Sunday, February 25, 2018

How to Help a Child Having a Meltdown at School

According to educators and parents need to be able to recognize and respond differently to tantrums vs. meltdowns. You can get an expanded version of the chart above for free at

  • Tantrums happen when a child is trying to get something he wants or needs.
  • Meltdowns occur when a child feels overwhelmed by his feelings or surroundings.
  • Knowing the difference between tantrums and meltdowns can help you manage these outbursts.
  • I discourage teachers from bringing me students who are having temper tantrums; however, sometimes I will help calm a child who is having a sensory meltdown because meltdowns last longer and can be shortened more easily in a less sensory stimulating environment. I help mostly with students who I know very well and have usually in small groups or see for individual check ins.  It is very helpful if you know a child well because you are familiar with what strategies generally work and if there is already a specific plan in place.  This is one reason I like my office to be a calming environment and now showcase bright colors or too many "decorations". I have my ceiling lights covered with blue filters and have a small lamp on my desk. 
  • Frequently when a chid is brought to me upset I will tell them I am going to turn off some of the lights and would like then to sit on a chair backwards facing my blank wall of brown cabinets. That way they can give themselves some pressure using the back of the chair. When a child comes to me who is very "dysregulated" and needs calming I first remind myself to stay calm and speak quietly. I choose my words carefully to encourage the child to resume control and let the child know I am available to help. For example, "You are having a tough time lets figure this out together." I try to get them to label their feeling and tell me how strong it is (scale 1-5 or 1-10 depending on age). I offer suggestions of what has helped other children like slow deep breaths (even suggesting ones we have done in classroom or group), stretching, etcetera. 
  • Once the child is regaining control I ask, "what do you need to do to be ready to return to class." It could be as simple as go get a drink of water, splash face with water in bathroom, or play a game for 5 minutes as a distraction. Many children will want to go home after a meltdown but we rarely allow that because they need to see they can get upset and still stay in school. Sometimes they may need to sit by themselves for a brief time when they return to class until they have more composure and control. If necessary I will stay in the room for 5 minutes especially if the room is noisy when I try to help the child reenter.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Fair is Fair

It is hard to teach children about fairness. Children from a young age can perceive differences and are beginning to learn social rules; however, our brain also wants rewards and complicates a reaction to what it might register as injustice teaching-children-to-be-fair This delightful children's book by Varela explains giving each individual what they need not the same (amount) helps children understand fairness is not equal or the same. We have used it in classes to explain why children with special needs are given special flexible seating or fidgets but not al students need and benefit from them (they are a tool not tools). We have also used the book in self-regulation groups to talk about scenarios where initially things seemed "unfair" but after thinking it through or looking at it from another point of view it was fair. I have also recommended it to parents to explain why siblings of different ages have different responsibilities and privileges.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

February is Kindness Month

This is my new second grade lesson on compassion featuring Heart Bubbles, another book by Dr. Krantz. It seemed very appropriate this week because it was Random Acts of Kindness Week and Valentine's Day. I particularly like that it has a focus on self-compassion. Just like you can't make friends unless you like yourself, it is hard to show compassion unless you take care of your own wellness (another opportunity to talk about the importance of positive self-talk, healthy eating, and sleep hygiene).  BACK is the mnemonic Dr. Krantz uses in the book to remember the key points. I have that printed in the center of the worksheet and they draw and label an act of compassion they can do for themselves, animals, others, and the earth. I think kindness is one of the most important things we teach our students.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Look for the helpers

My heart goes out to the school personnel in Florida dealing with the aftermath of another violent and deadly act on school grounds. I am sure it is also a trigger for those folks that have survived previous similar incidents. As school counselors we want to help students feel safe at school. This is becoming more difficult in our country. The incident yesterday popped up on the cell phones of our upper elementary age children. With technology so widespread more and more young people are being exposed to graphic coverage filmed by people in the building during these attacks. The only thing I can think to say is to my students is that is why we have drills that save may lives and we have well trained first responders. Is it any wonder anxiety rates are rising among our population! 

Friday, February 9, 2018

Great book for overcoming a fear

This Caldecott Medal Winner is a must have for all school counselors' book shelves. It tells the story of how Humpty Dumpty got back up high again after his traumatic fall that caused him to feel afraid. The book is a good size to be used as a read aloud in a classroom. I plan on adding it to my third grade Second Step lesson that addresses anxiety. The message is clear we must face our fears! It would also be a great addition to an emotion regulation or stress and anxiety small group.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Exploring Mindfulness with Kids

Mind Bubbles by Dr. Heather Krantz provides an easy way to introduce children to mindfulness in the classroom or a small groups. Read how Dr. Krantz suggests it be done  /mindfulness-and-self-compassion We use the MindUp curriculum in the classroom at our school so I will be using this book in a small group where I can blow soap bubbles and not have 25 kids get overly excited. The book makes it a SNAP to teach this process and includes a very nice 3 minute meditation to be read aloud by an adult. Parents may want to use this book at home as well so I will include a copy in our Mindfulness Parent Resource Pack that I loan families who want to know more about this topic. The research is showing mindfulness is good for mental health so it is nice to have another resource about it.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Happy #NSCW18

I hope you are advocating for school counseling this week. I am always grateful that ASCA really promotes our field so well, particularly using the School Counselor of the Year and this week to raise attention to what we do. We are working at the state and district level very hard to position ourselves to lower student to counselor ratios in the future. That requires lots of branding, marketing, and advocacy. Our state proposed legislation this month to mandate the 1:250 ratio for high school. It did not pass this year but we are still trying to get language in a budget amendment to add money for more school counselors. In order for our state SCA to be effective counselors must join. I think it is our professional obligation to join both our state SCA and ASCA. That is who lobbies for our positions. This year our district supervisor bought every counselor a shirt with our district logo and School Counseling in bold yellow letters underneath. I am wearing my "counseling gear" every day this week. We have signs with streamers and some teachers have kids make cards for us. We always schedule the School Counseling Advisory Council Meeting during this week and we give our members treats (we do not give something to all teachers). Our district and schools actively use social media and our web pages to promote school counseling this week. We are also having students from 3 of our elementary schools present a Second Step lesson (that we taught them) to our School Board. The Board Members remember student presentations much more than staff PowerPoints! If you have other good ideas, please leave a comment.