Photo by MI PHAM on Unsplash

Our newest team member, Vanessa Mackall, adds to our summer activity list this week with some great suggestions to help keep the fun going all summer long! 

Have any summer traditions you like to do with the kids? Please do share with us!

Summer is a fantastic time to ditch the old routine and try new and exciting activities with friends and family. Stepping out of our comfort zone can be both challenging and very rewarding, offering plenty of shared memories and laughs along the way. Here are a few suggestions for families seeking to spend quality time together, while taking a break from their daily routines.

  1. Try a new sport or outdoor activity – Tennis, Golf, Kayaking, Tubing, Horseback Riding, Hiking, and other outdoor activities are typically low cost and lots of fun for families.
  2. A day at the park- Pack your picnic basket and head out to a scenic park of your choice (Great Falls is one of my favorites, if you are local). Don’t forget the Frisbee!
  3. Family Ice Cream Social- Nothing beats the heat quite like ice cream. Get creative while making signature sundaes with the family.
  4. Embrace the Day Trip – Don’t have a lot of time to spend in one place? No worries, day trips to local beaches and lakes can be a great way to splash around with the family when time is limited. If you live in Northern Virginia, Watermelon Park offers plenty of fun-in-the sun outdoor activities for families.

Summer presents a great opportunity for families to spend quality time together, while creating memories that will last a lifetime. Enjoy!

Until next week, Be Wise!

Summer is in full swing! Vacation, lounging at the beach, swimming, chasing the ice cream truck…

How are you doing with those summer activities? Our team of experts have come up with some suggestions for all ages to keep the fun going all summer long!

Photo by Ethan Robertson on Unsplash

Dominique Adkins, Ed.d., LPC, NCC, ACS:
As summer reaches past the half mark teens become increasingly aware of the fast approaching end of summer. With tryouts and school activities starting back up in the coming weeks it is important to STAY PRESENT. Summer is NOT over yet. Here are a few ways to have summer fun and make exciting new memories:

  1. Grab your popcorn and check out an outdoor film. For those of you who are local, each Sunday evening until September 1st, the Mosaic District features a movie.
  2. Grab your yoga mat for Free Yoga in the park on Wednesday evenings or Sunday mornings at Mosaic Strawberry Park.
  3. Check out a farmers market and try a fun new recipe.
  4. Explore a museum or monument.
  5. Practice or workout for tryouts with friends or family.

There are endless free fun activities still to come this summer. Be sure to try at least one! Take time to enjoy these moments while you prepare for the return of those responsibilities. Focus on the present moment and the stress of the future will slowly fade away so you can have fun!

Amanda Beyland, LCSW: 
Summer is a prime example of how time flies when you’re having fun. With the first few weeks of summer behind us and the routines of swim practices and camps falling into place, there is still plenty of time for fun and adventures!

  • Have a family day at the pool
  • Be a tourist where you live and explore
  • Take a trip to the local craft store and have an afternoon of crafts
  • Make your own mini water park at home with sprinklers and water balloons
  • Beat the heat and have a day at the movies (or make your own movie theater at home!)
  • Encourage your kids to plan a neighborhood bike parade with their friends
  • Get outside – have a family sports day, go bike riding, or explore one of the nature trails

Have fun, try new things, spend time together, and most importantly enjoy the summer!

Kasey Cain, Resident in Counseling:
Can you believe it is already July? The summer season is well under way and school will be starting before we know it. Still, there are plenty of days left to enjoy and so many ways to do so. To find out what summer fun and activities kids like best, I went straight to the source and asked my two adorable girls (I may be biased) ages 8 and 12. Here is what they said :

  • Pool Time
  • Splash Parks/Playgrounds
  • Visit to Nature Centers and Ponds (some with kayaking or paddle boats)
  • Mini Golf
  • Amusement Parks
  • Completing Library Reading Programs and Getting the Reward Coupon Book (The favorite coupon is free ice cream!)
  • Completing the Barnes and Nobles Reading Program and Getting a FREE Book
  • Playdates/Having Friends Over (All of the above are more fun with friends!)

I have to also add my own gentle reminder that it is not just okay but healthy and important for your children to be bored over the summer. Have fun in the summer sunshine!


Until next week, Be Wise!





ID 103919440 © Lightfieldstudiosprod |

Summer is THE BEST time for COUNSELING!

