Monday, November 20, 2017

Self-Regulation for Young Students

My school is loaded with young students who need help with self-regulation. We work on it in classroom lessons with Second Step which fortunately our district bought for all our schools. A less expensive alternative is the self-regulation materials from  You can buy just the Curriculum Guide but I highly recommend purchasing the kit. The materials in this kit can be used in classes by teachers and counselors and especially our teachers who work with students identified as needing special education. It is recommended that this be used over 8 weeks and taught on two different days of the week (Tues and Thurs). The only place that can happen at my school is for students with an IEP that includes social skills.
I was thrilled to obtain this kit because even though it says "Preschool" I am using it in my psycho-educational  self-regulation groups with kindergarten and first grade. The kit has 40 lessons, games, and activities. The Curriculum Guide by Brad Chapin (with Lena Kisner and Brooke Stover) follows the same structure as his other manuals for older students. It is based on cognitive-behavioral psychology and addresses three areas: 1) physical; 2) emotional; and 3) cognitive. There is a regulation poster for each of the 3 areas. There are also core lesson image cards to use with lessons. There are core lessons for each of the three areas. For my groups I select 2-3 lessons from each of the areas. My students enjoy singing the "Safe and Calm Song." They are entertained by the book "The Horsefly Sigh" that teaches a fun relaxation breathing technique and thy like to practice it and go home and teach it to a family member. They love the "Calming Skills Block Game" using the cube that is provided in the kit. Students in self-regulation groups need activities that build in movement, throwing, practicing!
There is a CD which has all the forms for printing. There are great resources for counselors like a Sample Parent Letter and Self-Regulation Teacher Rating Scale. These are very helpful if you are using a self-regulation group for your teacher evaluation SMART goal or collecting data to RAMP. If you need other resources on self-regulation click one the labels on the right of my blog to see what else I use to address this critical need for students.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Teaching Children to Apologize

Here are 2 excellent books to anchor a class lesson or small group session on this important social skill. Start With Sorry by Finch is perfect for Pre-Kindergarten to grade 1. Zach Apologizes by Mulcahy is good for grades 2 and 3. Mulcahy teaches a 4-part apology strategy.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

National Adoption Awareness Month

As school counselors we need to be very aware of adoption and how children process being adopted at various developmental levels stages We also need to educate our staff in the use of positive adoption language. This article does a good job explaining the preferred terminology my-forever-family My go to resource and referral agency is The Center for Adoption Support and Education (CASE) My children are both adopted and I sent our oldest to CASE for a group in the upper elementary years. It was very helpful for her to be with other children who were adopted and share stories and learn strategies. I have run groups for adopted children at both the school. I have worked at but generally there are not enough children in a single grade level to offer an in-school group.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Spread the Word: Branding and Marketing Your School Counseling Program

A few years ago my part-time counselor and I presented on branding and marketing a school counseling program at our state SCA conference. Here is a link to our PowerPoint
Spread the Word We chose the iHelp logo because that was the year our school began the one-to-one imitative giving iPads to all students. We continue to use the iHelp logo on our materials. Pictured above is my office door. The students think the see through (window) labeled "Live cam" is very funny. Public relations for counseling programs is an ongoing responsibility. Every year we have new staff and students who need to be informed about what we do. Despite all our efforts, not a week goes by that I don't receive an email from a parent that begins with a phrase like "I don't know if it is appropriate to ask you for this kind of help..." We also do LOTS of online marketing especially via our Blog and Twitter feed. We are beginning the process to lobby our school board to reduce our counselor:student ratio, hoping to eventually get to 1:250 at all levels. Please think about how you can promote school counseling programs and join ASCA and your state SCA so they can lobby for more school counseling positions! Follow me on Twitter @mbmccormac

Monday, October 30, 2017

Is it ADHD or Trauma?

Symptoms of child traumatic stress could be mistaken for ADHD and that the risk of misdiagnosis is high. This is because there is an overlap between ADHD symptoms and the effects of experiencing trauma. Unless symptoms are examined closely, the profiles of child traumatic stress and ADHD can appear to be similar. For example:
 Young children who experience trauma may have symptoms of hyperactivity and disruptive
behavior that resemble ADHD.
 Trauma can make children feel agitated, troubled, nervous, and on alert. These behaviors
can be mistaken for hyperactivity.
 What might seem like inattention in children who experience trauma might actually be
symptoms of dissociation (feelings of unreality or being outside of one’s body) or the result of
avoidance of trauma reminders.
 Among children who experience trauma, intrusive thoughts or memories of trauma (e.g.,
feeling like it is happening all over again) may lead to confused or agitated behavior which
can resemble the impulsivity of ADHD.
Overlapping symptoms can make it difficult to obtain a correct diagnosis, which can complicate both
assessment and counseling.
Read more about this adhd_and_child_traumatic_stress

Sunday, October 29, 2017

ADHD Self-Regulation and Executive Function

ADHD is the most common disorder in children. The percent of children estimated to have ADHD has changed over time and can vary by how it is measured. The American Psychiatric Association states in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5, 2013) that 5% of children have ADHD. However, other studies in the US have estimated higher rates in community samples.

As school counselors it is important to know a lot about ADHD because students with this disorder are frequently referred for small groups. Learn more about ADHD from the best adhd
Here is an article from ASCA on collaborative classroom and behavioral evidence-based strategies that counselors can recommend to teachers and parents Students-With-ADHD The government suggest counselors assist these children by providing teacher training on effective practices eric.ed

School counselors also offer small groups for students who need self-regulation and behavioral support strategies-for-students Counseling is an effective intervention for ADHD because it addresses behavior modification. Children with ADHD can have a difficult time regulating their emotional and behavioral response to situations. Learning effective coping strategies is one way to gain control over symptoms. Counselors can also help with the development of a plan for organization and prioritization, key areas of difficulty for those with ADHD. Goal setting, reward and consequence, and emotional regulation are other areas that are addressed during counseling groups.

I do not like to run a group of all students with ADHD unless I have at least one role model. I also never name a group anything that makes it obvious a difference the members may have so I call them names like Remote Controllers, Super Selfies, Turtles. The group sessions need to be very active and engaging. In my groups for younger kids I focus on regulating their bodies and feelings. A good resource for activities for groups in grades 3-5 is Caselman"s Teaching Kids Impulse Control.

