New Year, New Attitude: Help Your Child Be Positive


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You probably made New Year’s resolutions to exercise more, spend more time with family and friends, eat healthier foods, maybe even clear some clutter. But how about a resolution to find the bright side of a difficult situation and help your children adjust their attitude, too? You don’t need to wear rose-colored glasses all the time. You just need to give your child or teen a toolbox filled with suggestions for how to recover from a setback and learn from the experience.

Proactivity vs. Defeatism

A negative outlook can impact all areas of our lives. “The kids that tend to have a negative outlook tend to do more poorly in school, from what I’ve observed,” says Alison Bowman, who has a master’s degree in education and is a licensed professional counselor at Morrisville Elementary School in Wake County. “Emotionally, they tend to not have as many friends; they have peer relationship issues. Physically, they tend to have a lot of somatic complaints — headaches, stomachaches, things like that.”

Jen Kogos Youngstrom, a licensed clinical psychologist, clinical professor and director of Child and Family Services at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Department of Psychology, looks at negativity from a proactive angle.

“Our motivation, our activity level, our outlook, all intermingle,” Youngstrom says. “If we sit around eating candy, not getting any sleep, that will affect our outlook, and our outlook affects our choices.” If our outlook is positive, we’re being proactive and are more likely to make good choices about eating, sleeping, exercising and reducing stress.

Justin Parker, a licensed psychologist with 3C Family Services in Cary, talks about the benefits of warding off defeatism. “There are lots of strategies that a child or adolescent can have that will help them bounce back from a setback,” Parker says. “You can tell a child or adolescent all the ideas in the world, but if they already believe that the ideas, the strategies, won’t work, they’re not going to even engage in it,” he says. “If you’re not buying in that something will work, you’re not going to try, and if you don’t try, I can guarantee it’s not going to work.”

Preparation and Empowerment

A positive attitude helps you think about ways to improve a challenging situation. While no one can guarantee success, preparing to the best of your ability opens up possibilities and options, Parker says.

“Often, a trap parents fall into is trying to rescue their child by convincing him or her that they can pass a test, for instance, without being held accountable for actions they did and did not take in order to be able to pass,” Parker says. “And if it doesn’t go well, look at behaviors that resulted in it not going well: Did you handle what you truly could handle? Did you take a positive feeling and turn it into study habits or turn it into objective criteria that you could act on in order to evaluate?”

Sasha Fradin, a licensed psychological associate in the Psychoeducational Clinic at N.C. State University’s Department of Psychology, quotes child psychologist Ross Greene when she says, “Kids do well if they can.” She adds, “If they’re not doing well, then there’s a reason why they’re not … . They don’t choose to act this way, feel this way.”

Fradin uses Greene’s philosophy of the collaborative problem-solving process. “He recommends involving (children) in this process because a lot of times we, as adults, whether it’s teachers, parents, therapists, doctors, say, ‘Why don’t you try this?’ ‘Why don’t you do that?’ So we’re telling them what to do instead of teaching them how to problem-solve by collaborating with them,” she says.

Challenge Thoughts, Ask Questions

Bowman uses the triad of thinking, feeling and behavior in her counseling. Depending on the situation, focusing on thinking and positive self-talk first can impact a child’s feelings, which then impacts her behavior. Other times, focusing on changing the behavior will change thoughts and feelings, Bowman says.

Youngstrom agrees. “Often, thoughts affect our behaviors and moods,” she says. With adults and adolescents, you can intervene by asking, “What was your thinking?” to try to understand the core of the negative thought and challenge it with data.

“If we point out that the extreme, negative thought isn’t as extreme as they thought it was, it will impact their negative thinking,” she says.

Involve younger children or nonverbal individuals in an activity. “They need to get out, play basketball, interact with others and exercise, and this improves behaviors,” Youngstrom says. “This behavior improves their mood, then improves thoughts.”

Youngstrom asks young clients, “Is your current path getting you where you want to be?” She then helps them find a meaningful goal to work toward, usually involving friends, academics or an activity.

