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Students–Put Your Emotional Intelligence Into Action!

Hey there, High School and Middle School Students!

Are you ready to build your emotional intelligence? Join us for Emotional Intelligence in Action, a free webinar run by young people for young people, on March 11, 2023, at Noon Pacific / 3 pm Eastern.

Navigating our emerging adulthood isn’t always easy, but you don’t have to go at it alone. We believe emotional wellness starts with empathy and understanding, and this webinar is here to remind us that we’re all experiencing a mental and emotional journey that can be confusing, scary, and exciting to navigate.

You’ll have the opportunity to feel heard in your story and inspired by others. Our panelists include

  • Livi Redden–22, Podcast “Today is the Future”; author, “The Sooner You Know, The Better”
  • Rafaella Thorssen–21, co-founder and chief creative officer, Vlogmi.
  • Maxim Sokolov–21, freelance UX/UI/Visual Designer and Co-Founder of a TEDx Talks chapter
  • Tanish Ramchandani–16, high school sophomore

We know that Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is proven to equip kids with the personal and interpersonal skills they need to succeed in school, career, relationships, and life.

Research supports many proven benefits from SEL, such as higher student engagement, grades, and graduation rates, improved mental and physical wellness, and better interpersonal relations.

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to connect with your peers and build your emotional intelligence. Register now for Emotional Intelligence in Action!

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SEL for Your Kids: Start Where You Are

Between the pandemic, racial reckonings, inflation, natural disasters, the opioid crisis, and now job layoffs, recent years have been hard on families. Due to the existing inequities in American life, these hard times fall especially hard on many low-income communities, communities of color, recent immigrants, and other groups.

And kids. Adverse childhood conditions like toxic stress and deprivation can follow kids throughout their lives. The current youth mental health crisis certainly falls into this category. For example, a recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control finds that teens are experiencing increased mental health challenges, violence, and suicidal thoughts.

SEL Equips All Kids

We know that Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is proven to equip kids with the personal and interpersonal skills that they need to succeed in school, career, relationships, and life. Research supports many proven benefits from SEL, such as

  • Higher student engagement, grades, and graduation rates.
  • Improved student happiness with lower rates of anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and suicide
  • Better mental and physical wellness
  • Improved interpersonal relations

Large majorities of parents say that their child’s happiness and good character are important to them and thus they support schools teaching SEL-related skills.

The key question is whether SEL is accessible enough to counter the challenges confronting every family today. Families and schools with more resources may be more likely to implement SEL practices in homes and classrooms. But what about those with more stressors and fewer resources?

Join Us to Learn More

Many people confronting a challenge or struggle know that they can start where they are, with what they have. Incorporating SEL into home and school is no different. There are many high quality, free and easy resources now available. 

On March 9, as part of SEL Day, EQuip Our Kids! is hosting a panel of SEL experts who are also parents. They’ll discuss SEL’s ability to address all types of families and their challenges. All parents are welcome to come learn how to build your social emotional intelligence and that of your kids’ to face any challenge.

You can register today for this free event.

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The Art of Listening—3 Steps that Transform Relationships

Welcome to part 3 of the Brain Stages Emotional Quotient Series. (If you missed parts 1 or 2, you can click 6 Ways to Help Kids Develop Empathy or 5 Ways to Help Kids Become Grateful and Generous, respectively.)

Researchers have found that EQ can be more important than IQ for success in today’s world. The best news — although intelligence can be enhanced a bit, there’s a genetic component, whereas emotional and social skills can be practiced and improved to the extent we’re willing to put in the effort.

And learning the art of listening is an EQ key to success!

Truly listening to others makes them feel valued. Therefore, listening to someone is a generous act.

On the other hand, studies show that people who are curious about others and practice engaged listening become the best communicators, the most effective leaders, and they have the most satisfying relationships.

Have you ever been frustrated by people interrupting you in the middle of a sentence? Can you tell when people are thinking more about what they’re going to say next than what you’re saying?

Most of us think we’re good listeners and wish others would be more attentive, but did you know that less than 25 percent of people are considered good listeners?

Do the math. More than three out of four of us aren’t great at it. We could all stand to improve.

