At The Wise Family, we spend a lot of time talking about talking. We use a specialized approach to our work, and the teaching that we do around communication called – W.I.S.E. Words. We’re going to write more next week about the W.I.S.E. approach, and for now we want to share our TEAM insights and strategies (hint hint – that’s the “I” and “S” in W.I.S.E.) into how to talk to kids and teens about mental health, and about the importance of talking with someone else when you need support! Here’s what our super-wise clinicians have to say –

 

 

Dr. Lynlee Tanner Stapleton – Evaluator for The Wise Family: “Mental health” sounds like such an adult topic, but it actually starts in infancy! No, a 3-month-old can’t verbalize that they often feel sad or scared, or that they feel so frustrated about not reaching that shiny toy that they just want to scream. But from the earliest of ages, we all experience emotions, and we learn how to manage them from cues that other people we know and trust give us. Giving voice to those feelings by calmly labeling what you see shows kids that you understand what they’re going through, that you’re there for them even when they feel bad, and that using language can actually make difficult emotions easier to manage. Making feelings just one more thing that you can talk about in your family (even before they can actually talk!) sets the stage for a healthier and more resilient future.

Kasey Cain – Therapist for The Wise Family: In my work with schools, children, and families, I have come across a common misconception that talking about mental health challenges makes them worse.  This is actually the opposite of what happens.  The more we can talk about topics that appear “taboo” and make them non-threatening, the more confidently we will be able to address these challenges.  Mental health challenges are not something to be ashamed of.  Instead, they can be acknowledged, explored, and supported in a pro-active manner.

Amanda Beyland – Therapist for The Wise Family: There is such a stigma attached with mental health that it’s often difficult to talk about and when there are children involved it seems to get even harder. Many parents are apprehensive talking about their child’s mental health because they may be concerned they are admitting that something is wrong. There is also the fear they have made a mistake somewhere along the road or that it reflects on their parenting. These common misinterpretations often steer parents away from seeking support for their children. Talking about your child’s mental health is a good thing and a starting place to allow the child to learn about and feel comfortable with the challenges they may be having.

Dr. Dominique Adkins – Therapist for The Wise Family: In my work with families, adolescents, and young adults there is an inherent stigma and fear associated with mental illness.  Adolescents and young adults often have a self-image that they have to maintain.  Through continued media exposure and education, adolescents and young adults find the courage and strength to share about their experience with mental illness.  The individuals that open up to others have found the experience to be healing and empowering.   My clients have shared they feel closer with those they shared with and learned that mental illness often has touched those close to them which normalizes their experiences and allows for an unexpected support.

 

Until next week, Be Wise!

 

Continuing with this month’s theme of mental health awareness, let’s talk a little more about anxiety. Specifically, anxiety in teens.

A lot of teens present in therapy and in the school setting with anxiety and worry. Part of that comes from perspective. Teens think everyone is watching them all the time, and also it comes from just an inability, really, to cope with anxiety and stress. They haven’t been able to normalize stress like adults are able to, so I think helping kids figure out ways to relax and cope, meditate, and take time to breathe through situations helps. It certainly helps the brain, but also may show if they need professional help. I think it’s absolutely the perfect time to help make the experience of therapy or maybe even working with a psychiatrist, an experience that feels comfortable and is something that they’re going to not feel self conscious about or that something is wrong with them. Just really normalizing that experience, I think, is part of it too.

Anxiety is really tricky. Oftentimes when a teen is anxious, their parents are probably a little anxious too. That’s understandable. So helping your anxious teen involves figuring out what’s going on underneath their experience, but also helping them figure out ways to cope.

So you’re figuring out what the stressors are and trying to meditate them a little bit, whether they’re school or peers, really problem solving through that. But also helping kids figure out ‘how do I calm down? How do I de-stress?’ So it might be meditation. It might be having alone time or just downtime with the family. It might be exercising or being involved in a sport. It might even be just eating better and taking better care of themselves that might lessen the anxiety but all of those things really affect the brain and kids can’t function when they are anxious and worried.

 

So any way you can help your teen figure out how to minimize anxiety is really good. If you feel like your teen needs support, then you should really find some support, either in a professional or in a religious setting or whatever, so that they can feel like they have lots of resources.

