of looking for good things happening around them encourages children to look for positive aspects of themselves. For this activity, every child has a designated journal for this purpose. On a weekly basis, they are encouraged to write positive things they notice about other people. Then, two or three times every month, have a discussion with the whole class on the highlights from their gratitude journals.
In this activity, children will say their statements of self-challenge. Things like, “I am a bad writer,” or “I don’t have a lot of friends.” Then the student rephrases the statements into more positive statements. I.e. “I come up with creative ideas when I write” or “I have a great best friend.”
What are Good Traits Discussion
For this activity, students write down traits that they consider “good.” I.e. Good at sports–funny–kind–etc. After making the list, have a discussion in class about the traits. What do these traits look like in a person? How do you cultivate them?
Games are fun, and they can either encourage individual conflict, or they can be tools for developing cooperation and a sense of being a valued part of the community. Play board games, and put children into small teams so that they can cooperate on decisions and work together.
Write the End Goal
It can be frustrating being a child. Children can have trouble feeling certain about having any agency in their own lives. With this activity, children write down outcomes they would like to see in their lives. Treating a child’s plans seriously affirms their sense that their actions and thoughts matter.
How to Build Self-Esteem in Students
In the end, there are a lot of potential self-esteem group activities that encourage growth. Determining which ones are best to choose will depend on the educators, the students, and many other factors. Take into consideration factors that contribute to self-esteem when creating activities. Factors such as…
- Definitions–who am I? What does that say about me?
- Relationships–who am I in my relationships? How do they change me?
- Accomplishments–what do I do well? How have I shown improvement? And, alternately, do I wish to change any of my habits?
Self-esteem is complicated, but the factors contributing to positive self-esteem tend toward common experiences. If that’s true, then it’s possible to create environments that encourage improved self-esteem.
Soul Shoppe is a social emotional learning company. For more than twenty years they’ve been devoted to creating tools and empowering educators of all stripes to incorporate emotional intelligence into their curricula. Their strategies are effective in encouraging empathy and emotional awareness in children. Through these strategies and their Peacemaker Program they help decrease conflicts in playgrounds across the country. Click for more information on SEL Programs for Elementary Schools.
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Games create excellent teaching and learning experiences. Through games, we create microcosms of the world as a whole. In games, students can set rules and can practice setting and achieving goals. Perhaps among the most important advantages of games is the opportunity to practice behaviors. These behaviors are important for navigating life on so many levels.
The basic teaching technique of “see one, do one, teach one” is often the format of games. Additionally, games engage students on emotional and nonverbal levels. Therefore, students can learn social and emotional skills.
Games are particularly valuable for behaviors like sharing. Teaching sharing skills in the classroom through sharing games will give students a tool to develop stronger relationships.
Sharing is one of the fundamental behaviors of a well-socialized community. However, the act of sharing can cause internal conflict in children. Children below a certain age find it natural to share. At the same time, there’s a point when children discover that too much sharing means they have less for themselves. (GSE)
Designing Sharing Games for Elementary School Students
For kindergarten students, it’s important to design activities that give them a chance to practice sharing in a straightforward way. As children age and their minds develop more, lessons in sharing must also grow in complexity. More advanced lessons in sharing teach more complicated life skills. Sharing games, if designed well, can teach skills like negotiation, resource management, and community engagement. (PON) Well-designed sharing games for elementary students create layered learning opportunities.
Here are a few examples of sharing games for elementary students.
Resource Sharing Game
Based on studies made on the interplay of game theory and community, the Resource Sharing Game can be incorporated into other activities. (arxiv)
The basic idea is that some resource is controlled by an individual or subset of the main group. Maybe they control all the art supplies, cleaning supplies, or building supplies. Then the whole group is given a task to accomplish. The class is divided into groups, each with a part of the task to accomplish.
Every group will need to get supplies and tools from the kids with the job of distributing the supplies and tools.
This game creates an environment where children think about the nuances of sharing resources within a community. Nuances like:
- Temporal realities. Sometimes the resource isn’t available at the moment and they’ll need to wait until it is available.
- Scarcity. If there isn’t quite enough of a resource–such as there’s not quite enough purple paint–they might be required to come up with an imaginative solution. Maybe the community will need to be more careful with its sharing. Maybe the community will need to find some replacement resources. Maybe the community will need to find an alternative source of the resource such as finding red paint and blue paint and mixing them together.
- Organization of sharing. At a basic level, sharing is transactional. (I.e. You and I share our toys.) In a more advanced setting, sharing might have a broader implication. For instance, learning how to share with members of the larger community rather than their immediate circle may require a little more persuasion. They might also have to learn how to share with people outside of that community.
- Negotiation. Children generally grow to be more successful adults when they learn from an early age how to get what they want and need through polite negotiation.
The Pizza Sharing Game
Also known as the Concurrent Graph Sharing Game, the Pizza Sharing Game has a simple setup. However, in spite of its simplicity, it provides a fertile learning environment for teaching kids the social and emotional depths of sharing. (arxiv)
To start, two kids get a handful of objects put between them. It can be toys or snacks, or construction paper made to look like pizza. They take turns taking one or two objects from the middle. The game is over when the last object is picked up.
The Pizza Sharing game can be played in a couple of ways:
- Make the end goal to take the last piece or item.
