How can children develop skills to be more resilient?

November 20, 2017
“We don’t have to wrap our kids in bubble wrap,” says GSE professor Jelena Obradović. (Photo: Getty Images/Anna Isaeva)
“We don’t have to wrap our kids in bubble wrap,” says GSE professor Jelena Obradović. (Photo: Anna Isaeva/Getty Images)
Kids who recover more quickly from stress share certain traits, says GSE professor Jelena Obradović.
Could singing, dancing and playing peekaboo help kids learn to recover from challenging experiences?
Absolutely, according to Jelena Obradović, an associate professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education and director of the Stanford Project on Adaption and Resilience in Kids (SPARK).
In this episode of School’s In, Obradović joined GSE Dean Dan Schwartz and Senior Lecturer Denise Pope to talk about how early experiences shape children’s sensitivity and how those who are especially sensitive to stress and negative experiences can become more resilient.
Playful activities can teach kids how to manage their emotions and behaviors, she said, which is key to building the capacity to recover from stress. “We often want kids to behave in a certain way in the context of them acting out, showing anger or whatnot,” she said. “But there are a lot of ways to learn self-regulation in a positive way.”
Listen from the link below, and find more episodes of School's In at the Stanford Radio main page. The show airs Saturdays on SiriusXM Insight Channel 121.

Parent Education Seminars this Wed, Dec 6

We invite you to come any or all of the upcoming Parent Education Seminars.  The morning seminars will be held at the Kittery Community Center; the evening seminar will be held at Traip Academy.

These seminars are free to parents thanks to the Department of Defense grant that the Kittery School District was awarded.  They are open to ALL parents, regardless of the school in which your child is enrolled and whether you are a military-connected family or a civilian family.

Please join us!

WinterKids FunPass

If you haven't had a chance to check out WinterKids, now is the time!  WinterKids is now in its 20th year and has helped over 100,000 Maine children to be active outdoors in the winter through unique education programs statewide.  The passport is for older students -- but the WinterKids FunPass is perfect for Mitchell School students.   Learn more at

WinterKids FunPass

The science of gratitude - How gratitude leads to good health and happiness

Teaching and modeling gratitude for our children can be hard work. The following article from the Center for Parenting Education teaches us how to instill an attitude of gratitude in our children.  Center for Parenting Education - gratitude

The infographic from Happify collects much of the current data about how gratitude leads to good health and happiness  - Infographic by Happify

Zones of Regulation

Many parents have asked for more information about the Zones of Regulation, a framework that we use at Mitchell School to foster self-regulation and emotional control.  

 Zones of Regulation website

Other resources:
Zones of Regulation - slideshow presentation
Zones of Regulation - YouTube

From the Zones of Regulation website:


Self-regulation is something everyone continually works on whether or not we are cognizant of it.  We all encounter trying circumstances that test our limits from time to time.  If we are able to recognize when we are becoming less regulated, we are able to do something about it to manage our feelings and get ourselves to a healthy place.  This comes naturally for some, but for others it is a skill that needs to be taught and practiced. This is the goal of The Zones of Regulation (or Zones for short). 


The Zones is a systematic, cognitive behavioral approach used to teach self-regulation by categorizing all the different ways we feel and states of alertness we experience into four concrete colored zones.  The Zones framework provides strategies to teach students to become more aware of and independent in controlling their emotions and impulses, manage their sensory needs, and improve their ability to problem solve conflicts.  

By addressing underlying deficits in emotional and sensory regulation, executive functioning, and social cognition, the framework is designed to help move students toward independent regulation.  The Zones of Regulation incorporates Social Thinking® ( concepts and numerous visuals to teach students to identify their feelings/level of alertness, understand how their behavior impacts those around them, and learn what tools they can use to manage their feelings and states.  


The Red Zone is used to describe extremely heightened states of alertness and intense emotions.  A person may be elated or experiencing anger, rage, explosive behavior, devastation, or terror when in the Red Zone. 

The Yellow Zone is also used to describe a heightened state of alertness and elevated emotions, however one has more control when they are in the Yellow Zone.  A person may be experiencing stress, frustration, anxiety, excitement, silliness, the wiggles, or nervousness when in the Yellow Zone.

 Green Zone is used to describe a calm state of alertness. A person may be described as happy, focused, content, or ready to learn when in the Green Zone.  This is the zone where optimal learning occurs.

 Blue Zone is used to describe low states of alertness and down feelings such as when one feels sad, tired, sick, or bored.

