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Undaunted: Learning how to face challenges of all kinds head-on

Dr. Sarah D. Hraha, Director of Emotional Intelligence
As parents, we worry.

We’re anxious about our children; we want them to be OK. We don’t want them to experience the struggles and upsets we went through as children. We want to protect them from social hurts and peer rejection as well as the upsets that come with failure and making mistakes. However, if we think about all these experiences from our own childhoods, they are part of what made us who we are.

While this is true – perhaps it’s even a truism – have you ever wondered if it could have been better?

What if you had someone in your life who taught you how to manage the feelings that come with failure and making mistakes? What if there were adults who helped you negotiate your childhood relationships and taught you skills to understand yourself and others? Imagine if you had learned these skills from a very young age, throughout your school career. It is likely that you would have developed some very useful skills to navigate life’s challenges.

At PBS, we work hard to make this a reality.

Every day, students learn and apply skills and tools that develop their emotional intelligence. Their teachers are authentic, warm, and genuine; they know their students on a personal level and create safe and encouraging environments where successes and mistakes are celebrated and children flourish.

Children are going to encounter many challenges in their lives, and although it is our instinct to protect them (and ourselves) from these uncomfortable and often distressing times, we want to support the healthy development of their emotional intelligence.

As I highlighted in my GATHER talk last Friday, emotional intelligence plays a major role in achievements throughout our lives. I identified five areas in particular that facilitated my growth and achievement as it related to a personal experience:

  • I noticed, named and expressed my emotions.
  • I was aware of negative and limiting thoughts (stinking thinking).
  • I created new, empowering thoughts and beliefs.
  • I used the relationships in my life by reaching out for support and asking for honest feedback.
  • I celebrated and acknowledged my triumphs, big and small.
Wondering how you can bring this kind of learning home?

Although we are already working on some of these skills in the classrooms and will continue to throughout the year, I want to encourage you to use them at home as well. Here are some suggestions for how you can use some of these tools at home as well as for yourself. When your child is presented with a challenge try any or all of the following:

  • Ask what emotion(s) he/she is feeling. There are many “feeling words.” Some we have focused on are fear, hurt, anger, sadness, joy. Be curious and ask them to tell you more.
  • Ask your child to name or describe their stinking thinking – negative or limiting thoughts they might have. Examples can be: it’s too hard for me; I’m afraid someone won’t like me or won’t be my friend anymore; what if people laugh at me; I can’t. You can even share some of your own negative thoughts and doubts (as long as they are appropriate).
  • Help your child to create new, empowering, positive thoughts and repeat them multiple times. We need to override those old habits.
  • Encourage your child to reach out for support and guidance from teachers, other adults at school, and family members.
  • Celebrate! This is a great thing to do as a family – at the dinner table, in the car, at bedtime. Celebrate the things in your day that you’re proud of. Examples: I celebrate or I’m proud that I took a risk today and asked a friend to play; I celebrate that I had a great meeting at work; I acknowledge myself for working really hard on ____.

No skill worth learning was learned overnight, but applying practices like these over time is a great way to set your kids (and yourselves) up for success.​​​

Dr. Sarah D. Hraha came to PBS in 2017 as the school’s first Director of Emotional Intelligence with decades of experience in elementary classrooms and 15 years’ experience in educational leadership, teacher education and consulting, and social–emotional learning curricular design. Sarah earned her bachelor’s degree in education from National-Louis University and both her master’s in counseling and her doctorate in clinical psychology from Adler University.

  • Emotional Intelligence


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