- Or have the person they’re playing with take the last item.
The game provides children with the experience of making plans with their resources. Sometimes sharing is more complicated than “you get some and I get some.” In adulthood, sharing sometimes means making strategic and sometimes difficult decisions about who gets what. It also challenges the idea of making sure the right people get the right stuff. The Pizza Sharing Game encourages students to approach sharing with a problem-solving attitude.
Cooperative Board Games
Stuff isn’t all that’s shared. Playing board games in a cooperative way helps students learn how to share less physical things like:
- Goal setting
- A sense of success or failure
It’s important that students rotate roles when they play board games cooperatively. Some kids have a natural tendency to take charge. Other kids might naturally give way to other students. That is a perfect dynamic to interrupt for educational purposes so that all children can learn more diverse social and emotional skills.
Teaching Sharing in the Classroom
The classroom is a place to stretch ideas and grow. Sharing can go far beyond what children learn in their preschool years.
For more social emotional learning ideas, click here.
From in-school visits to virtual learning activities, Soul Shoppe creates social emotional learning programs and resources for children, educators, and parents. Click for information on SEL programs for elementary schools, social emotional homeschooling, or our parent support programs.
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Host Timothy Regan welcomes you to learn peacebuilding skills along with the people and stories of Soul Shoppe – our own Bay Area peacebuilding children’s educational fun-team! This nonprofit teaches healthy relationship and conflict management skills to thousands of children K-8th grade every year, with colorful, fun events.
Soul Shoppe team members Anthony Jackson and Paul Himmelstein share stories and demonstrate what we all needed to learn in grammar school – simple, powerful, reliable skills to understand ourselves and eachother, and to handle conflict so we can thrive together.
Soul Shoppe is a Bay Area nonprofit with a beautiful VISION: “A world where respect and empathy are the norm, and every child can thrive and shine!” Their MISSION is: “to create safe learning environments that bring forth a culture of compassion, connection and curiosity—eliminating bullying at the roots.”
On June 7, 2022, from 6 – 7 pm PDT, join us for inspiration as we honor Peacemaker legend Dolores Huerta, President and Founder of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, and visionary Peacemaker Angel Acosta, PhD, ground-breaking leader of the new philosophy of healing-centered education.
Dolores Huerta, Founder & President of the Dolores Huerta Foundation (DHF), is a world-renowned civil rights activist and community organizer. She has worked for labor rights and social justice for over 50 years. In 1962, she and Cesar Chavez founded the United Farm Workers union.
Ms. Huerta is a two-time US Presidential Award Recipient; she received the Medal of Freedom Award from President Obama in 2012, the highest civilian award in the United States, and the Eleanor D. Roosevelt Human Rights Award from President Clinton in 1998.
Dr. Acosta is the founder of “Healing-Centered Education” and is currently the Director of the Garrison Institute’s Fellowship Program. Angel Acosta has worked tirelessly to bridge the fields of leadership, social justice, and mindfulness.
We will also honor Bay Area Peacemaker champions:
- Peacemaker Administrator, Stephanie Martinez, from Jefferson Elementary School District, Daly City, CA
- The Student Peacemaker Team from James Franklin Smith Elementary, San Jose, CA
- Peacemaker Trainers from John F. Kennedy Elementary, Daly CIty, CA
Soul Shoppe’s Peacemaker Awards 2022 is a free, virtual event. Please register so we can send you the zoom link.
In just one hour, event attendees can take a significant step toward peace, honor Peacemakers, learn more about conflict resolution for kids, and help Soul Shoppe bring more fun, safety, and peace to kids and playgrounds everywhere.
A recent graduate of our Peacemaker Trainer Certification inspired us with this vision:
“Our vision for the school is for all the students and teachers to use Soul Shoppe and to use the tools such as the I Message and The Clean Up. We do see the power of using the I Message across all the grade levels. We believe if we continue to use the vocabulary in kindergarten the kids will be well versed by the time they get to 5th grade. And then when they go to middle school and high school they can model the ‘correct’ way of solving problems, thus teaching the kids that weren’t part of Jefferson that the tools can be used and will become woven into the San Leandro community.”
– Marilia Dos Santos, kindergarten teacher and Peacemaker Trainer, Jefferson Elementary
Read More: https://www.einnews.com/pr_news/575613988/soul-shoppe-2022-peacemaker-awards-honors-social-emotional-education-thought-leaders-dolores-huerta-and-dr-angel-acosta
Every generation in recent history has grown up in a world where national and international news makes its way into the safety of our living rooms and around our dinner tables.
Though parents, teachers, and other caretakers might try to shield their children from scary sounds, images, and stories, the truth is that kids continue to be exposed to the dangers and stressors in our current culture.
In the 1970s, newsreels squawked out threatening projections about the United States energy crisis.
In the 1980s, the tension between the United States and the Soviet Union threatened war and the AIDS epidemic struck fear and panic.
Then in the 1990s, images of the Los Angeles riots, the Bosnian War, and the Oklahoma City Bombing repeatedly played for months on end.
As we are well aware today, the 2020s have introduced stressors no one could have predicted, and they are affecting our children daily. Masked children are familiar with the pandemic that continues to disrupt their classrooms, though they might not fully grasp the enormity of the threat. Some are aware that friends and loved ones have gotten sick, while others live in households that have been stricken with joblessness and even homelessness.