What if you could teach your kids how to become engaged listeners, and you could improve your own listening skills at the same time?

In the Brain Stages book, I suggest parents begin to focus on teaching their kids how to be engaged listeners in third grade, but you can begin this process at any time. Eight and nine are just sort of “sweet-spot” ages for learning how to listen. Neural pathways begin to refine to enable kids to look outside of themselves more than previously.

The Art of Listening in Three Steps — Focus, Respond, and Be Curious.

(“FRC” for short. Kids get a kick out of the acronym – which helps them remember it.)

Explain the process below and practice focusing on, responding to, and being genuinely curious in conversations together to help your kids develop the art of listening—and enjoy what happens when you become a more attentive listener too.

Before long, none of you will have to think about FRC. In conversations, you’ll focus, respond, and be curious — and you’ll make an amazing impact on your lives as well as others’!

1. Focus on the speaker.

We listen with our eyes as well as our ears. Focusing your attention on the person who’s talking not only makes the talker feel validated, but it affects how well you remember what people say. Further, researchers estimate that 80 percent of communication happens through body language.

Evade potential distractions — model for your kids how you avoid looking at your cell phone when it vibrates with an incoming email or text until the conversation is over.

Wave a polite hand to others who join you, for them to wait to talk until the speaker finishes.

2. Respond to what the speaker is saying.

Use body language to convey your investment in the speaker — smile, nod, tilt your head.

Make sounds that convey interest — “Hmm” or “Huh.”

Offer single words and short phrases — “Really?” … “I had no idea” … “Interesting.”

Restate for clarification — “So you like basketball better than baseball because the game is faster.”

3. Be genuinely curious about people.

Ask questions and offer feedback. Good listening involves cooperative communication.

Communication researcher Todd Kashden of George Mason University says, “When you show curiosity and you ask questions, and find out something interesting about another person, people disclose more, share more, and they return the favor, asking questions of you. It sets up a spiral of give and take, which fosters intimacy.” 

Ask the speaker questions for more information. — “Do you play basketball on a team or just with friends?” … “How did you learn to play?”

Make points that support the speaker’s point of view and offer other ideas about the subject in a constructive way. — “I can see why basketball is a great workout for you, but there are lots of sports to keep people in shape. I like to run outside while talking with my buddies or running alone when I need to think.”

When you and your kids practice focusresponse, and curiosity with each other, friends, and acquaintances, you’ll hear people comment that your family is so nice, considerate, and intelligent.

Helping your kids learn to be truly present in conversations early will give them a skill that will pay off in every possible way—from dealing with bullies, to making friends, to getting their needs met with their teachers, to communicating with their boss at work someday, to becoming bosses themselves, or running their own businesses.

Becoming a good listener just takes a little know-how and practice.

And FRC makes it easy!

PATRICIA WILKINSON – mother of two, taught grades kindergarten through sixth for 23 years, in both public and private schools. She earned a BA in recreation from California State University, Long Beach, and did graduate work at California State Universities, Los Angeles and Chico, to earn a Clear Multiple-Subject Teaching Credential and Language Development Specialist certificate from the State of California. Today, Trish facilitates life-changing workshops for parents and teachers. It’s amazing what can happen when years of creativity and practical experience merge with thousands of hours of brain research. She lives in Bend, Oregon, with her awesome husband, Chuck, and their rambunctious golden retriever, Alice. Visit her at


5 Ways to Help Kids Become Grateful and Generous

Welcome to part 2 of the Brain Stages Emotional Quotient Series. (In case you missed it, here’s part 1: 6 Ways to Help Kids Develop Empathy.)

You’ve likely heard that gratefulness and generosity make us happier, but did you know that scientists can track what happens in the brain when we practice these attributes?

When we feel appreciative or give to others, the amygdala or stress center in our brains becomes less active, while the ventral tegmental area, our reward system, becomes more active.

When we do things for others, or even make a decision to give, monetarily or of our time and energy, our temporal parietal junction engages and increases connectivity with the ventral striatum. These are brain areas that light up on an fMRI when we get happy.

The best news about all of this is that parents can teach their children how to be thankful and generous for a happier life!