The Zones can be compared to traffic signs.  When given a green light or in the Green Zone, one is “good to go”.  A yellow sign means be aware or take caution, which applies to the Yellow Zone.  A red light or stop sign means stop, and when one is the Red Zone this often is the case.  The Blue Zone can be compared to the rest area signs where one goes to rest or re-energize.  All of the zones are natural to experience, but the framework focuses on teaching students how to recognize and manage their Zone based on the environment and its demands and the people around them.  For example, when playing on the playground or in an active/competitive game, students are often experiencing a heightened internal state such as silliness or excitement and are in the Yellow Zone, but it may not need to be managed.  However, if the environment is changed to the library where there are different expectations  than the playground, students may still be in the Yellow Zone but have to manage it differently so their behavior meets the expectations of the library setting.


As an occupational therapist and autism resource specialist working in public schools for six years, I frequently had students on my caseload who were struggling not just with sensory-regulation but also emotional regulation.  Too often the time spent with their non-disabled peers was being limited due to my students' frequent outbursts and inability to cope effectively.  Adopting Ross Greene’s mantra, “Kids do well if they can” (The Explosive Child, 2006), students were frequently being punished for disruptive behaviors rather than being taught skills to control their behavior.  While taking graduate coursework on Autism Spectrum Disorders and Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder, I had the idea to create the concept of The Zones of Regulation to teach students to self-regulate their sensory needs as well as their emotions and impulses in order to meet the demands of the environment and be successful academically and socially.  

After successfully piloting and expanding on my concept with the students I worked with over a few years, I was encouraged by my colleagues to create a curriculum to support my concept.  The Zones of Regulation concept was influenced by the work of Williams and Shellenberger’s The Alert Program® (1994) and Kari Dunn Buron and Mitzi Curtis’ The Incredible 5 Point Scale (2003).   As I was designing the curriculum, I integrated best practices in the field of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) into the curriculum and conducted extensive background research in the area of self-regulation, including sensory regulation, emotional regulation, and executive functioning.  I also researched how these processes relate to children with ASD and ADHDs’ learning styles.  By integrating principles of Simon Baron Cohen’s Systemizing Theory, The Zones provides a system to classify states of arousal, feelings, and emotions into four easily identifiable distinct color-coded Zones.  Creating a system such as The Zones to categorize all the complex feelings students experience eases their ability to recognize and communicate how they are feeling, as well as tap into strategies to aid them in self-regulation.  While designing the curriculum, I incorporated Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking® concepts to help students become more aware of how others are perceiving them when they are regulated versus in less regulated states.  By tying in Social Thinking concepts, the lessons on self-regulation become more meaningful to the students’ lives as they gain a deeper understanding of the impact their behavior has on their relationships.  Learning activities entail the use of cognitive behavior management strategies to reinforce the use of The Zones of Regulation throughout the student’s day.  By using cognitive behavior management, the students learn how to self-monitor and reflect on the effectiveness of their regulation strategies.  This method allows students to move away from staff prompts to regulate and to assume personal responsibility in self-regulation.


Guidelines for children's media use from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)

From the American Academy of Pediatrics -  Where We Stand: Screen Time

Policy statement published in Pediatrics

Where We Stand: Screen Time

​​The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourages parents to help their children develop healthy media use habits early on. 
For children younger than 18 months, use of screen media other than video-chatting should be discouraged.
Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming/apps and use them together with children, because this is how toddlers learn best. Letting children use media by themselves should be avoided.
For children older than 2 years, media limits are very appropriate. Limit screen use to no more than 1 hour or less per day of high-quality programming. Co-view or co-play with your children, and find other activities for to do together that are healthy for the body and mind (e.g., reading, teaching, talking, and playing together).
All children and teens need adequate sleep (8-12 hours, depending on age), physical activity (1 hour), and time away from media. Designate media-free times together (e.g., family dinner) and media-free zones (e.g., bedrooms). Children should not sleep with devices in their bedrooms, including TVs, computers, and smartphones.
Parents are encouraged to develop personalized media use plans for their children. Media plans should take into account each child's age, health, personality, and developmental stage. Create your Family Media Use Plan here and remember to communicate your plan to other caregivers, such as babysitters or grandparents, so that media rules are followed consistently.

Additional Information & Resources:

Last Updated
Council on Communications and Media (Copyright © 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics)

Diverse BookFinder - Identify & Explore Multicultural Picture Books

Diverse BookFinder has been in the news this fall. On Sept. 7, Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King announced that the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services had awarded a quarter of a million dollars to the Diverse BookFinder, a portfolio of resources for finding diverse children’s picture books.

