Investment’s key to Ga.’s economic mobility | AJC

Investment’s key to Ga.’s economic mobility | AJC

Investment’s key to Ga.’s economic mobility | AJC

Over the last decade, Georgia has experienced remarkable progress in developing our transportation and infrastructure network. We stabilized our roads and bridges in 2015 with HB170, regional transit systems in 2018, and invested over $300 million in state money in the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project. Since 2012, over 70 communities have passed local option sales taxes for infrastructure…

And Georgia still has economic challenges. The Georgia Center for Opportunity recently noted that there are 250,000 working-age men not working or looking for work in Georgia. By 2027, 87 Georgia counties will have lost jobs and, by 2030, 74 counties will see population loss.

Managing Stress | HEALTHY @ HOME

Managing Stress | HEALTHY @ HOME

Managing Stress | HEALTHY @ HOME

As if the holidays weren’t enough, we’re now in the midst of another surge in the Coronavirus pandemic. 2020 has been stressful. Join licensed professional counselor, Janae Combs, as she gives us some practical advice and tips for managing stress in a healthy way.

To learn more about the Healthy @ Home series and see additional videos click here

We are driven by a belief – supported by experience and research- that people from all walks of life are more likely to flourish if they have an intact, healthy family and strong relationships.


To learn more about how the Healthy Families Initiative is active in the community, click here

Acceptance of the New Normal | HEALTHY @ HOME

Acceptance of the New Normal | HEALTHY @ HOME

Acceptance of the New Normal | HEALTHY @ HOME

As we enter the holiday season it’s important to recognize the changes that have taken place in 2020, and are shaping the way families are gathering for celebrations.  

Laura Cochling of Changing Perceptions Therapy walks us through healthy ways to accept our new normal. 

To learn more about the Healthy @ Home series and see additional videos click here

We are driven by a belief – supported by experience and research- that people from all walks of life are more likely to flourish if they have an intact, healthy family and strong relationships.


To learn more about how the Healthy Families Initiative is active in the community, click here

Helping Children Adjust to Holidays During the Pandemic

Helping Children Adjust to Holidays During the Pandemic

Helping Children Adjust to Holidays During the Pandemic




By Guest Blogger Jen Johnson 




We have a unique opportunity to introduce this social skill this year due to the financial impacts of the pandemic.


Have you ever shown up to a party or wedding and felt under or over dressed? Have you turned up at a friend’s house for game night and realized your partner forgot to tell you it was potluck and you’re empty-handed? What about when you’ve gone to a restaurant and realized after arriving that there’s a dress code or that you need to tip and you didn’t bring cash? Think about a time where you’ve been embarrassed or frustrated because you didn’t meet an expectation you didn’t know about beforehand? 

What happened?

How did it feel?

What would you have preferred happened?

All of these experiences of discomfort could have been avoided if you had known the expectations in advance, right?

Setting expectations is an integral part of helping children meet expectations and manage their feelings.

This year families will be experiencing holidays in different ways due to the pandemic. Many families will not be seeing grandparents or extended family due to the risk of exposure to Covid-19. Events that have often anchored the holidays in the minds of children may be cancelled (e.g., Santa at the mall, holiday parties, community gatherings, religious services, parades). 

Children have experienced changes in major routines since the beginning of 2020. Many of these changes have happened so quickly that children did not have the chance to emotionally adjust. For example, schools closed quite suddenly in the Spring and decisions about virtual/hybrid/face to face learning have been made by the month and sometimes down to the week in some school districts. 

Fortunately, the holidays don’t have to be experienced that way. We, as caregivers, are in charge of our holiday plans. They don’t depend on the government, the school district, or any organization. We can decide now what the holidays will look like and begin setting expectations with children in advance.

I want to discuss two different aspects of setting expectations: topics that may need to be considered and discussed, and language you can use to communicate with children. 

