Week of March 23
I am sending you all my positive thoughts and care. These are some unsettling times for all of us – I take comfort in knowing we’re all part of this Gilman Community, and we are going to support each other through this.
That brings me to how I can support you. First, I will continue to email you with resources and suggestions for caring for your and your son’s emotional well-being. You’ll see some links below you may want to look at. I’ve also added a page to this blog that I will update with appropriate resources. Secondly, and most importantly, I’m still available to you and your son to provide support. Simply email (email@example.com) or call (410-323-3800 ext 484) and let me know your questions or concerns or if you would like a return call. And I hope it goes without saying that if your son wants to speak with me personally, we can easily set up a facetime or call.
Please let your boys know that Miss Jordan is thinking about them!
These social emotional learning links have 10 days of brief videos and simple activities you can do with your son.
Mindfulness and meditation could be an important resource for you and your child. These activities can be helpful for coping with stress and anxiety and sometimes just a relaxing break. The Cosmic Kid site also has fun yoga videos! Physical activity is also an important stress reliever.
Cosmic Kids Zen Den – (Mindfulness and yoga) Jamie is the host of these fun videos. The boys love her!
Mindyeti (Mindfulness) – This has a lot of different mindfulness activities. Most are about 4-7 minutes.
YoMind (Mindfulness for upper elementary) – I’ve done these with our 4th and 5th graders (younger boys can do these, too!) I usually skip the intro part.
Welcome and welcome back!
I’m excited about the new school year – I’m enjoying seeing all the boys return and meet our new boys!
This summer I attended the American School Counselors Association’s Annual Conference in Los Angeles. It’s an excellent conference focussed solely on issues, concerns, and interests of it’s 3,600 school counselors in attendance. The founder of the #metoo movement Tarana Burke and NBA Hall of Famer and social activist Kareem Abdul Jabbar were the two keynote speakers. It was inspiring! One takeaway from the conference was the emphasis on Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) and calling it that. To that end, my classroom times with each homeroom (which I have always called Class Meeting) has now been changed to SEL in order to more accurately reflect my purpose and activities in the classroom. Another emphasis of the conference was the continued effort to move away from the terms “guidance” and “guidance counselor” as a reference to what we do and what we are. “Guidance” is considered an outdated term that refers to when a guidance counselor’s role was to help “guide” students to college and career choices — it no longer encompasses all that school counselors do.
Enough about words! The conference also held many sessions on social-emotional learning, equity and inclusiveness, mindfulness, and so much more. This conference is always an energizing and inspiring experience!
I’m looking forward to using that energy and inspiration to continue to provide social-emotional support for our students, faculty, and parents! To that end, I’ll continue to be in the classroom, hosting lunch bunches for K, P1, 1st, and 2nd grades, and Team Greyhound continues to take note of our boys’ many acts of the Gilman Five. Look for an email soon (and posted here as well) with dates and locations for several parent coffees I’ll host throughout the school year. I’ll post thoughts and information on this site, including linking to interesting articles and helpful sites.
This school year is going to be great! Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns about your son. I’m here to help!
The news from Parkland, Florida is tragic and disturbing. There is a lot of news that our children may worry about but news about school shootings can be particularly distressing to them. And distressing to you, too. Below is some brief information from the American School Counselors Association (ASCA) about talking with our children about school shootings. I’ve also included links to some very helpful and more detailed resources with suggestions about coping with this troubling news. I also strongly encourage you to practice self-care. While it’s important to limit your child’s exposure to news coverage, make sure you take a break too. The news coverage can be compelling, but it will increase your own stress and anxiety whether your realize it or not.
Of course I am available to your children if they are having a difficult time coping with this tragic event. I am here to support faculty, and I am here to support you too. Please don’t hesitate to call, email, or stop by my office if you have any questions.
Helping Kids After a Shooting (from the ASCA website)
- Try and keep routines as normal as possible. Kids gain security from the predictability of routine, including attending school.
- Limit exposure to television and the news.
- Be honest with kids and share with them as much information as they are developmentally able to handle.
- Listen to kids’ fears and concerns.
