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Karen Stone  @eqforchildren.

Karen Stone @eqforchildren.

Karen Stone has over 35 years experience in education from preschool-college. She has a BA in Special Ed and MA in Learning Disabilities. Not only a professional in the field but also a parent of a child with significant disabilities. Her business experience includes 5 years as manager of an after-school tutoring program in 9 counties of NJ. She is currently the CEO of SoftStone Products, Inc. Karen has written children’s Emotional Intelligence programs (Pre-school-HS) research-based and piloted. This program is complete with classroom curriculums and parent guides. Karen writes an anti-bullying blog with now over 100,000 followers. She is currently giving in-service workshops in school districts receiving many positive comments. She is also a motivational speaker and author of a children's book and CD. Her passion and life’s work is helping to create emotionally safe environments in school and at home so that each child has the opportunity to reach his/her unique potential. She lost her beautiful son to Melanoma a year ago and has been able to sustain his passing thanks to her ability to maintain an emotionally safe internal dialogue. Currently, working to create a grief support group teaching these important life sustaining skills..

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 Kindness Week came and went throughout the country. Good Morning America shared a grass-roots campaign that was started in a woman’s backyard when her children were young. She created a non-profit, “Kids for Peace,” that has initiated the Great Kindness Challenge. This challenge asks schools and youth groups to perform many acts of kindness throughout the week. She hopes to create school environments where students thrive. She began with three schools and now there is twelve thousand participating.

            I stopped to think about this and how it doesn’t seem to last beyond the week. That is because there is so much more social and emotional learning that needs to happen on a daily basis. If twelve thousand schools see the benefit of one week, why is this not an indicator that these lessons need to be ongoing throughout the year? And so Emotional Intelligence skills and behaviors that stimulate the emotional center of the brain, increases success by 80% and helps children to not just survive but thrive, need to be happening in every home and school every single day.. If one week can make such a difference, let’s consider the outcome of daily practices.

Our seven attributes of Emotional Intelligence represent all the challenges for Kindness Week. Imagine us practicing this 52 weeks a year! What a different community, country and world we would have.

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As the New Year begins, we all stop and think about the past one and how we will choose differently. For me, my greatest challenge ahead stems from the past election chaos. Did I do enough to prevent the results and every time I ask myself this question, the answer is no. I too have taken for granted the freedoms we so cherish and have become passive in stepping up to the plate to engage in a more assertive demonstration of preserving them. Oh sure, I donated money, signed petitions and spoke of the frustrations of language and actions that sullied our homes, work environments, schools and foreign relations. But did I get out and work, no. Did I alert my senators and congressman of my concerns, no. I passively watched as our country was swept into our past of racism, antisemitism, slanderous threats, and the possibility that the freedoms and services we have worked so hard to attain be perhaps on the chopping block. 2016 was not an emotionally intelligent year.

I am scared, worried, concerned and angry at myself. What now! First of all, what does an emotionally intelligent year look like? It looks like a greater emphasis on empathy and kindness. Making choices that build self-confidence and motivation by thinking positively and taking actions to mindfully do so. Helping wherever we can and placing other’s needs before our own. Managing our emotions and not letting them control what we say and do. Being accountable for those actions with apologies and doing it differently. Having quality play time that promotes relational activities teaching compromise, sharing and being a good friend. And last but certainly not least, being grateful for what we have and who we are and not allowing ourselves to feel victimized by the actions of others and of a life that can be unfair.

Taking positive action to prevent the loss of our civil liberties, begins with what we teach our children. For in teaching our children how to be emotionally intelligent, as adults we too will have to model what it looks like for our children mirror us each and every day. My voice will have to louder and more demonstrative about preserving these rights we have accomplished in the past. Let’s model and teach how children how it is done! Join me in stepping up to plate for the real progressive change that must take place in this country! This works and we can do this!

 

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What are our children to think, feel and experience with what they are seeing and hearing on TV and the Internet not only in the last 12 months but also in the past few days? The majority may be confused, worried, scared and astonished that an adult running for the president of the United States has actions and behaviors that go against everything they hear and are taught by the adults in their immediate world. Some live in a dangerous and angry environment and hear similar things but they too know and feel intuitively that it doesn’t resonate with their small beings. There is no justifying it, explaining it or excusing it.

