Wednesday, November 27, 2013


To educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kindness that will stand behind the action. Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude. -- Albert Schweitzer

Monday, November 25, 2013

National Career Development Month

The career development component of the school counseling program needs to be highly visible in the school.  This is my bulletin board for this month to emphasize exploring a variety of careers at the elementary level.  The top half of the board is a collage of a wide variety of careers. We do career development activities all year round, not just during career development month.  The counselors "teach" at least 2 formal lessons on careers (we teach 10 total) but we also have career visitors in all our kindergarten through second grades (at least 6 a year).  The classroom teachers use parent volunteers to talk about their careers (they take the place of a parent reader slot in grades 1 and 2).  In grades 3-5 we do about 3 career cafes a month.  The volunteers are scheduled using Sign Up Genius.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Cook Book on Anxiety

Wilma Jean - the Worry Machine

There are several things I really like about this book that offers children in grades 2-4 strategies to deal with worrying.  First, it uses humor which is generally useful for children who have the "what if" thougths a lot. Second, I like dividing worries into those the individual can control and the ones they cannot (like what others will do).  Finally, I like the worry hat as a place to put worries that children cannot control.  I am not sure labeling anxiety as the worry flu was a good idea.  Most experts in anxiety want the child to label the anxiety, name it, and talk about it as something external to them (example, worry monster).  I read this book with a number of children and groups this week and each time I did not like the phrase "worry flu." It sounds like the child with the anxiety has a sickness.  I will still use the book but not emphasize that part and at times even sure that I think there are better ways to label worries.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Why Smart Kids Worry

Most parents think they have a smart kid but don't understand the irrational thoughts of young children who are anxious.  I especially like part two of this down to earth guide that gives parents 15 tools to help manage anxiety.  It has one of my favorite tools, 4 square breathing, and a very clever introduction to the technique.  I highly recommend this book to any elementary counselor with lots of anxious students.  We need to give parents tools to use at home and this book is very clear.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Anxious Kids Anxious Parents

Wilson and Lyons provide families with a jargon-free 7 step way to stop the worry cycle and raise courageous and independent children.  I have bought a copy to include in one of our "Family Resource Packs" we share with families on common topics such as generalized anxiety.  Children are taught to "play with anxiety" and learn alongside their parents as they move toward courage and independence. According to the authors, action not avoidance, is the key to successfully break the cycle of anxiety. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Stress is like a rubber band

This clip would be good to share in a class lesson or a small we are wrapping up Stress Out Week!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

National Stress Out Week

This is the week the Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA) encourages people to take time to relax and unwind.  They provide information to educate people about the difference between everyday stress and an anxiety disorder.  Stress is a response to a threat in a situation.  Anxiety is a reaction to the stress. Check out their site to find tips on living and thriving with anxiety. Do you have a strategy for managing stress that works for you?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thank You Veterans

Our school division gives us Veterans Day off which makes me even more thankful for the men and women who serve our country.  I frequently mention the military as a career that many choose when they leave school.  We have many active military and veterans who share their careers during our career visits in grades K-2 and Career Cafe in grades 3-5. Thank you for your service!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Promoting On Time Everyday Attendance

In an effort to improve our attendance this year we are piloting an idea we adapted from the attendanceworks web site.  According to Attendance Works, "every year, one in 10 kindergarten and 1st grade students misses a month of school with excused and unexcused absences." They recommend sending positive thank you messages to parents who send their children to school every day on time for the month.  We got one of our kindergarten teachers to agree to do this every month. The counselors make the cards and they are from the teacher, counselors, and social worker.  These are the cards we sent the last school day in September and October. It is too early to say if the strategy is working but it is relatively easy to do, very inexpensive, and definitely promotes attendance.  We will evaluate the strategy at the end of the school year.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Melt Downs, Irritability, Dry Eyes...Are They Lacking Sleep?

Most children aged five to 12 need 10-11 hours of sleep. However, because of homework, sports and other extracurricular and social activities they are frequently "sleep deprived."  School-aged children spend time in the evening on "screens" which can lead to difficulty falling asleep, nightmares and disruptions to their sleep. In particular, watching TV close to bedtime has been associated with bedtime resistance, difficulty falling asleep, anxiety around sleep and sleeping fewer hours.  Consumption of food or beverages with caffeine in the afternoon or evening also disrupts sleep. And then this weekend we had a daylight savings time adjustment which also disrupts sleep patterns.
Sleep problems can lead to mood swings, behavioral problems such as hyperactivity and cognitive problems that impact on their ability to learn in school. My favorite study  to share with parents was done by Tel Aviv University researchers who found that missing just one hour of sleep can be enough to reduce a child’s cognitive abilities by almost two years the next day. Not getting enough sleep has also been proven to take its toll on the overall health of people's eyes. Sleep debt has physical and psychological effects.
Parents need to be encouraged to start bedtime routines early and check to see children are actually going to sleep at a reasonable time.  Here are some tips to share

Sleep Tips for School-aged Children (by

  • Teach school-aged children about healthy sleep habits.
  • Continue to emphasize need for regular and consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine.
  • Make child's bedroom conducive to sleep – dark, cool and quiet.
  • Keep TV and computers out of the bedroom.
  • Avoid caffeine.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

National Adoption Month

Most adopted children in kindergarten and first grade think being adopted is special. They are usually happy to share they are adopted and try out the vocabulary taught to them by their parents.  An adopted child usually refers to the "birth mother" and neither as the "real parent."  Use of positive adoption language by school personnel is very important (see for guidance).

Around age 7, adopted children begin to be able to grasp the fuller meaning of their adoption, including the loss and abandonment issues that may be associated with it. They may spend time fantasizing about their birthparents and wondering what they are like. Common questions include, “Why didn’t you keep me? Why did you give me away?”  They may feel that they were placed for adoption because they were not good, pretty, or smart enough to be kept. With mental energy tied up in these concerns, children can find it difficult to pay attention in class and to learn their lessons. Adoptive parents frequently struggle with how to help their child work through her fears and anxieties and counselors need to be prepared to assist and/or refer.  At this stage it is helpful for the adoptee to spend time with other adoptees either in group counseling or in an event organized as part of post-adoption services.

Children in elementary school are old enough to decide for themselves whether to tell their classmates about their adoption. They must be taught, however, that once they tell, they will not be able to "take it back."  If parents feel it is important to discuss adoption with the child's teacher, the child should be told exactly what is shared and why. Parents may chose to discuss adoption status at the first conference of the school year.

Adoption is another way to build permanent families. Approximately 5 million Americans alive today are adoptees, 2-4 percent of all families have adopted, and 2.5 percent of all children under 18 are adopted. If an adopted child needs outside support, try to refer to a therapist with a strong background in adoption.