Ms. Scott's Counseling Corner
What School Counselors Want Parents To Know This Year
School counselors are the understated superheroes of schools. They’re always there to lend advice, provide a shoulder to cry on, and to serve as motivators for students. Since they do give such wonderful and thoughtful advice and are fierce advocates for our children, what school counselors want parents to know this year could give you some serious relief. It doesn't matter what school looks like for your family this year, whether it's digital, in-person, or some kind of hybrid. What matters is that your children feel safe and loved and protected, according to counselors.
For kids who are doing some form of virtual learning, the most important thing to have is a routine and some sort of predictability. School psychologist Rebecca Branstetter tells Romper, “Routines and predictability are proven to be calming during times of stress. So that means the best thing to do is to provide structure to the days as much as possible. That doesn’t mean outlining a strict schedule that perfectly mirrors a school day, but more of defining a new normal for the time being.”
Frankie Lynn Clardy, a retired school counselor of 14 years says that routine can also help parents check their child’s social-emotional level. “When you establish structure, setting time and expectations, you can look for signs of shutdown or resistance.”
Some imperative red flags to look out for in your children who are distance learning include a drastic change in mood and lack of focus, according to school counselor Kelly West. “Students may feel reluctant at times to participate in virtual learning based on the loss of in-person social engagement with teachers and peers. It’s not the same, despite the ability to view faces and chat in an online learning room, however the adjustment behaviorally is one for parents to observe with their child to support during this adjustment period.”
Clardy says to also look out for any kind of behavior that isn't typical of your child, like talking back or refusing to do their work. “If you also see signs that your child has become a worry wart, having temper tantrums or unusual sleep patterns, these could also be indicators of some social-emotional problems," Clardy adds, suggesting that quarantine itself may be to blame for some of these changes, and not just digital learning.
West also says that it helps to be aware of your child's ability to focus while learning online. "A child learning at home may become easily distracted with various stimuli — TV on, loud noises , window views — so if at all possible, create a learning station/space designated for learning based on your child’s needs.”
To help combat any negative feelings, Clardy says it’s important for kids to be active and to walk outside or “do some type of movement” every single day at the same time. There’s that routine again. She adds that children need a lot of breaks when doing online learning. “Every child is traumatized in some way by this new normal. They may be traumatized because they never got to tell their teacher and their friends good bye all the way to trauma from a parent's loss of job or abusive home situation."
For kids returning to school in person, Clardy says that it’s imperative to use the school staff as a resource. “Schools are very aware of the social-emotional needs of every child in the building. Schools are planning extra training for their staff in this area, with some schools planning to have morning meetings with the students so they may discuss any social-emotional issues before the academics begin.”
She suggests that if you see a change in your child's behavior once the school year has resumed, reach out to their teacher or school counselor. "Maybe the child is not exhibiting that same behavior at school and can hold it together while at school, but loses control when they are at home. Let the school help you decide if you should be worried or not.”
West says that anxiety is a major red flag for kids who are returning to school in person. “Information regarding this pandemic has been the ongoing topic of discussion since March on all social media platforms and has changed our daily lives,” she says. So it makes sense that our kids are anxious about this, too, and might feel uneasy about being around peers and staff.
No matter how your child exhibits their nervousness, it's important to talk to them about it so they feel validated and heard. "Remember that your child is not giving you a hard time, they are having a hard time," Branstetter says. “The number one thing parents can do for their children right now is to ‘hold space’ for whatever they are feeling."
She says that for older children, you can ask them if they want to process or problem-solve. Processing looks like talking about their feelings and acknowledging that this is a difficult time, while problem-solving might look like collaborating on safe solutions for more connection.
For kids who aren’t necessarily into talking about their feelings, West says to “find a safe activity like walking or asking your child to help with a small task, like folding clothes, to share a bit of your feelings about working from home or any aspect about dealing with COVID." This can help them open up and realize they aren't alone in their feelings.
The most important thing for everyone right now is to always set aside time to talk as a family, Clardy says. “Ask what is going well and not-so-well. We are all in a place of uncharted territory. The more ways we can keep check on a child's social-emotional temperature, the more we can help them work through their feelings about what is going on. Do not be afraid of the tough questions,” she says. Children need to be heard and need their feelings validated. Always.