- Reassure kids that the world is a good place to be, but that there are people who do bad things.
- Parents and adults need to first deal with and assess their own responses to crisis and stress.
- Rebuild and reaffirm attachments and relationships.
This was a topic of discussion at the American School Counseling Association (ASCA) annual conference this summer in Denver. When rude and mean behaviors are overgeneralized as bullying, a pressing issue loses its urgency. Signe Whitson did a great breakout session on this subject. This was the focus during our SHARE program time with 3rd and 5th grade on Friday, October 27 (4th grade was on a field trip and will do their SHARE on Monday, November 9) We also talked about it at today’s Coffee with the Counselor.
Here’s a blog post by Signe Whitson, who led the breakout session at the conference.
For these homeroom discussions, teachers started by showing the linked powerpoint presentation that defined the three categories. (Created by Jeannie Maddox of Explore School Counseling Blog )
Using various scenarios (from Jeannie Maddox and Signe Whitson) our boys where then asked to put the scenarios and situations into each of the three categories. Good discussions were had in all the homerooms, and we now have a common language to use when talking about these behaviors. We will continue to talk about this with our students, along with the next steps — how to handle rude behavior, how to apologize, what to do when you see bullying, etc.)
Welcome (to new Gilman Parents) and welcome back! It’s been great seeing you and your boys back at Gilman. I’m excited to get a new school year started. As the full-time lower school counselor it’s my role to look after the social/emotional well-being of our Lower School community.
It’s important for me to build rapport with all the boys so that if they need my support they will see me as someone safe whom they can trust. To that end, I keep an active presence at all of our grade levels. I’m scheduled to visit each homeroom once a cycle. During this time we’ll read stories and do activities related to social/emotional wellness — this may cover friendship skills, meditation and mindfulness, and character topics, among other subjects.
I’m also available to provide students support in a one-on-one setting or small groups. Teachers may refer a student to see me, a student may self-refer, or, of course, parents may ask me to meet with their son. While I am a resource to our students, faculty, and administration, I am also a resource for you. Please feel free to call, email, or stop by if you have any questions or concerns.
In addition to communicating through this blog, I will be hosting coffees throughout the school year where we can talk in a casual setting. I will include a list of dates and subjects (where appropriate) below. These dates will also be available on the Upcoming Events page of this blog. Which brings me to a second way for me to communicate with you. Please check in from time to time or follow for notifications of updates. (The link is also included in the weekly parent email from Tammy Testerman)
I’m looking forward to the year ahead. If you have a concern but you’re not sure if it’s a counseling issue, please contact me, and we’ll figure it out together. My door is open!
Parent Coffee Schedule
September 28 (Thurs) – New Parents Meet the School Counselor, 8am-9am, Centennial Hall in Carey Hall
November 2 (Thurs) – All welcome! Is it Rude? Is it Mean? Or is it Bullying? A Conversation about Children’s Behavior, 8am-9am, Centennial Hall in Carey Hall
December 6 (Wed) – Subject Open or TBD, 8am-9am, Centennial Hall in Carey Hall
January 18 (Thurs) – Subject Open or TBD, 8am-9am, Centennial Hall in Carey Hall
March 27 (Tues) – Subject Open or TBD, 8am-9am, Centennial Hall in Carey Hall
May 1 (Tues) – 5th Grade Parents – The Social/emotional transition to MS and meet the MS Counselor, 8am-9am, Centennial Hall in Carey Hall
“There’s nothing to do!” How many times have we heard that from a child or said it as a child!? It’s a common complaint usually heard more often during the long stretches of unplanned time that comes with summer.
When I was growing up, when my sisters or I said we were bored, I still remember my mother’s response. “People who say they’re bored are boring.” Mom was a wonderful, loving, fun woman, but she did not suffer our foolishness. Her message to us was that with all our tangible and intangible resources (creativity, imagination, energy, safety, nature, toys, etc.) there was no reason for us to be bored. And she was right a few minutes of lackadaisical questions back and forth between my sister and me. “What do you want to do?” “I don’t know. What do YOU want to do?” Sometimes it just started with us lying “bored” in the grass staring at clouds or up through the leaves. One thing would lead to another. A conversation would start. A challenge would be made or an idea expressed. And we’d be occupied for hours with some project or game.
