Launch of “Smart Parents” Book!

Smart Parents, Parenting for Powerful LearningWhat an honor it is to be a contributor to the new book, Smart Parents; Parenting for Powerful Learning by Bonnie Lathram, Carri Schneider and Tom Vander Ark. Packed with helpful guidance from more than 60 parents who are also experts in learning and/or education, this book will support Moms and Dads who recognize learning as core to their purpose. Preparing a child for success means that parents embrace their roles as models, coaches and educational partners. Our knowledge economy of today and the future will require individuals to be creative and critical problem solvers, empathetic and kind collaborators, socially aware and well-practiced with making responsible decisions. This book prepares parents for powerful and significant contributions to our children’s learning. What an ideal way to begin the school year by advancing parents’ understanding of how they can best support their children’s development. Here’s the link to read more about it and learn what others are saying. 

And here’s the link to get your own copy!

Back to School Butterflies

Originally posted on confident parents confident kids:

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Everyone has butterflies when they are starting something new. Just make sure you visualize them flying in formation and you’ll be fine.

–          My Dad, David Smith from a Dale Carnegie Public Speaking Course

If you are a parent, you are likely in the middle of clothing and supply shopping preparing for the first day of school. There may be more stress around the house as you switch gears from the less scheduled, slower paced summer routines to alarm clocks ringing early, morning rushes to get out of the house on time, new clothing, new teachers, homework and general exhaustion.

In addition to practical routine changes, you may have your own set of anxieties. For many, work demands increase as fiscal years end in August and begin in September. For fellow educators, we are busy attending or giving professional development courses during the month of August and preparing…

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Easing the Transition Back to School

sun and school by Jennifer Miller

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

– E. Miller, Age 6

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

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

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

Create or recreate your routine.
Part of the annual preparations in our house for the school year is the creation of the morning routine poster. Going over your morning routine can offer great comfort to a child who has not gotten up at the crack of dawn or needed to get dressed and move quickly for months. Don’t expect that they will snap back into the routine easily. Pave the way by discussing how your morning will progress together. Find out what your children’s expectations and hopes are. Writing down your child’s routine formalizes it and helps provide a reminder to return to if there are struggles in those early days of school. Check out “A Truly Good Morning” for more ideas about creating a smooth morning routine for your family.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Reposted from Confident Parents, Confident Kids on 8-7-14.

New School Year Parent Resolutions from NBC Parent Toolkit


NBC Parent Toolkit is asking for parents to consider and write, video or take a photo of a resolution that states your desire for your own learning and development in this new school year. Check out their flyer. What do you want to focus on with your children in the coming year? Want do you want to learn or how can you improve? My resolution is to talk about issues that, I realize, are critical but often make me uncomfortable like racism and sexuality. My seven year old asks questions and encounters plenty of social opportunities to discuss these tough issues. I was involved with the Toolkit’s “Tough Talks” last year which was an excellent primer for me in thinking about difficult topics of conversation. Here are some below in case you missed them.

Be sure and check out all of the resolutions already submitted. And in addition, consider submitting your resolution to NBC Parent Toolkit so that we can learn from each other!

Here are some articles on difficult topics of conversation that, despite the discomfort, are important to have with your children.

Tough Talks: How to Talk to your Child about Mental Health

Tough Talks: How to Talk to your Child about Drugs and Alcohol

Tough Talks: How to Discuss Divorce with your Child

Tough Talks: Having the “Sex Talk” with your Child

An excellent article from In Culture Parent:

How I Talk to my Classroom about Race by Madeleine Rogin

And from Confident Parents, Confident Kids:

Helping Children Understand Death

Elements of a Confident Kid…Cultural Awareness



Summertime is an important time to assert emotional boundaries because of the opportunity to spend more time together. Boundaries can be a great challenge to voice making you feel vulnerable but review these ideas. You’ll find it will only add to your sense of strength. And your whole family will benefit from your example.

Originally posted on confident parents confident kids:

boundaries image 001Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.

Brene Brown

Boundary lines define the playing field. They outline the perimeter and if you step outside, you are, at least temporarily, out of the game. Emotional boundaries operate in the same way. They are the rules of engagement and often, they are disguised or unspoken. Our sense of emotional boundaries can be established by a combination of our culture, religion or belief system, community and our own upbringing.  As a result, it can be a tricky terrain for adults and children to navigate. Trickier still, each environment we enter and each person we encounter has a different set of boundary lines. At Karen’s house, it’s “inside voices” only. In the first grade classroom, we raise our hands before we speak. At home, no one leaves the dinner table until the…

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Say What?


As we grow accustomed to having family members around more of the time with kids home from school or time on vacation together, listening may rise as an issue of concern. This article provides ways to bolster your own listening skills and teach and reinforce them with enjoyable games for your children. Wishing you a cooperative summer in which all family members feel heard and understood.