Rebecca Branstetter, school psychologist and co-founder of Make It Stick Parenting, an online course which provides parents tools to build their children’s attention, learning, and social-emotional skills
Frankie Lynn Clardy, a former elementary teacher of 25 years, and retired school counselor of 14 years
Kelly West, a professional school counselor of 10 years
Ms. Scott's Counseling Corner
Insights from Love & Logic
Now that schools have closed due to the Coronavirus outbreak, how can parents best help their children learn and complete work while avoiding counterproductive power struggles?
Much of the answer involves sharing control within the boundaries of firm yet loving limits. It’s an old concept made even more relevant by the current situation. Most of us feel that our lives have been turned upside down. We’re experiencing little or no control over so many things.
Do we all yearn for control? What happens when we feel like we’ve lost it?
Obviously our kids are also experiencing many difficult feelings, including a sense of losing much of their freedom. That’s why small choices around schoolwork represent one of the most powerful ways of minimizing the chaos during these already difficult times. Listed below are some examples. Please remember that the choices you provide will depend on your unique situation and value system.
Will you be starting your schoolwork now or in five minutes?
What do you want to start with? Math or reading?
Do you want to make a goal of working for 30 minutes before your break, or would 25 minutes be better?
Will you be doing your work while sitting or standing?
Do you think it would be best to draft something on pencil or paper… or begin your work directly on the computer?
Would you like my help or would you prefer working alone?
Do you want to learn in the kitchen or in the family room?
Will you be working while keeping your body still, or would you rather see how much you can wiggle while still getting it done?
Should we start with the hardest part first or the easiest?
Would you rather help me with chores or get started on your schoolwork?
The key to success with this technique involves remembering three things:
Give most of your choices before your child becomes resistant… not after.
With each choice provide two options, each of which you like.
Be prepared to choose for your child if they don’t select an option you provided.
While these ideas can’t solve all of the parenting challenges we face right now, they’ll increase the odds of getting through each day with fewer power struggles.
Thanks for reading. Thanks also for all of your support during these challenging times!
Our goal is to help as many families as possible. If this is a benefit, forward it to a friend.
Dr. Charles FayMs. Scott's Counseling CornerMarch 2020
This is a time of uncertainy which can bring forth a range of emotions in you, as a parent, and in your child. Often as parents we want to take care of the uncomfortable feelings our children experience so they can feel better quickly. Their distress can cause distress for us. When we take the lead in managing their emotions, we are unintentionally telling them these emotions are bad and they cannot handle feeling them. The approach I take when I teach your students about uncomfortable feelings is these feelings are okay to have, we need to feel them and see if there is something to learn from them and then we need to use our coping skills to bring forth more comfortable feelings. You can reinforce this message at home by helping your child to feel the feeling, name it and how it is showing up (how it looks and feels in their body, words and actions) and then use a coping skill to help it move on. Examples of coping skills are Take 5 Breathing, Figure 8 Breathing, distraction, rest, play and talking it out. Coping skills are like any other skill; they need to be practiced to become automatic, just like math facts and reading skills. Please see the link on my page for examples of these skills and lists of other ideas.
Teaching Your Child Emotional Agility
By KJ DELL’ANTONIA OCT. 4, 2016
The ability to recognize and manage emotions, known as emotional intelligence, is critical to lifelong success, psychologists say. Credit Christopher Capozziello for The New York Times
It’s hard to see a child unhappy. Whether a child is crying over the death of a pet or the popping of a balloon, our instinct is to make it better, fast.
That’s where too many parents get it wrong, says the psychologist Susan David, author of the book “Emotional Agility.” Helping a child feel happy again may offer immediate relief for parent and child, but it doesn’t help a child in the long term.
“How children navigate their emotional world is critical to lifelong success,” she said.
Research shows that when teachers help preschoolers learn to manage their feelings in the classroom, those children become better problem solvers when faced with an emotional situation, and are better able to engage in learning tasks. In teenagers, “emotional intelligence,” or the ability to recognize and manage emotions, is associated with an increased ability to cope with stressful situations and greater self-esteem. Some research suggests that a lack of emotional intelligence can be used to predict symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Emotional skills, said Dr. David, are the bedrock of qualities like grit and resilience. But instead of allowing a child to fully experience a negative emotion, parents often respond with what Dr. David describes as emotional helicoptering.
“We step into the child’s emotional space,” she said, with our platitudes, advice and ideas. Many common parental strategies, like minimizing either the emotion or the underlying problem or rushing to the rescue, fail to help a child learn how to help herself.