We just celebrated the last high school graduations of the season yesterday and find ourselves in the thick of the sun (and humidity in the South) and fun of the SUMMER. 

All of us at The Wise Family are having conversations with your families about continuing and beginning counseling during the summer months. Camp, vacation, and lazy days by the pool can all interrupt the regular rhythm that is the foundation of supportive therapeutic work for kids and teens. It also isn’t uncommon that the stressors inherent during the school year lesson in the haze of summer, only to creep right back up again come August.

We have a STRICT POLICY about summer therapy. We WILL talk about: 







Coping strategies

and more…

But we WILL NOT talk about school in July. School isn’t EVERYTHING so why would we work on school-based stuff 12 months a year? 

So what is there to do together? And why use our precious summer time to schedule counseling?

Here are a few GREAT REASONS TO SCHEDULE counseling for your kids and teens – 

  • Summer makes scheduling EASIER

It can be so hard for families to commit to regular, weekly counseling visits with an already packed schedule of school, sports, family obligations and…oh yeah, WORK. We often struggle fitting everyone in within the brief afterschool-before bed hours of 4-7. Summer opens up a HUGE number of options – including morning before the pool, mid-afternoon after a camp morning and late afternoon when the sun is still shining and no one is crabby yet.

  • Summer is a great time to work on EQ

EQ is the new IQ – Emotional Intelligence. We have some amazing strategies for building kids’ emotion quotient. And PLAY is one of them. PLAY helps us to connect to kids and support them in becoming aware of their feelings and how their behaviors impact others. This increase in self-awareness can help improve stress management, emotional regulation, relationships among peers and family members, and can just make your house SO MUCH CALMER.

  • Counseling sessions PROVIDE STRUCTURE

It can be fun to hang out all day and do nothing – but most kids end up playing endless hours of video games, watching YouTube videos, or even sleeping until mid-afternoon. A regular schedule of counseling sessions can help build some structure into an open-ended week, and give kids a sense of accomplishment. Some kids actually report being bored in the summer and counseling can give them an opportunity for productive social interaction.

If you are ready to improve your child’s EQ and put a bit more structure into your family’s summer, give us a call to get hooked in!

Until next week, Be Wise!


Summertime is here for many and in just a few more days for others – and we WANT your family to run around outside, and get wet at the pool, eat popsicles, and build sandcastles on the beach!

What we DON’T WANT is for your kids to lose the great skills they have practiced all year long.

These skills are the kind that don’t really get mastered until the mid-twenties, and are essential for running the world of most folks.

These skills make up the EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONING SYSTEM – controlled by a part of the brain called the Pre-Frontal Cortex, or the Frontal Lobe. Think of this part of the brain as the CEO of a person – or like the COACH of a sports team. The EF system manages many different parts of our lives including decision making, goal directed persistence and even many of our social interactions.

This summer we are offering an 8 SESSION Executive Functioning intensive for individuals 10 years and UP! If your child or teen has difficulty focusing, completing tasks, staying organized, keeping up with his/her peers in conversation and activities or trouble with decision making or problem solving, this individual intensive is FOR THEM!

Each lesson is delivered individually by a licensed clinical counselor with specialized training in Executive Function and neuroscience. Lessons can be scheduled weekly, bi-weekly, or on whatever schedule works best for your family and can be conducted by VIDEO or in our family friendly offices in Alexandria, VA, with a workbook included –

Check out the flyer below, and sign up NOW. We only have a few spaces left for this popular summer series!


Until next week, Be Wise!

Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

School is almost out for the summer for most of us!

Now what?! Need some tips and encouragement on how to avoid the summer brain drain?

See what our team of clinicians have to say below.

Dominique Adkins, Ed.d., LPC, NCC, ACS:
Many teens look forward to the summer after a busy and often stressful end of the school year. Here are three insights to help customize their summer experience while keeping them physically and mentally active.

  • As tempting as it might be, it is important to avoid staying awake all night and sleeping the day away. Create and maintain a sleep routine that allows for sleeping in and a structured day.
  • Secondly, it can be hard to coordinate spending time with friends because of travel plans or conflicting schedules. Plan ahead and find the time to reconnect throughout summer.
  • Finally, explore job or volunteer opportunities for the summer. It keeps teens active, puts money in their pocket, and looks good on their resume!

Remember this time away from the pressures of school is valuable. Take time as a family to enjoy the moment and receive it fully!