As caretakers, it behooves us to understand how we can identify the signs of stress and anxiety in children and become familiar with tools we can implement to help them thrive despite anxiety-inducing realities.
Identifying Stress in Children
Anxiety is a natural part of life. It doesn’t always signal a more significant problem–sometimes, it is simply a human reaction to a human dilemma.
For example, if your child sees one classmate teasing another, she may grow anxious. This anxiety could be an empathetic response, during which your child puts his/herself in the other person’s shoes and feels what she might feel if she was being teased. A child’s anxiety in this situation could also be triggered by the fear that the offending classmate may tease him/her one day.
Though these feelings are not comfortable, they are normal and even helpful. Just as some discomfort helps lead adults to pursue healthy, strong responses, they also help children navigate difficult moments.
Some fears are common among specific age groups. Some of these common fears include:
- Loud noises
- The dark
Children experiencing fears can exhibit behaviors resulting from their uncomfortable feelings even if real danger is not present. When worries go unaddressed and unprocessed, they can become stress and anxiety.
Stress in children can manifest in various ways. According to Aetna, these are among the most common:
- Avoidance of specific activities, situations, or people
- A tendency to worry about what can go wrong in any scenario
- Worries or fears that interfere with normal daily activities
- Persistent distress despite an adult’s reassurances
- Trouble sleeping at night or insisting on sleeping with family members
- Physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomach pain that don’t stem from other medical conditions
When you identify these signs of anxiety in your student or child, use the moment to connect with them. You can seek to understand what is at the foundation of their concern and help them clearly articulate the source.
How to Help a Child With Stress and Anxiety
Help your child talk about what is frightening them by asking specific questions.
Often, articulating their fear or frustration can release tension in and of itself. For example, if a child becomes upset at the suggestion of beginning his or her school day on Zoom, you can ask them, “What makes Zoom scary?” Or, “What was difficult about the last time you met your class on Zoom?” These questions can help guide your child toward specific answers.
Once you’ve taken the time to help your child identify the source of their worry, validate the emotion they’re experiencing.
If a child tells you they’re afraid of the dark, and you’ve asked clarifying questions to pinpoint the specific fear, you can say, “I know a lot of children your age who feel afraid of the dark.” Then begin to help your child create a plan to overcome their fear. You may feel compelled to offer a great deal of sympathy or comfort to the child as you discuss their fear of the dark, but it’s best to identify the fear, validate it, and then move on to creating a plan. Too much sympathy can become a reward that reinforces the fear.
After you’ve initiated a conversation with the child, help them create a plan to overcome their fear.
If a student exhibits significant fear of heights, and you’ve helped them identify the fear and validated the fear, such as “I can see you are really afraid of heights,” you can help them plan a way to overcome it.
“How about today you stand at the top of the slide for a few seconds and imagine yourself having a great time going down the slide. By the end of the week, you can give it a try!” Helping children set these goals and then encouraging them along the way lets them know you see them, hear them, and you are willing to support them through difficult emotions and circumstances.
Social and Emotional Learning Helps Children with Stress
NPR recently discussed the importance of social and emotional learning to overwhelmed children.
The author interviewed Olga Acosta Price, director of the National Center for Health and Health Care in Schools. Price says, “Effective social and emotional learning doesn’t happen ‘only at certain times of the day or with certain people,’ it should be reflected in all school operations and practices. With disruptions from the pandemic so widespread, that kind of approach is needed now more than ever.” At Soul Shoppe, we agree.
The best time to help children understand and interact with their emotions–and the feelings of others–is while they are experiencing them throughout the day.
Children are still experiencing crises daily (NY Times). It is our responsibility as adults and caretakers to help guide our children through these tumultuous times by helping them survive and thrive. We can do that when we give them the social and emotional tools to face the dangers–either imagined or real–and grow the skills they need to identify, manage, and reframe complicated feelings.
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If you’re a parent or teacher, you know your small kids experience big feelings. Sometimes they seem to come out of nowhere, while other times, your kids have emotional responses that you can easily trace to some prior moment in the day. Regardless of how their feelings are stirred up, we must normalize talking about them.
Children who are taught that talking about feelings is healthy will learn not to bottle up their life experiences. Instead, they’ll learn to share them and process them. Just like adults, when kids begin to understand their emotions and name them, they have a fighting chance of working through their feelings.
This article will discuss talking about feelings and teaching your child to identify and express them.
Talking About Feelings
What Is The Difference Between Emotions And Feelings?
While emotions and feelings are used interchangeably, they are slightly different. Emotions are bodily reactions that occur through neurotransmitters and hormones in the brain (iMotions). Feelings, on the other hand, are a conscious experience.
Talking About Feelings Helps Children Process
Though emotions can be as unique as the children who experience them, there are generally four big emotions in which everyone’s feelings are grounded: anger, sadness, fear, and loneliness. We could easily break down each of these big emotions into resulting feelings, but for the sake of this article, we’ll focus on the main ones.
Suppose you are looking for a more extensive representation of the full array of emotions to help teach your child that talking about feelings doesn’t have to feel overwhelming or frustrating. In that case, you can check out our feelings poster.