Friday, October 27, 2017

More Self-regulation Resources

This pack of large cards from  yoga4classroomsactivity-card-deck have great movement and breath work activities that are perfect for small groups and could be used with individuals and class lessons too. They promote self-awareness and if you go to the site you can receive 6 free downloads if you subscribe. I really like the "Peace Crawl" because in addition to using bilateral movement it has a chant that goes with the movement. I think chanting while moving further calms the brain and reinforces helpful behaviors that promote self-regulation. Conductor breath is great because it incorporates gross motor movement of large muscles in tune with the breath. I find that students self-regulate better when they learn to do helpful gross motor movement much faster than just giving them a fidget which is only going to use small muscles.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Yoga for Self-Regulation

We have an increasing number of students referred to group counseling for self-regulation. I find that before they can focus they need to get in touch with their bodies through movement.I start with a movement activity like mindful walking or cross crawl marching. Then I have them work their bodies by doing yoga in these groups. I based this ABC list on the book The ABCs of Yoga for Kids by Teresa Powers. I prefer mostly standing poses so I made this list. After the yoga centering at the beginning I do a few breathing activities. I try to make these fun so we may do pinwheel breathing or use straws to breathe a fetaher around the table. For more resources check out 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Recognize - Is it MOO?

One of the hardest part of bullying prevention is for students to be able to recognize if a situation is bullying or it is a lesser problem that kids can solve on their own. This year I have enlisted by cow puppet to teach MOO. Since this is a new strategy I am doing it K-5. In K-1 I have created some basic handouts with a cute cow outline the kids can color and the word recognize. This is my second grade handout featuring the Second Step poster (Help Stop Bullying 3 Rs) and requiring them to fill in the key words strong and respectful. An assertive response is required for most bullying (except perhaps physical). For the upper grades I add an additional O for one-sided and talk about fairness and negative power. The teachers and students have all enjoyed my first lessons of the year about bullying featuring Mean, On purpose, Over and over (and One-sided). I always send the Home Link Handout provided by Second Step that informs parents about our bullying program and gives suggestions how they can practice refusal skills at home.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Evidence-based Bullying Prevention

All fifty states in the United States have passed school anti-bullying legislation, the first being Georgia in 1999 and Montana the last in 2015. A watchdog organization called Bully Police USA bullypolice  advocates for and reports on anti-bullying legislation. States have clear policies about bullying and you must follow what your own state requires. For example, this year Virginia passed additional bullying legislation which requires principles to notify parents of any alleged bullying within 5 days. Virginia has several valuable resources for schools prevention/bullying/ Here is a list from 2016 listing evidence-based programs to address bullying bullying-prevention-curriculum. I know it is not totally up-to-date because it still lists Steps to Respect but the Committee for Children has transitioned to Second Step Bullying Unit (pictured above) which is very similar but more up-to-date. Bullying programs make a difference, in schools that have an anti-bullying program, bullying is reduced by 50%. Many school counselors facilitate the bullying prevention program in their schools. ASCA offers bullying-prevention-specialist-training if you feel you need more training on this critical topic.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Who Gets Bullied at School

People can be mean and those who bully often target someone who is perceived as "different" than their peers. It could be a student who is gifted or has a special talent. Students with food allergies are targeted and blamed for school's tightening policies about food being served at class parties. If a student has a physical feature that is noticeable like large ears or being short, that can make him/her a target. Students who have a limited number of friends, are introverted, or socially anxious are often harassed. They get called "retarded" because they rarely speak in groups. Adults need to be very vigilant and responsive to bullying. It frequently is done when peers can see it and hear it but the one doing the bullying thinks the adult won't notice or is not around. If a student is bullied and reports it to an adult, the adult must receive the report in a way that is helpful. Never tell a child to ignore bullying. Bullying is a repeated pattern of behavior that will likely occur again. When adults in a school are not responsive to bullying reports kids stop reporting bullying but bullying is still happening!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

UNITY DAY: Together against bullying.

United for kindness, acceptance and inclusion. Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Make it ORANGE and make it end! What are your true colors when it comes to bullying? If you care about safe and supportive schools and communities make your color ORANGE on Unity Day. That’s the day everyone can come together – in schools, communities, and online – and send one large ORANGE message of support, hope, and unity to show that we are together against bullying and united for kindness, acceptance and inclusion. Learn more at They have great resources for kids, parents, and educators.

My school participates every year in Unity Day. For the past few years I have involved the SCA by giving them a mini lesson about Unity Day and then having them make the posters that are displayed during October for Bullying Prevention Month. The one pictured above is simple and cute. We hung it on the front door of our main office.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

October is Bullying Prevention Month - Stop Bullying On the Spot

We use this bulletin board every other October because all our students know the story of Spookley the square pumpkin who was bullied by the round pumpkins. Lessons are available here
It helps reinforce the Second Step Bullying Unit lessons I teach and the literatur based lessons led by our classroom teachers, administrators, and librarian. This year we waited until the latter half of the month to start talking to the kids about bullying. Our district uses a common scope and sequence and the elementary counselors agreed we needed to talk about accidents and empathy before bullying. We use all the Committee for Children products and these are early lessons in Second Step. If you do not have the money for Second Step check out the resources on the government website

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Books to Help Children with Anxiety

I recently found these 3 great resources to help my students who struggle with high levels of anxiety. A Small Thing ... but Big explains systematic desensitization in a kid friendly way - the girl overcomes her fear of dogs. Upper elementary students can learn about the same process by reading School of Fear. I always tell parents and children that trying to manage anxiety if like the Wack-a-Mole game at the arcade because you might get separation anxiety under control and then it pops up as social anxiety or a specific fear.  Therefore I think this new release has the perfect cover. I have it on pre-order from Amazon but I am hoping they will have a copy at our state SCA conference this week. Reading about the struggle of others with anxiety helps normalize the experience and teach strategies. I read A Small Thing... but Big to my emotion management group.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

You Cue Feelings

I am always looking for good resources to teach children about emotions. We want to them to have good feeling vocabulary so they can understand and label the various levels of basic feelings. We also want children to make the connection between feelings and thoughts.  Dr. Ann Vagin has a good book called "You Cue Feelings", a website, and a You Tube channel. Dr. Vagin likes to use online videos as the stimulus to teach children about feelings. I prefer to use children's literature. The book pictured above "Ready for Anything!" is a great one to use in emotion regulation groups to stimulate discussion of emotions and how different thoughts cause different feelings. For example, one character is nervous about going on a picnic because what if there are bees. The other character wanted to go on a picnic because what if there are butterflies. After reading and discussing pleasant and unpleasant feelings and thoughts and the book, the students identify a comfortable and uncomfortable and the associated thoughts. Dr. Vagin has lists of her favorite videos to teach feelings on her website and in her book.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Social Skills Groups

