A Well-Lit Path: A Blog from Westtown School

Empower Your Child, Empower Yourself

Posted by Maria Alonso on November 27, 2018


As parents, we are hardwired to want the best life experiences for our children. We know that life will present challenges and it is our role to help them thoughtfully respond to and even learn to embrace these situations. Social Emotional Learning (SEL), also known as Emotional Intelligence (EI), is an invaluable skill that, when developed and nurtured, empowers children and adults to respond to life experiences in a healthy and well-adjusted manner. SEL skills contribute not only to your child’s academic success but also to their future work and life happiness.

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is made up of five competencies including: self awareness, emotional and behavioral management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible and ethical decision making.  

I talk about SEL in my work almost every day and just last week I was at Barnes and Noble when I happened to notice a plethora of books on the shelves including:  Harvard Business Reviews Must Reads: On Emotional Intelligence; Show Up As Your Best Self and Mindful Leaders;  Applied Empathy: The New Language of Leadership; Get BIG Things Done and the Power of Connectional Intelligence,and more.In that moment, it occurred to me that these shelves, targeted for many types of organizations and businesses, were hyper-focused on the five competencies of SEL.

So how do we translate this to our everyday life?  What do these competencies or skills look like and how do we teach them to our children? Let me provide some real-life examples of SEL skills, how they show up in our adult life, and ways to nurture these skills in our children.  

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Topics: Inspiring the Best in Kids, Communication and Children

Kindness & Teamwork: A Mindset for All Ages

Posted by Kristin Crawford on February 22, 2018


It is hard to believe it was almost two months ago when many of us were developing resolutions for the new year. As we know, all too well, absolute resolutions are quickly and easily broken. This year I thought maybe a mindset resolution is better than an absolute. So, the resolutions I set out for our Lower School students are more of a mindset. We are asking the children to keep in mind two ways of thinking about others:  being kind and being part of a team.

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Topics: Inspiring the Best in Kids, Raising Resilient Lower and Middle Schoolers, Communication and Children

Tips on Managing The Teen Mood Swing

Posted by Linda Rosenberg McGuire on November 1, 2017

When your teenager is grumpy, monosyllabic and irritable, do you find yourself taking it personally, and then, perhaps, even confronting them about it only to find it may have made things worse? Please keep in mind that their grouchiness almost always has nothing to do with you. The answer is to not engage, yet our temptation is to over engage! Here are some tips for staying out of our teenager’s moods and allowing them to get on with the important business of adolescent development:

  • Teenagers are often grumpy simply due to the incredible chemical mix of hormones careening through their bloodstream, not to mention rapid changes to their brain composition. They really can’t help it! Just keeping this in mind can stave off the temptation to take it personally.
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Topics: Building Self-Esteem in Teens, How to manage the mood swings, Raising Resilient, Healthy Teens, Inspiring the Best in Kids, Communication and Children

Teenagers: Who Are They?

Posted by Linda Rosenberg McGuire on November 1, 2016

There are many advantages to getting older, and I am actually a big fan of this, my fifth, decade because I can boldly say, “In over 30 years of working with teenagers...” and feel like I finally have the expertise to express opinions without any official statistics. So, here goes: In my 30 years of working with teenagers, I have found they often feel annoyed by their parents’ insistence that they “know them.” There are two themes that run through this resentment. The first is how counter this feels to the adolescent need for privacy and separation from their parents. The second is how rapidly teenagers change their minds, their interests, their direction, their values, their persona, and even their personality.

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Topics: Raising Resilient, Healthy Teens, Communication and Children

Vote for Books!

Posted by Lynn Clements on October 20, 2016



Election seasons are good opportunities for conversations about democracy and politics with your children. As your family talks about the upcoming election, consider children's books that answer questions about a complicated process, provide open discussion about the importance of voting, or offer a light-hearted look at the office of the President. Here are a few suggestions for your family :

So You Want to be President, by Judith St. George, was the 2001 Caldecott Winner, with watercolor illustrations by David Small. This book has been updated and revised several times and includes information about each president, accompanied by Small’s wonderful artwork. All ages.

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Topics: Help with learning, Communication and Children, Inspiring the Best in Kids

Election Season: Teachable Moments

Posted by John Baird on September 22, 2016


In a recent survey conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center, over 2000 preK-12 teachers indicated that the current political campaign is having a disturbing impact on our children. They reported observing an increase in anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant sentiment, an increase in uncivil discourse, and a rise in sadness and fear.

We have a teachable moment this fall, an opportunity to create a different kind of dialogue in which we can talk about issues, and feelings, with empathy and respect; to practice the kindness and dignity we’re not always seeing in the world around us. Westtown has long practiced this kind of teaching, learning, and listening, focused on finding common ground and the common good.

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Topics: Inspiring the Best in Kids, Communication and Children

Problem Solving for Parents

Posted by Kristin Crawford on March 10, 2016

As parents, we are quick to see the problems in our day-to-day life and even quicker to articulate a solution or how something should be done. And yet, when we point out the problem and the solution all in one breath, we are getting in the way of our children developing the skill of identifying problems. To find solutions, one first has to recognize there is a problem. We want our children to be problem identifiers and problem solvers.

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Topics: Communication and Children, Inspiring the Best in Kids

Powerful Stories for Families

Posted by Lynn Clements on January 12, 2016

Stories are powerful tools for communicating the values of a culture and the experiences of others. In this post, I am offering books that explore our differences, similarities, and our common humanity. These books attempt to answer the big questions about human rights, hearts and minds. I have selected titles that celebrate being an individual but also raise up the importance of seeing the light in others. They are powerful stories for a family discussion, but I have also selected them for their literary and/or artistic merit. I hope they will find a place in the heart of your family this winter.

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Topics: Communication and Children, Raising Resilient Lower and Middle Schoolers, Inspiring the Best in Kids

The College Storm: How Parents Can Help

Posted by Linda Rosenberg McGuire on October 14, 2015


No question, our children are precious and we want the best for them. Grades, athletics, community service, and test scores are all important, especially when considering college admission. Important but urgent? Life-or-death? Make or break? No way.

I am the Dean of Students at a competitive independent school where college is most definitely the end point of high school, and not just any college, but a “good” college according to the new experts, Mr. Forbes and Ms. US News and World Report.  I am here to suggest that we, as parents,  need to step back, take a few cleansing breaths, and relax. Anyone who has weathered a real crisis, the kind where you lose your job and have no money in the bank, or the sort that rubs up against near death, or even worse, death, and suddenly worrying about about an SAT score, or an 82 versus a 92, seems like a luxury of the mink coat variety. 

Here are four reasons to encourage the use of perspective when considering your teenager’s high school experience:

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Topics: Raising Resilient, Healthy Teens, Communication and Children

Parent Teacher Conferences: What Parents Can Do To Prepare

Posted by Kristin Crawford on October 7, 2015


Anticipation of conferences with teachers creates a whole range of feelings for parents:  nervousness, excitement, curiosity, uncertainty. The most successful conferences are based on dialogue – a back and forth of sharing what the teacher and the parent know and hope for the child. You, as the parent, know the child as no one else. You are the advocate, the realist, and the holder of aspirations.  

The teacher knows the child as a learner. How does s/he approach the tasks of learning?  How does the child learn and play within a community of other children? The parent sees the child as one, and the teacher sees the child as a unique one in relation to many other children. When those two perspectives are combined, the strongest partnership between home and school can be built.  

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Topics: Communication and Children, Inspiring the Best in Kids