“It has to be a goal they’re invested in to challenge thoughts and change behavior, even if it’s not a goal the parent or teacher thinks is important,” Youngstrom says. “If there is no goal that’s meaningful, we don’t have a connection. We don’t understand what’s making them tick.”

Bowman asks scaling questions to give children a way to change their thoughts and feelings: On a scale of 0-10, with 10 being perfect, ask, “Where are you?” She asks how they would feel if the number were a little higher and what it would look like.

If scaling questions don’t work, Bowman asks, “If a miracle happened, what would it be?” to help children realize they have some control over their attitudes, thinking and behaviors, and to help them identify what they need to do to change.

Intrinsic Motivation

Parker encourages parents to seek mindful approaches to talking with teens so they can self-identify negative situations and intrinsically respond to them. “You want them, when they’re not around you, to be able to pick themselves up,” he says.

“In order to get (teens) to purposefully use positive attitudes, positive behaviors, they have to recognize when they’re not,” Parker says. “They have to recognize when negative thoughts are creeping in, when self-defeatism is starting to pop. They have to challenge themselves in real time, not just rely on a parent to do it for them.”

Youngstrom believes open communication plays a large role in helping someone maintain a positive attitude.

“Kids and teens with negative thoughts turn in, stop communicating, and then parents can’t help,” Youngstrom says. Parents can listen, ask questions and, perhaps most importantly, allow silence. “Parents tend to do a fire hose of questions and that can shut kids down,” she says.

Uphold Realism

Youngstrom encourages her clients to maintain a realistic attitude that’s not out of touch with reality. But sustaining a positive outlook depends on the particular circumstances at hand. If a family is immersed in severe distress, it’s best to teach coping skills.

Parents should validate their children’s feelings. “Don’t gloss over how a child feels at a particular time,” Fradin says. Reframe the thought or feeling and find something positive in it, instead of sweeping it under the rug.

When Bowman ran a small group for children with recently separated or divorced parents, she used a rain-and-sun analogy by asking about the positives and negatives of the new family structure.

“Sun and rain make a rainbow,” Bowman says. “It doesn’t mean we overlook the negative things, but in every situation you can always pinpoint something good that has come from it — something that has helped you grow from it.”

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Jen Kogos Youngstrom, a licensed clinical psychologist, clinical professor and director of Child and Family Services at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Department of Psychology, recommends the Progressive Muscle Relaxation technique to calm yourself — or your child — during stressful times. Here is how you do it.

Lie or sit comfortably. Starting with your feet, scrunch your toes into the ball of your foot, breathing in as you do. Release your muscles as you breathe out. Move up your body, scrunching and releasing each muscle group. Shrug your shoulders as hard as possible up to your head, then release.

Youngstrom also suggests learning to challenge negative thinking patterns and calming yourself through a variety of activities, such as shooting hoops, running or other exercise, deep breathing, or arts and crafts.

Cathy Downs is a freelance writer who lives in the Triangle with her family. 

More Resources

Check out the following resources for more information on instilling a positive attitude in your child.

For Parents

- Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies: abct.org.

- Evidence-based mental health treatment for children and adolescents: effectivechildtherapy.com

- Project Enlightenment: projectenlightenment.wcpss.net

- The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children by Ross W. Greene, Ph.D.

- Ross W. Green’s website: livesinthebalance.org

- Don’t Panic Third Edition: Taking Control of Anxiety Attacks by Reid Wilson, Ph.D.

- Freeing Your Child from Anxiety: Practical Solutions to Overcome Your Child’s Fears, Worries, and Phobias by Tamar Chansky, Ph.D.

- Help for Worried Kids: How Your Child Can Conquer Anxiety and Fear by Cynthia G. Last, Ph.D.

For Children and Teens

- The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook for Kids: Help for Children to Cope with Stress, Anxiety, and Transitions by Lawrence E. Shapiro, Ph.D., Robin K. Sprague, LCPC, and Matthew McKay, Ph.D.