I started small groups this week. For my first and second grade social skills group I am using First Steps to Social Success by Diane Senn. There are 25 lessons so I pick 8 lessons for each grade level two from each of the 4 topics covered:

  • Knowing Myself First
  • Initiating with Others
  • Learning Conversation Skills
  • Reading Social Cues: Seeing, Thinking, Doing
For my third and fourth grade I use Senn's Next Steps to Social Success. These resources have good pre-post tests and handout too. I select lessons from the featured topics in Next Steps:
  • Building Friendships
  • Managing Friendships
  • Handling Friendship Problems
  • Social Skills in the Classroom
You could use lessons from both books but I am using them at different grade levels and tracking which lesson I have used. I may need to do a second group later in the year for some of the students and there are still plenty of lesson left. 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month—a time to share resources and stories in an effort to shed light on this highly taboo and stigmatized topic. We use this month to reach out to those affected by suicide, raise awareness and connect individuals with suicidal ideation to treatment services. It is also important to ensure that individuals, friends and families have access to the resources they need to discuss suicide prevention. nami/Suicide-Prevention-Awareness-Month

While the number of deaths by suicide in younger children is statistically small, the number of attempts in students ages 10 to 14 has increased dramatically over the last few years, especially for girls. And even if they haven’t made an attempt, there are children in every school who are thinking about suicide  We need to think about suicide as an attempt to solve a problem of intense emotional pain with impaired skills. As counselors we need to have productive way to have a conversation about suicide with any aged student. Never assume just because a person is young that they will not attempt suicide. If a student is talking about wanting to die to a risk assessment and consult with another mental health provider. ALWAYS notify parents and document the notification even if you don't believe there is an imminent threat. Continue to take threats seriously: Follow through is important even after the child calms down or informs you or the parent "they didn't mean it." Avoid assuming behavior is simply attention seeking (but at the same time avoid reinforcing suicide threats; e.g., by allowing the student who has threatened suicide to avoid or get something to make them feel better).

Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death overall so many children and families are impacted by suicide. Using "suicide death" or" death by suicide" is more helpful than saying "successful suicide" or "committed suicide." Often times family members will not tell the child that it was a suicide death. I don't think this is helpful and further adds to the stigma and shame. People bereaved by suicide often experience complicated bereavement. There can be many other feelings in addition to grief including shock, social isolation, anger and guilt. The often sudden and sometimes unexpected nature of the death can also be extremely traumatic for those who lived with or knew the person. 

There are more resources at but these are geared toward older students. Suicide prevention programs are becoming more common in secondary schools because of the increasing number of suicide attempts. I am not aware of any aimed at elementary learners. However, it is important to get information in the hands of staff and parents about the warning signs of suicide and always #BeThe1ToAsk. That is basic mental health first aide.  

Saturday, September 2, 2017

September is Attendance Awareness Month

We use a version of this board every September to tell our learning community what time children are let into classroom so they can be ready and in their seats at 9:00 when the bell rings and we start with the Pledge of Allegiance. We really focus on pushing out the message that we want learners in school #EVERYDayALLDay unless they meet one of the criteria in our policy for excused absence (like sick with a fever about 101 or attending services for death of family member). We use messaging from this site attendanceworks We are a big Twitter use school so we use that to keep letting parents know the importance of establishing a positive pattern at the beginning of the school year. One year we piloted a program to focus our efforts on one kindergarten class. At the end of each month we sent home a thank you note to the parents who had their child in school every school day all day that month. When we evaluated this intervention the parents told us not to bother with the cards because they were "just doing their job as parents." We also did not have a significant difference between that class and our other 4 kindergarten classes. Even though it did not work we published our findings and it did send the message we are taking this very seriously.
We have students who are chronically tardy which we address through our attendance team. Once a month the attendance secretary, social worker, counselor, and administrator meet to review the data. That is when we decide who will get a letter, phone call, chat with counselor, small group, and eventually a meeting to develop an attendance plan. One of the school counseling program goals is always aimed at attendance.  Overall our school has a high attendance rate (above 96%) but each year we address the students who the prior year have been chronically absent or tardy (2 days a month), are chronically tardy, or both. 
We also look at the learners who are at risk to develop a chronic pattern of not being in school consistently. Here is a draft of our goal this year:
 By June 2018, 75% of the students who had 10 or more tardy arrivals or absences in the 2016-2017 school year, will decrease the targeted behavior.
If anyone has a success story please leave it in Comments.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Miguel A Deportation Story

Many families across our country are living under a cloud of possible deportation. There are more than 9 million U.S. children whose parents are undocumented immigrants, the majority from Mexico and Latin America. Half of these children, or about 4.5 million, are U.S. citizens — born to undocumented immigrant parents on American soil. Citizen-children and their undocumented siblings frequently live in homes in which one or both parents are undocumented immigrants.  Read more about research on living under the threat of deportation

This book is told from the perspective of an eight year old boy who was born in the U.S. but his parents are not in the United States legally and may have to go back to their unsafe home country. Miguel opens up about his fears to his school counselor and takes a proactive approach to his family's and others situation. This is a timely book that tires to take a optimistic attitude about a concern that is very widespread in our country today. Get this 2017 resource from

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Children of Divorce Intervention Program

We are trying to use evidence-based materials rather than random asks of counseling designed by all our counselors.  The childrensinstitute developed Children of Divorce Intervention Program (CODIP) that is an evidence-based prevention program specifically designed to help children cope with challenging family changes. There are separate manuals for students in K-1, 2-3, 4- 6, and 7-8. I purchased the elementary manuals for my school last Spring. The goal of the program is to a) reduce the stress of parental divorce by providing a supportive environment; and b) build skills that can help children cope with various challenges related to parental divorce. The manual proved session plans for 12-15 sessions depending on the age level. Even though I thought the curriculum I had designed for Families in Separate Homes (FISH) groups were pretty good, I am looking forward to using a program that has been proven to be effective.

