Amy Fortney Parks, PhD – Practice Owner: How do we create positive expectations for kids, teens and parents? Having the expectation that your kid/teen CAN do something, even when it is hard, makes all the difference and how you interact with your child can either accentuate your expectations or create unrealistic expectations. Parenting isn’t always about how much you give your kids but about how much you don’t give. Food for thought… read on to see what our team of clinicians has to say about that!

Kasey CainResident in Counseling – Therapist for The Wise Family:  I have always been a collector of quotes. Some of them are poinent and insightful, while others are just silly. Then there are some that read as being a bit cheesy but, upon further reflection, really do hold a nugget of wisdom. One of my favorite quotes has been “Children don’t need your presents, they need your presence.” I can’t remember the first time I heard this or who is credited for saying it first but I know it has stuck with me. Children, really all people, have an innate need to feel significant. One of the main goals and expectations of parenting is to fulfill this need for our children. It is not to buy them things, or to let them have their way. Instead it is to say, “I see you and I am here for you in all times.” We want our children to develop resiliency and independence. We can support this by being a part of their lives and truly engaging with them. It may be hard to put down the phone and really focus on what they are saying. Still, it makes a huge difference.

Amanda Beyland, LCSW – Therapist for The Wise Family: Creating expectations for children is an essential role of parenting. Parents want only the best for their children and along with that often comes big hopes for kids to live up to. A healthy balance is important; setting high expectations can be great to strive for but may also be a heavy burden to carry. This is why it’s key that realistic expectations are set so children feel that they can be successful. Talk as a family about goals and expectations- you can’t manage expectations if none have been provided! Using positive language will help to build positive expectations- try to focus on effort and not just achievement.

Dominique AdkinsEdD – Therapist for The Wise Family: Teens and parents – Do not let the “back to school blues” set the tone for the school year.  It is essential to create positive expectations as teens embark on this new year.  Each new year comes as an opportunity for a fresh start or clean slate.  Remember, your successes and skills worked in the past so reapply them to what is to come. Remain mindful of your present moment and new opportunities to excel.  Use your Wise Mind to practice positivity and increase pleasant events. Parents and teens take time to mindfully experience one pleasant thing a day.  Positive experiences NOW provide a foundation for positive results!

As always, Be Wise!



Last week, we talked a bit about the “summer slide”. Not a summer Olympic sport – but it does sound fun! It isn’t so fun for kids, though, when they head back to school and feel instantly behind!

The “summer slide” is the loss of learning students experience during the long summer break. Often this loss of learning occurs because students don’t practice essential skills.

And this doesn’t just apply to young children! This is true for high schoolers too, so don’t leave them out of the activities!

With school only a few short weeks away, now is the time to schedule some brain workouts! You’ll have Olympians before you know it!

  1. Cook with your kids. Cooking is a unique activity in that it integrates reading, math, following directions, planning and practicality! If possible, challenge your student to plan a menu for guests, select the ingredients, prepare the meal and serve it to guests. Cooking for others builds lots of skills and gives your student confidence. Two good kid-centered cookbooks are Kids Around the World Cook! The Best Foods and Recipes from Many Lands by Arlette Braman and the Betty Crocker Kids Cookbook.
  2. You want apps with that. Teachers With Apps is another great resource to help you stop the summer slide. Many students have mobile phones and these learning-centered apps are inexpensive and lots of fun.  Two of our favorites include Math Doodles and Stack the States. Math Doodles uses interactive games to get students to practice concepts like number and operations, number sense, angles and rotation, time and clocks, money, problem solving, and mathematical reasoning. With Stack the States, students answer questions about each state correctly and “win” that state and stack their winnings. Stacking is a fun but really challenging feature that keeps the game very engaging. Both under $3. (
  3. Take a virtual field trip (or a real one). There are a number of great websites that will take your students on awesome field trips when you can’t take them in person. Take a complete tour of the Museum of Natural History in New York City or discover the mysteries of survival in the arctic tundra. There are many good sites for virtual field trips, but I like
 Or schedule a real field trip to some sights in your very own neighborhood! Visiting a local park, museum, historic site, or even the grocery store, can be turned into an awesome learning adventure!



Have some fun with your family, avoid the slide, and Be Wise!


Lots of people (mostly teachers) talk about something called the “summer slide”. But what is it? Most kids, if you ask, will tell you it is a fun, water-related ride down a slippery sheet of vinyl in the back yard!

The “summer slide”, though, is the loss of learning students experience during the long summer break.

Sometimes students simply forget what they’ve learned. Sometimes the loss of learning occurs because students don’t practice essential skills. Reading and math skills, in particular, require regular practice to stay sharp.