Until next week, Be Wise!

 

Parents know being a teenager can be stressful and anxiety-provoking. There is a barrage of tests, social pressures, and people constantly nagging teens about their future. It’s no wonder one in eight adolescents have an anxiety disorder.

If your teen is feeling stressed out, worried, and nervous about various aspects of life, they’re not alone. Anxiety is a feeling everyone experiences.

Chronic anxiety, however, whether it be seasonal, general, social, or specific phobia-related, is something that should be addressed. When anxiety begins to take a toll on day-to-day life and starts affecting social interactions and relationships, your teen could be suffering from an anxiety disorder.
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Below are some steps your teen can take to get chronic anxiety or an anxiety disorder under control.
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​​​​Get Enough Sleep!​​

​​​Sleep and anxiety are part of a pretty vicious cycle; anyone with anxiety knows this all too well. High levels of anxiety can disrupt sleeping patterns. In turn, poor sleep is a major cause of chronic anxiety.
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Getting a good amount of uninterrupted sleep is crucial for coping with anxiety. Begin by setting regular bedtimes and wake-up times. Teens need to teach their bodies to “turn off and turn back on” at set times. A strict schedule is key.

​​​​​​​Also, they must make changes to bedroom activity if they’re having trouble sleeping. The bedroom should be for sleeping and sleeping only. They shouldn’t watch TV, play video games, or do homework in bed. They shouldn’t check Facebook or Instagram when going to bed either. Their brains needs to know that when the head hits the pillow, it’s time for sleep time and nothing else.

Increase Levels of Physical Activity:

​​​​​​​Increasing levels of physical activity can help teens manage how they deal with anxiety. They will be more balanced and able to prevent anxiety from disrupting their decision-making.
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Exercise has numerous positive benefits on the brain, sleep, and overall wellbeing. Ask your teen to attempt to increase physical activity if they’re dealing with a lot of anxiety. If some of this activity can be social in nature — like team sports, working out with a friend, or joining a yoga or running club — all the better.

Define Specific Anxiety Triggers and Take Small Steps to Combat Them: 

​​​​​​​Being dismissive or overly general about anxiety, and what causes it, prevents teens from beginning the process of overcoming it. Anxiety is real, and it won’t go away if they try to ignore it.
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Ask them to write it all down, to grab a pen and paper (yes, old school) and make a list of specific things that are causing the anxiety. They can write down how these things make them feel both mentally and physically. Then they can rate their anxiety triggers in terms of how much they affect them. Then write down plans to begin to combat those specific sources of anxiety.

​​​​​​​Try to be specific. Here’s an example: “Falling behind in math class is stressing me out. This makes me unable to focus on the work at hand, which only leads to more anxiety. I plan on staying after school to work on math as well as looking into getting a tutor to help.”

​​​​​​​Anxiety is sometimes simply a reaction to life’s stressors. If your teen commonly experiences anxiety, and it often overwhelms their ability to think reasonably about issues, know that these tips can help manage their anxiety. Sometimes, however, the help of a licensed therapist is required to completely alleviate it. With some work, they can reduce anxiety levels to well within the norm for a teenager.
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There can also be a great deal of stress for parents dealing with anxious teens. It’s important to remember to take care of your mental health as well!

Excerpted from WellnessVoyager.com by Noah Smith

Until next week, Be Wise!

 

REGISTER TODAY BEFORE SPACE FILLS UP!

Links to our registration pages are included below.

Have any questions? Please reach out to info@thewisefamily.com.

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Confidence Club: Social Skills Group for Kids (1st – 3rd Grade)

A support group designed for rising 1st – 3rd graders with a focus on how to manage anger and resolve conflict at home and at school led by our therapist, Amanda Beyland. Kids will learn how to deal with social stress and cope with anxious feelings that may be triggered in a stressful situation. Your child will also learn how to create healthy friendships, build self-confidence in social situations and identify their unique anxiety and anger triggers while building skills to manage all of their feelings in an effective way.

The Confidence Club is a six week group that will begin meeting once a week starting on May 11th. The group will meet on Thursdays and will last from 3:45pm – 5:00pm.

REGISTER for Confidence Club HERE!

