Monday, January 26, 2015

Grief Encourage Lines of Communication

Students who have lost a loved one often try to protect the other members of their family from the painful questions they think will be too upsetting to ask.  All the children I have worked with eventually state their biggest fear is "other people dying too."  They need the reassurance of the surviving family members to say "While everyone does die, I plan to take good care of myself and be here for a very long time."  If it is a parent that has died they need to know "If something were to happen to me, there will always be someone to take care of you."  I have never worked with a child who wants to start this conversation.  I frequently have asked the parent to deliberately bring it up.  All children worry about death at sometime, but those who are grieving may be worrying about it a lot. When I say, "Have you asked mom/dad what would happen or told them you have this worry?" they always say "No, it would make them too sad."  I always recommend to parents to find time to talk about the child's feelings and worries even knowing they probably won't share everything.  Parents can say "If I was your age I'd be wondering what would happen to me if ..." or "I notice you seem much more scared at night, I am wondering what I can do to make you feel safer" For more good ideas check out

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Check In Individual Counseling K-2

I frequently use this simple feeling scale to ask young students how their week has gone at school, with friends, and at home.  I finally made a data sheet to record their ratings (6 sessions a page).  This is where I take my very brief notes so I remember the key factors discussed in the session.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Study Skills Groups at Lunch - Organization

I run 4 study skills groups at lunch (2 for grade 3 and 2 for grade 4).  To maximize time and attendance I have a few tricks.  Each member has their own folder.  On the left is their pre-assessment and an attendance sheet.  As soon as they sit down (before opening lunch) they mark their own attendance.  The columns indicate: present, did not come, absent from school.  They make a note if there is a reason they were in school but did not come to group (example: taking a make-up test).  This has made a huge impact on attendance and responsibility getting to the session every week.  We meet the same day of the week for the entire second and third quarter.  These groups are my SMART goal for the year and where I am hoping to have outcome data for the counseling program.  In the right pocket is a pencil, their goal. and any papers we do or a summary of each session.  At the end of the first quarter we cleaned out the folders and sent the work home (with a cover note from me indicating the child's attendance at group and what we are working on next).  We wrote goals at the beginning of the second quarter when the group started and wrote new ones at the start of the third quarter.   Some students revised the original goal but others had met the first goal and set a new academic goal for third quarter. So far so good for all 4 of these groups. I think it is important to model the importance of various aspects of organization.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

No Name-Calling Week

My office door is decorated with some of my favorite reminders to choose kind words and remember that words hurt (sometimes longer than physical aggression).

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

7 out of 10 teachers have a student in their classroom who is grieving

Grief needs our attention. As counselors we need resources to support staff, parents, and students.
For children, I highly recommend grief camps. These range from one day camps which are perfect for younger students pointofhope to comfortzonecamp weekend camps for 7-17 year olds. There are many organizations that run grief camps including the wendtcenter. Many of these camps are free but they fill up very quickly. If you have a family that may benefit, I encourage you to share the resources soon (for camps in summer 2015).

Monday, January 19, 2015

Spark Interest

We are required by our district to teach a lesson to all fifth graders to promote awareness and destigmatization of mental illness. We use the lesson plan from NAMI http://www.btslessonplans
However, I adapt the lesson quite a bit to make it fit my school's population.
To motivate the students at the start of the lesson I focus on the importance of the subject.  The statistic for adults is startling, later in the lesson I share that 1 in 5 youth in our state have a mental illness.  I use a variety of techniques to keep students engaged in this lesson which obviously deals with some difficult information.  If you want to motivate students during your lessons I suggest checking out this resource.
The lesson really focuses on the stigma aspect and as you may know Rosslyn Carter has worked on that part of the issue for 40 years. For more information on getting beyond the stigma of mental illness check out the pdf at this link

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Resource to Explain Self-Talk

Dr. Sullivan has some very useful ideas in this book to explain negative, neutral, and positive self-talk. Dr. Sullivan writes, "Just like you can feel stuck in the mud, you can feel like you are stuck in negative thoughts..." or negative muck. In the book Dr. Sullivan describes the four flavors of negative self-talk: 1) all or negative thinking; 2) jumping to conclusions; 3) should statements; and 4) magnification.  I highly recommend this resource for counselors and parents.  There is also a companion journal available for purchase (but I did not buy it so I can't say if it is worthwhile).