School is out for the summer! Now what?! How to avoid the summer brain drain!

While kids look forward to summer all school year, it’s still important that we keep our kids learning even when they aren’t attending school every day. Summer learning loss is a real phenomenon! The National Summer Learning Association says that, on average, students can lose up to two months of learning. Not only that, most teachers spend at least 3 weeks re-teaching skills from the previous school year.

It can certainly be a challenge to keep kids both physically and mentally active during the summer days and they may need some encouragement. Parents play a key role in filling gaps over the summer. Learning loss is much less pronounced in families that visited the library, participated in summer reading programs, or took part in free educational community activities.

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!

  • Encourage your child to practice their creative writing skills by writing a play to perform with their friends or a fun story to read to the family.
  • While you’re traveling have your kids write letters to their friends or send postcards to family members from all your fun vacation spots.
  • Use road trips as a time to learn. Study maps, estimate how long the trip may take, play the license plate game, and look up fun facts about the states.
  • Have them set a summer reading goal with a special treat at the end. You can even start a family book club!
  • Cook together! Practice measurements, fractions, and following directions. You could even pick recipes from different cultures.
  • Encourage a new hobby or trying something new. Have your child set some summer goals!
  • Work together on a building project – such as a robot building kit, a new lego structure, or get creative with household items to build a fort.
  • Have a family game night. Play games that involve strategy or planning and have your child keep score. Find trivia games that keep everyone guessing.
  • Take a nature walk or have a night of star gazing.
  • Incorporate math – count shells at the beach, look for different shapes at the playground, or keep track of the score of the soccer game.
  • Encourage creativity and keep them drawing, coloring, painting, and just creating.
  • Give the kids control of a day! Give a budget, allow them to pick an activity, make the plans, and figure out how to make it all possible.

With these fun activities the kids won’t even notice that you’re sneaking a little learning into their playtime! We also have to remember that physical health is important to maintain. Encourage your child to play outside, go on a family bike ride, or get out and explore your city together!

Have fun and spend time together. Have a great summer!

By Amanda Beyland, Therapist for The Wise Family

Learn more about Amanda here! She’s our featured clinician of the month!

Our friend, Mr. Fred Rogers, from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, said it best,

“Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning.”

Children learn through play. Play has a significant importance in the lives of children; it allows children to be creative, to interact with one another, to try out different roles and personalities, and to suspend reality. In her groundbreaking work on play, Maria Montessori called play “the work” of the child.

All behavior has a message. In the process of growing up, issues that children experience are often compounded by the limited ability of adults in their lives to understand or respond effectively to what children are feeling and trying to communicate. Play is a medium for expressing feelings when the use of verbal forms of expression are not fully developed.

Play Therapy serves as an extension of this idea. Play Therapy allows children to communicate and address challenges in a non-threatening way. It differs from regular play, in that, its focus is to help identify, address and resolve conflicts in a child’s life. Play Therapy can be therapist directed, where the therapist selects the game or items that will be used in a session, or client-led, where the room is set up as a “playroom” and the child selects any item to be used.

With both of these styles, play therapy supports children with expressing their feelings, confronting worries, enhancing social skills, and developing problem-solving strategies. Mr. Rogers said, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning.”

In the safety of the Play Therapy experience, children are able to explore the unfamiliar and develop a knowing that is both experiential-feeling and cognitive. Through the process of play, the unfamiliar becomes familiar, and children often express outwardly through play what has taken place, or what is currently taking place, inwardly.

If you would like to know more about play therapy, or take a tour of our play therapy playroom, give us a call to chat HEREBe Wise!

From Kasey Cain, Resident in Counseling – Therapist for The Wise Family

and Dr. Amy Fortney Parks, Practice Owner


As some of you may know, Netflix has released a second season of 13 Reasons Why. We wanted to share some information with you in case you are unsure about how to discuss the important topics that arise from this series. If your child(ren) plans to watch the new season, or plans to start from the beginning, we highly recommend you watch with them. Here are few topics and issues you may wish to discuss as situations depicted in the show can be upsetting. As always, reach out to us if you have questions, and/or need support!
Refer to this helpful article by FCPS & Fairfax County Government
And Be Wise!