One of my family’s fun memories was born out of boredom. It was a multi-family neighborhood summer picnic. Most of us kids were in our teens and early 20’s. There was definitely a lull in the activity. Someone picked up a beach ball and tossed it over the badminton net. Someone else picked it up and batted it back over the net. Someone else mentioned the volleyball scene in the movie “Top Gun.” Next thing you know we all were assigned nicknames (some Top Gun-themed, some not) that we remember to this day! Many ridiculous rules were agreed upon (like “random side switch!” or “Dr. Mesmer ball spin!”), and we played into the darkness that evening, laughing until our stomachs hurt. That was the summer that Estee Ball (named for the free with purchase Estee Lauder beachball!) was born. It was game born out of boredom (!) and played for years to come at family picnics!
It may take some patience and the ability to tune out some whining. Give your children a chance to be “bored.” Don’t step in. They’ve got boundless imagination and energy to tap into. You may be surprised by the results.
Here are a few pieces about boredom and children:
This one is a little more in-depth about boredom, not just in children, and connections with mindfulness:
Have a boring weekend!
We are faced once again with a tragedy. The terrorist attack in Manchester, England at a pop concert has us once again reeling. It’s normal to feel helpless and not know how to address this news with your children. I’ve attached a link to a CNN article about talking to children about tragic events.
Briefly, limit your child’s exposure to news and social media. Particularly younger children can be confused when video clips are played over and over again and believe that the event is occurring over and over again as well.
Reassure your child that they are safe. This may feel difficult to do, since we adults may not feel very safe, but this is important. You can tell your child that all the adults (from parents to the government) are doing everything they can to keep everyone safe. And while events like this are tragic and frightening, they are in fact very rare.
Only give them as much information as they’re asking for and consider where they are developmentally when answering their questions. Some children may have lots of question and some may have none at all.
It’s ok to tell them that what happened has scared or worried you. You are role modeling real and legitimate emotions. But make sure that you are showing that you are managing those emotions. If you feel overwhelmed, step away or change the subject. If you’re emotions are too much, a child may feel responsible or that they have to fix things and that creates undue stress for a child.
Change the focus. Point out the acts of kindness and courage around these types of events. As Mr. Fred Rogers said “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”
There’s nothing easy about these kinds of world events. Take your cue from your child as to what they need from you. And if you have any concerns about your child or questions about what to say or do, please don’t hesitate to call or email me. I’m here to help.
Great Kindness Challenge 2017!
First off, we had a terrific Great Kindness Challenge the week of May 1. It was fun for all of us to spend a few days celebrating and putting the spotlight on kindness. Students started the week signing a Kindness Pledge banner that was later hung in the lobby. We had members of the Gilman community from other divisions greet the children each morning and read inspirational quotes throughout the day. Here are just a few:
- “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” (Desmond Tutu)
- “Nothing can make our life, or the lives of other people, more beautiful than perpetual kindness.” (Leo Tolstoy)
- “When words are both true and kind they can change our world.” (Buddha)
One of the most successful activities this year was the Kind-it Wall where students and faculty could write compliments and kind notes on sticky-notes and attach to the Kind-it Wall. It filled up quickly with so many positive thoughts! Parents hosted a Kindness Station on Wednesday morning where students could do kindness-related crafts and activities. Based on the Kindness checklists turned in, our students committed more than 3,000 acts of kindness! We’re looking forward to next year’s Great Kindness Challenge in February!
13 Reasons Why
On a more serious note, while this controversial Netflix series is not geared towards or appropriate for elementary school age children, if they have older siblings you may be hearing about this show about a high school student who commits suicide. I thought it could be helpful for you to see what was included in the Upper School newsletter:
The on-line streaming company, Netflix, recently launched a series titled 13 Reasons Why which is an adaptation of Jay Asher’s young adult novel with the same name. The 13-hour series navigates the aftermath of a high school student’s suicide as well as topics such as teenage depression, relationships, social media, bullying, sexuality, and sexual assault. The program is rated MA for mature audiences and is not recommended for vulnerable or younger teens. There are several graphic scenes throughout the series and we would therefore recommend that teens who watch the program do so with the guidance and support of a parent or guardian. If you know that your son has watched the series, we recommend that you have a conversation with him to see how he processed it and if he has any questions. Below are some resources we hope will help. If you or your son have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact our school counselor, John Mojzisek (firstname.lastname@example.org), who is working on some in-school discussions as well.