When kids aren’t reading or using math in July and August, lots of hard work that students, teachers and families put in during the school year is wasted.

It’s a bigger problem than you might think.

Summer slide has been studied in the United States since 1906. More than 100 years of research demonstrates that nearly all students suffer learning loss when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer. Most students will regress about two full months but some of these students will lose as much as three months of prior learning over summer break. (Cooper, 1996). In addition, much of the achievement gap between lower and higher income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning activities. (Alexander et al, 2007).

Most alarming is that summer slide is cumulative. In other words, for kids getting little or no educational stimulation in the summer, the months of learning lost “add up” each summer, pushing students farther and farther behind peers that do keep learning even though school is not in session. (Cooper et al, 2000).

But summer slide can be stopped with a little planning and the use of some easy-to-access resources. And there are lots of ways to make summer learning fun.

See below for just a few  of the many strategies adults can use to help students avoid sliding back several months over the summer. We don’t want YOU to be overwhelmed, so open next week’s blog to see a few more!

3 Strategies to Stop the Summer Slide (and 3 more next week) –

  • Head to your local librarian. Nearly ever library has a summer reading program for every age child. Simply go to the information desk and tell the librarian you want to help your child avoid the “summer slide.” You’ll get lots of help and your child will get lots of choices including book recommendations, live readings, reading groups, audio books, games and prizes.


  • Read Something Every Day. This is probably the most commonly offered suggestion but is also the most important advice — try to plan for reading every day through one of the suggestions above or ideas you create and discover on you own. Getting your students to read — and to listen to others reading — prevents the loss of language skills so critical to success in every academic area. You might consider picking a chapter book or series to build some great family rituals too!


  • Use the Web. Math can be challenging to engage students in over the summer, but there are websites that are very helpful. For younger children, try Touch Math ( They have a number of PDF activity guides that are engaging and fun while giving kids the practice they need. For older students, has a great article with lots of ideas for helping tweens and teens stay current in math.  Check it out at If you don’t have a computer, you and your student can use one free at the library. Or head to the local bookstore (or sometimes even the Dollar Store) and pick up a few math workbooks! Just a little practice every day can go a very long way towards keeping those math wheels turning!

Set the intention of getting to the library this week, and logging into the world-wide-web to find some engaging math activities!

Take a look next week for a few more! Be Wise!



Cooper, H., Nye, B., Charlton, K., Lindsay, J., & Greathouse, S. (1996). The effects of summer vacation on achievement test scores: A narrative and meta-analytic review. Review of Educational Research, 66, 227-268.

Alexander, K.L., Entlisle, D.R. and Olson, L.S., (2007). Lasting Consequences of the Summer Learning Gap. American Sociological Review, vol. 72 no. 2 167-180.

Cooper, H., Charlton, K., Valentine, J. C., & Muhlenbruck, L. (2000). Making the most of summer school. A meta-analytic and narrative review. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 65 (1, Serial No. 260).


What are your kids doing these days? We know kids that have swim team every morning at 5 AM, some that are travelling to Costa Rica to support turtle hatcheries, and others that are lifeguarding at the beach. Some kids are engaged in epic video game warfare, and we have learned more about Magic: The Gathering (like a modern day Pokemon-ish card game, but with magic) than we ever imagined. One of my sons is chopping down trees and pulling weeds at a deeply forested school in the 100 degree heat!

With all of the choices for summer enrichment and engagement, how do we build in strategies for maintaining some structure, forging deeper relationships with one another, and also getting in some well-deserved time out for rest and relaxation? Our Wise Family has some ideas for you – check them out!


Kasey CainResident in Counseling – Therapist for The Wise Family:  One of the best things about working with children is that I get to incorporate my love of kid’s literature into my sessions. The benefits of daily reading (or listening to books being read), for all ages, are well researched and documented.

As a therapist, educator, and mother, my go-to strategy to help bring some structure to summer is to encourage children to participate in some sort of summer reading program. There is no shortage of these. For example, Barnes and Noble – and other booksellers nationwide – ask participants to fill out a form upon completing 8 books. When kids turn in the form, they get a FREE book!

Many local libraries also offer a program where children who read a certain number of books (numbers vary by age) recieve a coupon book filled with great deals and freebies. Or they host a donut party for all of the summer readers before school starts. The best part about this is all of the extra benefits kids recieve. Through the act of participating, a child has set a goal and engaged in a healthy activity (reading) to achieve the goal. They have continued their academic and social-emotional learning and explored feelings, problem solving, empathy, perspective taking etc. through relating to stories and characters. If you need any suggestions for engaging reading for your child, whether an avid or reluctant reader, feel free to email! I am always happy to provide suggestions and support!