5 Ways to Help Kids Learn to Be Grateful and Generous

1. Assist your child in writing thank-you notes (or dictating them to you if he isn’t writing yet)—for gifts, special outings with family members or friends, or favors when people go out of their way for him.

Every time your child expresses appreciation in writing, his neural pathways for both gratitude and generosity become more consistent. Not only will your child be consciously grateful for someone else’s thoughtfulness, but he will have done something nice for that person by purposely acknowledging them.

Delivering a written thank-you card is generally best since receivers tend to enjoy such messages in children’s handwriting. If you can’t manage a written note, help your child send thank-you emails or texts to people who have done nice things for him. Electronic recognition for kindness is way better than nothing at all. We might as well take advantage of technology to help our kids grow accustomed to acknowledging people, right?

Your child will likely get a heartfelt response from the receiver that will reinforce the value of expressing gratitude toward others!

2. Have a gratefulness scavenger hunt.

Most of the time, things we can be thankful for are right under our noses, but kids—heck, people of all ages, including yours truly—don’t always notice them. Making a game of focusing on things we appreciate helps kids recognize what to be thankful for, as well as helping them “hit the reset button” when they’re frustrated or in a funk.

If your kids enjoy the game, suggest they try it with their friends. Sharing a game that makes them feel good, with the intention of helping a friend feel better, is another great way for them to practice being generous.

Kimberly from Natural Beach Living regularly posts great parenting tips, and she created a Gratitude Scavenger Hunt that I’m sure she won’t mind if you borrow. You can find it here.

3. Remind your kids that life often “isn’t fair” in their favor.

I think every parent has heard “That’s not fair!”

When our kids would make that declaration, my husband would acknowledge their feelings, but then he would say, “If you think about it, you have a lot of things that aren’t fair in your favor.”

Sometimes he would point out what an awesome dad they had, and they would laugh (though he was telling the truth). Other times he would get serious and remind them of how they had a safe place to live and enough food to eat, things that much of the world wouldn’t find fair.

4. Encourage your children to give family and friends gifts for birthdays and holidays.

Get your kids accustomed to the joy of giving early. Little kids can help you make cookies, ornaments, or other small crafts to give as presents for special occasions. Another nice gift from kids who don’t have much cash is the promise to do a chore they wouldn’t normally do—wash grandma’s car, for example (which may require adult supervision).

When our older daughter was in first grade, she read her favorite story to her blind grandfather for his birthday—which he loved!

There were several years that our kids made coupons to give to people as presents. The coupons promised they would do certain things they knew that person would appreciate.

But have someone be sure to check the coupons.

Our younger daughter gave me a coupon to pull all the weeds in our back yard for my birthday one year. The yard was a complete mess, which she had heard me complain about, so she knew I would love such a gift. Except that job would have taken days for an adult to accomplish—and much more for a third-grader.

She got pretty discouraged after about an hour outside in her garden gloves, equipped with a hand shovel. The yard clean-up became a family activity that lasted the rest of my birthday weekend. I have to admit that accomplishing that task as a family was kind of fun, though, and I sure appreciated the result.

As soon as possible, allow your to child earn money to pay for inexpensive gifts. Our kids loved doing jobs (other than their chores) in exchange for money so they could buy small presents for people.

5. Teach your child to be verbally generous.

Model saying “Thank you,” and remind your child to say those words to people who serve you—the librarian, grocery clerk, waitress, mail carrier, or anyone else you come in contact with who provides a service.

Give sincere compliments as often as you can in front of her. Explain the importance of acknowledging people for their efforts. She’ll notice the positive response you receive when you recognize others and begin to do the same when she notices people doing constructive or nice things.

The key in helping your child develop gratefulness and generosity is to be a patient role model. In doing these five things with your kids, you may find that you become happier too.

Developing your child’s emotional quotient will take time, but will be well worth the effort.

