I am truly honored and very excited to share an interview that I conducted with Renee Jain. Renee is an award-winning technology entrepreneur, speaker and certified life coach that specializes in cultivating mindful resilience skills for children and adults. Renee has transformed research-based concepts into fun and multisensory learning modules and workbooks that are ideal for teachers and students. My questions focused on her site, GoStrengths!, that offers metacognitive techniques through digital animation and activities. However, I soon learned, as will you, that she has a number of fabulous products and resources.
Erica: Hi Renee. Thank you for making the time to speak with us. If you had to put it into a single sentence, what is the heart of Go Strengths?
Renee: The idea that happiness is a skill that can be fine-tuned with practice.
Erica: Why did you create the Go Strengths website and products?
Renee: There are simple research-based tools that can change a child's life such as awareness of our self-talk, disputing inaccurate thoughts, and nurturing more optimistic explanatory styles. Why should kids only have access to such a toolkit inside the walls of a therapist's office? Right now, we wait until children get anxious or depressed, for example, to send them to therapy. That is, if we recognize the issue, can afford therapy, have access to it, or deem it appropriate. All these qualifiers result in less than 30% of kids ever getting the help they need. But what if we took fundamental skills that anyone would learn in talk therapy and just taught this to kids early? What if we gave kids life skills before they faced their first big challenge? What we know is prevention of mental health disorders is possible. GoStrengths is a prevention program.
The other reason we created GoStrengths is that beyond surviving, we wanted to teach kids how to thrive. Just getting rid of all the bad stuff can take you from a -10 to a 0. To live with meaning, hope, purpose, joy, and gratitude, are a whole separate set of skills we can pass onto children.
Erica: Were there any key people or organizations that helped to inspire the genesis of Go Strengths?
Renee: There were so many people (and continue to be) that it's hard to create a comprehensive list. The work of Martin Seligman--the founding father of the field of positive psychology--has been a great inspiration to this work. Research by Richie Davidson who studies contemplative practices such as mindfulness meditation and its effects on the brain has been another inspiration. Then, of course, there was a boy named Scott in my 7th grade math class who used to pick on me--a very non-resilient child. Many of the scenarios within the GoStrengths and GoZen programs are based on the challenges I faced while growing up.
Erica: Who is your audience?
Renee: We reach parents, teachers, amazing children, and practitioners. This last group includes therapists, coaches, social workers, and other professionals working with children.
Erica: The cartoons as well as the dialogue presented in your 10 modules is truly excellent. Did you have a large team working on this comprehensive program?
Renee: Thank you! Our team is extremely large when it comes to heart, passion, and ingenuity. In terms of absolute numbers, we're pretty dinky.
Erica: What kind of feedback have you received about your Go Strengths materials?
Renee: Oh, the feedback has been tremendously positive. It often brings tears to my eyes when someone says that this program is the thing that really clicked with their child and has made all the difference.
Feedback we recently received on GoZen: "Thank you really doesn't even begin to do justice to what GoZen! has done for my daughter. She is in kindergarten and this has turned us around. She also made her own GoFreeze necklace to take to school."
Erica: Will you be creating more modules?
Renee: Absolutely. We have two full programs right now. The first program we launched was GoStrengths! dedicated to teaching social and emotional learning skills to children and aimed at the K-12 community. We also have GoZen! which deals specifically with anxiety relief and is used more by parents and therapists. We also have a mindfulness program that has yet to fully roll out called GoToTheNow! Our next project is an anger management program for kids.
Erica: Will Go Strengths be expanding and using other forms of technology and communication?
Renee: Yes! We started with online programs only, but realized people still love to hold something in their hands and write on paper. So we've expanded the programs to have home study versions with workbooks and DVDs. We also have an array of other books, relaxation CDs, mindfulness cards, and more. What we're most excited about is the launch of our toy line. Our first anxiety relief doll will be available next month!
Thank you Renee for sharing your words with my audience. The products you have already created are both brilliant and magical. I can't wait to see what you create next.
You can purchase comprehensive modules on the sites www.gostrengths.com and www.gozen.com. In addition, some of Renee's products are available through Amazon - see the links below.
Cheers, Dr. Erica Warren
Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator, and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning. She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Learning Specialist Courses.
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