As a child, Chelsea Elliott and her family had to move from California to Ohio to care for a sick grandparent. Long after grandpa recovered, the family stayed in the Midwest, and trading the sunshine and seaside for snow was a huge adjustment for Elliott. She remembers how challenging it was "not having friends, not really knowing anybody other than my grandparents, and of course my siblings and my mom."
In turn, Elliott recalls struggling mentally, suffering from issues including anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and eating disorders. "What was going on and what was happening around me just felt really out of control," she remembers.
Although she tried to open up to adults at her school, including the school nurse, counselors, and teachers, she didn't get the help she needed. "Nobody really knew much about mental health back then," says Elliott. "I was really considered an attention seeker and drama queen—instead of people saying, 'Oh, something might be wrong with her for real.'"
When Elliott went to college, she focused on child psychology and cognition. "I knew that I also wanted to learn more about how my mind worked and how other people's minds work and how mental illness happens," she notes.
Heading down the psychology track while getting her bachelor's, she learned a lot about herself and was able to get the support she needed.
Later, after completing her master's, Elliott decided to pair her love of psychology with a desire to become an entrepreneur. While pregnant with her eldest child in 2016, she went through a program called the Bank of America Institute for Women's Entrepreneurship at Cornell, which is the only online Ivy League program offering a certificate in women's entrepreneurship at no cost. "I ended up having an unplanned C-section and things were kind of crazy," she remembers. "I was like, 'It's now or or never, because life only gets harder as your kids get older.' So I decided to go ahead and do the program."
Looking back, she's so glad she made that choice as it helped her understand entrepreneurship, funding, how to hire, who to partner with, and more. The experience led her to receiving a $1K grant from the ParentPreneur Foundation, which aims to empower Black parent entrepreneurs so they can leave a legacy for their children. By 2021, Elliott founded Somocom Lab, which stands for social and emotional communication lab. "I help adults, parents, educators, caregivers, grandparents, learn how to communicate better with their kids," she explains. "And I help their kids feel empowered to use their voice, to communicate."
The grant allowed her to cover unexpected expenses—like the cost of shipping and supplies—that popped up as she was laying the groundwork for her business. "That's why I think a lot of people are closing their businesses or just not being as successful as they want to," says Elliott, explaining that all the little costs add up.
Learning the ropes of running her business and including her passion for child psychology and development has led to many rewards. Elliott, now a mom of two, recently published two children's books: Natalie the Monster Slayer, which tackles emotions, self-regulation, bravery, and courage, and Natalie's Not-So-Fun Play Date: How to Help Kids Manage Their Anger. She also developed an interactive social-emotional learning kids' card game called the EQ Kids Crew, which is a fun way for kids to learn how to pinpoint and work through their emotions with healthy coping techniques.
Here are her best tips for parents hoping to make their own entrepreneurial dreams a reality and also connect better with their children.
Consider How You Can Show Up for People
The most rewarding part of her business journey, says Elliott, has been the impact her work has had on other people and being a resource for others. She loves "seeing that so many people recognize how important emotions are, and they're tired of running from them." And thanks to Somocom, they now feel like they have support—and more tools in their parenting or caregiving toolbox.
Know Kids Thrive on Consistency
Through her work, Elliott has learned one of the most important things for adults to know about kids is that they need consistency and repetition. "That sometimes means that we have to repeat ourselves multiple times," she notes.
Elliott acknowledges that it's normal to be triggered by kids asking questions over and over again. "But we can't blame the child," she says. "We can't be upset with the child for needing that repetition because then that shuts them down. And when we shut them down in one area, it shuts them down in a lot of other areas without them even realizing it."
Ultimately, consistency and repetition go hand-in-hand with compassion and love, she notes.
Teach Kids About the Value of Earning
Elliott says she is currently working with her eldest daughter on the concept of working to earn and provide. "I always say, 'Hey, we have to work. Mommy and daddy have to work so we can stay in our house,' and so now, anytime I'm doing something, she's like, 'Mommy, is that why you're still working? So we can have pancakes in the morning? So we can drive our car as well?'" she explains. "She's getting it—she's catching on."
It's an illustrated example of a final lesson Elliott offers parents: Everything you say to a child is like "little nuggets for them that they'll catch onto." And later, when they need that knowledge, it'll be filed away and at the ready.
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