Originally posted on confident parents confident kids:

Listening Illustr JSM

When you really listen to another person from their point of view, and reflect back to them that understanding, it’s like giving them emotional oxygen.

– Stephen Covey

Most parents, particularly with young children, may feel like they are listening all day long. Because children are exploring the world around them, they may have many observations and questions. “Why are you going upstairs?” “What is Dad doing now?” “How many days until school is out?” and “Why is that bird chirping outside our window?” Though we perceive that we are listening regularly, often times, the reality is, we are not. Research reinforces that notion. The average person listens with only 25% efficiency.1 And no wonder. There are multiple distractions from people and media that compete for our attention. Listening is a critical skill for your children as they attempt to make friends, participate in family life and achieve in school…

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Tone Tuning

Originally posted on confident parents confident kids:

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Pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little

Cheep, cheep, cheep, talk a lot, pick a little more.

–          From the musical, Music Man (1957)

It is easy to forget that the music of our speech, our tone of voice, communicates just as much as the actual content of what is said. In fact, we may often feel that what we said has not been heard but notice that the emotion behind it causes family members to react. A gentle, monotone, “The dishwasher is broken.” is very different than a stressed, high-pitched, “The dishwasher is broken!” We offer instructions, directives and corrections to our children all day. We require their compliance to get through our routines. So how does our tone of voice affect what our children hear and how they respond? And could our awareness of our tone of voice make a difference in…

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The Inherently Creative Family


Summertime is a perfect chance to get creative together. Here are some ideas for engaging the artist in every family member.

Originally posted on confident parents confident kids:


There are moments in our lives, there are moments in a day, when we seem to see beyond the usual. Such are the moments of our greatest happiness. Such are the moments of our greatest wisdom. If one could but recall his vision by some sort of sign. It was in this hope that the arts were invented. Sign-posts on the way to what may be. Sign-posts toward greater knowledge.

– Robert Henri1

All individuals are inherently creative. But we typically reserve the title of “Artist” as a sacred one for which only specially anointed individuals are worthy. However, our humanness makes us all creative. My son, E, has no interest in initiating drawing on his own. Although when there is drawing time at school and all of the other children are involved, he will create fascinating pictures that give me insights into his thoughts and feelings.

Our family viewing the Earth from space with hugs and kisses (xo) by our six year old son, E Miller. Our family viewing…

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Using “Inside Out” to Discuss Emotions with Kids; A New Article by Jennifer Miller on NBC’s Parent Toolkit


Hope you’ll check out “More Than A Movie: The Parenting Opportunity of ‘Inside Out'” by CPCK’s author, Jennifer Miller on NBC’s Parent Toolkit. The movie creates a significant opportunity to discuss the role of emotions in our lives if parents seize it! There are reflection questions and a discussion of each age/stage that might view it. I hope you’ll use it as a resource for your own reflections with your kids! Learning about emotions – what a wonderful excuse to head to the movies! Check it out and happy summer!

Here’s how it begins:

If you haven’t heard already, there’s a new Pixar movie out called “Inside Out.” One of the great things about being a parent is the opportunity to include learning in everyday activities with kids – like seeing a movie together. “Inside Out” is an example of this. The movie offers ample opportunity to discuss with our kids the role of emotions in our lives. We get to experience the outside changes that are occurring in Riley’s life with a move to a new city and we experience what is happening in her brain at the same time. Anger, Sadness, Joy, Disgust and Fear are all personified as characters that hold the controls while she goes through her life’s adventures. Viewers can participate in major changes going on in Riley’s brain as she develops new ways of thinking as a tween-ager and lets go of some of her childhood memories. The movie raises important questions about how we perceive our emotions, how they impact the choices we make and ultimately the life we experience. It opens the door to dialogue at all ages if parents seize the chance. Here are some considerations as you experience and then reflect on the movie with your children. If you haven’t already seen the movie – spoiler alerts ahead! Read the full article.

Citizen Kid


Though originally published during the winter holiday season, this article offers ideas for helping your child develop as a citizen all year long. Happy Fourth of July, to U.S. readers! And for all readers, I hope you enjoy the many thoughts on ways we can grow kids who feel connected to and take responsibility for their unique contribution to a community.

Originally posted on confident parents confident kids:

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What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.

Nelson Mandela

“How’s my little buddy doing?” says Butcher Keith as my son giggles and hides behind my legs. Butcher Bob upon spotting my face takes off for the deli counter to produce a slice of freshly cut Colby cheese, or as we affectionately call it, “Bob cheese” for my son to munch on as we shop. We have been going to our local Mom and Pop owned grocery store since we moved to our neighborhood and certainly since our son was born. He has grown up knowing the names and personalities of each individual who helps us with our seafood or produce or checks us out when we are ready to leave. We…

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