Friday, August 18, 2017

School Counseling Program Annual Calendar

The ASCA National stipulates that each school counseling program develop and share an annual calendar with all stakeholders and update it regularly.  I like a simple one page calendar that I can post by my office door and easily copy and distribute where appropriate. I include the most important activities and events for the school counseling program for the entire school year.  These include monthly awareness, classroom lesson themes, small groups, and other activities like the advisory committee meetings, conferences, and analysis of data.  This calendar communicates the program's priorities and is a public relations tool that informs stakeholders about specific details like the dates of parent workshops. I update it at least quarterly and adjust for changes in planned activities, snow days that require changes, etc. I have the calendar drafted before the start of the school year so I can get important dates on the school-wide calendar and avoid conflicts.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

School Web Site

We have not gone back to school yet so I spent several hours today updating my school web page. See it here I still need to tackle the calendar and a few formatting issues but otherwise it is ready to go. The primary audience for my school web page is parents but I do have a Counselor to Counselor page.
We have to use a standard format as part of  our school's web page but after a year I have adapted. I like the Blog embedded feature. The Blog and the calendar are the parts I update most frequently during the school year. When I make a new blog post on my school web site there is a button I just click and it goes to my Twitter feed. My Blog posts are read by many more parents than the monthly newsletters I use to spend much more time writing. There are many more features I can add but last school year our school had no IT support. We have a new staff member this year for that role so check back later, I am hoping to make some improvements once I get some training and technology support.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Back to School: Part 4 - Effective Strategies for Helping Students Reduce Anxiety

Helping students with anxiety is a topic I have researched, lived, and presented on extensively. I share most of my presentations in LiveBinders so if you want to see the PowerPoint from the ASCA webinar, my state conference presentation, or from the ASCA National conference on anxiety check them out on the Anxiety, Stress, and Worry tab The binder also has links to some good articles and resources about helping children reduce anxiety.

There are new resources being developed all time to help children manage anxiety. For individuals, I begin by assessing how big a concern anxiety is for them. I do this a variety of ways but one all the students seem to favor is selecting the stone that represents the amount of discomfort their worries are currently causing them daily. I have a small pebble, a 1-2 inch rock, and a 4-5 inch rock that I keep on my window sill and bring out. I say, "you could have a little anxiety and it fits in your pocket and you only notice it occasionally, a medium size rock in your pocket that you would notice every time you moved, and a heavy rock that would weigh down your backpack." Once I know how big a problem the child perceives their anxiety issues to be I start assessing their coping tools. What have they tried so far that works to reduce their anxiety when they are stressed? What did not work? If I do see a student for ongoing short term counseling we set a goal to reduce anxiety and quantify it (for K-1 to make it a pebble and for grades 2-5 to reduce it from a __ to below 5 on a 10 point scale). I have found that students who are highly perfectionist or compulsive do not like groups and will only agree to individual support.

If possible I try to have most students with anxiety issues participate in small group counseling. It has many advantages and students  help one another as much as I help them. For groups, especially in grade 2 my students love worrywoos The books in this series are great and the website offers some good materials to create activities.I have done a whole group based on the worrywoos.  For more resources check out my pinterest/worry--anxiety-stress board. Some of my favorite picture books on anxiety are: Hey Warrior, Caterpillar's Wings, The Huge Bag of Worries, and The Worry Glasses. I generally teach a strategy each session and provide members opportunities to practice (calming exercises, deep breathing, mindfulness, etc.)

Stress is so pervasive in my school I teach a class lesson on techniques to reduce stress in grades 3-5. I think this further helps normalize anxiety issues and gives all students a few tools to self-regulate when experiencing normal stress. Since we use Second Step I use their lessons in the classroom.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Back to School: Part 3 - Counselors Supporting Students with Anxiety

Last year I wrote an article for ASCA "Address Student Anxiety" it provides lots of details about how to help It discusses how to work with parents, staff, and students in the school environment.

One of the most useful books for counselors on this topic is Working with Parents of Anxious Children: Therapeutic Strategies for Encouraging Communication, Coping, & Change. The author, Christopher McCurry, outlines the behaviors and symptoms to look for in children with anxiety disorders, and offers a guide for clinicians who work with their families.

When working with children who are reluctant to come to school I try to make a deal with the families, you get them in the building and I will keep them here. Many parents have told me how much they appreciated knowing that if they hung tough and got their child in the door I would work out a plan to make them feel safe inside.

If you have been a counselor very long you have probably had a child brought to you after the bell crying and clinging to a parent. Once you can get the parent to leave the building then you need to start your work with the child with the goal to get them in their classroom ASAP. I generally start by saying, "I am here with you and you are safe." Often I begin by acknowledging that right now their body does not feel OK. This begins the psycho-education of teaching them common body responses to anxiety and normalizing what they are feeling but correcting the misconception that they are "sick". Next I address their emotions and generally have them scale their unpleasant feelings. I have many scales readily available in my office from simple color coded and 1-5 scales for the young ones to 1-10 with a range of emotion vocabulary for older students. Finally their distorted thinking needs to be addressed. I acknowledge that they are telling themselves they are not safe in school (away from parent) but in reality they know they are - it is just their "worry brain" sending a false alarm. Once the student begins to calm down I try to get them to walk with me to class. 

I find small groups to be the most effective place to teach skills to students who need help with emotion regulation. I cannot possibly provide individual counseling to all my students with anxiety issues.  I offer groups for students who need to develop coping tools to students in grade 1-5 using both CBT and Mindfulness.  I typically start my first round of groups in late September or early October which means the first few weeks of school I am probably doing more individual counseling than any other month. Students with anxiety issues are my number one referral reason and this is typical for most school counselors from both elementary and secondary levels according to surveys conducted by ASCA.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Back to School: Part 2 - Help Teachers Handle Students with Anxiety

Many teachers do not understand anxiety and need some basic information before they understand saying "Just relax" or "Calm Down" will not help. If students had the skills to do this they would. Anxiety is often confused with other issues like ADHD, willful behavior, and school avoidance. Teachers often blame the caregivers, and although they may play a role in making the anxious behavior worse, they are not the cause. Teachers can provide parents with strategies for preparing the child for school and the classroom. At our school we invite students we know are very anxious to visit the classroom before the regular Open House so they can have a few minutes to meet the teacher and get a feel for their new class privately. This has helped many students feel more confident on the first day of class.

