Welcome to this installment of The Wellness Universe’s ‘A Conversation With …’ interview series! Each week, we will feature interviews from some of our amazing WU World Changers so you can learn about who they are as a person, their profession, mission, and their why!’
A Conversation with Karen Stone –
President and CEO of SoftStone Products, Inc.
The Wellness Universe directory is a resource and community filled with Change-Makers, we call WU World-Changers (Wellness Universe World-Changers). Today we want to introduce you to our member, Karen Stone.
Hello Karen, will you please tell us about yourself?
I have 45 years experience in education, preschool-college. I have a BA in Special Education and an MA in Learning Disabilities. I have raised a child with significant disabilities. I have been the CEO of SoftStone Products, Inc., for the past 20 years through this journey to help children emotionally began over 35 years ago. I am very excited to share my Early Childhood EQ program, “The Voices of CJ,” with as many children as possible. I recently became certified as an EQ practitioner through Six Seconds.
My commitment to Emotional Intelligence for children stems from my having been bullied throughout my school years and also at home. I have spent the last 30 years being a workshop leader and keynote speaker, and I have published children’s Emotional Intelligence programs (Pre-School through High School) that are research-based and have been piloted. My EQforChildren.com website has been designed to provide, at no cost, helpful activities that are engaging and developmentally appropriate to all early childhood parents and caregivers so they can implement the “Voices of CJ” with fun and ease.
My focus is now totally early childhood as brain research now stipulates that the emotional brain is developing the fastest between birth and age six, with EQ skills being critical for social and emotional learning as they are not innate.
I have created many colorful materials for children to embrace and enjoy so they can play their way to becoming emotionally intelligent (EQ Smart). The Parent and Teacher packages provide all that is necessary to include EQ in your home or classroom.
I also write an EQ Blog that is viewed on major network websites keeping my followers abreast of important happenings. I also published my story and my life’s purpose in 2017, entitled, “Is Your Child’s World Emotionally Safe?” My most exciting accomplishment in 2018 has been the creation of my YouTube channel, “Children Become EQ Smart with CJ.” The fun and engaging characters teach Daniel Goleman’s 7 attributes of emotional intelligence with the animated, “Voices of CJ.” CJ is a 7-pointed star and the main character with each point representing one of the 7 EQ attributes. Each one of his family of characters represents one of the EQ skills that speak to the important childhood experiences needed for them to reach their highest potential. They are: sharing empathy, developing self-confidence, learning to delay gratification, how to self-soothe and manage one’s emotions, becoming accountable for one’s actions, and persisting in the face of frustration.
My passion and dream of CJ, my life’s work, and my professional and personal commitment to people with intellectual disabilities have now merged together. I feel strongly about people with disabilities fulfilling their own individual purposes. So now I’m creating vocational opportunities for people with disabilities with CJ products and materials and creating emotionally safe environments for children with CJ in homes and schools creates a platform for them all to reach their unique potential.
Karen, what is it that inspires you?
I get truly inspired when I experience the journeys of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. I often listen to audiotapes of their stories and love watching them being told on Lester Holt’s evening news.
Will you please tell us what you call yourself and explain what it is that you do?
All the children call me, Miss Karen. Sometimes I call myself Miss Karen when I am demonstrating my Voices of CJ program. Lately, I have reinvented myself on my YouTube Channel as EQ Mama. Though I am not her voice on the video, she does capture my essence. My kids have known to call me Momma K. Sharing my CJ program makes my heart sing. I can feel the joy within and have the experience of fulfilling a purpose that found me. I only wish I had more doors opening for me to share the importance of children ages 2-6, developing these life-changing skills and behaviors.
How exactly does that help someone?
Growing up with EQ helps to chart a journey with the ability to overcome challenges, assess negative feedback instead of swallowing it. It helps with critical thinking and creates a more successful academic journey. It teaches children how to relate with empathy and kindness. It enhances a positive self-image that knows how to relate to others in a meaningful way. It also allows the ego to accept responsibility for one’s actions and understanding that changing them brings a positive outcome for oneself and others. Gratefulness enhances our ability to view the glass half full.