We see kids, teens (and, sometimes, parents) with anxiety on a daily basis at The Wise Family. But even though we see folks reporting anxiety all the time, a 2015 Child Mind Institute study reported that 80% of kids with a diagnosable anxiety disorder are not getting treatment.

We wonder…

Anxiety disorders actually affect one in eight children. And some amount of anxiety is considered a normal part of childhood, and the phases are usually temporary. But children who suffer from an anxiety disorder experience fear, nervousness, and shyness, and they start to avoid places and activities.

It is hard for parents to know which behaviors are the temporary kind, and which are the more serious anxiety-disorder-kind. We use a variety of assessments and impressions to make a diagnosis, and you can do some detective work on your own (we call that CSI of the MIND) by reading the article below, and watching this great video to pick up on some questions to ask, and some not-so-subtle clues that anxiety is something to consider.

Article: The Two Questions All Parents of Young Kids Should Ask Themselves



And when you are ready to get some help, we are always here – Be Wise!


Dr. Amy Fortney Parks was recently featured on The Rant with Baeth podcast! In her interview with host Baeth Davis, Dr. Parks talks about how to parent, your kid’s happiness, social media and much much more. With over 25 years experience working with children, adolescents and families as both an educator and psychologist, Dr. Parks sheds light on the link between happiness and social media, why parents are NOT responsible for their child’s happiness and how we all parent in different ways.

“What is it that you feel needs to happen for your family? What is that path that you want your family to be on?”

~Dr. Amy Fortney Parks


Tune into episode 38 Dr. Amy Fortney Parks –

Your Child’s Happiness is Not Your Job from the Rant with Baeth in Podcasts!




Until next week, Be Wise!

This week’s blog post brought to you by:
Kasey Cain, Resident in Counseling – Therapist for The Wise Family: 


Communicating with our children is an age old conflict of parenting. Parents want to know the details of their children’s lives to keep them safe and guide them through the world. However, as children grow and develop, they require privacy and independence. Further complicating things is the disconnect between generations. The new generation almost always thinks “They just don’t understand!” or “The world is so different from when my parents were kids.”

And, this generation isn’t wrong. I always hate to give away my age but I can tell you that I am a part of the last generation to grow up without the internet. I got my first email account in college and have been learning to navigate the digital world since. The children I work with on a daily basis, though, have never lived in a world without the internet, cell phones, Google, etc. I like to say that we are trying to teach them how to play on the playground, but their playground is nothing like the one we experienced. So, we do our best and hope and wish and search for ways to connect to our kids.

Even before I had my own children, I worked in education and interacted with children on a daily basis. I found that the younger kiddos (PreK and K) were easy to engage with and gave their love and trust freely. As kids got older, they became more reluctant to trust and connect. And then as they entered the “tween-ager” years it was extremely challenging to learn about not only their thoughts and feelings, but even simple facts about their day. I find myself constantly referring to and recommending the book How to Talk so Kids Will Listen & Listen so Kids will Talk. Written by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish and originally published in 1980, this book remains relevant and helpful. It provides specific examples and exercises that you can practice (try with a friend first) to improve your communication skills with children.

Sometimes we don’t have time to read an entire book so I am also a fan of the following lists that can be printed out, posted, or saved to a phone, and quickly referenced. A quick Google search will yield an extensive list of “ways to ask your kids ‘how was school today’ without actually using those words. Some of my favorites include:

  • Tell me something that made you laugh today.
  • How did you help somebody today?
  • Who did you sit with at lunch today?
  • If you were the teacher tomorrow, what would you teach the class?

It is also fun to have a regular ritual, maybe at dinner or the car ride home, where everyone shares an “up” and a “down” – something they liked about the day and something less pleasant. Starting this early helps keep the momentum going into the teen years. Most importantly, don’t be discouraged if your child doesn’t want to tell you everything. Remember, we are not their best friends. We are their parents. Encourage open conversation and be clear that you are there for them for better or worse. Show that you are willing to listen.

And don’t forget, when we truly listen, we must be silent. (Just move the letters around in listen and you can switch it to silent!)

Until next week, Be Wise!