The Big Four Feelings and Emotions for Kids
Let’s discuss the big four feelings and emotions for kids and how you can help your child identify them.
In general, anger is secondary to hurt, fear, frustration, or injustice. Sometimes your child will feel triggered to anger by one of these emotions, and sometimes they will feel all four of these emotions at once.
Anger is an uncomfortable emotion for both adults and children. It’s also an uncomfortable emotion to witness in another person. Anger for children often manifests itself as a temper tantrum, hitting, grabbing another child’s toy, or having an emotional outburst such as crying coupled with screaming.
It’s important to understand that anger triggers your child’s fight or flight response. Jaclyn Shlisky, PsyD, writes, “Anger may seem irrational, but for a child that hasn’t yet learned how to regulate emotions, it’s an immediate natural reaction to some sort of wrongdoing your child feels” (Parent.com). To help your child recognize and self-regulate when talking about the feelings and emotions that are stirred up by anger, you can do the following:
- Identify and explain the feeling using age-appropriate language and materials, such as songs, movies, pictures, or facial expressions.
- Teach your child different ways they can deal with their feelings.
- Praise your child when they talk about their feelings.
- Reinforce your child’s attempts to discuss their feelings by incorporating feelings into game time, car rides, when you’re sharing a meal, etc.
Using anger as an example, you can help your child identify and explain the emotion. For instance, if your child doesn’t want to follow their bedtime routine one night and begins to have a temper tantrum, you might say, “It seems like you’re feeling angry about having to brush your teeth tonight. You are crying, and your face looks like this. What can you do? I think you can ask for help or take some deep breaths and try again.”
Acknowledging your child’s emotions not only helps them identify their feelings using self-awareness skills, but also helps them understand how they can deal with them. The next step is to praise your child when they acknowledge the emotions they’re experiencing. Additionally, praise them when they decide how to handle that emotion. While at the beginning, you might provide examples of solutions for them, they will eventually learn to come up with solutions on their own.
Later, when their emotions have settled–this could be an hour later or even a couple of days later–you can reinforce your child’s attempts to discuss their feelings. You can also discuss the choices they made to process the emotions. For example, “Last night, you seemed angry about brushing your teeth. I was so proud of you when you figured out you were feeling anger and then took some nice, deep breaths before finishing brushing. You handled your anger so well!” This kind of reinforcement lets kids know what they did well, and it can help build their confidence during future moments with difficult emotions.
When you’re teaching your child to identify and express emotions, sadness is one of the first you will want to explore. We all experience sadness at one point or another, and children tend to present sadness in similar ways to adults.
The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning at Vanderbilt University suggests playing the game Make a Face to begin conversations about emotions with your child or student.
This is a great way to open a conversation with a child who feels sad. The game begins when you say, “I am going to make a face; guess what I am feeling by looking at my face.” This game helps the child assign a name to the feeling and then allows the adult to reinforce their connection in the moment. Once the emotion is established, you can ask the child what has caused their sadness and then follow the steps above (identify and explain, teach them ways to deal with their emotions, praise the child, and reinforce their attempts).
When children deal with difficult emotions, it’s essential to let them know that while their feelings belong to them, they are common among children and adults alike. They are not alone.
In most educational materials on feelings and emotions for kids, fear is at the top of the list. The reason for this is obvious–just think back to when you were a child. Perhaps you had a fear of the dark, or big animals, or loud noises. Much of this fear is rooted in feelings of uncertainty and the vastness of “the unknown.” Often, children express fear in uncertain ways and this can lead to anxiety later in life.
If your child or student is having a hard time identifying and expressing fear, here are some tools you can give them to help them express it more productively:
- Encourage them to ask for help.
- Invite them to say the emotion instead of showing it. (For example, “I am feeling scared,” instead of crying, hiding, or throwing a tantrum.)
- Relax and try again. (For example, if a child fears reading aloud in class, invite them to take some deep breaths and try again.)
- Tell a grown-up.
Teaching your child to identify and express emotions allows them to connect with you and with others in a way that keeps them safe and gives them a greater sense of confidence when they are not with you. It also builds camaraderie and community because it teaches them that we are all in this together.
The final emotion we’ll discuss here is loneliness.
Research shows that children form attachments to other people right from the start. Children who have a secure attachment with at least one adult experience benefits and learn that connection to others is a positive thing. Conversely, when children feel disconnected from others, they can experience loneliness.
Unfortunately, loneliness in kids has skyrocketed as a result of the pandemic. As you might imagine, kids attending classes online or being taken out of their normal activities has resulted in an epidemic of loneliness.
Loneliness is a complex emotion but helping your child identify it in themselves and then process it, benefits them greatly. Bethany Vibert, PsyD, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, suggests some helpful strategies to talking about the feeling of loneliness with your child. Dr. Vibert writes:
Ask open-ended questions. For example, if your child says they miss spending time with someone they used to see a lot, you can ask questions about that. “What did you really like doing with her? What do you miss the most about seeing her?”
Make observations. Sometimes comments are a good alternative to questions. So, if you notice that your child isn’t spending time with people as much as they used to, you might point that out. Then leave space for them to talk.