These are some areas you may need to consider setting expectations:

Family Gatherings

Will you attend? Will you wear masks? Will there be social distancing? Will certain family members not be in attendance due to their decisions about their health? Children need to know in advance what to expect at family gatherings this holiday season. Don’t wait until you’re on the way to the gathering in the car to set expectations. Start talking about it now! Bring it up several times before the actual holiday arrives and allow children to share their thoughts and feelings. It might sound something like this:

“I want to talk to you about Thanksgiving this year. Usually we go to Grandma’s house and all your aunts and uncles and cousins come and we eat and play games. Do you remember when we did that last year?” Asking if they remember is important depending on the age. If they don’t remember, then the change this year may not be a big deal to them. If they do, it may be a bit more challenging. “This year is going to be  different, kind of like how school is different right now.” (Insert your plans and expectations. I’ll share my family plans.) This year we are all going to make food at our own houses and then we are going to Zoom with all of our aunts and uncles and cousins. We are still going to play games, except we will be online together instead of in person. I’m feeling sad we won’t see our family, but I’m excited about the new games.” (You’ve just modeled how to share emotions.) “What feelings are you having about this?” (wait) “What questions do you have?” (Use this instead of “Do you have questions?”)

Traditional Holiday Events

What are the events your family attends every year during the holidays? My family loves to go to the Fantasy of Lights in my hometown of Wichita Falls, Texas. We gather at Grandma’s house for dinner so she feels cozy and included since Grandpa passed a few years ago. Christmas Eve services are almost always on the books, and since my son was born we’ve started celebrating Christmas morning at my parents’ house. To kick off the holiday season, we almost always go to the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s holiday show and have a family cookie baking night.

It is quite likely that none of these events will happen this year.

Grandma is elderly. Mom is a survivor of lung cancer and a lobectomy. My son is considered high risk, so crowding into a church building isn’t a risk we are willing to take. The pandemic has drastically changed how we will engage in holiday events this year. 

Just as you talked about family gatherings and how those will look different, talk about how events surrounding the holiday will look different this year. Think of ways you can substitute those events with safe ones. For example, we plan to stream a musical holiday show instead of going in person. We might even get all dressed up! We will likely have our own cookie baking night at home and gather virtually with Grandma and our parents. If my son was older, the conversation might sound like this:

“I want to talk to you about our (insert holiday) traditions. You might have to explain that “traditions are things we do every year around the holidays” and give an example. What (insert holiday) traditions can you think of that you’re looking forward to this year? Allow your child time to talk about what they’re looking forward to. Focus on the events they are excited about and determine whether those are safe events. If they aren’t you might say something like, “I really like to go to the music show too. This year instead of going to Dallas for the show, we’re going to watch it at home on TV. I’m feeling disappointed that we won’t get to see Santa come out at the Christmas show, but I’m excited that we can still watch on TV because we can have snacks while we watch!” You’ve just modeled how to share emotions. “What feelings are you having about this?” (wait) What questions do you have?” (Use this instead of “Do you have questions?”) 


The financial impacts of the pandemic have been significant for many families. Your family may have traditions related to gift-giving that may need to look different this year. And that’s okay! It’s important to prepare children for this difference. I am NOT saying we need to explain financial difficulties to children. Finances are an adult issue, and children should feel as safe and secure as possible. However, it is possible to set expectations around gift-giving without referencing finances.

As caregivers, we have two options: Pretend like everything is going to happen as normal and then manage the disappointment and hurt feelings on that special holiday.

or (and preferably)

Tell children in advance that gift-giving is going to be different this year so we can get all those thoughts and feelings processed before the holiday. It doesn’t mean there won’t be thoughts and feelings on the holiday, but they will most likely be less intense if there has been regular discussion and processing prior to the holiday. There is no benefit to not telling a child they won’t be getting a pony or the newest gaming system. The benefit of communicating the truth is that it helps them adjust their expectations so they are better able to enjoy the gift they DO receive. It might sound like this:

“I saw that you wrote your gift wish list. I want to look at it together and talk about what’s on it. Your wish list looks so fun. I see that you put ______ on your list. I am not (or Santa is not) going to be able to get that gift for you this year. But can you think of something fun we could do? Maybe we could have a special chocolate chip pancake breakfast and watch Christmas movies? (*Insert things you could do together.) How are you feeling about that? What questions do you have?”

