Social Emotional Learning

Academics are critical, but so is your child’s social and emotional development

By Paul Herdman, president and CEO of the Rodel Foundation of Delaware

Back in the 1980s, when I was a teacher in one of New York City’s largest high schools, George Washington High School, I got a sense of what my students needed to grow up to be healthy adults, and it extended beyond traditional academics. They were freshman in high school, 14-year-old kids, who in many cases grew up alongside poverty, hunger, violence, and addiction. I wrote about my experiences in more depth here, but I realized early on, that for me to connect with them on their academics, they needed to be seen, to be understood as individuals, and to be challenged.

My job as their instructor was to help forge the connection between school and real life—and support them to discover that, if you push yourself and persevere through challenging experiences, you can tap into an inner-reserve of resilience and toughness that you can always rely on. I was in a unique position to marry their traditional in-school experiences with adventures outside our classroom walls.

During one curriculum unit that I called “The Wall,” we read Langston Hughes’ famous poem “As I Grew Older”—which speaks of the metaphorical walls of racism. I had my students discuss the walls and challenges they dealt with in their own lives. Then I took them to an actual 35-foot rock wall near the Hudson River, where they learned how to tackle a seemingly impossible task by breaking into a series of smaller steps, by communicating with and relying on each other, and by persisting through tough situations. Once we got back into the classroom, we revisited those personal walls, and now they had a new set of tools to address them.

Strong academics will always be central in our schools. But in a rapidly changing world, it’s becoming increasingly important that our young people receive a holistic educational experience that maximizes who they are as individuals—one that instills skills like communication, collaboration, critical thinking, empathy, and creativity. We also know that physical and mental health, nutrition, and exposure to the arts are also huge factors in the development of our young people. This is true of all children, and particularly those who come from challenging backgrounds.

This concept of developing the “whole child”—a phrase that’s often cross-referenced with “social-emotional learning”—is not a new one. Generations of educators have told us that the so-called soft skills mentioned above are all important ingredients in child development. Employers are also telling us the same thing. In Delaware, we’re excited to see a renewed focus and collaboration on social-emotional learning.

We at the Rodel Foundation are firm believers in excellence and equity for each of Delaware’s students—and we believe that nurturing students holistically is the basis for not only helping them become successful in school, but become good citizens and happy and healthy adults. However, these skills are not easy to measure or teach, so that is a challenge we hope to pursue in the coming months and years. I invite you to help us push our thinking and to learn along with us.

We are working with a group of Rodel Teacher Council members to study social-emotional learning in Delaware. This dedicated group of educators believe schools should focus more on social and emotional development of students—and they are working to elevate their sense of what’s needed. But it’s clear that educators cannot do it alone.

Parents, ask your child’s teachers how they support whole child development in your school, and find out how you can get involved. Check out the social and emotional development tips at for every grade level.

If we want our children to thrive, we need to take a holistic approach to supporting them. This will take all of us — educators, families, and the community – rolling up our sleeves and building a bolder and broader definition of student success. I look forward to working alongside you.

Read more about social and emotional learning in Delaware at

Podcast Pediatricians by Dr. Robert Walter and Dr. Matthew Gotthold

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When A Sale is Also A Service

Calling all bargain hunters: the Archmere Academy Garage Sale has long kicked off the local garage sale season – and while the weather outside doesn’t make you think “yard sale” we promise, it’s coming! This year will be the 45th annual sale at Archmere, and the parent volunteers have this event down to a science. Throughout the year, they collect gently used items donated by Archmere families and then spend one week cleaning, sorting, pricing and displaying the goods for sale.

It’s a huge labor of love but one that we assume gladly because it helps in so many ways.

1. The sale raises critical funds for our school, which offers scholarships and financial aid each year. Funds raised at our garage sale also enhance the campus and offer new experiences to our students.

2. Our sale offers quality items to the community at a fraction of the retail price – which helps families struggling to stretch every dollar but that might be too proud to accept a handout. The sheer quantity of goods is astounding. Two large gymnasiums are packed full of furniture, rugs, housewares, toys and baby gear, educational materials, costumes, bikes, balls, bats and other sporting equipment, lamps and other electronics, men’s, women’s and kids clothing and shoes, books, dvd’s, and more.

3. Anything that remains at the end of our sale is donated outright: This year our charity partners include the Ministry of Caring, St. Patrick’s Center and Bayard House in Wilmington, Faith Victory Christian Center in Claymont, Delaware Humane Association (spare linens and towels for cats and dogs), and Goodwill.