Particularly at the beginning of the school year, or after a long break from school, students with anxiety are going to frequently show signs of increased stress. What helps anxious students can frequently benefit all students: provide a warm and inviting classroom environment, establish clear routines at arrival, give students movement breaks, go outside whenever possible, play relaxing music, dim the lights for a quiet time after lunch/recess, practice mindful breathing. Students with anxiety need an organized and predictable routine and warnings when there will be changes.

Teachers can use help identifying common triggers of anxiety like morning meeting when students are expected to give eye contact and greet peers, assessments, large assemblies, the cafeteria,  presenting in front of class, and substitutes. The teacher should also know what helps a particular student gain a sense of control and calm (such as a pass to go get a drink). Many students with anxiety benefit from having a list of 3 "safe persons" that they can go to for a break or help, especially when the regular classroom teacher is not available.


Reaching and Teaching Stressed and Anxious Learners in Grades 4-8: Strategies for Relieving Distress and Trauma in Schools and Classrooms (2015) by Barbara E. Oehlberg

Your Anxious Child: How Parents and Teachers Can Relieve Anxiety in Children 2nd Edition (2016) by John Dacey, Martha D. Mack, Lisa B. Fiore 

On line

This site does a good job of explaining Anxiety in the Classroom

Some students with an anxiety disorder will be eligible for a 504 Plan. Some of the common accomodationsor modifications requested are described on these sites

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Back to School: Part 1 - Resources for Parents to Help Children with Anxiety

August means the end of summer vacation and the time to start back to school. Children frequently experience a wide range of emotions about the start of a school year including excitement, worry, and sadness. The emotions about a new school year can start showing weeks before the first day of class. Many parents report an increase in meltdowns and anxious talk at bedtime even before the "Meet Your Teacher" Open House.

I always recommend to parents, that if possible, not to travel just before school opens, instead plan to be in town and attend the Open House and get children back on a school schedule (generally earlier bedtimes than were the norm during summer). Also to try to arrange a play date with a classmate once it is known who will be in each class. We can all appreciate that having a familiar face in class helps with Back-to-School jitters. I remind parents that for children the start of the school year can be highly stressful. It is important that parents express optimism about the new school year and not feed into the child's concern about a certain teacher or classmate. Parents can also role-play with their child to prepare them to greet the teacher at Open House, introduce themselves to students they do not know, etc.

Most children will adjust to a new school year within a month. If after the first month of school a child is reluctant to come in the building on their own or expressing regular concern, I encourage parents to talk to the teacher and myself to see if we can help with the adjustment or discuss if a child may be experiencing serious separation anxiety. The main differences between separation anxiety and separation anxiety disorder are the intensity of your child’s fears, and whether these fears keep him or her from normal activities. Children with separation anxiety disorder may become agitated at just the thought of being away from mom or dad, and may complain of sickness to avoid playing with friends or attending school. When symptoms are extreme enough, these anxieties can add up to a disorder that affects approximately 4%-5% of children in the U. S. ages 7 to 11 years. It is less common in teenagers, affecting about 1.3% of American teens. It affects boys and girls equally. If a parent collaborating with the teacher, counselor, and student can't improve a students anxiety a referral may be warranted.

It is very important that parents understand anxiety if they are going to be successful in helping an anxious child. Parents need to work to make an anxious child feel safer not let them avoid the source of anxiety. There are many good books to help parents learn more about anxiety and related concerns. The ones from the past 10 years I recommend are the following:

Helping Your Anxious Child: A Step-by-Step Guide for Parents by R. M. Rapee et al. (2008) provides parents a guide for assisting their children in overcoming a variety of worries, fears, and anxieties.

Growing Up Brave: Expert Strategies for Helping Your Child Overcome Fear, Stress, and Anxiety by Donna Pincus (2012) helps parents identify and understand anxiety in their children, outlines effective and convenient parenting techniques for reducing anxiety, and shows parents how to promote bravery for long-term confidence.

Helping Your Child Overcome Separation Anxiety or School Refusal: A Step-by-Step Guide for Parents by Andrew R. Eisen & Linda Engler (2006) helps parents/guardians: a) identify child’s unique safety needs; b) empower child with simple and effective coping skills; c) guide child to better sleep and regular school attendance; and d) monitor progress.

Overcoming School Anxiety: How to Help Your Child Deal with Separation, Tests, Homework, Bullies, Math Phobia, and Other Worries by Diane Peters Mayer (2008) shows parents how to deal with a wide variety of problems, from test and homework anxiety, to bullying, and fear of speaking up in class. Mayer also offers easy-to-learn techniques for children including breathing and relaxation exercises, focusing techniques, and tips on proper diet and exercise that help relieve stress.

Freeing Your Child from Anxiety, Revised and Updated Edition: Practical Strategies to Overcome Fears, Worries, and Phobias and Be Prepared for Life--from Toddlers to Teens (2014) explains some of the ways they "help" actually makes children more anxious. The book explains how parents and children can work TOGETHER against the anxiety.

Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents by Reid Wilson and Lynn Lyons (2013) offers an effective approach to help children and teens push through their fears, worries, and phobias to ultimately become more resilient, independent, and happy.

Why Smart Kids Worry: And What Parents Can Do to Help by Allison Edwards (2013) guides parents through the mental and emotional process of where a child's fears come from and why they are so hard to move past. Edwards focuses on how to parent a child who is both smart and anxious.

Your Anxious Child: How Parents and Teachers Can Relieve Anxiety in Children 2nd Edition (2016) by John Dacey, Martha D. Mack, Lisa B. Fiore (Author) designed to help parents, teachers, and counselors support young people suffering from anxiety. Offers an array of innovative strategies organized into the authors’ four-step “COPE” program. Each strategy is accompanied by a set of activities contextualized with full details of the appropriate age level, materials needed, suggested setting, and a template script.