Validate their experiences. Showing genuine interest goes a long way. Do your best to listen without judgment (or visible panic) to whatever they have to say. Try also to avoid overreacting with too much sympathy or emotion, since that might make them feel even worse. You can show that you’re listening by reflecting back on what they’re saying (“It sounds like you’re having a hard time”), or saying supportive things like “That sounds tough. Would you tell me more about that?”
Talking about feelings and emotions with your children or students teaches them that their experiences are valid, they can manage their feelings, and that you care about them.
Soul Shoppe supports parents and school communities by creating and facilitating dynamic social-emotional learning programs, parent workshops, and more. For more information on how to talk about feelings with the kids in your life, please contact us.
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Setting boundaries is important in leading a successful and emotionally rewarding life. (HarvardBusinessPublishing) Sometimes, when we feel uncomfortable we instinctively know when our boundaries are crossed. However, both children and adults often have trouble understanding what’s happening on an intellectual level at times when they have that instinctive sense that their boundaries are being crossed. Additionally, children might not always have a clear idea about how to process and respond to uncomfortable situations that result from violations of their sense of autonomy, however large or small those experiences are. (GSE)
A well-rounded education built with social-emotional learning can include learning opportunities that help children with boundaries. In order to develop into confident and well-rounded members of society, children need to learn how to define their boundaries, and subsequently, how to maintain those boundaries.
In order to create activities that incorporate teaching boundaries, it’s important to first define boundaries. Once you define these boundaries it also gives children an idea of different kinds of boundaries that need to be respected.
Here’s a brief overview of the seven (7) types of boundaries:
Seven Types of Boundaries
1. Physical Boundaries
People generally require physical boundaries in order to maintain a basic sense of safety. Everyone has different thresholds and triggers that give them a sense that their physical boundaries are not respected. Some examples include:
- Unwelcome touching of any kind
- How close a person is to their personal space (for example someone might be standing too close)
- Sanctity of their things–is their lunch, school supplies, jacket, etc., respected?
It is important to recognize that different kids have different levels of comfort with physical boundaries. Some might need you to stand further away. Some don’t mind if their classmates touch their backpacks. Some kids love hugs and others don’t like to be touched at all. With this You Belong poster, kids come into the classroom in a line and touch the symbol of what they prefer – a hug, a high five, a handshake, or a fist bump.
Children need to be aware of what their preferences are when it comes to their physical boundaries. Then they can be encouraged to vocalize those boundaries.
2. Emotional and Mental Boundaries
Children might not always recognize that their emotional and mental boundaries aren’t being respected because they haven’t yet developed the tools to recognize and articulate their feelings about what makes them emotionally and mentally uncomfortable. Therefore, with younger kids, especially, look for clues like:
- If the child has trouble talking about a particular subject
- If the child is showing signs of embarrassment
These kinds of signs can mean the child is sensing that someone has crossed their mental or emotional boundaries.
3. Spiritual or Religious Boundaries
This is sometimes a challenging subject to approach in a classroom setting, but it might come up. Classrooms are full of kids with many different backgrounds. Educators will have to prepare themselves to moderate situations arising from a need for spiritual and religious boundaries.
4. Time Boundaries
School is an ideal learning environment to help children figure out how to create and defend their schedules. Adults, more than children, tend to have trouble setting boundaries with their time. Therefore, it’s valuable for children to learn how to recognize when people are taking advantage of their time so they can set boundaries in adulthood. For example, when a student is trying to complete an assignment and someone is distracting them, they can learn to say, “I’ll talk to you later. I need to do my work right now.”
5. Financial and Material Boundaries
Children won’t need to worry about placing boundaries around finances in elementary school. Financial boundaries have more to do with adulthood. However, class stores and using play money can be introduced in elementary school to help them become aware of financial priorities.
6. Sexual Boundaries
It is never too early for children to develop an understanding of having and respecting bodily boundaries. While the youngest grades might not be the ideal environment for conversations about sexual boundaries, it is an ideal environment to start talking about respecting the physical comfort and safety of themselves and other people.
7. Non-negotiable Boundaries
Boundaries are about safety and comfort. Therefore, violation of those boundaries can seriously compromise a person’s sense of well-being. Because every child comes from a different background, every child will have unique ideas and situations that will inform personal non-negotiable boundaries. Both parents and educators can help children figure out those boundaries.
Boundaries for Kids
Kids will test boundaries. They will test their own boundaries, trying things to see how uncomfortable those things leave them. Their peers will have boundaries, and kids will test those, figuring out how the community will react to them. Teachers and parents will set boundaries, and kids will push against those boundaries to figure out how far they can be pushed. It’s not only natural to do it, but kids will learn a lot about how boundaries work by checking out how pliable the boundaries around them are. (UsableKnowledge)
As a result, one effective way to teach boundaries in a safe way is through demonstration. (ChildMindInstitute) Boundaries correlate with responding to actions, feelings, and social interactions. Therefore, children will look to their peers and the important adults in their lives to learn how to create appropriate boundaries.
Teaching Boundaries Activities
Here are a few suggestions for creating activities that will create more intentional learning experiences for children:
- Board games and yard games. These are great ways to simulate life’s boundaries. Talk about why the rules are important. What happens when a rule is broken? etc.
- Class discussions. Moderated conversations about the different types of boundaries help relate abstract ideas to experiences.