Amanda Beyland, LCSW: 
Summer is right around the corner and there’s a lot of talk of camps, vacations, and fun in the sun. With so many exciting things to plan for there aren’t many conversations happening about how to avoid the summer slide.

Summer slide, also known as summer learning loss, happens when children experience a loss of academic skills over the summer. We know that most kids won’t willingly sit down to complete a workbook or study their flashcards so the real question is – how do we keep our kids wanting to learn? Make it fun! 

Here are some fun suggestions:

  • Encourage your child to practice writing skills by putting on a play with their friends.
  • Use road trips as a time to learn by studying maps, estimating how long the trip may take, and playing the license plate game.
  • Work together on a building project – try constructing a robot or build a fort. Encourage your kids to get outdoors, explore, and be active.

With these fun activities the kids won’t even notice that you’re sneaking in a little learning into their playtime!

Kasey Cain, Resident in Counseling:
Usually when I think of a slide I think fun is about to take place. Unfortunately, thinking about the summer slide isn’t immediately fun. However, it can be. The “summer slide” refers to the loss of reading or other academic skill development during the months when children are not in school. As with all learning, mastery of a skill or concept takes continued reinforcement and practice. It is important to remember, though, that teaching, reinforcement, and practice don’t just happen in a classroom setting.

There are opportunities for learning everywhere! For example, it is always a great idea to set aside 20 minutes a day for reading (reading to or with a kid counts) but reading can be incorporated in other ways too. Do you like to cook? Have your kids cook with you and help read the recipe. There are math skills involved in that one too as well as organization, following directions, and patience.

Are you going on a family vacation? Have your child(ren) research things to do or nearby places to eat to help plan the itinerary. This helps practice reading, planning, organization, and time-management. Also, use the summer months as a time to move. Go for a walk, swim at the pool, catch (and release) fireflies. All movement activates brain development!

So don’t fear the summer slide. Enjoy the summer and make the most of these moments.

It can certainly be a challenge to keep kids both physically and mentally active during the summer days and they may need some encouragement. Remember that parents play a key role in filling gaps over the summer. Here’s another helpful blog post about the summer slide. Let us know how these strategies and suggestions have helped you and your family.

Until next week, Be Wise!

Image by free stock photos from from Pixabay


Children with ADHD and learning disabilities often have trouble remembering and retaining information taught in class. To improve their memory skills, help them create links and visual,auditory, and conceptual associations between bits of information. Here are six ways to do that:

  1. Draw or create vivid pictures depicting information that needs to be memorized. Since memory is enhanced by exaggeration, emotion, action, and color, the more ridiculous and detailed the image, the better. To help an attention deficit student remember the meaning of the word felons (which sounds like melons), make a picture of melons dressed in prison clothing marching off to jail. For more examples, see
  2. Teach memory strategies. Some popular mnemonics include HOMES (the Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie,and Superior) and Dead Monsters Smell Bad (steps for long division: divide, multiply, subtract, bring down).
  3. Create acrostics or whole sentences. “Every Good Boy Does Fine” is an excellent way to help ADHD children recall the sequence offlines in the treble clef (EGBDF).
  4. Try melody and rhythm to teach a series or sequence. There are raps, rhymes, and songs to help attention deficit students memorize multiplication tables, days of the week, presidents of the United States, and so on.
  5. Use songs specially created to teach grade-level content. Musically Aligned creates music and lyrics geared to teach a science curriculum. For physical science, there are songs like “Electromagnets” and “Heat, Light, and Motion.” For teaching concepts in life science, there are “Food Chain Gang” and “Decomposers.”
  6. After the lesson, have ADHD students list the things they remember. Ask them to do so as fast as they can, to increase memory recall.

Until next week, Be Wise!




Adapted with permission from, How to Reach & Teach Children with ADD/ADHD, Second Edition, Copyright 2005, and The ADD/ADHD Checklist, Second Edition, Copyright 2008, by Sandra F. Rief.

Continuing our focus on Mental Health Awareness this month!

Did you know humans are supposed to worry about things? It’s part of our nature! Worry keeps us alert, allowing us to react to things quickly. Anxiety can be normal in stressful situations such as public speaking or when taking a test. When a person’s anxiety becomes excessive, there are ways to calm it down.

We found this helpful video to help explain anxiety and worry.  Remember, stop worrying about worry! We have been worrying for as long as humans have existed!