- What to Do When You Worry too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety by Dawn Huebner

- Recovering from Depression: A Workbook for Teens by Mary Copeland, M.A., M.S., and Stuart Copans, M.D.

- When Nothing Matters Anymore: A Survival Guide for Depressed Teens by Bev Cobain, R.N.C.

- The Stress Reduction Workbook for Teens: Mindfulness Skills to Help You Deal with Stress by Gina Biegel, M.A., LMFT

For Pre-K Children

It’s never too early to start teaching problem-solving and decision-making skills to young children, says Sasha Fradin, a licensed psychological associate in the Psychoeducational Clinic at N.C. State University’s Department of Psychology.

Teaching young children how to recognize their emotions is important. Parents can focus on teaching children:

- How to recognize feelings in themselves and others.

- How to become aware when their body feels a certain way.

- Problem-solving skills in all areas.

She also recommends giving choices, within limits, whenever possible.

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Website »

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Azevedo Family Psychology and Kym Azevedo will host an Art for Life group each Thursday from 5:30-6:30PM beginning January 16 and running through March 26. This group is completely free, kid...

Cost: FREE

Where:
1903 N. Harrison Ave
Suite 201
Cary, NC  27513
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Sponsor: Azevedo Family Psychology
Telephone: 919-624-9568
Contact Name: Kym Azevedo
Website »

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The goal of the How To Talk So Kids Will Listen Group workshop is to help you communicate more effectively with children.   In each session of the workshop you'll be introduced to an...

Cost: $12.95 materials fee

Where:
Wildflower School at Belle Vie Farm
3100 Damascus Church Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27516
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Sponsor: Wildflower School at Belle Vie Farm
Telephone: 919-260-6859
Contact Name: Shelley Welch
Website »

More information

Hounded by Death, the character of Everybody desperately seeks out everyone and everything they know in hope of finding something meaningful to take to the grave. These 90 minutes of theatrical...

Cost: Ticket prices start at $15

Where:
PlayMakers' Repertory Company
120 Country Club Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-7529

More information

Rumpelstiltskin-A Tale of Gold Book by Ellie FaggionMusic and Lyrics written by Brian Shrager and Ellie FaggionProduced by special arrangement with the author.Directed by Beth Wilson...

Cost: varies

Where:
Spiritual Twist Productions
1250 Aversboro Road
Garner, NC  27529
View map »


Sponsor: Spiritual Twist Productions
Telephone: 919-977-1976
Contact Name: Kathy MacDonald
Website »

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Forget tourist-filled museums, make your own memories with a photo scavenger hunt tour in Raleigh! On a Let’s Roam scavenger hunt, you and your team will work together to wander throughout...

Cost: $11

Where:
500 S Salisbury St
raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Website »

More information

Join us for the Kids Exchange Spring/Summer Consignment Sale in July! This FREE ADMISSION event is the largest kids consignment sale in the nation and is held at the NC State Fairgrounds at...

Cost: 0 – $10

Where:
Jim Graham Building
1025 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for the Kids Exchange Spring/Summer Consignment Sale in February!   This FREE ADMISSION event is the largest kids consignment sale in the nation and is held at the NC State Fairgrounds...

Cost: Free

Where:
Jim Graham Building
1025 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »

More information

Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
Website »

More information

Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

More information

Chip, chip, hooray! The first Zambrero in the Southeast is opening on January 24 with zingy, zesty activities! Bodacious Burritos and Bowls: $5 burritos and bowls all day Delicious Drawing: A...

Cost: Free

Where:
1 Glenwood Ave
#105
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: (919) 863-2561
Website »

More information

Just in time to keep up with those home improvement resolutions for 2020, the Downtown Raleigh Home Show returns to downtown’s Raleigh Convention Center January 24-26, 2020  with a jam-packed...

Cost: Tickets are $12 for adults and free for children under 12. Advance $9 tickets

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Marketplace Events
Telephone: 904-608-3823
Contact Name: Liz Morgan

More information

Skate on an ice trail or free skate on 17,000 sq. ft of ice. Located in the Upper Pond of the Whitewater Center, the skating environment features three distinct programming areas and an on-ice...