Of course, I am available if you have any questions about this.
Take a Moment
Lastly, this is a fun but stressful time of the school year. If you or your child feels overwhelmed, you may want to try some mindful meditation. Throughout the year I’ve been working with most homerooms on different ways to practice mindfulness. You might ask your son what mindfulness is and how can you practice it. (Hopefully he’ll tell you mindfulness is about focusing on the here and now, and we’ve practiced it listening to a bell, focusing on our breath, and focusing on our surroundings, among other things.) In any case, enjoy the ramp up to the end of the school year and start of summer!
I want to talk a bit about the many stressful events we’re hearing about on the news and in social media. I’ve been debating whether or not to write a post about this (it can be such a sensitive subject), but several parents have asked me about it. The reality is that the last few months have had an unprecedented number of news stories that have created increased levels of stress, regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum. In mid-February, the American Psychological Association (APA) reported that 57% of those surveyed said the current political climate is a “very” or “somewhat” significant source of stress in their lives. (http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2017/02/stressed-nation.aspx)
So adults are feeling increased stress. How do we make sure not to transmit that stress to our children? How do we (or do we at all) talk with our children about the ever-changing political landscape and current events?
Are you stressed?
The first issue is your stress. Are you overly stressed? Some symptoms include:
- Being easily agitated, moody
- Difficulty relaxing (body and/or mind)
- Lower energy
- Physical symptoms (including aches, pains, insomnia)
- Inability to focus
- Constant worrying or racing thoughts
- Changes in appetite
What to do
Some suggestions for managing stress:
Step away from the stressor (news and social media). I understand the draw of checking Facebook, Twitter, or whatever platform you use. FOMO (fear of missing out) can have a real effect on our behavior. We worry that we’ll miss the next breaking news story or development because we’re invested in what’s happening in our country. It’s ok to take a break. Make a conscious decision to do so. It will be ok.
Exercise and self-care. Make sure you are taking good care of yourself. Take a run or brisk walk – even if it’s just around the block. Make sure you’re eating well and sleeping enough. Or turn on some music and have a quick dance party – either alone or with your children.
Connect with people and laugh. Reach out. Call a friend, send an email. Share your concerns, but be careful that sharing doesn’t become an escalating gripe session – that could contribute to the stress.
Meditate. Meditation and mindfulness help the mind and body to relax, focus, and tune out some of the stress.
What Do I Say?
The second concern is how much to talk with your children about current events and what to say.
This is a judgement call for each parent to decide, but keep in mind where your child is developmentally. Younger children will have a difficult time managing too much information regarding current events, while older children may be interested and eager to engage about the news. I understand that with a single tragic event on the news it’s somewhat easier to shield your child from that news. With the election and recent world and national developments, the news is somewhat pervasive. It’s ok to talk with your child about events in the news and even your concerns and worries, but it’s important to reassure them that these are adult concerns and they’re going to be ok.
This can be an opportunity for you to talk with your child about your values and the values of your family. You can talk about why or why not the news event conflicts or reinforces your beliefs and values, again at a developmentally appropriate level. And if you feel change is necessary, perhaps talk about how individuals, groups, political representatives, government can bring about that change. Particularly with older children you can discuss with them how conflict is ok, in politics specifically but also life in general. What is important is how we manage the conflict.
If you feel your child is distressed, remind him that our country is a great place where we’re allowed to disagree, and we’re allowed to work for change. Also, see the above tips for parents and use with your child. Step away, do something fun and engaging with your child. Allow you and your child to be completely distracted (see my last post for some ideas!)
If you have questions, please feel free to contact me. I’m happy to talk with you about your specific concerns.