Amanda Beyland, LCSW – Therapist for The Wise Family: When summer comes to mind, most people think of a few months filled with fun, vacations, and relaxation! For some families, summer turns into a time of constant chauffeuring to and from swim practice, camp, and friends’ houses.

With so much to do and so many places to be, the thought of relaxing often goes right out the window! A good strategy to help bring a little calm to constantly being on the go is to schedule some weekly family time at home. It does not have to be anything fancy (or stressful). Think about a family game night, stargazing in the backyard, going on a scavenger hunt, or having a water balloon fight! This strategy gives you a night in with the family as well as a break from the rush of summer activities.

Dominique AdkinsEdD – Therapist for The Wise Family: 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. There is still plenty of time to create exciting new memories. Check out Cinema Del Ray “Movies Under the Stars Outdoor Movies Series” or free Sunday yoga at Lululemon here in Alexandria. (If you live outside of Alexandria, many cinemas in varying cities offer outdoor movie nights! Check out your local town/city directory for info.)

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 these responsibilities. Remember if you have to practice for tryouts. A great strategy is to practice with friends or family. Lastly, focus on your present moment and the stress of the future will slowly fade away so you can have fun!

As always, Be Wise!


I am re-sharing this, because it sparked a good conversation at Chez Parks last night. My 17-year-old daughter commented about how often people ask her how she is doing in school, or where she wants to go to college, or what she wants to ‘do with her life’.

Recently, out to dinner with her older brother, no fewer than 7 people began a conversation by asking, “Are you guys in college?”

To a 17-year-old, these questions are fraught with stress and anxiety. There are already people, daily, up in their lives about academics and plans for the future. Next time you meet a teen, ask them,

“What do you do for fun?”

“What music do you like?”

“Have you been to any cool places lately?”

“Are you a sports fan?”

Teens need room to be themselves, and to think and grow at their own pace. They don’t need more pressure from adults to make big decisions about their future. See them for the person they are – not the season they are in! #wisewords

Things To Say To Young Girls That Aren’t “You Look Pretty Today!”

Things To Say To Young Girls That Aren’t “You Look Pretty Today!”

Posted by BuzzFeed Parents on Wednesday, June 28, 2017


By Guest Contributor and Wise Family Clinician – Kasey Cain, Resident in Counseling

I have recently been hearing a lot in the world of school and work that we are in the social age of collaboration. While the world is certainly connected in new and amazing ways, I believe we have always been social beings and that collaboration has always helped communities grow and thrive.  Collaboration is a key skill that, when developed, will support our children’s success throughout their school age years and beyond. However, for many of our children, in particular those with social communication challenges, cooperation does not come naturally.


Cooperation is more complicated than it may seem.  Effective cooperation draws up the ability to focus, exercise self-control,  and think about someone else’s needs, wants, and perspectives.  When we are asking children to cooperate we are expecting them to follow rules, listen, take turns, ask questions to to get information or seek help, stay with the group and on task, and express their thoughts and feelings all at the same time.  It is very complex and requires explicit instruction.

A key aspect of cooperation is being a part of the group and being able to truly listen and engage.  We teach this through a Social Thinking concept called whole body listening.  You will find additional information about whole body listening below. The lyrics to a song called “Listen with All of You” is also helpful in understanding how to listen and engage.  To hear the song please click here.

Also, to learn more about whole body listening, click here.

Whole body listening is just one part of the cooperation equation.  To truly learn the other pieces, ample opportunity for practice is needed.  One way to practice cooperation is through play.  Some of my favorite cooperative activities are working together to complete a puzzle or create a structure from blocks.  Also, there is a fun line of board games from Peaceable Kingdom in which everyone playing works together to get the treasure or create a spell to reach success.

As parents, caregivers, and educators, we must be sure to model the cooperative behavior we hope to develop in our children.  We can model waiting our turn patiently, and talk out what we might be thinking if our plan doesn’t work or if something isn’t going “just right.” It is helpful to think out loud: talk through the steps and don’t just assume your child is making the connections. While playing, use phrases like “Man, I really want to go but I have to wait for my turn,” or “I wanted to do it all by myself, but when we did it together it was even better!”

When you see behaviors you like, praise with specific observations of cooperative behavior.  For example, instead of saying “Good job!”, try “I notice how you waited your turn so patiently!”  Also, one of the hardest things for us to do is put those cell phones down and really be in the game, but if we want our kids to focus we need to show them how it can be done.