Dr. Amy Fortney ParksOwner of The Wise Family: The word wonder has a few definitions. We tend to think about the verb form – “To desire or be curious to know something.” At The Wise Family, we talk about “wonder” in our four-part family exploration model – W- Wonder; I- Insight; S- Strategies; E- Expectations. There is another way to look at wonder, however. And that is the noun form – “A feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.”

How can you find something WONDER-FUL today in your family? Let’s wonder about that, and more below –

Kasey Cain, Resident in Counseling – Therapist for The Wise Family:  Parents want to know the details of their children’s lives to keep them safe and guide them through the world. However, as children grow and develop, they require privacy and independence. “Wondering” what is going on in their lives – and in their heads – can be a full-time job for a parent.

I have some tricks that I am sharing in next week’s blog, but one way of “wondering” that we use in my family is a fun dinnertime ritual. Rituals help bring stability and structure to anything! So maybe at dinner, or the car ride home, everyone shares an “up” and a “down” – something they liked about the day and something less pleasant. Starting this early helps keep the momentum going in the teen years. Or some families do “roses” and “thorns” – same concept, different words. And everyone shares so parents are part of the “wondering” too!

Dominique AdkinsEdD – Therapist for The Wise Family:  As teens become absorbed with technology more, it becomes challenging for parents to effectively communicate with them. Parents often feel the best way to know what is going on with their teen is to follow them on Instagram or Snap Chat, which often is a sacred territory for teens. It is important to remember teens are trying to find a balance between their need for independence and the support of parents.

Parents try to provide a safe, encouraging, and nonjudgmental space for dialogues to occur. Limit the number of questions as that often makes teens feel interrogated. Keep the questions open ended instead of closed to avoid the one word answers. Replace your extra questions with a reflection or summary of what your teen said. When all else fails, just listen because when your teen finally opens up they usually just need someone to listen and not fix.

Amanda Beyland, LCSW – Therapist for The Wise Family:  When parents are asked what they want most of their kids, the most common reply seems to be that they want their children to be happy. Many parents worry about their children being happy but how do we know if we don’t know what’s going on in their lives!

Parents want to know that their children are safe and sound while kids want to be independent and trusted. When a child does share about his or her day, parents often feel the need to be problem solvers, which to some kids feels like they are being judged. They want to feel that they are competent and able to find a solution on their own. Work on focusing more on listening, less on solutions, and be aware of body language. Even when we aren’t being vocal, we are communicating how we are feeling through shrugs, smiles, and sometimes even eye rolls. Silence often makes us uncomfortable but sometimes it’s hard to verbalize things.

Be patient and give children time rather than rushing to help them answer to avoid sitting in silence. The most important part is to just listen; reflect so they know you are hearing them and then let them talk more.

Kelsey Yeager – Counseling Intern for The Wise Family: Parents are deeply invested in the lives of their children. Sometimes, there is almost a craving for all the details of their lives. And for kids, it is important to know that someone is there and willing to listen.

One thing that parents can do with kids, starting from an early age, is create a special talk time. By giving children the gift of time and talking with them we instill in them the knowledge and belief behind the phrase, “you can talk to me about anything”. This special talk time is a time in which kids can ask questions and voice their opinions, their hopes and dreams, as well as the disappointments of the day, without fear of judgement. For some families this may be dinner together at night or once a week. For others it may be breakfast on Saturday morning. It could simply be the 10 minutes in the car on the way home from school or practice.

By starting this with your children when they are little they will have a foundation built for talking and with you. Having this foundation built will be so helpful as they grow older and the topics get more difficult.

Until next week, Be Wise!

Do you suffer from anxiety? Does your child? Partner? Exciting news! The Wise Family will be hosting a screening of the movie, ANGST, at First Baptist Church in Alexandria. ANGST is an IndieFlix Original documentary about anxiety. It’s a 55 minute film and virtual reality experience that explores anxiety, its causes, its effects and what we can do about it. The film includes interviews with kids, teens, experts and parents. The goal specifically is to help people identity and understand the symptoms of anxiety and encourage them to reach out for help.  Appropriate for ages 10 and up.
The screening will take place on Tuesday, May 8th at First Baptist Church in Alexandria at 7pm.


Questions about a parenting concern?

We’d love to hear from you! Just reply to this email. We are here for you!

Be Wise!

This week The Wise Family clinical team helps explain Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT for short) and STRATEGIES to implement at every age. Read on to learn more!