Children learn to share their “Gratefuls” with their parents, teachers, and buddies. Sustaining hope is how we endure life. We do this through the intimate relationships that support us and encourage us. The program does this by calling their friends “buddies” and engaging with their buddies in meaningful activities. We never bully our buddies no matter what color they are. Finding that unconditionally loving person, who will support the hope of a better time is not always easy for some children in the environment in which they live. Bringing this program to these children and the people with whom they live and grow can only be a positive step in helping them to reach their potential. Making a difference for these children is my greatest wish.
Why are you so passionate about helping others heal?
My passion comes from my own background and emotional pain that I have had to overcome throughout my adult years. If I only had had these CJ voices to counter the voices I heard, my life would have been less challenging on a personal level. I love children and working with them. I am a teacher in my heart and soul. Watching children experience bullying and abuse is heartbreaking, and so I wanted to create a way that would just not say “no” but would give children the emotional strength to endure and grow and also to stop the cycle that is all too present in our world today. I believe the only way to stop bullying, racism, and all the behaviors that separate us is to raise the next generation of children with the emotional brains that are wired to feel and demonstrate empathy, kindness, and accountability.
Did any specific life experience prompt you to follow this path?
Though I have spoken of my childhood and the bullying and abuse I endured, it was my inability to sustain a loving and positive relationship that really set me on this path. I was experiencing a 2nd divorce from someone I loved, and my life fell apart. My son required a great deal of my attention and advocacy, and I didn’t have the strength or the ability to continue. I was devastated. I attempted to take my life, but when I realized that someone would want to take my daughter, but no one would want to take my son. I couldn’t leave him without a person to love him and do the best for him. Special education was my profession, and I would be able to advocate for him in a unique way. So, if I couldn’t leave this world, I wanted to know why this was happening to me.
This began my spiritual journey and my need to understand and become self-aware. I began workshops, therapy, and reading. I literally left “no stone unturned.” As I learned that the voices I heard had become who I believed I was, “fat, ugly, and stupid,” I wanted children to know how lovable they are and that they are not the voices they hear. And so, CJ came to be 35 years ago.
How long have you been doing this?
This began over 35 years ago and has evolved to where it is today. This has been an incredible financial commitment over the years for me but it is only in the last 2 years that I have actually been able to build my new website, have a complete set of colorful materials, manufacture the plush CJ doll, re-wrote the entire program for early childhood with a parent guide and teacher’s curriculum. I have spent the last year creating my animated series with my characters who are all me in some way. I will do it till I can’t anymore and never stop hoping to share this with as many children as possible. My joining The Wellness Universe is part of this ongoing search for the help I need to bring this to children in need and hopefully most children.
Will you share a story of how you have made a difference in someone’s life?
My pilot program has made a difference in the lives of the young children who know and love CJ. I traveled to North Jersey twice a month for a year teaching the program and watching the children grow. We all loved sharing Gifts of Love, Happy Thoughts, Affirmations, Gratefuls and becoming kinder and more accountable by saying “I am sorry.” The best part is my saying to the children don’t forget to be Creators of Joy and then asking them how they have been CJs at school and at home. The teachers and parents love the program and feel that it has brought more empathy, kindness, and awareness into their classrooms and homes.
What’s next on the horizon for you?
I hope to be able to reach foster children, children in low-income areas, and teach this program to providers and teachers. It is really an easy program and yet the results are life altering. I also hope to be able to speak with groups that have the ability to make a difference and help me spread this important message. I seem to be just on the cutting edge of this. It has reached adults, and emotional intelligence has gained a great deal of momentum. However, we are not reaching children at their most vulnerable ages to learn these skills and behaviors. I am looking for influencers to help me.
I would love a financial partner and have been looking for one. If you know of anyone who would like to help with this important project, please send them my way.
Thank you so much for sharing today, Karen! Do you have any final thoughts?
Our children are our hope for a kinder, more compassionate tomorrow. The time is now!