Lastly, some of our children need a bit of extra help with figuring out what to say to others in group work.  Giving your child polite and easy phrases to use can really help in the moment.  Here are a few we worked on today:

  • Can I help you?
  • It is my turn.
  • Please wait.
  • Can someone help me?
  • Do you have an idea?
  • I feel frustrated.  I need a break.
  • No thank you, I want to try by myself.

Understanding how others feel and appropriately responding to that is another aspect of cooperation.


(Content written in collaboration with Lipsett Learning Connection.)

About Kasey:
Kasey is a mom to two fabulous daughters, loves mint chocolate chip ice cream, and loves to dance. She has very acute hearing and can track multiple conversations at once! She loves to read and take naps in her spare time. Kasey’s knowledge of the school system and best practices for teaching and learning, paired with her honed counseling skills, leaves her expertly suited to work with children and their families. She believes in the power of play and that all behavior is communication.

She holds a Masters in Education for School Counseling and a Post Counseling Licensure Certificate in Community Counseling. She is actively pursuing licensure in Virginia as a Licensed Professional Counselor. Her professional journey has included teaching, working at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum education programming department, and community counseling. Since 2006, she has worked in Fairfax County Public schools as an Elementary Professional School Counselor and as a Resource Counselor for School Counseling Services in FCPS’s central office.


Until next week, Be Wise!

Do you have teens? And how’s that working for you? Children and teens are faced with a variety of development tasks at many points as they grow up and there are a few stages in life when young people may encounter multiple challenges all at once. This is particularly true in the transition from high school to college. This is an exciting time that typically leads to some maturity-leaps, but can also be a time of difficulty and even anxiety. Do you remember your own graduation from high school and the thrill of getting out on your own? And do you also remember it as also being pretty scary too?

The transition is an important event for families as well, because the family unit undergoes some of its own dynamic changes. For our oldest son, the transition was a breeze, but for our next graduate, the shift from “under Mom and Dad’s roof” to “footloose and fancy free” was fraught with more than our fair share of problems. For some students in their senior years of high school and post-graduation, there are daunting personal challenges bundled into the transition. These include struggles with questions about interests, goals and identity. The adolescent encounters the question, “Who am I?” in many different forms, from “What kind of job do I want?” to “What kind of social environment will I choose?” to “How am I going to afford to live on my own?”

And the list of challenges for students in their freshman year in college is remarkably long, encompassing many unanswered questions, incomplete developmental tasks and a HUGE HELPING of EVERYTHING NEW! Adjusting to the multitude of changes that leaving home, finding a new social circle and learning with a unique set of rules, can be overwhelming – we see it pretty frequently.

From a psychological perspective, in order to negotiate the transition from high school to college, a young person must move towards forming his or her unique identity and becoming more independent, which includes separating emotionally (and often geographically), from his or her parents. These psychological hurtles are especially demanding as young people don’t always have the luxury of working on them while everything else (academic demands, social experiences, etc.) remains the same (Clarke, 2005).

So what is a parent to do? Research has shown that teens do better during this transitional period with continued encouragement and support. The push and pull for independence makes this difficult sometimes, because let’s face it…who wants to support a teenager who is breaking curfew, rolling their eyes or shutting down at the first suggestion of responsibility and neglecting chores in favor of Snapchat?

Sometimes this rebellion is a struggle with the anxiety around becoming more independent. Ask your teen, “How are you feeling about all of the new opportunities ahead of you?”,

“How can I help you keep up with your responsibilities to yourself and the family, while also encouraging you to grow up?”. And sometimes, it helps to get a professional involved who can determine if the rebellion is more about “growing pains” or something counterproductive to independence.

Ask yourself and your teen, the right questions and, if your communication is suffering, get some help! Also consider suggesting to your teen that they join us at The Wise Family for our 10-hour College Readiness Intensive (which we should really rename to be the Life Readiness Intensive). Everyone will be glad when they know they are not alone!

As always, Be Wise!





Article featured in the March 2017 edition of Fairfax Woman. See it HERE


It’s officially summer!! How do you deal with going from a structured schedule to unstructured during the summer months? How do you handle the “I’m bored” comments from your kids? And setting a standard for rest and good sleep schedules? Here are some of our Wise Insights into the transition for kids and teens from school to summer.

Amy Fortney Parks PhDR, LPC: In some families, kids have been out of school for over a month, and for others, it has been a mere few days! Regardless of how long (or short) your summer is, the transition from the structure of a 7:45 – 2:45 school day, with lunch at 10:00 AM – really, that is called BRUNCH, people, CRAZY-TOWN – to the lazy, pool-filled days of summer can be tough on all of us. We all need down time, and I am a big advocate for letting your family find a rhythm that works for you during the summer months.