Kasey Cain, Resident in Counseling – Therapist for The Wise Family: As the name indicates, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, often referred to as CBT, looks at the way people think (cognitive) and act (behavior). Central to this practice is the belief that our thoughts impact our emotional and physical feelings and those drive our actions.

Many children and adults seeking therapy have gotten into an unhealthy pattern of cognitive distortions – thinking errors. There are many types of thinking errors. Depending on the book you reference, they may be called by different names. However, a thinking error occurs when something you are thinking does not match up with the actual reality of the situation. Here are just a few examples:

– Negative Glasses: This type of thinking filters out all of the positives and focuses only on the negatives. Ten good things could have happened throughout the day with one negative experience like a disappointing grade. This type of thinking can lead to another thinking error…overgeneralizing.

– Overgeneralizing: Where someone takes one event and applies it to everything. “I am bad at everything/” or “I am so dumb and will never learn!” are examples of overgeneralization.

– Predicting Failure is another type of faulty thinking where someone convinces themselves not to even attempt something because they “know” they will fail – “If I ask them to play with me they will certainly say no!”

– Mind Reading is another thinking error that I encounter with children all the time. “They were talking about me!” is a common sentence I hear in my work. In reality, the child has no idea if they were being talked about and are making guesses about other people’s perceptions.

To combat thinking errors, I like to challenge the thoughts and work to re-frame them with a more positive/realistic lens. One of my favorite tools to use when discussing thoughts with children of all ages is my thought bubble dry erase board. This double-sided board makes it easy for clients to display a thought, look at it, read it, examine it (with support), and then flip to the other side and re-frame that thought.

Changing harmful/hurtful thoughts into helpful thoughts takes practice and perseverance. Kids and adults need to be kind to themselves and be willing to learn from mistakes. Carol Dweck, known for her work/book Mindset talks, about “The Power of YET.” Everyone can continue to learn and grow. We might not have mastered a skill in the moment but that just means we can’t do it YET. CBT can help reshape thinking so if a child hasn’t overcome his or her thinking errors YET, there is still hope and success will come.

Dominique AdkinsEdD – Therapist for The Wise Family:  CBT techniques help teens to recognize the vital role their thoughts play in their life experience. The negative and egocentric thinking patterns of teens combined with the developmental pressures can be a hinderance and a challenge for teens.

Teens tend to forget these damaging thought patterns are within their power. Educating teens on how their thoughts are affecting their emotions and behaviors is beneficial and empowering. Together we can support teens to develop healthier ways of thinking to achieve their desired outcomes. Let’s empower teens to have positive thoughts and positive results!

Amanda Beyland, LCSW – Therapist for The Wise Family:  Using CBT interventions helps kids to understand that there is a connection between the way that they think and the things that they do, or their actions. CBT encourages kids to look at how their thoughts and feelings may lead to certain behaviors. Our thoughts, feelings, emotions, and behaviors all intersect!

When I start working with a new child we talk about the “toolbox” that we are going to build during our time together. Most of the tools in the CBT toolbox encourage kids to replace their negative thinking with positive, and usually more realistic, thoughts. While CBT is known as a “talk therapy” sometimes the talking part can be difficult for kids. While working on CBT tools, it’s helpful to make it into something the child may enjoy, like creating a story with alternative endings.

Lynlee Tanner Stapleton, PhD – Evaluator for The Wise Family:  CBT is an umbrella term that represents many specific and general treatments for mental health concerns. A key feature is that CBT generally focuses on a specific set of symptoms or problems to improve, and it has been well-researched to treat many common childhood conditions, such as ADHD, depression, anxiety and OCD.

The website profiles the evidence base for treating a variety of concerns, symptoms, and conditions, with many of the best-supported approaches based on CBT techniques. Some of these treatments are even “manualized,” meaning that there is a standard, consistent approach to the intervention that has been well-tested but still allows for individualized adjustments. For many concerns, this solid foundation of research means that there is a very good chance you and your child will see significant improvement in the issues of concern, often within just a few months, and learn helpful strategies that can be applied across many situations and problems.


Questions about the above topic or any other parenting concern?

We’d love to hear from you! Just reply to this email. We are here for you!

Be Wise!