We are very proud to not only feature a terrific sale, but also support organizations that do good work in Wilmington and the surrounding communities.

The philosophy of the Archmere sale is “Reduce, reuse, recycle and everyone wins!” Archmere families are encouraged to declutter and pass on what they no longer need, volunteers spruce it up, and local families benefit from great stuff at rock bottom prices. Arrive early! Enthusiastic regulars line up early and are treated to well-organized, clean, high-quality items at super discounted prices. Sale organizers even get compliments on the friendly, helpful workers and the efficiency of the checkout. (Credit cards and cash are accepted.)

We hope you’ll join us to kick off garage sale season (indoors!) next weekend at Archmere Academy. Here are all the details: Archmere Academy Garage Sale, Saturday, March 25th, 8 am – 2 pm3600 Philadelphia Pike, Claymont DE 19703

Carol Thomson, one of the Garages Sale’s chairs is excited to get underway working on her 13th sale. She is an Archmere alum and parent of 2 grads and one current student. Carol loves the sale because of the good friends she has made working on it, and gets a kick out of seeing “one man’s trash become another man’s treasure!”

Our JCC Community

Like many busy moms, I juggle a lot of different meetings and schedules. So there I was in a work meeting at Panera the first time the Siegel JCC “got the call”, back on January 9th. Reading a text about a bomb threat at my local JCC and Early Childhood Center was the last thing I expected to see on my phone! The Early Childhood Center wrote to say that everyone was safe, the children had been evacuated, and that, because there was no way of knowing when it would be okay to enter the building again, we needed to come pick up our children.

I went through a full range of emotions very quickly as a mom, but I knew that my son was safe, and I knew in my heart that this bomb threat was a hoax, and that no bomb would be found. What I did not know was that, over the next two months, our community center would be the target of four bomb threats, including one just this morning (Wednesday, March 8) and that hundreds of bomb threats would go out over the phone to Jewish institutions all over the United States and Canada. Whoever is behind the threats wants to make life inconvenient for us, and wants to scare us. They won’t win.

This JCC is where both of my children have gone for preschool, and it is where my husband and I made nearly all of our best friends in Delaware. We were rolling stones before we got here, moving from one community to the next without setting down roots, but Delaware, and the community at the Siegel JCC are different than any other place we’ve lived. This place feels small in the best of ways — so warm, so friendly. It is our home, and the people there are our family.

Our Jewish Community Center is strong, and our members are steadfast. Since that first call came in, the staff has become incredibly adept at whisking the children in the ECC out of the building for ‘an adventure’ and we’ve begun to bring our car keys and coats with us to exercise classes, ‘just in case’. When I picked him up at the end of the day after last week’s bomb threat, I asked my son about his surprise off-site dance party that day. His only complaint was that he didn’t have the right dance moves for the music. We’re winning.

In times of crisis, you see who your true friends are, and it has been truly amazing to see the outpouring of love and friendship from school children at the Islamic Society of Delaware, Immaculate Heart of Mary School, from concerned community members, even from other moms on the North Wilmington Moms Facebook page.

To our many friends in the community and fellow moms who want to demonstrate to their own children and our larger society that we are stronger together, I ask you to take one of two possible steps in showing your support for our JCC: 

Show Your JCC Pride Day – Wed, Mar 15

Organized by members of the community, please join us in showing your support of the J by wearing a J t-shirt. The J will be selling #istandwiththejcc t-shirts at their front desks as a mini-fundraiser beginning on Monday, Mar 13 with shirts for both parents & children starting at $10.


Community Rally – Sun, Mar 19, 2 – 3 PM, Outdoor Campus

Organized by local nonprofit leaders, come out for this event next Sunday with your kids and strollers as we walk the JLoop together! And another opportunity to wear our shirts together as one community. If you have never visited the JCC campus, you’ll see that it is closer and bigger than you think!

Super Sitters

Hello Brandywine Buzz!


Do you ever feel the need to just get out for a little bit, but don’t have anyone to stay with your kids?


Do you have a party you were invited to, but your regular sitter isn’t available?


Are you looking for an extra set of reliable hands?


If so, Super Sitters can help! We are Allison and Margaret, the co-owners of Super Sitters- a babysitting service that matches sitters to families in need around the Wilmington area.


We are two recent graduates from the University of Delaware, who both babysat throughout our time in school for a service called Signature Sitters. We loved our experiences with the families and thought it was a brilliant idea, so when the owner told us she was shutting down, we decided to start a service of our own.


