South Orange Mom Offers ‘Character U’ for Kids, Parents

by The Village Green
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Gretchens headshot

Concerned about all the new fangled challenges your kids are facing today — from social media to testing?

South Orange mom Gretchen Burman noticed the impact that modern pressures were having on her own children, and created ‘The 12 Cs” — a parenting checklist to prepare her children with the skills to handle the “ups and downs of life.”

The list worked so well that she then she launched Character U, offering workshops for parents, educators and children based around “The 12 Cs.”

The approach is a life skills training program providing a platform to discuss children’s obstacles and anxieties and fill their “toolbox” with the life skills to handle pressures, as well as teach and improve positive behavior and academic performance.

“Several recent studies reinforce the importance of life skills education and social and emotional learning at a young age for short- and long-term success academically, behaviorally and socially. Character U is built to fulfill this need… in the home and in group settings,” explained Burman.

The 12 Cs are taught through Life Skills for Kids parents-child workshops and elementary school programs (see more about both the workshops here and the elementary programs here). Workshops have been taking place at Work and Play19 Prospect Street, South Orange. Burman teaches throughout Northern New Jersey and has worked with the South Orange-Maplewood School District.

Burman is also the author of  the book, The Adventures of Ooga and Zeeta, which provides interactive activities that can be practiced at home independently or as a complement to her programs.

Character U is a labor of love — and necessity — for Burman who worked in the hospitality industry for more than 15 years (her last hospitality position was Director of Sales at the New York Marriott Marquis).

5th grade students at a Character U program

5th grade students at a Character U program


“I believe life is like a roller coaster and the ups and downs are part of growing up,” Burman told Village Green. “As a mother of two children [Burman is mother of girls in grades 3 and preschool], I wanted to provide them the tools to make their ups last longer and make their downs end more quickly. I needed something kid friendly that I could teach them while they were young so they had the skills to thrive.”

“Based on this need, I read books and scoured the internet and learned how important life skills training is at a young age,” Burman continued. “I found there was a gap providing hands-on training to teach these skills to young girls and boys so I decided to create a life skills workshop for parents, educators and children. I spent over a year researching each of The Cs to figure out the best way to teach these life skills in a kid-friendly way — with informative content and lots of fun activities. The curriculum has been reviewed by several professionals in the fields of mental health and education.”

However, Burman said, “the most influential resource has been my 8 year old daughter who helped ensure the stories, activities and lessons were interesting, understandable and fun. I teach the workshops from a mother’s perspective backed by research and filled with real life examples.”

“My goal is to fill both boys’ and girls’ life skills ‘toolbox’ full of ways to lead productive and fulfilled lives for themselves and their community.”

The Adventures of Ooga and Zeeta can be found online at and Burman’s next Life Skills for Kids Workshop begins Wednesday, April 6 and runs six Wednesdays through May 18 (with the exception of April 13) from 6:30-7:30 p.m. at Work and Play, 19 Prospect Street in South Orange. Visit for more information or to sign up.

Learn more at Email or call 973-913-4612.

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