Their mission/vision:
  • To diversify and balance bookshelves everywhere, that all our children can find themselves reflected and celebrated in libraries, schools and homes across the nation.
  • To move the diverse books discussion beyond a focus simply on the lack of numbers to also consider content and impact by translating research findings so that they are accessible and useful.
In the news:

US News- Bates College Grant Will Help With Children's Lit Diversity

Bates College - U.S. Sens. Collins and King commend Bates in announcement of $250K Diverse BookFinder grant

Bates College - Bates Debuts One-Of-A-Kind Search Engine For Diverse Children's Books

From Common Sense Media -- 5 Ways to Make YouTube Safer for Kids

Our students love to talk about their favorite YouTube videos. After hearing about some of the videos they find amusing or interesting, I am heartily encouraging parents and caregivers to follow the tips from Common Sense Media. 

You can also set up a YouTube Kids account. Read the Parent Guide to learn how to set some up parental controls.  

Social-Emotional Learning

At Mitchell School we actively teach social-emotional skills through formal classroom lessons and also through daily interactions with one another in less formal settings. We use both the Responsive Classroom model and Second Step.

Please support our work by reviewing with your child the Second Step HomeLinks that occasionally come home. The Home Links reinforce your child's learning and also let you know what we're teaching in class.  I felt crestfallen when some students told me, "My parents just throw those away. It's not real homework -- like math or spelling."  I would argue that it is even more important than math or spelling. The outcomes for children and adults who have strong social-emotional skills are more promising than for children and adults who lack those skills.

Why Social Emotional Learning?


Social-emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.1
Often taught in the classroom, social-emotional learning gives tomorrow’s workforce the tools for success, while educators find it contributing to a positive school climate and increased academic success. Beyond immediate outcomes in the classroom, SEL prepares employees to solve problems, manage emotions, and communicate.

1 “What is SEL?” CASEL,, (June 19, 2017)

Visit from The Cromwell Center for Disabilities Awareness

Renee St. Laurent, an educator from The Cromwell Center for Disabilities Awareness, is visiting each classroom in grades 1, 2 and 3 at Mitchell School this week. The Cromwell Center for Disabilities Awareness is dedicated to the purpose that no person with any kind of disability will ever again experience the profound isolation in life and anonymity at death of Jeremiah Cromwell.  The mission of The Cromwell Center is to promote safe, respectful and inclusive schools and communities.

"We don't focus on specific disabilities or lead 'show and tell' or simulations. Instead, we change attitudes. At first, our hands-on activities may seem to have little to do with disabilities. Through questioning, facilitation, and interaction, we help people discover on their own -- and from each other -- positive attitudes, understanding and respect of differences.  Unlike other programs that focus primarily on physical challenges, The Cromwell Center's programs address all disabilities -- learning, behavioral, emotional, developmental, and physical"  (Cromwell Center: About Us  )

The Power of Habit

Welcome back to school. Transition times like these are great opportunities to help our children (and ourselves!) form or change habits.

Charles Duhigg wrote The Power of Habit in 2012 and it became a national best seller.  Duhigg comments,"At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, raising exceptional children, becoming more productive, building revolutionary companies and social movements, and achieving success is understanding how habits work."

What better time than a back-to-school transition to bring awareness to the the habits we're teaching our children so that they can grow into healthy, self-directed, and transformative young people.

Take a moment to learn from Charles Duhigg at TEDx Teachers College

Getting ready for the 2017-2018 school year

The Mitchell Sandpipers
We would like to welcome back students and families to what will surely be an exciting year ahead. We'd also like to extend an extra warm welcome to our youngest new students and their families.

For the parents and caregivers for incoming Kindergarten students Helping Kindergartners succeed - things you can do is a packet that I put together that highlights some of the most effective ways you can help your student thrive in school.

FAQ's about Kindergarten is the handout that we distributed at the spring Kindergarten registration dates. Now would be a good time to review the information and gradually share relevant parts with your child. The more your child knows about what to expect coming into Kindergarten, the smoother the transition will be.

And for all of our Mitchell School parents and students, here is recent article from The New York Times 6 Things Parents Should Know About Sending Kids Back to School.  And below you'll find an oldie-but-goodie collection of resources from Edutopia.  I encourage you to check out their Back to School Basics videos. They are quite good!

Back-to-School Resources for Parents

Find resources to help children begin school with a positive mindset, support their transition into a new school year, and prepare them for fall learning.
Resources by Topic:

Back-to-School Advice and Checklists

Easing the Back-to-School Transition

Tech Tips for a New School Year

For more tips and guidance about managing media and technology use, check out these other posts from Edutopia:

Gearing Up for Fall Learning

For more parent strategies around homework, take a look at these other blog posts from Edutopia:

The Power of Parental Involvement