- Role-playing. Children learn a lot from acting out complex scenarios. (HowtoAdult)
- Value assessment. When children have to articulate what they find important they will also start thinking about protecting those values.
- Reading with subsequent guided conversation.
Soul Shoppe encourages building healthy boundaries in children. Whether helping in the classroom or assisting parents at home, Soul Shoppe provides tools to help teachers and parents teach social emotional skills to children. Click for more information on SEL Programs for Elementary Schools or our parent support programs.
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When it comes to learning about diversity, children have a huge advantage over adults. If a child encounters something new, they tend to accept it as a part of life with limited judgment. The natural impulse for most people when encountering something confusing is to label it as weird (Qian). When we’re children, we have two ways to develop context clues to support value judgments. One way is through explicit means, like explanations from parents and teachers. The other way is by implicit means, such as pop culture depictions and witnessed interpersonal interactions (Harvard). Educators should be aware of both means of developing value judgments when teaching children about diversity. Even though we can’t control the implicit formation of prejudice, it’s important to understand how your teaching choices explicitly affect a child’s developing understanding of diversity.
Teaching Children About Diversity
People can develop implicit biases as early as four years of age (Harvard). That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to teach acceptance of diversity to children. It’s important to know what you’re up against when you start. From an early age, we develop instincts to think of people similar to us in “good” terms and people who are different in “bad” terms. According to Dr. Miao Qian, a postdoctoral research fellow with the Inequality in America Initiative, the way forward out of this pattern is a persistent effort to unlearn subconscious habits of stereotyping. Qian and her team are developing an app game designed to retrain people to new subconscious habits. Qian’s hope is to begin a trend of no longer equating different with bad.
According to Qian, unlearning bias will be the most effective tool in helping future generations grow up with better acceptance of diversity. The fact of the matter is that we inadvertently imbue children with subconscious prejudices. With care and vigilance, we can foster circumstances that will encourage new subconscious habits. The key to the future is unlearning biases.
There are a few things you can do, as educators, through teaching diversity in classroom activities. In addition, Soul Shoppe can help with online courses such as Respect Differences and Allies Against Racism.
Incorporate More Diversity into Reading Lists
Reading can be a powerful tool and diverse books are important.
The good news is that the need for diverse books is a known problem. Recently, writers and publishers have been doing a hard push to give less-represented voices a bigger platform (Harvard). The question, “Why aren’t there more people in these books like me?” can guide you. We’ve been using stories as a safe place to try out hard thoughts and feelings since we worked out how to light campfires.
It can be a powerful thing to strive for more diverse representations of racial backgrounds, sexual orientations, etc., in the literature you incorporate into curricula. Children tend to form a lot of biases from literature. Normative depictions of characters with diverse backgrounds can be a powerful influencing factor in how children develop or redefine biases (Harvard).
Diverse representation in reading lists creates more opportunities for conversations about prejudice. It’s difficult to judge what has influenced kids in their lives outside of the classroom. It’s equally difficult to anticipate what they will encounter that will influence how they develop biases. What an educator can do is set reading lists and know what’s on them.
It’s important to incorporate teaching about diversity in classroom activities because we’re dealing with largely subconscious biases developed from implicit influences. Relearning biases requires similarly implicit and subconscious tools.
Talking about Prejudice – Explicit Tools for Implicit Problems
Fear is an influencing factor in developing biases about anyone with a different background than yourself. A powerful tool to help with uncertainty and fear is creating a safe place to talk about hard subjects.
It’s important to talk about prejudice (Harvard). Children sometimes lack the vocabulary to talk about or make decisions about new things they haven’t encountered yet. Supervised conversations in a classroom setting can give children a sense that it’s safe to ask hard questions and that their views matter (Harvard).
In a classroom setting, children can think about questions they might not encounter explicitly in their daily lives. Questions like:
- What does discrimination look like?
- Have you ever been impacted by discrimination?
Conversations about prejudice and discrimination are difficult, but supervised conversation nurtures communication skills–both speaking and listening. Listening is an important step in accepting diverse perspectives.
How to Teach Diversity in the Classroom through Classroom Activities
As mentioned above, when diversity is taught through activities it can be extremely effective. Here are some ideas:
- Say hello each day in various languages
- Serve a snack from different cultures around the world
- Create art inspired by different cultures
Intolerance rests on a foundation of biases gained by both implicit and explicit influences. Addressing prejudices isn’t impossible, but it takes patience and persistence. Learning to accept diversity requires an effort to relearn subconscious biases, some of which we might not know are there. By incorporating more tools for empathizing with and normalizing diverse perspectives and backgrounds, it’s possible to make curricula that aid in teaching children about diversity.
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Teaching is a challenging job. Creating an environment where children can develop comes with a range of obstacles.
As educators, the best-case scenario is to recruit the children, in the long run, to help in their own education. Where it is appropriate, it’s not only valuable to help children take ownership of their own education, it is a mark of successful education.
Self-soothing is a particularly important area to give children tools to take care of themselves. Teachers and parents won’t be present every time a child feels worried or anxious. In the long run, it would not be helpful to a child’s development if they came to rely on the adults in their lives to fix their problems. To ensure balance in development, it’s essential for children to learn how to self-soothe.