How we work: As a member, you can submit a request through our website for a specific date/time that you need a sitter for, and we will do our best to place you with one. Once placed, we confirm with the family who their sitter will be and the sitter also confirms with them 24 hours prior to the placement.


We have helped families with last minute requests, after school help, weeknights, date nights, weekly sitting and more! We have interviewed and checked references for all sitters, and most are students at UD.


Feel free to check out our website, where you can read a little bit more about us, as well as our sitters under the ‘Meet the Sitters’ section!


We are constantly looking to work with more families, and would love to answer any questions you may have! For pricing information or any general inquiries, you can reach us at

Choose Your Battles… and Good Boots!

The notion of ‘choose your battles wisely’ was made clear to me recently over a ‘battle of the boots’ that never came to be with my 10-year-old daughter.


She loves her boots. And I do mean love. She would wear them to bed if she could, I’m pretty sure.


As we were in the morning mode of getting ready for school recently, I noticed her boot top was falling apart, badly. “Um, no more boots,” I said. “Wear your tennis shoes.”


And then, it happened.


That moment where you know your daughter is more pre-teen than toddler, and you can’t choose a cute outfit with matching headband and shoes for her and she’ll just wear it because you’re the mom and you said so. Nope, this time, she was going to dig in her heels to be able to wear her beloved boots. I could feel the debate coming. And you know what? I just didn’t have the energy that day for the pros and cons of appropriate footwear. My younger daughter with special needs was not in a happy place, and the lunches weren’t packed yet, and the car wasn’t warmed up, I thought, “Let her win this one.”


I told her she could wear the boots (taped and colored with brown marker), but then it was tennis shoes the rest of the week until I could find her a new pair of boots. And then as soon as I said it, I quickly realized I could be setting her for a major inquisition from her peers. “What’s with the tape?” “Is that magic marker on your boot? Why?”


I told her that if she really wanted to wear those boots, to be ready for questions and to not get upset. “Tell them you’re starting a new fashion trend,” but don’t come home and complain that kids asked about your footwear. And off she went…


As it turned out, kids did notice. And they said stuff. And it was all GOOD.


Apparently, my child is not alone in her boot obsession. Several girls love their boots too and many of those boots have also been falling apart at the seams. So instead of questions like, ‘what’s with your boot?,” my child got the supportive, “Oh –that happens to my boots too!”


Crisis averted. Best battle I never had to fight.


Not only did  she get out the door on time that day, but she learned (as did I) that sometimes, kids say the darndest – and most supportive things. My girl also discovered that a little ingenuity (duct tape fixes everything!) goes a long way, and I realized that sending her school in her beloved broken down boots wasn’t the end of the world. Battle won.  And what a good lesson ‘to boot!’  (Couldn’t resist…)

Karen James is a wife, mom, and special needs advocate; she is also a PR/Media Strategist for GillespieHall, a global PR firm based in Hockessin. Karen has long believed in the power of good friends, good wine and great communication.

Family in Residence at the Delaware Art Museum

Smith Family Photo_webThe Delaware Art Museum’s family-friendly space, Kids’ Corner, gets a new look this month! The Museum’s Family-in-Residence program introduces Daniel, Eilin, Lilly (age 17), Ida (age 13), and Lukas (age 8) Smith, a creative and musical family from southern New Jersey. In addition to being visual artists, the whole family is a part of the American rock band Danielson Famile.

The Family-in-Residence program invites an artistic family to conceptualize, design, and create an interactive art installation in Kids’ Corner. During the residency, the family collaborates with each other, Museum staff, and family visitors to construct the installation.

Over the winter, the Smiths imagined an interactive three-dimensional story titled “Lenny the Ice Cream Man”. The story unfolds throughout the space and families are invited to play a part. Explore a play-ice cream truck set within a Wilmington neighborhood; contribute drawings to an ever-growing art gallery in exchange for real* and imagined ice cream; recline on a pile of plush ice-cream-shaped pillows while looking up at clouds; and read the tale aloud from text written along a wall. The story teaches children that creative ideas and art are valuable, empowering, and inspiring.

Kids’ Corner will officially reopen February 8. Families are invited to attend the opening reception and meet the Smith family on Sunday, March 12 from 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. There will be free ice cream and art activities for everyone. RSVP at If you can’t make it to the reception, stop by for artmaking during Creativity Hours on Sundays, March through June from 12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Make art to add to Lenny’s gallery and create ice cream magnets to take home. Families contributing artwork throughout the new installation will be invited back in July for the Museum’s Members Ice Cream Social.