There are several good web sites that offer advice to parents regarding anxiety. These have good free resources for parents and and

Future posts will focus on resources for counselors, teachers, and children to develop a helpful approach to anxiety.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Explain going to therapy to young children

When I need to refer a student for private therapy parents of young children frequently ask me, "How should I explain that I am taking my child to a therapist?" I was happy to find this simple children's book written by a few private psychologist which explains some things that typically happen in therapy, about confidentiality, and that it will take more than one session to help. I am sure I will be sharing this with several parents once school resumes.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017


As school counselors return for a new school year it is the perfect time to focus on our role of advocacy. Events like Open House, first day of school, and Back-to-School Night provide face-time with families so it is imperative to have a plan to maximize these opportunities. Remember to use data to show how students are different as a result of the school counseling program. An advocacy orientation involves not only systems change interventions but also the implementation of
empowerment strategies in direct counseling.
Advocacy is
1) an ethical and legal imperative for school counselors.
2) the desire to be a voice for students so that the school acts in students’ best interests.
3) teaching students to be self-advocates.
4) educating legislators, school board members, parents, administrators, and teachers about the school counseling program.
5) joining a professional organization which provides school counselors with a legislative voice.

Technology offers many tools for advocacy. A well designed counseling program web page, a blog, electronic flyers (, and social media like Twitter are a few I use on a regular basis. For example, all of our school board members follow me on Twitter so when I share what lessons, groups, workshops I am doing and their impact they can see in the comfort of their own home or office the impact of the school counseling program in my school!
Here are a few resources if you do not have a lot of training in advocacy. I print copies of the ASCA National Model Executive Summary and share it frequently with stakeholders.


Thursday, August 3, 2017

If you are not familiar with this web site I strongly recommend you check it out. Although it is primarily designed for parents it has many useful references for educators. You will also want to tell parent of children with learning and attention issues to  explore it. I learned about it from an ASCA webinar which you can watch but it pretty much just walks you through the site so you don't really need to watch it. I added it to my bookmarks and I am sure you will too.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Activities to Introduce Topics to Groups

When planning small groups once I have determined my goals, the competencies the students in the particular group need to practice, and key concepts to cover I begin selecting materials and activities that will engage the members. I like to use props and a fun activity to introduce important topics. I use a variety of props but some of the ones I use frequently are koosh balls, cotton balls, straws, balloons, bean bags, and hula hoops. I never just do an activity because it is fun, I tie it to a specific outcome or competency so when it is complete there is something to process. In this post I am sharing 3 of my favorite cotton ball activities.

Supplies: Cotton balls, drinking straws, space (a big table or the floor)

Self-regulation: This game demonstrates that breathing takes practice, controlled breathing, and focus. Students get into partners standing a good arm’s length apart. Students begin by blowing the cotton ball at their partner. The goal is to hit their partner with the cotton ball using only their breath. When done, students stand with their feet apart. They then take turns trying to score a goal by blowing the cotton ball through their partner’s feet. Finally, each individual student places their cotton ball on the palm of their hand. Their challenge is to slowly blow the cotton ball to the tip of their index finger without blowing it off the hand. (I learned this one at the training I attended last summer for the MindUp curriculum.)
Cooperation: Partners sit with straws in mouths. Directions: Fist person picks up a cotton ball by sucking the straw. Then pass the ball to partner’s straw without letting it drop. Second person can then let the cotton balls drop in the bowl. Winning team gets most cotton balls into bowl using only the straws.
Problem Solving: 1. Set a Starting Line and a Finish Line (10 to 15 feet apart.) 2. Give each player a drinking straw and a cotton ball. 3. Let them know they must move their cotton ball from the Starting Line to the Finish Line using only the straw. 4. Tip - Don't tell them how to use it. They can use it like a hockey stick or use it as a straw and blow the cotton ball.5. The 1st person to get their cotton ball across the finish line wins.

I always down play winning and talk about the importance of team work and sportsmanship. Children love activities. When they come into my office someone in almost every group asks, "Are we going to do an activity today?" It is worth the time to look for activities that help teach the concepts and skills you want members to acquire as the result of being in a group. If you have a great activity with a prop please add to comments below.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Feelings Ladders

In order for children to regulate emotions they need to understand that all feelings are okay and there are many nuances to emotions especially the level of intensity. Children need to have a rich emotional vocabulary to label and express feelings. They need to be very aware of  how they are reacting to choose an appropriate strategy to manage the feeling. For anger counselors often use a thermometer but for other feelings like levels of "Afraid" I find a ladder is a better visual for most kids. After we brainstorm and discuss a particular "feeling family" like afraid or unsure they can select and write on a blank ladder handout low, medium, and high feelings in that category they experience. For example:
Anxious, Nervous, Uneasy, Frightened, Panicky, and Terrified. For some students it may be helpful to color the steps that are low green, medium yellow, and high red. Using Feelings Ladders helps students better understand emotions and then you can discuss appropriate coping tools for each level. For example if a student is anxious they may need to use take a movement break, if they are uneasy slow deep breathing, and if they are panicky seek help from an adult or self-talk.  They can write their go to strategy for each level on this handout to help them remember what might work for them. I have used Feelings Ladders both individually and in small groups from grades 2-5. You could also make a blank Feelings Ladder poster and laminate it to reuse.

Friday, July 28, 2017


One of my favorite benefits of being an ASCA member is the fact that you can view all their webinars on demand for free. During the school year I never have time to watch them but each summer I take the time to watch the ones that will hep me improve my program and practice. I encourage all elementary (and middle school) counselors to watch Confident Me, A Free Body Confidence Program (2017) delivered by Jessica Lawrance. This same program was presented at the ASCA National Conference earlier this month. The purpose of the webinar and session was to make counselors aware of this evidence-based free curriculum and encourage them to try it out in their schools. They are even offering a great incentive to those educators who try it out this fall and complete a brief survey. You can apply then to be entered in a drawing to earn an all expense paid trip to your state conference or ASCA 18! Watch the webinar for more details.
The program addresses how "Low body confidence and low self-esteem have a strong influence on a child's learning and school life. Anxiety about drawing attention to appearance has been linked to reduced capacity to focus and less active participation or engagement in class, resulting in poorer academic performance. Six out of 10 girls admit to avoiding at least one “normal” everyday activity because of feeling concerned about their looks, with one in 10 admitting to skipping school for this reason." 
You can teach either the 5 session or 1 session curriculum and be eligible. The curriculum primarily targets middle school but it is definitely appropriate for upper elementary. It is designed to be delivered to girls and boys together but can also be done separately. Each lesson has an educators guide, a short PowerPoint, and student worksheet download from Learn more from other schools using the program by following #DoveSelfEsteemProject on Twitter.
I like that this program addresses all the negative body talk our students engage in and explains the reality behind media appearance.  There is a lesson that explains the metaphor sinking in a "whirlpool of comparisons." Kids today are bombarded with pressure to fit an perfect body type that does not really exist. It is great that Dove offers this resource for free with no effort to sell their products. They are currently revising it to be more applicable to diverse American schools so check back later in the year or follow along on Twitter to see when it gets updated. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Literature-Based Bullying Program