PATRICIA WILKINSON – mother of two, taught grades kindergarten through sixth for 23 years, in both public and private schools. She earned a BA in recreation from California State University, Long Beach, and did graduate work at California State Universities, Los Angeles and Chico, to earn a Clear Multiple-Subject Teaching Credential and Language Development Specialist certificate from the State of California. Today, Trish facilitates life-changing workshops for parents and teachers. It’s amazing what can happen when years of creativity and practical experience merge with thousands of hours of brain research. She lives in Bend, Oregon, with her awesome husband, Chuck, and their rambunctious golden retriever, Alice. Visit her at

Photo by Yan Krukov from Pexels

Investing in SEL Training Makes Great Business Sense

The writing has been on the wall for some time.  It just took the disruptions of Covid-19 to accentuate what many companies already knew:  Business as usual just won’t cut it anymore.  Employees increasingly demand challenging and meaningful work, in an environment of their choosing.

These demands, coupled with competition on a global scale, are triggering what Deloitte Consulting in its 2023 Global Human Capital Trends report defines as a ‘boundaryless world’- a place where much  work defies any traditional job descriptions, where there may be no brick and mortar buildings and where workers don’t fit the description of traditional employees.

Working in a Boundary-Less World

If Deloitte’s predictions materialize, job candidates who are SEL-trained will be in the driver’s seat.  With a value system that favors reimagination and critical thinking over cost and productivity, SEL-skilled individuals who collaborate well, are accountable for their efforts and enjoy working in an environment where creativity and risk-taking are rewarded will be in high demand.

Consider this message that Deloitte’s report offers:

“To lead in this boundaryless world, organizations and workers should activate their curiosity, looking at each decision as an experiment that will expedite impact and generate new insights. Differentiation and winning will come not from always believing you must have the right answer at the start, but by being able to challenge orthodoxies, operate with humility and empathy, and learn from new information so you can refine as quickly as possible.”

Businesses are Hungry for SEL Skills

In this “boundary-less world”, SEL-skilled workers will also have a competitive edge when it comes to  their ability to visualize how to redefine industries. This ability, says Josh Bersin in his Global Workforce Intelligence Project workforce trend report Redesigning Jobs, Organizations and Work, will be in demand as a wide spectrum of industries pivot to new models of remote and hybrid work, human-centered leadership, diversity and innovation.

“As companies struggle to recruit, develop, and retain people,” says Bersin, ”they face a massive need for entirely new skills, new career pathways, new employment models, new organizational structures, and new HR practices.”

Problem Solvers Are in Demand

Such rapid changes come at a cost and workers who can solve problems and resolve conflicts within such a vast array of moving parts will stand outThat’s one of the key takeaways from a paper given at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting at Davos in late 2022. In “Education 4.0:  Here are 3 skills that students will need for the jobs of the future” adaptability, collaboration and problem solving are highlighted as the critical skills needed to bridge legacy business models with emerging ones.  Here again,  job candidates, trained in SEL curricula that emphasize these same skills, will have the competitive edge.

In many ways, the future will be a ‘people-controlled world’, says business consultant Accenture. The new power dynamics will center around employees who can create new connections and engage others in a world that is in constant upheaval.  With its emphasis on building  strong diverse relationships, investing in SEL training makes great business sense.

Patricia Kutza is a partner (with Connie Payne) in DGMS & Co. Their company offers books and workshops based on social and emotional learning principles to schools, labor workforce units and senior living communities throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Does School Prepare Us for Life?

School prepares us for life, of course.

At school, we learn literacy and numeracy skills, science and history, plus, if we’re lucky, some health and arts as well. We also learn about friendship and social status and peer pressure and bullying and struggle, and disappointment. All those are part of life, too. 

But better questions to ask would be:

  • Does school prepare us for all of life?
  • How well does school prepare us for life? 
  • How could school better prepare us for life?

Read EQuip Our Kids! marketing director Matthew Spaur’s full comments at Upjourney

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The Crisis of Student Mental Health is Much Vaster Than We Realize

The change was gradual. At first, Riana Alexander was always tired. Then she began missing classes. She had been an honors student at her Arizona high school, just outside Phoenix. But last winter, after the isolation of remote learning, then the overload of a full-on return to school, her grades were slipping. She wasn’t eating a lot. She avoided friends.

Her worried mother searched for mental health treatment. Finally, in the spring, a three-day-a-week intensive program for depression helped the teenager steady herself and “want to get better,” Alexander said. Then, as she was finding her way, a girl at her school took her own life. Then a teen elsewhere in the district did the same. Then another.

Read the full article in Washington Post