Video Credit: GoZen

Until next week, Be Wise!


This month we want to share some tools for maintaining mental health as we work to bring awareness to mental health issues in our world!

One of the tools we often teach kids and teens to utilize when they feel anxious is called Grounding. When your mind is racing, grounding can bring you back to the present moment. It is a great way to calm down quickly.

Grounding basically means to bring your focus to what is happening to you physically, either in your body or in your surroundings, instead of being caught up in a cycle of thoughts that might be causing you to feel anxious.

There is some SCIENCE behind all of this, too!

When we start to think about something stressful, our amygdala, often referred to as the “feeling center” of the brain, goes on alert. It is really great for getting us ready for an emergency but sometimes it kicks in to action even when there isn’t a threat present.

Here’s how it works –

First: We have a negative thought about a situation (remember a thought doesn’t necessarily mean it is real),

Then: Our amygdala says “emergency! emergency!” and triggers changes in our body such as tightening muscles and revving up the heart and lungs,

And Then: Our amygdala starts to think that these body changes as further evidence that something is actually wrong and it’s off to overwhelmed and worry-land!

Grounding techniques help us break out of this vicious cycle. Re-focusing on our bodies and what we’re physically feeling, we can get out of our heads and into the moment.

Below is a great graphic to use and print for your fridge or to have in a binder to remind yourself of some great grounding techniques!


Image credit: @gmf.designs


Stay Grounded and Be Wise!

Ask yourself, “When things aren’t going well in your family, how do you “start over”? Is it ever too late to grow wiser together?

May is Mental Health Awareness month. In the month ahead, we will be highlighting some ways that your family can build healthier habits in both physical and mental wellness. We will also be sharing some important statistics, data and facts about mental health and wellness in the US and our world.

One thing we know as we begin this discussion of mental health is that it is never too late to start again.

Some of our therapy team share their thoughts about family and how the good moments and the not-so-good moments can both help shape our family’s wellness.



Dominique Adkins, Ed.d., LPC, NCC, ACS:
Life is full of wonderful moments. It is also full of challenging ones. Families often forget that these moments are all temporary. I encourage families to mindfully embrace the wonderful moments as they can be a source of knowledge and strength for the challenges.

Positive moments can also be used to create a family action plan and practice the skills/strategies for surviving the tough moments. When things in the family are not going well please remember it will not last forever. There is a tendency to avoid difficult moments and feelings which only prolongs the suffering.

The key is to recognize the challenge then implement the strategies that offer temporary relief to survive the moment which allows for a fresh start in the next moment. In the next moment, the goal is to shift the family into a non-blaming and non-judgmental pattern of interactions which allows for the family to grow wise together!

Amanda Beyland, LCSW: 
There’s always room for growth whether it is individually or within your family. When things get a little rough, it may be difficult to picture coming out the other side so the hard times may feel drawn-out.

Think of these times as an opportunity to develop and learn as a family, whether it is through new communication skills or a different way of problem solving. Try not to get stuck and spend too much time focusing on the negative of the situation. Instead focus on how things are going to improve once the situation has been resolved: accept it as a challenge and then focus on overcoming it.

Kasey Cain, Resident in Counseling:
In the world of social media where everyone posts their perfectly curated family moments, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking everyone has it better than me. This can be particularly tempting when things aren’t going well for your family. Regardless of why your family may be encountering challenges, here are 5 suggestions for hitting the “refresh” button.

1. Don’t ‘Should’ on yourself. Instead of focusing on what you think should have happened or be happening, focus on what IS happening. While you are focusing on your reality, remember to –

2. Be kind to yourself. People have approximately 70,000 thoughts a day and about 80% of those are repeating and negative. It takes practice to stop the negative thoughts and purposefully create kind self-talk.

3. Practice an attitude of gratitude. Developing an attitude of gratitude supports health and happiness. The healthier and happier you are, the better equipped you will be to persevere through family challenges and develop your own resilience.

4. Take a Break. If you are finding yourself engaged in an argument or a power struggle walk away. Saying something like “This really isn’t helpful so I’m going to take some time to calm down. I hope we can revisit this when we are a bit calmer.” can diffuse a situation. Problem solving is not effective when in crisis mode so it is important to return to calm before trying to identify solutions.