Our school has used a literature based bullying prevention and intervention program from K-grade 5 for the past ten years. For a bullying program to be effective it cannot be totally on the shoulders of the counselors. The program also must evolve according to changing needs and feedback from evaluations. Last year all the counselors in our County were required to do the skill based lessons based on the Committee for Children's Bullying Unit which is evidence-based. These lessons are engaging and do a very good job addressing electronic bullying in grades 3-5. Because the counselors had to deliver the evidence-based lessons they no longer had time to do the read alouds as they had done in prior years, Therefore we tried either the principal or assistant principle reading those books to K-3; it was so well received this year I selected books for them to read to the upper grades as well.

The administrators read these books at the end of October which is National Bullying Prevention Month. We are pushing the skill based lessons and books the librarian reads into November because this topic requires prior knowledge before it can be taught and we try to use the first six weeks of the school year teaching children what we want them to do. Our librarian is a former counselor so she happily reads and does an activity at each grade level as long as I assign her good books! The teachers had been reading the same books for several years so this list reflects what they will read this year.  There are new books published on this topic every year so we wanted to make sure we were sharing the best of what is now available. These are the books I selected to address the theme of bullying behavior.  We encourage the teachers to read these books in January as a means of revisiting this important topic as the school year progresses.

The entire school uses the Committee for Children definition of bullying and uses the Responsive Classroom Code of Conduct CARES: Cooperation, Assertiveness, Responsibility, Empathy, and Self-Control. All students are taught an assertive response is usually the best way to handle challenging behavior and to be positive, helpful bystanders or "upstanders" - not provide an audience or join in. All staff receives annual training on how to respond to disrespectful behavior and what to do if the reported behavior is bullying. Our state requires schools to use a research-based program to address bullying. We evaluate this program annually to make continual improvement. Data from the evaluation and incidents of bullying reports and coaching session are shared each year with teachers during pre-service week.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Help Your Anxious Child: Tips from a Child Therapist

This child therapist specializes in helping parents whose children have excessive anxiety and/or OCD. I recommend her website to parents frequently. She makes it clear that parents should not over accommodate  anxiety behaviors and let children avoid challenges like sleeping in own room or going to school. She cautions parents that getting frustrated and asking them to something they clearly are not ready to handle like a sleepover party are the two extreme parenting styles. She has some simple practical suggestions for a balanced approach for parents to use in coaching children to "crush" anxiety. She starts by telling parents to discuss anxiety with the child and give it a name to externalize it and keep it from eroding the child's self-esteem. That is where I usually begin when doing individual counseling with students who have too much anxiety. She has some great articles and has published two books, This video addresses a question I get every week as a school counselor,"How can I help my anxious child?"

Thursday, July 13, 2017

New to Elementary Counseling or Starting at a New School: Ten Places to Start

    New beginnings are very exciting but also can feel overwhelming. I just want to offer ten things I did when I started at my current school based on what I learned at my first assignment.

1 Examine all the school data you have access to including the Report Card and what is online. If there was a previous school counselor that collected and shared any data look at that too.
2 Discuss implanting the ASCA National Model with your administrator(s). Give them a copy of the Executive Summary available for download on ASCA website. Let them know you want to implement the Model with fidelity which will require an Annual Agreement with them and an Advisory Council that meets at least twice a year.  Let the principal know you think it is best to begin with a needs assessment of staff, parents, and students to help gather data to set program goals. ANMExecSumm.pdf
3 Get to know colleagues including all classroom teachers and support staff.  Explain when and how staff can make referrals for individual or group counseling. Let classroom teachers know when you will begin teaching lesson, how many lessons you will teach and their length, and how to sign up for a mutually agreed upon time slot.
4 Set up your office in a way that works for you. I like to have a group table, an area rug for activities, and a small work station for my electronic devices. I recommend keeping minimum paper files and store important forms, articles, etc. electronically. I use Google Drive, Dropbox, and Livebinders rather than have a file cabinet. The only paper files I keep are for Risk Assessments and active student files for individual counseling.
5  Determine which electronic calendar is used primarily in your building. Since we use mostly Outlook I keep my schedule in it. The School Counseling Program schedule is open to view by all teachers and administrators. The teachers can tell which blocks I have reserved for groups and meetings and schedule their class lessons in any flexible time slot.  If I need to pull an individual student at a certain time, I will enter that as well (but not the student’s name). My teachers sign up for a monthly lesson in grades 2-5 for 30 minutes; in kindergarten and first grade I teach more but for 20-minute time slots. If they need to change a lesson after Sunday evening they must send me an email so I am aware of the switch. I print a hard copy of my weekly calendar from Outlook every Monday morning. The weekly calendar is used to document how you are spending your time.
6  Begin building the Annual School Counseling Program Calendar and how you will publish and share it for stakeholders to see. The Annual Calendar has direct services like the core curriculum (example monthly themes for lessons in classrooms) and small groups but not individual counseling. It also indicates indirect services like Parent Teacher Conference Days and special activities sponsored by counseling program (First Friday College Wear Days). I set the dates for the Advisory Council meetings and include them.
7  Begin keeping a list of things you might want to purchase but before spending your own money ask if there are funds allocated for the counseling program. I get money from a variety of sources including the same teacher supply fund available to classroom teachers, a small amount from our central office annually, sometimes money from my school’s budget for curriculum, and the school’s PTA.
8  Figure out the best way to communicate with parents in your learning community. I primarily use Twitter because almost all teachers use it and parents follow staff that work with their children. I also have a web page, blog, and calendar that is housed on the school’s website. We are discouraged from using paper newsletters, brochures, etc. in an effort to be a green school.
9 Decide how you are going to get to know all the students. It is extremely important to know the students’ names and begin to get to know them. In addition to introducing yourself and your role in classes find other ways to get facetime. I always stand in the hall outside my office at arrival and dismissal and greet and chat with students. At the beginning of the school year I try to get to all lunch periods and recesses at least once to mix and mingle. I also create a class picture by downloading student pictures from our school’s information system. I look at this before I go in to teach and quiz myself on students’ names the first quarter of the school year. The kindergarten students and new students won’t have pictures in the information system right away but our kindergarten takes a class photo the first week of school so I ask the teacher for a copy and write names on it. I take pictures of all new students in grades 1-5 at my Welcome New Students celebrations and I just put a copy of their photos with their class. 
10 Plan your Core Curriculum that you will be teaching throughout the year. Determine what your District expects first. Out District requires we use evidence-based programs and provides each school with Second Step and MindUp. We have to report and provide evaluations for at least 10 lessons using this curriculum. We also must teach a career unit based on the National Career Clusters. For many years, we did not have a District Supervisor of counseling and we all had to develop our own lessons. That took so much time and although I finally had lessons I loved and felt were effective, using evidence-based curriculum is the direction the counseling field is moving towards. If you don't have any District requirements be sure to consult with your administrator about what they expect about how many lessons all students will receive.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