Over the many years that I have worked with families, one insight that I have had regarding transitions is to take the time to “find the fences”. When schedules change, routines are interrupted or all heck breaks loose at your house, take the time to find the fences again – that means look around, and talk to one another, about expectations and ideas. What might sound fun and easy for you, may be totally anxiety producing for your sensitive teen. A trip to the pool may seem like just what has been missing from your cold, dry winter, but for your 8-year-old the idea of a loud, splashing pool may make her want to head to the snow-covered hills. So this summer, have some insight into what feels good for everyone – and how everyone is a little bit different – find the fences for your family. And don’t forget to Be WISE!

Lynlee Tanner Stapleton, PhD – Evaluator for The Wise Family: Sometimes I hear from parents eager to play “catch up” over the summer – to fit in that special reading course, to master that next level math skill, or even to get lots of extra violin or batting practice. While some kids with very specific needs must have extra summer support to just keep up, don’t forget about the value of taking a breath and a step back. Insights from developmental science consistently show the invaluable role that play and unstructured time with family and peers have on a host of skills and domains of well-being. So give your kids (and yourself!) a bit of a break, and you just might find everyone comes out ahead in the end!

Kasey CainResident in counseling – Therapist for The Wise Family: As a parent, one of my least favorite things to hear is “I’m bored.” It evokes an angry or annoyed response because I know that I have provided toys and games galore for my children. They have everything they need (and then some) so why should they be bored? Luckily, through my studies and work as a school counselor and resident in counseling, I have gained some insight on the topic. British psychotherapist and essayist Adam Phillips wrote, “the capacity to be bored can be a developmental achievement for the child.” If we, as the adults, fill up all of our child’s time with activities and events we are actually doing them a disservice. They need to learn how to fill their own time either with self-selected activities or even just their thoughts. Being bored is really just a state of mind. This summer, let your kids practice the art of being bored.

Amanda Beyland, LCSW – Therapist for The Wise Family: Most of the kids I know have been looking forward to summer for months and it’s finally here but now what?! Summer is a big transition for both kids and parents that may seem overwhelming. While there is certainly love for the freedom summer gives, it can seem like a daunting task to plan each day. Here’s some insight– don’t worry about always keeping kids busy! Of course, it’s always fun to go on some adventures, take trips, and do things there just isn’t time for during the school year but it’s fine to have days with nothing planned. This allows kids time to do their own things whether it’s reading a book, playing outside with the neighbors, or simply coloring. You should always be prepared to be spontaneous but you can still stick to a routine – even if it needs to be revamped on some days. Most importantly, relax and have fun with your family!

Dominique AdkinsEdD – Therapist for The Wise Family: Summertime teens it is not too late to create your ideal summer. Here are four insights to help customize your summer experience.

– As tempting as it might be, avoid staying awake all night and sleeping the day away. Create a sleep routine that allows you to sleep in and not miss out on your summertime fun.
– Secondly, it can be hard to coordinate hanging out with friends because of travel plans or conflicting schedules. Don’t take it personal! Plan ahead and find ways to reconnect throughout the summer whether it is in person or by phone or by FaceTime or through letters.
– Explore part time summer job opportunities. It can be a rewarding experience that puts money in your pocket and looks good on your college resume!
– Finally, remember this time away from the pressures of school is valuable and essential to recharge for the next school year. Try not to over plan. Let summer takes its natural course. You will have busy and quiet days. The most important thing is to be mindful and enjoy each summertime moment!

Be Wise!

We are honored and humbled to learn that the City of Alexandria, Virginia and their Children, Youth and Families Collaborative Commission has awarded Amy Fortney Parks, our practice owner, along with fellow champions Susan Britton, Cheryl Robinson, Lyndsey Swanson, Lynn Thomas, and Olga Wright, with their first ever Champions of Children Award!

On behalf of all of the children and families that have been, and will be, a part of The Wise Family, and all of the families that we support around the world, THANK YOU!
The Children, Youth and Families Collaborative Commission honors individuals who have been instrumental in implementing the strategies of the Children and Youth Master Plan (CYMP). The Champions of Children Awards celebrate the unsung heroes in our community whose tireless efforts advance the CYMP goals.

The Wise Family team constantly strives to improve the well-being of children and families through fostering partnerships by keeping health and safety, academic success and career readiness, social connection, emotional security and cultural competence in our core values and top-of-mind during therapy sessions.

At the beginning of 2017, Amy never conceived of this honor in her wildest dreams! We released this to the press, and you are a part of the family, so we wanted to share the good news with you first! It is truly a joy for Amy, and a privilege, to receive recognition for her efforts.

Until next week, Be Wise!