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Q&A: Jennifer Keitt, Uplifting a Community of African American Children

Media Veteran and Human Behavioral Consultant by Anne Berkley

Mother, daughter duo Jennifer and Naomi Keitt are offering a new form of children’s therapy, and we must say, their contribution looks to be a necessary one. As we continue to face our daily routine amid the COVID-19 pandemic those of us with children in the home are no doubt fighting a different battle.

Popular opinion states that many African Americans do not believe in the power of therapy and the positive impact it can have on the household. But it may not be a lack of understanding but rather a lack of the financial means to afford such a luxury as we typically see those engaged in therapy to be among the affluent.

With this in mind it is no secret that emotions are high on all ends and children in particular need help learning to process how they feel and in return, how they act. Parents and educators in urban communities can help curb the combative culture in homes by showing children how to take back their power in order to "turn things around" when their thoughts bring them down.

Media veteran and human behavioral consultant Jennifer Keitt and her daughter, news reporter, Naomi Keitt, have teamed up to write Strongkids—a new practical, fun, and colorful children’s book that can help children ages 3-6 learn the social and emotional skills involved in understanding their thoughts and feelings.

A 30+ year media veteran and is widely known as one of the most passionate, engaging, and powerful voices on the airwaves. Since 1991, Jennifer has reached millions of listeners daily through various on-air experiences on the radio. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Broadcast Journalism and a Master of Arts in Practical Theology. Jennifer is a certified Human Behavior Consultant, an Executive Life Coach, and is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Education with a concentration in Education Psychology. Based in Atlanta, she currently lives happily as an empty nester with her husband Tony.

Let’s learn more about Jennifer and Naomi’s contribution, StrongKids below:

BOLDBoss Question (1): Why is a book like StrongKids relevant in today’s day and age?

Jennifer Keitt: StrongKids is a fun, interactive tool that parents can use to empower their children. In the scary times we are living in, children need a way to cope and handle their emotions. StrongKids gives them the power to have control over what they think and feel. Children as young as three are already constructing essential thoughts and feelings; StrongKids gives them additional help. Books that help children learn what to do are vital in these challenging times.

BOLDBoss Question (2): Why did you and your daughter, Naomi, write StrongKids?

Keitt: Naomi and I teamed up together to write this book to give kids and parents a way to connect around a vital subject: how we feel! We’re both journalists and write every day for a living, so collaborating on StrongKids was a dream come true for me. The focus of my work for Naomi’s entire life has been giving evidence-based information to people to help make their lives better. With StrongKids, Naomi and I are communicating a message of hope and inspiration for children and parents.

BOLDBoss Question (3): Why is it important for kids as young as three to learn this information?

Keitt: Children are proactive and are always trying to make sense of the world around them. As young children are constructing important thoughts and feelings about themselves, their parents, friends, and life in general, it’s critical to help them in this process. StrongKids gives parents an easy, quick, and fun way to work with their children in determining what they’re thinking and feeling every day. Emotions play a vital role in so many areas, so it only makes sense to give kids the chance to learn how to use their thoughts and feelings productively.

BOLDBoss Question (4): How can StrongKids help parents cope with their children’s normal behavior problems? What’s the thought-emotion-mood connection highlighted in StrongKids? Why does it matter?

Keitt: StrongKids is based on a simple premise: kids act based on how they are thinking, what they are feeling, and the mood they’re in. For toddlers and young children, common behavioral problems arise when they don’t have the skills to assess what they’re thinking, how they’re feeling, and the impact their thoughts and feelings are having on how they’re behaving.

With StrongKids, parents can now help their children make the thought-feeling-behaving connection. Children need help framing the thoughts and feelings that make them act out, and StrongKids is the tool that parents can use to help children “turn around” the thoughts and feelings that are driving unwanted behaviors.

It takes practice, but if parents can help their children tune into their thoughts and feelings, they will have a better chance of curbing unwanted behavior by supporting their child’s positive thoughts, feelings, and actions.

BOLDBoss Question (5): You say that StrongKids helps kids take back their power. How?

Keitt: Think about those times when you feel most powerful. I bet those times are marked by being in control of your thoughts and feelings. It’s the same for our kids. Children are in the process of becoming adults. They think and feel just like adults do, except they don’t have all of the social and emotional skills to help them be their best. 

StrongKids helps children understand just how powerful they are, and it gives them the chance to tap into and claim their power! I’ve seen pictures of kids holding the StrongKids book in their hands with huge smiles on their faces. The book speaks directly to them and tells them how strong they are and how to use their feelings to stay strong in their lives.

BOLDBoss Question (6): What are the major challenges that families are having today? How does StrongKids help?

Keitt: Just like the thermostats control the temperature in our houses, the feelings of the people who live with us control the “emotional temperature” in our environments. Today’s families are challenged with keeping the emotional temperature in their homes comfortable. StrongKids gives parents and children the ability to speak the same language and understand themselves better.

To help with setting the right emotional temperature, we’ve also created an interactive reading guide so parents can engage their children and hopefully keep a stable emotional temperature in their homes.

BOLDBoss Question (7): Tell us more about the work you are doing to promote social-emotional competencies through your empowerment non-profit: The Keitt Institute?

Keitt: The Keitt Institute is co-founded by my oldest daughter, Morgan, and myself. I really love working with my kids! At K.I., we are striving to be a leading teaching, research, and empowerment organization. We specialize in creating social-emotional leadership development experiences for professionals, women, teens, college students, and young adults.

We use the CASEL model of social-emotional learning to help our constituents develop self-management, self-awareness, and social relationships to help people become transformed in their thinking, pursuing their unique purpose, and unlocking their full potential.  

BOLDBoss Question (8): As a mom of four, how did you raise emotionally stable children?

Keitt: I did not have the understanding I have now about human behavior when I raised my four kids. Honestly, much of what I did was through trial and error…a lot of error! That’s why I’m so passionate about helping today’s parents. I didn’t understand my children the way I do now. With that said, I knew I wanted to raise productive, active, stable kids. Growing up, my parents did the best they could, but I struggled a lot.

When my husband, Tony, and I started having children, we agreed that we wouldn’t put our old baggage on them. I took off the limitations and supported my kids in soaring. I helped them focus on their strengths, and to know themselves in order to control themselves.

We taught them how to have a work ethic and why education is vital for success. I prayed a lot! And as I learned new strategies for human development, I shared it with them. All four are now amazing people. I want today’s moms and dads to have tools and resources to help them raise strong, successful kids too!


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