*Go hiking or biking. Do a craft with supplies from your local dollar store. Drive around at night with closed mugs of hot chocolate and do a scavenger hunt of different yard decorations. 

A few days later, circle back to the discussion again and take the opportunity to teach your child how to receive a gift that isn’t exactly what they wanted.

We’ve all had the experience of opening up a gift to discover we’ve received something we just don’t care for. As adults, we don’t throw tantrums or point out that we don’t like it because we’ve learned social skills related to this experience. Our children can learn this skill one of three ways.

1) They observe someone else, usually another child, express they don’t like something, observe the negative reactions of the adults, and promise themselves they’ll never do that.

2) They themselves express that they don’t like something, experience the negative shaming reaction of adults, and promise themselves they’ll never do that again.

or (and preferably)

3) They are pre-taught to show appreciation for every gift and the consequences of what happens when you don’t (i.e. people get their feelings hurt and it makes them sad). Discussion and role plays that allow children to practice are helpful when teaching this skill. When they are pre-taught the skill, they are more likely to meet expectations because you’ve set them up in advance. This doesn’t mean they won’t feel disappointed or sad or even  that they will master the skill this holiday, but we have a unique opportunity to introduce this social skill this year due to the financial impacts of the pandemic.

We have a unique opportunity to introduce this social skill this year due to the financial impacts of the pandemic.

Holidays this year are certainly going to be different. It is 100% okay to grieve the loss of the connections and fun that will be missed, and we should walk with children through those experiences and emotions. As caregivers, we have the opportunity to model how to process the emotions and mold the experience our children have during the holidays this year.

This post can be found in its original form here.

Jen Johnson  is the founder of The Child Safety Collaborative and a PhD Candidate in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of North Texas. Jen worked in public education for almost a decade before moving into the private sector to address child abuse and maltreatment through The Child Safety Collaborative. Her research is focused around accommodating safety curriculums for children with disabilities.





During this time of uncertainty, we know the potential for anxiety and stress in homes is high. That’s why we are putting together resources to help families come together during this time of crisis and adapt to the rapidly changing pandemic environment.

 To learn more about the Healthy Families Initiative at GCO click here

A family sitting on the floor together

New GCO poll: 81% of parents support educational microgrants during COVID-19

New GCO poll: 81% of parents support educational microgrants during COVID-19

New GCO poll: 81% of parents support educational microgrants during COVID-19


By David Bass

The Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO) today released the results of a parent opinion poll that found 81 percent of respondents in favor of using federal emergency relief funds to help parents cover some educational costs during the coronavirus pandemic.

The poll, taken of a random sample of 721 Georgia parents, also found that such microgrants would encourage parents to make alternative educational decisions for their children: 59 percent of respondents reported that a one-time microgrant of $1,000 would either prompt them to send their child to a different school or help out in their existing decision to do so.

Recently, a coalition of education reformers sent a letter to Gov. Brian Kemp urging him to use the remaining portion of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund to directly support students through the challenges of virtual learning. Currently in Georgia, the governor’s office is the only entity in the state with the ability to provide families with this desperately needed help.

The poll results back up what we already know: Offering direct payment assistance to Georgia families is the best way to keep vulnerable students from falling further behind during this crisis. A one-size-fits-all approach to education never works. We must offer as many families as possible maximum flexibility in their education decisions this year. Empowering parents directly with funds puts them in the driver’s seat and cuts out bureaucratic obstacles. This step simply takes available additional federal funds and gives parents the most help, the fastest, right when they need it the most.

Megan and teacher at table

A Survey Of How The Average Georgia Family Is Navigating Education During The Pandemic

These microgrants would help students like Hannah Foy, a 13-year-old with Down syndrome. Hannah has been isolated at home since March and is falling behind. “Putting education dollars directly into the hands of parents means that our children have a greater chance of not falling behind,” wrote Hannah’s mother, Elizabeth, in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The funds will come nowhere close to meeting the needs of students like my daughter, but they will help to bridge the gap until schools can fully reopen again.