Cost: 20

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Lights is a half-mile walking trail that leads viewers through a series of immersive light installations featuring  honeycombs, vines, crystals, and other natural features integrated into the...

Cost: Free

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Triangle Restaurant Week (January 20-26, 2020) is a week-long celebration of culinary excellence designed to incorporate the premier Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and surrounding area restaurants....

Cost: $15-$35

Where:
Participating Restaurants
, NC


Sponsor: Triangle Blvd
Telephone: 919-673-5784
Website »

More information

Take a hike after dark and enjoy the sights and sounds of a quiet night along the American Tobacco Trail. We will walk to the Beaver Creek bridge and back (about one mile total). Free for ages 4...

Cost: Free

Where:
American Tobacco Trail
1309 New Hill-Olive Chapel Rd.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park and the American Tobacco Trail
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

Hounded by Death, the character of Everybody desperately seeks out everyone and everything they know in hope of finding something meaningful to take to the grave. These 90 minutes of theatrical...

Cost: Ticket prices start at $15

Where:
PlayMakers' Repertory Company
120 Country Club Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-7529

More information

Rumpelstiltskin-A Tale of Gold Book by Ellie FaggionMusic and Lyrics written by Brian Shrager and Ellie FaggionProduced by special arrangement with the author.Directed by Beth Wilson...

Cost: varies

Where:
Spiritual Twist Productions
1250 Aversboro Road
Garner, NC  27529
View map »


Sponsor: Spiritual Twist Productions
Telephone: 919-977-1976
Contact Name: Kathy MacDonald
Website »

More information

David Burney, lead singer for the acclaimed Johnny Cash tribute band Johnny Folsom 4, brings his one-man show to The ArtsCenter for three shows, January 24-26, 2020.  In “Hello, I’m...

Cost: $15 to $20

Where:
The ArtsCenter
300-G East Main St.
300-G East Main Street.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Sponsor: The ArtsCenter
Telephone: 919-929-2787
Contact Name: Patrick Phelps-Mckeown
Website »

More information

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Show Less...

Forget tourist-filled museums, make your own memories with a photo scavenger hunt tour in Raleigh! On a Let’s Roam scavenger hunt, you and your team will work together to wander throughout...

Cost: $11

Where:
500 S Salisbury St
raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Website »

More information

Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
Website »

More information

Join the Museum and the Raleigh Astronomy Club to help you see the big picture — of the Universe! From comet crafts to solar observing, lectures to rocket launches, space enthusiasts of all ages...

Cost: Free

Where:
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for the Kids Exchange Spring/Summer Consignment Sale in February!   This FREE ADMISSION event is the largest kids consignment sale in the nation and is held at the NC State Fairgrounds...

Cost: Free

Where:
Jim Graham Building
1025 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »

More information

Join us for the Kids Exchange Spring/Summer Consignment Sale in July! This FREE ADMISSION event is the largest kids consignment sale in the nation and is held at the NC State Fairgrounds at...

Cost: 0 – $10

Where:
Jim Graham Building
1025 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

RALEIGH (Jan. 16, 2020) – The North Carolina Association for Public Charter Schools will host its first school fair during National School Choice Week on Saturday, Jan. 25. The fair will take...

Cost: Free

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury Street
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: NC Association of Public Charter Schools
Telephone: 336-669-9996
Contact Name: Rhonda Dillingham
Website »

More information

Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

More information

Family Wildlife Series: Tricky Tracks Saturday, January 25 10-11 a.m. Come dressed for the weather so you can roam the park learning the fine art of “tracking”.   Make a cast of an animal...

Cost: Free

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Road
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Telephone: 919-870-4330
Website »

More information

Join the statewide kickoff to Black History Month at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh. Named a Top 20 Event by the Southeast Tourism Society since 2015, the 19th...