Find out more about workshop dates and details at

*Real ice cream available at the opening reception and the Members Ice Cream Social.



If I could give you only one tip to simplify your life, it would be this: filter out the noise and do it your way.
When I was raising my children, not so very long ago, we had well-meaning family and friends – and the occasional stranger at the grocery store – eager to give us advice on what we should be doing and how we should raise our kids.
We had a few well-regarded parenting books we could consult. And we had a certain level of “keep up with the neighbors” pressure to show off the trappings of our success.
But today, we can add to all that the thousands of strangers who enthusiastically share with us, through the magic of the internet, their tips for a happy life or perfect parenting. Tack on social media, where people delight in showing the world the best version of their lives. And let’s not forget pervasive advertising – it’s become impossible to escape.
Is it any wonder that many of us are putting enormous pressure on ourselves to do more, buy more, and be more than ever before? But all of this “more” is costing us. Big-time. We buy stuff we don’t need, use, love, or have space for, because we’ve come to believe that we need it. We cram our lives full of tasks and activities that make us crazy-busy, because we’ve come to believe that we should. And in the bargain, many of us become stressed and exhausted.
To be sure, there’s value in getting advice and doing research when we have questions or concerns, or when we’re looking for fun things to do with or for our kids. But if we lose sight of the fact that these are just options, not requirements, we can easily become overwhelmed. When we do, we need to stop, take a step back, and get clear on our priorities, on what really matters to us.
Try thinking of your home and your schedule as elite sports teams. In order for an object to come into your home, or a task or activity to get added to your schedule, it has to earn its spot. And when an object or task no longer makes the cut, it’s time to release it.
It can be challenging to resist the lure of outside influences, but there’s peace to be found in marching to the beat of your own drummer.
about Pat DePalma:
A self-described escapee from corporate America, Pat DePalma founded Organized For Life to help business and residential clients who are overwhelmed with too much paper, too much stuff, too much information, or not enough time. Pat works one-on-one with her clients, creating custom productivity and organizational solutions that simplify their business and their life.
To find out more, please visit
For tips and articles about productivity and organization, follow Organized For Life on Facebook.

Talking to Kids Post-Election

In the last week since the election, emotions have run high. Folks on both sides of the political spectrum continuing to defend their choices in ways that aren’t always the best: peaceful protests with the occasional riot have broken out, and what seemingly has come as the silent permission to a very small group of people from President Elect Trump to take hateful actions as been activated. None of this is good for our children to see and the “what kind of world are we living in” statements from parents are common. It’s been a hard week to know just what to say. Looking through Facebook I’ve seen the gambit posted on what you should say to your kids, with some really good ideas and other ideas that are far too mature or complicated for young kids to understand. So what now?


Deal with Your Own Emotions

You don’t have to sugarcoat how you’re feeling with your kids. Parents have been asking me, “What do I say to my three-year-old?” to explain to them why mommy is so upset. Try this: Tell your three your old you’re feeling down this week because something upset you. Ask them for an extra hug or read more books together. If Trump got your vote, you can talk to kids about the fact that you’re feeling happy about the election. Again, if they are young, keep it brief. “I’m feeling really happy with the new president” will suffice. If your kids are older or teens, you can have an honest discussion with them about how you’re feeling but don’t give more details than they ask for. Emotions, both disappointment and joy, are part of the human experience and waving them off tells our kids it isn’t okay to feel those things, or talk about them. This is not about the “participation medal” as I see many writing on social media. Feelings are valid things to have; teach your kids they are okay to express as long as we behave appropriately in the aftermath of those emotions. Self care is also really important. The grief some people are feeling is legitimate; go on a run, take a long shower, talk to friends who hear your perspective, take some time for yourself..