Teaching Children How To Self-Soothe
What is Self Soothing?
People instinctively try to soothe their own stress. In children, this instinct to self-soothe can often look like fidgeting. Thumb-sucking, biting fingernails, and sucking on clothes, are all examples of potential self-soothing habits that children sometimes use to help them cope with stressful situations. Children might develop many other habits and behaviors to self-soothe as they grow. As a result, their instinctive behaviors might evolve or change.
Self-soothing can take many forms. Not all of them are clear and external, and not all of them are healthy or helpful. In fact, some children have trouble developing mechanisms for soothing their own stressful emotions. As children age, it becomes more important to teach children how to self-soothe, since some of the behaviors that small children use to self-soothe grow less socially appropriate.
In cases where children have developed potentially unhelpful self-soothing methods, or in situations where they have trouble developing self-soothing strategies of any kind, it might be prudent to teach better self-soothing techniques.
How to Teach an Older Child to Self-Soothe
Because coping with stress is the goal of self-soothing, children might instinctively resist learning new or different self-soothing strategies. An attempt to teach alternative self-soothing habits might look to children like taking away their coping mechanisms. As a result, educators must approach teaching new techniques with delicacy.
At the same time, it can be important to help children learn better self-soothing strategies as they grow. Stressors increase as children age. The self-soothing techniques that may have come instinctively to children may grow insufficient as they age.
The self-soothing techniques might also contribute to the stress and anxiety of the child if the technique attracts ridicule from other children. This might end up sabotaging their technique because a child might grow self-conscious about their instinctive technique, try not to use it, and then grow more and more agitated. Therefore, they need to replace the self-soothing technique with another soothing strategy.
When deciding how to teach an older child to self-soothe, there are two stages an educator should go through.
The first stage of teaching a new strategy for self-soothing is identifying any self-soothing techniques a child might already have a habit of using to cope with stress. For example:
- Biting nails
- Thumb sucking
- Picking at cuticles
- Sucking on clothing
- General fidgeting
This is far from an exhaustive list. Educators and parents need to get to know their children’s habits. Once they do, it will become possible to identify which behaviors manifest to cope with stress. Identifying the self-soothing habits adopted by children will also mean gaining an idea of what causes them stress and gives them a need to use self-soothing strategies.
After working with the child to learn more about their self-soothing habits, then it’s possible to help them learn other self-soothing techniques. Some self-soothing techniques that might be useful to suggest include:
- Changing their environment or something about their environment
- Doing some stretches
- Imagining soothing imagery
- Focused breathing or counting breaths
- Butterfly hugs–or the practice of gently patting themself on the chest with their hands crossed and telling themself they are safe
These self-soothing techniques are valuable tools to add to an educator’s or parent’s toolbox. There are a lot of legitimate and valuable self-soothing techniques out there. When deciding how to teach an older child to self-soothe, there are several options. Teaching these techniques prepares them for strong childhood development and long-term success in life.
Soul Shoppe provides social emotional learning programs and can help you learn how to create a safe space in the classroom or at home. Soul Shoppe encourages empathy and emotional awareness in children. Click for more information on SEL Programs for Elementary Schools. Click to learn how to create a peace corner for self-soothing.
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Making judgment calls as a well-adjusted person of any age requires complicated assessments of the pros and cons behind each choice. It is a process largely informed by life experiences, risk assessments, and desires. In order to create the best possible outcome for children to lead rewarding, successful lives, it’s important to provide them with opportunities to develop strong decision-making skills.
Teaching Decision-Making Skills
Activities that encourage students to practice decision-making should supplement the rest of their education since decision-making skills are part of everyday life. (Harvard). Therefore, decision-making activities for students will constitute an important part of any social-emotional learning curriculum. Activities that encourage students to learn decision-making skills don’t need to be bland. You can even incorporate them into fun games.
Teaching decision-making skills to students will help them navigate challenging opportunities independently in the future. Educators will find it valuable to tailor their teaching activities to their specific students. Here are some ideas to start the process.
Decision-Making Activities for Students
Providing students with opportunities to learn decision-making skills will help with everything else in the classroom. Many decision-making activities for students involve opportunities to learn other important life skills since decision-making is a feature of many experiences. When students improve their decision-making abilities, they are essentially improving their own agency.
Let’s explore some activities that encourage students to practice decision-making skills. They might look like activities with other purposes, but they include valuable tools for students to practice making decisions.
Board games are perfect tools for practicing decision-making skills. The more complicated the game, the better. With rules to remember and objectives to plan for, it’s almost like board games were designed as decision-making laboratories. They randomly generate scenarios where children have to weigh options and plan ahead within a set of designated parameters.
Board games are like miniaturized life experiences, including opportunities to make cost-benefit analyses. In board games, children are also faced with decisions concerning each others’ feelings and determinations.
An additional way of using board games to create decision-making opportunities is by asking students to play them in teams. If they play team-focused board games, they are faced with further opportunities to make decisions about cooperation, team building, and how to operate in a community.
A surefire way of encouraging children to learn anything is getting them to move around and learn actively. Outdoor games of any kind rest on twin foundations of rules and goals. A structured environment with risks and rewards gives children ample opportunity to practice decision-making.