Dr. David offers four practical steps for helping a child go through, rather than around, a negative emotion and emerge ready to keep going — feel it, show it, label it, watch it go.
Feel It. While it may seem obvious to feel emotions, many families focus on pushing away negative emotions. “When we’re saying ‘don’t be sad, don’t be angry, don’t be jealous, don’t be selfish,’ we’re not coming to the child in the reality of her emotion,” she said. “Validate and see your child as a sentient person who has her own emotional world.”
Show It. Similarly, many families have what Dr. David calls “display rules” around emotions — there are those it is acceptable to show, and those that must be hidden. “We see expressions like ‘boys don’t cry’ and ‘we don’t do anger here,’ or ‘brush it off,’” she said. “We do it with very good intentions, but we are teaching that emotions are to be feared.”
Label It. “We need to learn to recognize stress versus anger or disappointment,” she said. Even very young children can consider whether they’re mad or sad, or angry or anxious or scared. “Labeling emotions is also at the core of our ability to empathize. Ask ‘How do you think so-and-so is feeling? What does their face tell you?’”
As children get older, she adds, we can talk more about emotional complexities. “We can be simultaneously excited and anxious and frustrated, and we also need to learn to recognize that in other people,” she said.
Watch It Go. Even the hardest emotions don’t last forever. Dr. David suggests helping your child to notice that. “Sadness, anger, frustration — these things have value, but they also pass. They’re transient, and we are bigger than they are. Say, ‘This is what sadness feels like. This is what it feels like after it passes. This is what I did that helped it pass.’”
We can also help children to remember that we don’t necessarily feel the same emotion every time we have a similar experience. The high dive is scariest the first time. We might feel a lot of anxiety at one party, or in one science class, but have a different experience the next time.
“We’re very good, as humans, at creating these stories around emotions,” Dr. David said. “‘I’m not good at making friends. I can’t do math.’ Those are feelings and fears, not fixed states. People and things change.”
Finally, she said, help your child plan for experiencing the emotion again. “Ask, ‘Who do you want to be in this situation?’” she said. “What’s important to you about this?” Children feel stronger as they begin to learn that it’s not how they feel, but how they respond to the feeling, that counts.Ms. Scott’s Counselor Corner
Parents have opportunities to engage their children in a variety of service projects within our own community! Quality, community-based service-learning is likely to benefit children in a number of ways.
- Providing short or long term service to others helps children develop empathy.
- It assists children in growing up healthy, caring, and responsible.
- Young people learn that they can impact real social challenges, problems, and needs.
- Service-learning enhances problem-solving skills, ability to work in teams, and planning abilities.
Here are some suggestions for ways you can involve your child in service projects outside of school:
Scouts: Boy and Girl scouts regularly engage in service projects. No open troop at your school? Consider volunteering as a scout leader. By participating in service themselves, parents model that they value working with others in a meaningful way.
Local Churches and Synagogues: Many of these provide service directly to the local community through projects similar to meals on wheels, food and clothes closets and visits to the elderly or homebound citizen. Contact one to see how you and your child may serve.
Donate gently used clothing, toys and books to community organizations: Encourage child to donate clothing, toys or books they are no longer using to local community organizations.
Young people are more likely to stay engaged with service-learning when they feel their participation is meaningful and that they can make useful contributions through their service.
Ms. Scott’s Counselor Corner
Children today live in a very stressful world. They often have more pressure, more uncertainty and more exposure to fearful events at an earlier age. Further, families face greater demands and often have fewer supports then in the past. Therefore, it is necessary for us to equip our children with the tools they need to cope with stressful life events. Whether your child is upset about a disagreement with a friend or is facing a life changing loss such as a divorce they can apply these coping skills and live a healthy, happier life.
Encourage the use of relaxation strategies: A child needs to be physically calm in order to cope with stressful life events. Although every child may prefer different relaxation exercises, deep breathing is a fast, effective tool for calming the body. To teach deep breathing ask your child to take a slow, deep breath in through his nose. Encourage your child to pay attention as his tummy pushes out and his lungs fill with air. After a few seconds have your child exhale through his nose and notice that his stomach will go in as the air leaves his lungs. Younger children often enjoy placing a pillow (or favorite stuffed animal) on their tummy and watching the object rise and fall as they breathe. Have your child practice deep breathing on a regular basis, so when stress presents itself, deep breathing becomes an automatic response.
