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Jennifer Smith Miller, Author, Confident Parents Confident Kids

Why do you believe the SEL field is gaining momentum and how do you hope the upcoming SEL Exchange captures and advances that momentum? 

When I talk with parents, their biggest concern for their children is not their academic achievement, their technology know-how, or their popularity at school. Parents are most concerned about their children’s emotional well-being. Professionals and families alike are increasingly realizing that in order to help our children gain the inner resources they require to succeed in school, relationships, and their future careers, it’s their social and emotional development we need to focus on. This is not a trending topic or an educational fad. A focus on SEL in schools and at home is simply bringing us back to our very humanity; the fact that we are beings with hearts, minds, and spirits whose inherent purpose is learning in all areas of our lives. SEL offers all those who love children the great hope that we influential adults can contribute to their success by offering them practice with skills that grow over time.

My hope is that the SEL Exchange will be a catalyzing force for the field to deepen and broaden the impact of SEL by working together. A movement has been underway. Now it’s time to scale and adapt it so that each individual brings their own assets to enrich our understanding of the many diverse ways in which we can support development.

What is the project or initiative you’re working on that you’re most excited about?

I release a book one month after the SEL Exchange that I’ve been working on for many years, “Confident Parents, Confident Kids: Raising Emotional Intelligence In Ourselves and Our Kids — From Toddlers to Teenagers.” I surveyed a large group of parents and asked what they most wanted from a parenting book. Unanimously, the response was “big feelings” — their own, their child’s, and the sparks that rise from the combination of the two. Most parenting challenges typically involve how to understand and work with the feelings that emerge when both the child and adult are constantly changing and  developing. The book offers age-specific guidance on children’s development and how we might cultivate their social and emotional skills at each level. In addition, there’s guidance for parents on dealing with their own anxiety, anger, upset, hurt and more in their toughest moments. And most importantly, it offers support to help them turn around those tough times into the most valuable lessons for growing their children’s social and emotional development. We are not born confident.

We are born confident-ready. Ready to learn. Confident parents, who are always learning, falling, getting back up, reflecting, trying again, raise confident kids, who are always learning, falling, getting back up, reflecting and trying again.

Can you give us a sneak peak of a few insights you’ll be sharing during your pre-conference Institute on parent-educator partnerships?

At times, parents feel that teachers are in a world outside of their own. And at times, educators can feel similarly about parents. This workshop will show that even small changes in the language that we use with one another can build the foundation for trust and collaboration. How can a focus on SEL serve as the glue that connects schools to families and families to schools? We’ll share our research and move it quickly to dialogue about the practical. How can we parent with SEL? How can parenting with SEL help us create stronger partnerships? We’ll share models of success. Ultimately, our hope is that participants will leave filled with inspiration ready with specific tools and strategies along with their own goals to put their learning into practice right away.

 

What is one must-read book or resource recommendation for educators and SEL field-builders from your library?

“Confident Parents, Confident Kids: Raising Emotional Intelligence in Ourselves and Our Kids — From Toddlers to Teens” of course! But in case that’s not a fair answer to the question, I highly recommend “Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive” by Daniel Siegel and Mary Hartzell.