Age Appropriate Conversations

It’s extremely hard to know where the line lies for how much to tell your kids. When we are experiencing heightened emotions, sometimes more comes out than we mean to tell. Take a step back and think about how much your kids are actually asking you. My four-year-old woke up and asked me who won the election on Wednesday morning. Full disclosure, she’s in that “girls are better than boys” stage and was disappointed when I told her. But, she’s four and by Wednesday afternoon she was onto to playing pirates and asking to stay up past her bedtime. Are your kid(s) toddlers? Brief, honest answers are all they need. If they ask, “Will President Trump be a good president?” an answer like, “I really hope so!” is enough. You don’t need to mention the comments made about women or Muslims during the campaign trail unless your kids ask. On the flip side, if you are a Trump supporter, brevity also rules. Bringing up feeling vindicated after Benghazi or classified emails is not an appropriate place to go post-election with young and school-aged kids. As your kids get older, they might start to ask tougher questions. Try the same approach: brief but honest and let them guide the way. Answer questions as they ask them but don’t bring things up that they don’t ask about.  As your kids enter the world of adolescence, the goal is to help them understand the process and find their own views. Even after the election, it’s okay to show your teenagers how to navigate candidate’s websites or seek more information than what they might see on mainstream media. Remember, at the end of the day, your kids are insightful to the extent their age allows and honestly in response to their questions is always the best bet.


Talk about Your Values; Walk the Walk

It’s quite clear that this election got heated. If you want your kids to understand the things most parents are saying they want to teach (on both sides!) about kindness, speaking up for others who are different from you if they are being hurt or sad, and doing good- teach them to do those things. Make an effort to engage them in a group of peers that are diverse or have different experiences than they do. Volunteer with them (even young kids love helping!) with organizations that you feel are worthy of your time.  If your kids come home saying another child in school was ostracized or made fun of for who they are (for example, near my hometown last week (post-election) in a Bucks County, PA high school a large group yelled build a wall at another group) don’t downplay it. Let them know immediately that you don’t condone that and talk about what they can do to help. Use this experience to walk the walk, since most parents are doing their absolute best to talk the kindness talk. Use the emotions you’re feeling post-election to get your feet moving. Your kids are watching you. They hear you. Let’s take the actions to shape the next generation in to the respectable, kind people they have the capacity to become.

About Meghan Tuohy Walls

Meghan Tuohy Walls ,PsyD, Pediatric Psychologist, lives in Hockessin, Delaware with her husband and two daughters (ages 2 and 4).  After going to college at Pennsylvania State University, and dedicating a good deal of work to THON, she knew she wanted to work with children.  She attended graduated school at LaSalle University in Philadelphia, PA.  She completed her residency at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, where she specialized in pediatric psychology. From there, she came back to the east coast to complete fellowship and start her family.  After fellowship, Meghan continued her career as a psychologist at Nemours AI duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, DE.  She currently works at Nemours focusing on primary care, increasing opportunities for integrated care in the pediatric medical setting. She loves working with kids from newborns to adolescents and helping families better understand family and children’s health and emotional needs. Meghan’s goal is to help parents and families work in a way that helps their children be the most successful they can be from an early age.

Meghan also blogs for Nemours and on parenting, sleep, and other topics related to kids’ emotional health!

Nemours Parenting Blog Posts: Blog examples:–.html

5 for 15 by Sissy Harris of Peter Kate

This Thursday we are celebrating our 15th Anniversary with a fun party at Peter Kate. Join us from 12 – 8 on Thursday, November 10 at the shop for trunk shows, discounts, fun food from lunch through dinner, and a specialty vodka bar featuring the WCC’s own Victor behind the bar! We’re so excited to celebrate our anniversary and celebrate 15 years of accessible and amazing fashion and friends in Greenville! 

1. It isn’t flattering if it doesn’t fit. You can find a sweater you love at a price you can’t believe, but if the fit is wrong, it’s a waste because you’ll never wear it. Fit matters! Try it on!

2. Classics always work. Well-tailored jeans, a crisp white shirt, a sharp blazer, a gold earring. The classics will always work. Layer in trendy pieces to update your wardrobe each season. And don’t part with it too soon – a trend can become a classic and you never know how long something will work in your wardrobe!

3. Comfortable shoes can be fabulous. Our customers won’t stand for uncomfortable shoes. We find the best around that work for real women and we make sure what we carry looks good, is of a high quality and is comfortable. 

4. Just because it’s in, doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone. We love to feature hot trends and we shop the shows in New York to bring the best to Delaware. We help our customers push their own style limits – but we’d never sell someone something that didn’t work for them. Not every cut, every length, every sleeve is right on every person. We’ll help you find the look that flatters you and you’ll leave happy every time. 

5. It’s boring if it’s everywhere. We only carry a few of each piece in the store – after all, if everyone is wearing it, it isn’t special! PK specializes in catering to our customers and we know they don’t want to be seen in what everyone is wearing. Who does? 

Peter Kate is located in Greenville, Delaware and specializes in women’s clothing, shoes, and accessories. Learn more at