Encourage your child to talk: Everyone needs a time and place to express and release their daily stress: Your child needs to know that someone understands and appreciates their feelings. Allow them to talk about what is bothering them, but do not admire the problem for too long. Instead, focus on possible solutions and offer different ways to think about the situation.
Promote optimism: Your child must learn that although she can not change certain situations, she can change the way she thinks about them. Encourage your child to view a difficult situation as a challenge instead of an impossible defeat.
Self Talk: Teach your child to talk themselves through stressful situations. This skill becomes particularly important when an adult is not available to help them with a problem. Teach your child positive self statements such as “I can handle this.” or “I know am going to be ok.”
Distraction: Your child should not become overly preoccupied with the stressors in her life. If this becomes a problem set aside a time of the day where she can think and talk about the problems. During the other parts of the day, encourage your child to keep herself busy with things that she enjoys.
Unconditional love: Your child will know that the love and care you have for him will always remain a constant despite the adversity he may face in their everyday lives.
Ms. Scott’s Counselor Corner
Bullying a term that is heard more and more throughout our nation, however the term is often used out of context. In Tredyffrin-Easttown, we use the Olweus Anti-Bullying program to help our students deal with and overcome bullying. The Olweus Anti-Bullying program defines bullying as:
o A person is bullied when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons, and he or she has difficulty defending himself or herself.
o Expressed in more everyday language one might say: Bullying is when someone repeatedly and on purpose says or does mean or hurtful things to another person who has a hard time defending himself or herself.
Olweus also describes many different types of bullying, which can include indirect and direct forms of bullying. In direct forms, bullying involves relatively open attacks, usually in a face-to-face confrontation. Typical examples of direct bullying include verbal bullying with derogatory comments and nasty names, and physical bullying with hitting, kicking, shoving, and spitting.
In indirect bullying, the aggressive acts are more concealed and subtle, and it may be more difficult for the bullied student to know who is responsible for the bullying. Typical examples include social isolation—that is, intentionally excluding someone from a group or activity—and spreading lies and nasty rumors. Several forms of cyber bullying may also be considered indirect in the sense that nasty messages are delivered from a distance, not in a face-to-face way, and from anonymous sources. And in some cases, it may be difficult or almost impossible to find out who originally sent the message.
What you can do if you believe your child is being bullied:
1. Encourage your child to tell an adult when the bullying takes place. This can be the child’s classroom teacher, school counselor, principal, recess aide, or bus driver.
2. Contact the school counselor or principal as soon as you receive a report from your child.
MS. SCOTT’S COUNSELORS’ CORNERSeptember
The counselors of the Tredyffrin-Easttown School District elementary schools wish you and your students a successful and happy start to the new school year! Transitioning back to school from summer vacation doesn’t have to be stressful. It’s an opportunity for children to reconnect with old friends, make new friends, build greater responsibility, and tackle exciting new challenges. To help your child make as successful a transition as possible, here are a few tips and tricks:
- Get enough sleep! Being well rested is a tremendous asset to children as they strive for their best performance at school. According to the National Sleep Foundation, elementary-school aged children require ten to eleven hours of sleep each night. Adults require seven to nine hours of sleep.
- Keep a positive attitude and focus on the fun aspects of school. Children are very influenced by the attitudes of the adults around them. When we express excitement about the new school year and confidence that our children can handle any new challenges, our children will begin to model our attitudes. If your child is anxious, remain upbeat and provide reassurance with personal notes in lunchboxes or backpacks.
- Handle rough spots with assurance. If the first few days are a bit tough, try not to over-react, as children can absorb their parents’ anxiety. Many children experience some sadness or anxiety initially, but the teachers and staff at school are trained to help them adjust. Help your child to come up with a few positive strategies to manage difficult situations on their own and reinforce your belief in their ability to cope. Model confidence and optimism.
- Organize and prepare ahead. Having an established household routine can go a long way towards smoothing out some of the bumps in the road. Establishing a schedule for homework, bedtime, morning times, etc., can help alleviate some family stress and establish reassuring predictability for children. Preparing lunches and backpacks for the next day the night before can help to eliminate the “morning crazies”.
- When in doubt, reach out. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your child’s teachers, principal, or school counselor. Staying connected with the school helps your child to see that school and family are linked and that you care about their learning experience. Furthermore, school staff can also offer suggestions and supports to help identify and reduce any problems that may arise.
Best wishes for a fun and productive 2019-2020 school year!