Unfortunately, Donald Trump is a reflection of parts of all of us. The fact that this has been allowed to take place demonstrates the collective consciousness of the American people and the lack of moral tenure in our communal environment. It represents the complacency of the majority and how lazy we have become in monitoring what is really happening at a deeper level. Or perhaps we’ve been in denial for it serves our busy lives and our focus on material and superfluous ventures that seem to mark our value.

If we allow history to teach us and to warn us then we have been alerted and warned. This behavior by Donald Trump is not any less demonstrative or manipulative than harmful past leaders both in the free and not free world. Our schools teach this history to our children. They learn what happens with a leader who denigrates decency and the moral fiber of its people.

His demonstration of the lack of compassion and empathy for those who have served him and crossed his path is in of itself a marker of the kind of human being he is with the emphasis on being and hopefully not human.   Whatever we have taught our children becomes hypocritical, and we have lied to them about what we believe is truly important to live an honorable, productive and generous life.

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Back to school anxieties are common and often not addressed. In part I, I spoke about how these anxieties need to be aired and shared so that children’s day to day learning would not be affected.  As many adults do not know how to share their anxiety and fears, children certainly have neither the skills to identify these feelings nor the language and communication abilities to express what is shutting them down. This shut down interferes with their listening and processing skills, and the ability to stay focused. The fears absorb them mentally and emotionally and therefore they will lose substantial incoming information, especially new information. There are ways to help children address their anxieties and manage them. When children learn how to recognize and understand their emotions and feelings, they are able to manage them feeling safer and are more resilient.

My back to school anxieties had to do with the new teacher but more so would I face the same teasing and bullying that happened the year before. Summer had given me a respite for I attended day camp and found a sense of belonging there with my counselors and other children like me. I was lucky to have some physical abilities and so shone in areas that brought me attention and success.

I didn’t sleep for almost a week before school began. In my early years, I couldn’t identify those fears nor understand the hurt and pain I had endured. The thought of telling my parents was unthinkable. There were no discussions about feelings ever. But there was always the hope of a new year and perhaps this one would be different. Day one ended that hope. As I got older, my hope was barely there but my personality always had a way to look on the bright side.

What would have helped me deal with the anxiety and the fears? What skills didn’t I have to be able to understand these feelings and be able to manage them and at least if I couldn’t communicate to my parents about them, I would have the ability to soothe these fears and anxieties and understand more about who I really was and not who my peers projected on me. Those thoughts of fat, ugly and stupid haunted me for years. Thirty years ago at the age of 36. I started exploring self-awareness but it took me to the age of 60 to really understand what skills I was lacking that would truly offer me a different way of being in the world. I discovered that not being emotionally intelligent hampered my ability to manage emotions and stay present. According to Psychology Today, Emotional Intelligence or its shorthand EQ (the emotional version of IQ), is the “ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others.” As a child, I didn’t have the necessary skills to calm anxieties, redirect thoughts and persist despite frustration.

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A new school year brings a mix of excitement and worries: "Will I do well? Will my teacher like me? Where will I sit? Will I be teased on the playground? Will I be invited to someone's house? Such questions will arise for all children but even more so for children who have formerly been bullied or excluded.

We all face not feeling good enough at times. Even popular children are anxious returning to school: it’s a new teacher, they’ve changed over the summer, were they unable to connect with their friends. What are your children's back-to-school anxieties? Casually ask them while riding in the car and at dinner. Parents,feeling uncomfortable makes it difficult,  but necessary, to broach this sensitive topic. However, we must take steps to help prepare our children for inevitable situations. You just might learn things your children kept private out of shame or feared reactions by teachers and parents.

Begin these talks now. Work the conversations in naturally and slowly. Think of potential questions and worries and plan a strategy in advance for each anxiety. This is a one-on-one conversation not to be discussed in front of siblingsor other family members.

Some examples of questions are:

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