Vulnerability

This week we will start a segment of group with the elementary and preschoolers that is a staple of the intermediate, middle and high school groups. Each child will share something positive from their week, a recommendation of something they enjoyed and would suggest others try, and have the opportunity to share something challenging that they would like advice or support on. Here is why this is such a powerful tool for social emotional growth.

Sharing something positive:  In order to avoid danger, our brains have developed to notice and remember negative things easier and more persistently than positive ones. That means that we must make a conscious effort to focus on positive things in our lives, in fact science tells us a 5:1 ration is needed to feel happier.  What happens when we make a concerted effort to notice the things that make us happy is that we notice them more often. Neuroscientists say that "the neurons that fire together, wire together" meaning that when we make something a habit, the brain forms neural networks around the task. 

Recommendations: Sharing a recommendation with a friend is a profoundly pro-social act. It requires the use of social-emotional intelligence to process an experience that you've had through your layers of social knowledge to decide whether it is something your friends might also enjoy.

Challenges: To share a challenge requires trust and emotional vulnerability but the payoffs are immense. The earlier we learn to lean on our support network the better. When kids share challenges that they are having at home or with peers there is almost always someone with a connection or some valuable experience to share. Even if there is no "magic solution" discovered for resolving the issue it is helpful to get an empathetic response. It is also valuable for the other group members to have an opportunity to practice empathy. The trick, which is hard for adults too, is to make an empathetic connection without "rubbernecking" or shifting attention away from the person and on to yourself. So here are Aarons two rules for empathetic responses.

1. Make a general empathetic response. "I'm sorry to hear that" "is there anything I can do?" "I hope you feel better soon".

2. IF you have a DIRECT experience or connection to the challenge you may share IF...

Your connection will give them helpful information
OR
Your connection will make them feel better.

The Empathy Code

Each group we share 1. Something positive that happened over their week. 2. A recommendation. 3. A challenge that they would like support with or advice on. We had a great discussion tonight about how to offer appropriate empathetic responses when someone shares a challenge. The trick, which is hard for adults too, is to make an empathetic connection without "rubbernecking" or shifting attention away from the person and on to yourself. So here are Aarons two rules for empathetic responses.

1. Make a general empathetic response. "I'm sorry to hear that" "is there anything I can do?" "I hope you feel better soon".

2. IF you have a DIRECT experience or connection to the challenge you may share IF...

Your connection will give them helpful information
OR
Your connection will make them feel better.

Great job everyone on learning and practicing a difficult skill.

Great job everyone on learning and practicing a difficult skill. 

New Year

Happy New Year! I missed seeing everyone in the group over our break but we are back tomorrow with some exciting, interesting, and inspiring material to discuss. We will continue to spend some time each week discussing weird news and current events to provide conversation starters (as well as talking about cultural norms and taboos around topics like religion and politics). We will also continue to talk about issues related to social emotional development, and being an adolescent.

We will be discussing setting goals for 2015. Here are a few of my suggestions: 

  • Lean on your crew- Use our Kids Cooperate crew to hold each other accountable for positive change.
  • Stay curious- One of the things we love about group is the rambling discussions from everything from super heroes to quantum physics. 
  • Create- There are so many fascinating words and images to consume and so many ways to consume them. Try to balance consumption with creation.

Here are some things you can do to help your children understand new years resolutions in a developmentally appropriate and positive way.

1. Model- as you pick your positive habits for the new year. Talk to your child about self improvement and why you are setting goals around healthy choices.

2. Stay positive- Keep family goals focused on positive change. Rather than "stop fighting so much" a good goal might be "find time to do fun things as a family" "talk calmly about the things that upset us."

3. Maximize social connections- Lean on your crew. Friends and family that can be counted on for fun and emotional support.

4. Balance consumption with creation- find a creative outlet to balance the time you spend consuming fun words and images.

 

Welcome Eric!

We are excited to have a new UConn intern staring soon who you will probably see around Kids Cooperate. Here is a little about him.

Hello, my name is Eric Newman. I am a Master’s degree student at the University of Connecticut in Special Education. I grew up in Connecticut andlove the different seasons here. I played soccer and enjoy snowboarding. Now, I play the guitar and recently started bouldering. I was honored by becoming an Eagle Scout in High School. After graduating with my bachelor’s degree from UConn in 2009, I taught English throughout Europe and Asia until 2014. Since coming back to the USA, I have learned so much about students with disabilities in my UConn program. The joy of teaching them is like no other. I know the needs of children with autism are diverse and desire to learn as much as I possibly can.

I am really looking forward to my internship at Kids Cooperate and working with Mr. Weintraub over the following 10 weeks.

I am really looking forward to my internship at Kids Cooperate and working with Mr. Weintraub over the following 10 weeks. 

New Group Time

Tuesday and Thursday Kids Cooperate Families, we are considering offering a Saturday group for intermediate and/or middle schoolers at 1:45 if there is enough interest. Please email Aaron directly if you would be interested in this option. 

Get Big

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One of the things we always encourage the kids in group to do in a lot of different ways is to "get big" during times of adversity. Getting big means to take a perspective beyond the immediate challenges that allows you to see the positive in a difficult situation. Sometimes a bad situation is a gateway to a new and unexpected opportunity, and most often it is nothing more than a chance to grow through life experience and develop a residual compassion for others. 

This week I am in the CCMC neonatal intensive care unit with my newborn son, but in the moments where I'm able to get big I am grateful for the extended family that is Kids Cooperate.

Gideon is Here!

Gideon Rye Morgan-Weintraub

Gideon Rye Morgan-Weintraub

Gideon is Here!

Aaron's son Gideon was born Wednesday evening. Aaron is taking a few days to be with his family so all individual sessions are on hold but groups will be held as usual with the rest of the team.