5. Ask for help. Some people view asking for help as a sign of weakness or an embarrassment. In reality, being able to know when you need help and reaching out is one of the strongest and smartest moves you can make. Everyone encounters challenges. They may not post about it on their Facebook feed, but know that you are not alone. So, go ahead and “Like” your friend’s “perfect” picture but don’t forget to “LOVE” your moments, even the messy ones, too!

Until next week, Be Wise!

Photo Credit: © Anatoliy Samara |

Congratulations! Your child is already a creative genius by virtue of being human. Humans are far more creative than any other species. Sure, chimpanzees have come up with ideas like termite fishing (using a stick to get tasty termites out of a hole), but most of us would contend that inventions such as space travel and the Large Hadron Collider are slightly more impressive. 

Yet humans vary in creative ability – some of us are simply better at thinking outside the box than others. Children start to demonstrate their creativity from at least the age of one  by exploring objects. By two, they can  invent ways to use new tools on their own and from around eight years  they can even invent their own tools. 

Virtually all kids are creative, it’s part of their nature. But is there a way to make them even more creative? Science suggests there is – here are five tips based on the latest research. 

Lead by example

Be creative when you’re around your child. A  recent study found that highly creative parents have highly creative one-year-olds. Previous research has found that this relationship holds  even when kids reach adolescence. You may wonder if these relationships exist because of genetics – research has after all  linked specific genes to creativity. But twin studies have found that genetics accounts for  only a small proportion of people’s creativity. So it’s much more likely that children learn to be creative from their parents. 

Indeed, experimental studies have found that when children  watch someone else be highly creative, they become more creative themselves. So if you want your child to be creative, it’s a good idea to make the effort to be creative yourself. 

How can you do this? A simple way is to come up with lots of different ways to use an object. For instance, when you’re around your child, you could use a towel not just as a towel, but also as a cape, a blanket, a hat and so much more. Or have car chats about the creative ways to travel from home to the grocery store, and tell imaginary stories together about the secret superhero lives of your child’s teachers. 


Photo Credit: © Karelnoppe |

Watch magical films with your child. One experiment found that if children watched a certain 15-minute video clip of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, containing magical content, they were more creative several days laterSo break out the popcorn and butter beer, turn off the lights and enjoy! While the research hasn’t been done yet, in theory this could apply to books as well. There are tons of YouTube videos of how to create different things so pull those out as well, and get to the craft store! 

Keep dancing

Photo Credit: © Vadimgozhda |

Challenge your child to a dance-off. In a recent experiment, one group of children was taught dance routines to pop songs. Another group of children was instructed to improvise their dancing, by, for instance, thinking of all the different ways they could move their arms. Children who did the dance improvisation  came up with more original ideas on unrelated creativity tests than children who learned dance routines. So put on your leg warmers and give Beyonce a run for her money! You can have a dance party any time of day – host one during breakfast or slow dance together before bedtime. 

Give freedom

Photo Credit: © Dmytro Zinkevych |

Stop telling your kid what to do. Multiple studies have found that when parents have a high level of demands for their children – and at the same time fail to be responsive to their kids’ own ideas – children  end up with lower levels of creativity. But, on the contrary, if parents are less demanding but more responsive to their kids,  children’s creativity increases. Letting your kids solve their own problems – even when their solutions don’t work – helps build their critical thinking muscle. We will need very creative adults to cure the diseases and solve the environmental problems of the future.  

So perhaps rather than compulsively booking your child into every music and art class you can find in order to boost creativity, you could follow your child’s lead and see where they take you. 

Understand the touchscreen generation

Photo Credit: © Wavebreakmedia Ltd |

Many parents are strict about limiting their children’s access to TV and computers partly because they believe these devices limit their creativity. Research suggests this is not necessarily the case. Indeed, let your child play with apps that allow them to express themselves. 

Researchers recently followed a small group of children in their homes and at school when using tablets. Using observational methods, they found that apps which allow children to write, paint, collage, draw and make music  encouraged creativity in children. This was not only the case when playing with the apps, but offline as well. So clear your schedule to help your child record their next top 40 hit, or sit to have your portrait done. 

While a variety of research gives us clues about how to encourage creativity in children, there’s still way more to learn. In particular, we know very little about how creativity emerges in children under four years.  

One thing we DO know is that being in NATURE inspires us all – so get outside! 

Stay Wise!





Source: Originally published in The Conversation with some additions from your friends at The Wise Family.