Other key findings from the poll include:

  • 57 percent said their children learned “far less” or “somewhat less” than they had when they were in their pre-shutdown school.

  • Only 12 percent of respondents said their school did “badly” or “very badly” during the coronavirus crisis. Thirty-three percent were neutral and 55 percent said their school did “well” or “very well.”

  • Only 18 percent of respondents thought that their schools did not provide enough resources to their children.

  • 33 percent thought that there was “much work” or “far more work than I imagined it would be” to teach their children because of the shutdown.

  • Only 6 percent are considering homeschooling their children when last year they were not home schooled.

Field Trips in the Time of COVID

Field Trips in the Time of COVID

Field Trips In The Time Of COVID


By Heidi Holmes Erickson


We all remember a time as students when we boarded a bus, a brown paper bag with a smashed sandwich in hand, anxiously waiting as our teacher gave us information about the day’s field trip. Field trips are a long-standing tradition in K-12 education and may be some of our most vivid memories from school. Butin the  COVID-19 era, field trips may be non-existent for the upcoming school year as many school districts across the country prepare for fully virtual instruction.  

Many parents are already looking for ways to supplement the virtual education experience. Families are forming academic/learning pods; joining (and forming) homeschool co-ops, hybrid homeschools, or micro-schools; and searching out anything that will help enhance their children’s education and expose them to a world outside of their own home (and, let’s be honest, keep parents’ sanity). This is where museums and other cultural institutions can help.

There is a growing body of research that finds that culturally enriching field trips to art museums, the theater, and other such institutions are an important part of education.Students experience significant educational and social emotional benefits from such culturally enriching trips, including greater tolerance, empathy, higher academic achievement, and greater school engagement, with some evidence that economically disadvantaged students experiences the largest gains

The Importance of Field Trips

Why do students see such significant benefits from field trips? There isn’t a clear answer, but one theory is that arts expose students to a broader world beyond their own. Art exposes all of us to people, places, ideas, cultures, and history that we didn’t know before. In a time where students have limited interactions outside of their own homes and neighborhoods, arts and other cultural institutions can provide connecting experiences. 

Art museums typically see thousands of school groups throughout the year. With social distancing guidelines, however, it seems impossible to take an entire class of young children anywhere, let alone on a bus to a theater. Yet many museums and some theaters have now reopened and are offering tours for small groups, limiting capacity inside, or moving to outdoor venues. 

For example, here in Georgia, the High Museum of Art is open daily with reservations, and the Alliance Theatre is preparing for the 2020-21 season which includes multiple productions for youth as well as young children. Museums can easily and safely accommodate “academic pods” with a few children and parents. Now, attending museums with family and friends is not something new, but it may play a more important role in enhancing students’ education this cloistered year than it has previously.


The Power of Experience

These in-person cultural experiences are more important for student learning than some might expect. There is some evidence that field trips done “virtually” or in an at-home or in-class setting are not as impactful as when students visit the actual institutions. For instance, a recent study found that students who attended a live theater performance had greater command of the plot than students who saw a movie version of the same play. Another study found that students who visited an art museum asked more complex questions about works of art and recalled the experience in more detail than students who saw the same art but in a classroom setting. This evidence suggests that an in-person experience has a unique importance that isn’t always transferred to other settings. 

With the 2020-21 school year looking nothing like anyone could have predicted, parents and students should embrace the change and enjoy educational experiences that are not limited to something on a computer screen. Taking time away from instruction in core subjects isn’t going to harm student academic performance—it might even help!

Heidi Holmes Erickson

Heidi Holmes Erickson is a faculty member in the Education Economics Center at Kennesaw State University.



A quality education is key to a child’s future success. Academic achievement paves the way to a good job, self-sufficiency, and the earned success we all want for our children. To learn more about education options in Georgia click here

Children excited as they leave school