College Awareness and Planning NACAC Free Curriculum

Check out this free online resource just published by National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). The elementary section has introductory lessons and activities for kindergarten through grade 2 and multiple lessons and activities for grades 4 and 5. My favorite lesson is grade 4, "Careers by Degrees". https://www.nacac2017stepbystep.pdf

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Follow Me on Twitter!

My favorite technology tool is Twitter and its companion Tweet Deck (dashboard for the hashtags I follow most closely). I use Twitter professionally  in so many ways, but most importantly to network with people and groups that interest me. I do NOT use it to share anything personal, that I save for my Facebook friends. I do belong to the Closed Facebook Group Elementary School Counselor Exchange which is a part of my online Professional Learning Network (PLN). You simply search for the name of the group and ask to join; there are more than 14,000 members and it is a great place to ask questions of other elementary counselors or share your ideas if you feel like you have something that would help another elementary counselor. The advantage (and sometimes disadvantage) of Facebook is there is not a limit to number of characters like Twitter so posts can be longer.

My school uses Twitter to communicate with our Tech savvy parents. I have had parents say to me, "I feel like I talk to you every day and know exactly what you are doing." At first those comments gave me pause but that is exactly what I want. I send out pictures of my classroom lessons so parents can ask when the child comes home, tell me what you learned from Dr. McCormac today? Keep in mind that a Tweet may contain photos, videos, links (count as 23 characters) up to 140 characters of text. I send out links to good articles on parenting, information about upcoming activities like College Wear Fridays, and ideas for helping the whole child to name a few. I do not follow parents (or students including former students). I am very aware that administrators and school board members follow me so I use it as a way to showcase my school counseling program.  It is very important to school counseling that we market and advocate for our programs and inform stakeholders how students are different based on the services we provide.

As I mentioned I am #notatasca17 but am closely following that hashtag and #asca17.  That is how I was able to learn that my Twitter account and a few other counselors who love Twitter were shared as part of an ASCA Conference presentation (slide above) and better yet get the link to the PowerPoint for Angela Cleveland's PowerPoint presentations Angela is very tech savvy and through Twitter I have learned a lot about how to improve my counseling program from @rsabella and @CounselingGeek

A big part of my PLN are Twitter Chats. These provide an online opportunity to engage with other school counselors around the globe! My two favorites are #scchat the first Wednesday of each month at 8 PM EST and #escchat usually two Thursdays a month. These chats typically don't "meet" during summer vacations. Sometimes they have co-hosts like ASCA or a graduate school counseling program. The moderator(s) select a specific topic like Small Groups or ADHD and pose about 8 questions in an hour and give participants an opportunity to respond. Just like on Twitter you don't have to "Tweet" you can just follow the chats called lurking (especially until you feel comfortable). I follow the chats on TweetDeck but you can also use TweetChat (search on your computer and bookmark).

Another feature of Twitter that many users don't take advantage of is the Advanced Search tool. Once you do a search say "elementary school counseling" then click on the Search filters on the left, then Advanced Search. Here you can add exact phrases, hashtags, a range of dates, etc. This can help you find a post you want to read again, a subtopic of your search, etc.

Twitter allows you to have a diverse and innovative network and drive your own professional development. As school counselors we sit through many required staff development activities that are great for classroom teachers but not helpful to us. With Twitter you control who you follow. For example when I first started using Twitter I only followed other elementary counselors and counselor educators but quickly realized I can learn a lot from secondary counselors as well. I also follow organizations that explore issues I am passionate about like mental health, mindfulness, trauma-sensitive counseling to name a few. As a user you get to decide how many people and groups you follow!

Feeling Families

I find it helpful to teach students there are 4 basic groups of feelings that have different levels of energy. This is a way of organizing emotions and helping students think about what emotion they are having, to what degree, and select an appropriate coping strategy. These are the same categories used in CBT Mixed Emotions activity that I wrote about previously for upper grade students with good vocabularies playtherapygames/mixed-emotions I used the feeling faces stickers from Conscious Discipline because those or ones I teach in the classroom in kindergarten and grade 1 so my students are familiar with them. This chart can be used to brainstorm additional feelings and they can be added with sticky notes or because it is laminated written on the chart with dry erase markers.
I keep the chart of the 4 families up in my office all the time because I use it frequently in individual and groups counseling sessions. For individual counseling this chart can be used as a check in by adding a scale. I ask (and record to determine patterns and hopefully progress) on a scale of ) to ten with 0=not having that category of emotions at all since our previous session to 10=Having that as strongly as I can remember having that category of emotions. So a client might be at 6/10 for happy and clam; 5/10 for anxious unsure feelings; 7/10 for angry frustrated; 4/10 for sad or left out. I then ask the student to tell me what happened that made them give that family each number.
For groups I am showing you some things I do reinforce and use feeling families with my self-regulation groups (where we work on controlling our bodies first, then our emotions, and finally our thoughts). For my emotion regulation groups, depending on the grade level, I do the activity sheets above. I make a word bank with a variety of grade level appropriate emotions and they write them in the correct house. This can be easily extended to reinforce I messages by having a member pick a feeling from the house and use it in an I message. These activity sheets go home so parents know what students are learning in group.
Using the Feelings Families has helped my students recognize, understand, label, and express their emotions with more clarity. It helps me tailor a discussion of coping tools that are sometimes effective dealing with each of the 3 unpleasant families of emotions. For example, take a break or walk away is a go strategy for anger but not for anxiety or sadness.