Cost: 0

Where:
North Carolina Museum of History
5 East Edenton Street
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Just in time to keep up with those home improvement resolutions for 2020, the Downtown Raleigh Home Show returns to downtown’s Raleigh Convention Center January 24-26, 2020  with a jam-packed...

Cost: Tickets are $12 for adults and free for children under 12. Advance $9 tickets

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Marketplace Events
Telephone: 904-608-3823
Contact Name: Liz Morgan

More information

Skate on an ice trail or free skate on 17,000 sq. ft of ice. Located in the Upper Pond of the Whitewater Center, the skating environment features three distinct programming areas and an on-ice...

Cost: 20

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Lights is a half-mile walking trail that leads viewers through a series of immersive light installations featuring  honeycombs, vines, crystals, and other natural features integrated into the...

Cost: Free

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Spanish Alive is providing Family Spanish classes starting in January! Join us to learn Spanish as an entire family in an immersive, fun environment. Our teachers are trained Spanish educators and...

Cost: $75-$216

Where:
Spanish Alive
156 E. Chatham St
Cary, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Winter days find many animals curled up in their dens. They sleep warmly, awakening in spring ready to enjoy the renewed Earth. Discover how animals deal with cold weather and which ones hibernate...

Cost: For all ages; FREE. Registration is required for all family members,& childre

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Rumpelstiltskin-A Tale of Gold Book by Ellie FaggionMusic and Lyrics written by Brian Shrager and Ellie FaggionProduced by special arrangement with the author.Directed by Beth Wilson...

Cost: varies

Where:
Spiritual Twist Productions
1250 Aversboro Road
Garner, NC  27529
View map »


Sponsor: Spiritual Twist Productions
Telephone: 919-977-1976
Contact Name: Kathy MacDonald
Website »

More information

Come support your NC State Gymnastics team as they open the 2020 home season against the Towson Tigers on January 25th at 4 PM. Tickets start at just $3!

Cost: $3-$7

Where:
Reynolds Coliseum
2411 Dunn Ave
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »

More information

Triangle Restaurant Week (January 20-26, 2020) is a week-long celebration of culinary excellence designed to incorporate the premier Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and surrounding area restaurants....

Cost: $15-$35

Where:
Participating Restaurants
, NC


Sponsor: Triangle Blvd
Telephone: 919-673-5784
Website »

More information

Join us in Arendelle for Frozen-inspired STEAM activities for the whole family! Included in the ticket cost is dinner and dessert for the whole family, make your own sock Olaf and Frozen bouncy...

Cost: $35 per family

Where:
Kidzu Children's Museum
201 S. Estes Dr.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Sponsor: Kidzu Children's Museum
Telephone: 919-933-1455
Website »

More information

AML Wrestling presents our 5th Anniversary Celebration! WHEN: Saturday, January 25th, 2020WHERE: Winston-Salem Fairgrounds in theHome & Garden Building 408 27th Street NW/Gate #9 Winston-Salem, NC...

Cost: $5

Where:
Winston-Salem Fairgrounds
408 27th Street NW/Gate #9
Winston-Salem, NC  27105
View map »


Sponsor: AML Wrestling
Telephone: 336-831-0646
Contact Name: Tracy Myers
Website »

More information

Hounded by Death, the character of Everybody desperately seeks out everyone and everything they know in hope of finding something meaningful to take to the grave. These 90 minutes of theatrical...

Cost: Ticket prices start at $15

Where:
PlayMakers' Repertory Company
120 Country Club Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-7529

More information

David Burney, lead singer for the acclaimed Johnny Cash tribute band Johnny Folsom 4, brings his one-man show to The ArtsCenter for three shows, January 24-26, 2020.  In “Hello, I’m...

Cost: $15 to $20

Where:
The ArtsCenter
300-G East Main St.
300-G East Main Street.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Sponsor: The ArtsCenter
Telephone: 919-929-2787
Contact Name: Patrick Phelps-Mckeown
Website »

More information

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Education Guide

The 2019-20 Education Guide offers 718 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools and academic resources.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. In our 2019-20 issue, explore 1,028 resources for family fun.