Team activities, such as kickball or capture the flag, help students practice rapid decision-making while teaching them to see how they affect their group in real-time. Other activities, like Simon Says or Hide-and-Seek, provide opportunities for children to practice some self-aware decision-making, improving their sense of individuality.
Dramatic plays or other role-playing activities are great decision-making learning tools. Even if the role-play scenario is scripted, children are still getting an opportunity to practice imagining the world around them from a perspective beyond their own. Furthermore, whether the situation is scripted or not, students get to imagine the result of decisions they might not make otherwise. Students can even create their own role-playing scenarios with prompts.
The ultimate tool for engaging a student’s imagination is reading. Books are a perfect tool for students to see decisions play out, good or bad, as well as their consequences. Through the insights of literature, students will be able to have conversations about how and why someone might make certain decisions. As an educator, you can bring decision-making questions to the forefront of discussion.
In a moderated setting, debating different perspectives creates chances for students to think critically about the strengths and weaknesses of different courses of action. Students can articulate their own views on a given subject, and evaluate reasons against that view with moderation. This exercise helps students practice weighing the costs and benefits of decisions.
Decision-Making Skills in the Classroom
Creating tools for students to practice making decisions is important. Educators should build intentional environments where their students can hone their decision-making skills in safety. Then they can impress upon students that these skills practiced through games or activities can be implemented outside of the classroom too.
When educators need assistance with building lessons that create decision-making opportunities, Soul Shoppe helps with online SEL programs. Soul Shoppe encourages agency, empathy, conflict resolution, and more. Click for more information on SEL Programs for Elementary Schools or our parent support programs.
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Children need to develop Emotional Intelligence for a variety of reasons. It helps them understand their feelings and thoughts about themselves and others, but its effects go much deeper than that. Emotional Intelligence can even have a profound effect on their ability to obtain better job opportunities later in life.
In this article, we will detail what Emotional Intelligence is and explore its benefits. Then we will discuss parenting tips to help children develop this skill.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional Intelligence, often referred to as EQ, is a psychological theory that measures a person’s ability to recognize, manage, and understand their emotions. It emphasizes an awareness of how our emotions affect our behavior, and learning to manage both.
It is essential that children gain these abilities and awareness in their journey to becoming empathetic, balanced adults who are capable of handling difficult situations. The five main components of one’s EQ are:
- Empathy – The ability to understand the feelings and emotions of others.
- Self awareness – The ability to recognize one’s own emotional state and give an accurate self assessment. This skill is necessary for emotional growth.
- Self regulation – The ability to manage thoughts and emotions, as well as consider long term consequences.
- Internal motivation – Behavior that is driven by intrinsic rewards. This skill helps people attain goals they set and achieve in every area.
- Social Skills – Behaving in ways that are socially acceptable. In addition, knowing how to communicate with others.
Emotional Intelligence comprises a skill set with enormous benefits. With some effort, it can be learned by both children and adults.
Benefits of Teaching Emotional Intelligence
There are many benefits to teaching Emotional Intelligence. Primarily, it helps children perceive, manage, and regulate their own feelings and emotions. Beyond that, it also helps them understand the feelings of others. Together, these give children a lowered risk of depression and other mental illnesses (Stratford).
At the same time, high Emotional Intelligence, also known as an emotional quotient (EQ), allows a student to make better connections with others, which improves their friendships, their ability to work in teams, and their conflict resolution. In fact, people with higher Emotional Intelligence are more likely to get promoted at work and earn better salaries (Latrobe University). A study by the American Journal of Public Health found that students with high EQ were more likely to obtain college degrees (Stratford). For these reasons, teaching EQ gives children a better chance at career success and a better life in general.
Parenting Tips to Raise Emotionally Intelligent Children
Children begin developing their Emotional Intelligence through interaction with their parents or caregivers. Therefore, it is important that parents show children how to successfully manage their emotions. Here are some parenting tips that will help raise your child’s EQ.
- Talk about feelings with your child. Children learn from adults modeling behaviors, and constructively expressing emotions is a healthy practice. Express how you are feeling to your child and allow them to see how to show the feeling in a productive way. For example, tell your child you are happy they are home from school, or you are frustrated that you had to work late. By doing so, you give them the chance to learn how to articulate feelings (Stratford).
- Listen to your child. Listen to the emotions your child expresses, without trying to fix them. Instead, validate their feelings as real even if you don’t understand them (Penn State).
- Recognize moods in the house. Help your child identify moods by asking, “What does it feel like to be in the house now?” Give hints if the child needs them. Gradually, children won’t need hints and will easily express the mood. Try this at different times, such as right before bedtime when it is quiet, or first thing in the morning when it is busy (Stratford).
- Model How to Appropriately Express Feelings. It is important that you consistently demonstrate how to express feelings in healthy ways. Children learn early on from their caregivers about what is appropriate when expressing emotions, so begin as soon as possible. Show them that as an adult, you are responsible for how you express your emotions, even during stressful times (Penn State).
- Identify the feelings of others. Encourage children to recognize when others have big feelings. For example, if another child falls down on the playground, ask your child, “How do you think they feel?” Or, while children run happily in the park, ask, “How do you think they feel to be here?” Noticing others’ feelings and how they are like their own is an important part of your child’s developing empathy. (Stratford).
- Label Feelings.