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
Your connection will make them feel better.