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WISE Teen Talk: An Empowering Support Group For Teen Girls

Teen Talk is a support and process group for high school girls led by our therapist, Dr. Dominique Adkins. The purpose of this group is to offer teens support and guidance while they navigate difficult challenges in the world around them. This group provides teens with a safe and comfortable atmosphere to openly discuss the struggles they face, without fear of judgement, criticism or rejection. This group tackles difficult topics ranging from self-worth to conflict resolution and everything in between.

Teen Talk is a six week group that will begin meeting once a week starting on May 11th. The group will meet on Thursdays and will last from 6:00pm – 7:15pm.

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Space is limited for both groups! Registration is now open! Any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out! We look forward to helping your child or teen build their confidence.
Until next week, Be Wise!

Confidence — ​That tricky life skill that is built over time and with experience. The belief in one’s ability to succeed is an essential contributor to success for youngsters and for adults! Too much confidence can convey a cocky persona… and too little confidence prevents one from seizing opportunities. Maintaining a healthy balance of confidence is key to life and future successes.

Good social skills are the key to unlocking your child’s full potential… at school, at home and with friends.

Do you feel your child or teen lacks confidence in making friends and managing anger? Or are you a parent of a teenage daughter looking for additional support for your teen? The Wise Family has some exciting news! We are pleased to offer two 6-week social skills groups, led by our experienced therapists, Amanda Beyland and Dominique Adkins, who will guide kids and teens through hands-on skill building activities to boost confidence, improve self-control, manage anxious feelings, and enhance social skills.

Want to know more? Here’s more information on what to expect in each group:

 

Confidence Club: Social Skills Group for Kids (1st – 3rd Grade)

A support group designed for rising 1st – 3rd graders with a focus on how to manage anger and resolve conflict at home and at school. Kids will learn how to deal with social stress and cope with anxious feelings that may be triggered in a stressful situation. Your child will also learn how to create healthy friendships, build self-confidence in social situations and identify their unique anxiety and anger triggers while building skills to manage all of their feelings in an effective way.

What to expect:
● This group is perfect for kids who have excessive worry, difficulty making or keeping friends, social phobias, shyness, disruptive outbursts, or poor impulse control.

● Our groups are kept small to provide kids with a safe environment and plenty of individual attention to increase confidence and practice skills.

● Parents will get resources to take home to help your child make the most of what they’re learning in this group.

The Confidence Club is a six week group that will begin meeting once a week starting on May 11th. The group will meet on Thursdays and will last from 3:45pm – 5:00pm.

 

WISE Teen Talk: An Empowering Support Group For Teen Girls

Teen Talk is a support and process group for high school girls led by our therapist, Dr. Dominique Adkins. The purpose of this group is to offer teens support and guidance while they navigate difficult challenges in the world around them. This group provides teens with a safe and comfortable atmosphere to openly discuss the struggles they face, without fear of judgement, criticism or rejection. This group tackles difficult topics ranging from self-worth to conflict resolution and everything in between.

Teen Talk is a six week group that will begin meeting once a week starting on May 11th. The group will meet on Thursdays and will last from 6:00pm – 7:15pm.

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Space is limited for both groups! Registration begins soon!! Be on the lookout for more updates from us as we get closer to registration.

 

Until next week, Be Wise!

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

This week we are going to work on calming down and keeping cool!

It is no secret that children have big emotions and often at the worst possible time. Kids seem to be more easily upset by events that seem trivial to the surrounding adults.  For example, check out these hilarious “36 Reasons Why My Kid Is Crying.”

Having these large emotions and reactions is normal and developmentally appropriate in a majority of the cases.  To an adult, the problem often seems relatively small, but we have the advantage of a developed frontal lobe which helps with our emotional regulation. We also have years of experiences and memories to pull from and apply to helping us modulate our responses to overwhelming emotions.

Children are still observing and learning.  For those with social challenges, this process is made even more difficult because the observations, particularly reading social cues, are more challenging.

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To help children learn how to handle these big feelings, we can proactively teach our kids calm-down strategies  Incorporate some of the below suggestions into your activities and routines. Then they will become familiar practices that the child can call upon in moments of distress. It is important to teach these skills proactively, as children will not be available to learning a new skill at the peak of the emotional outburst.

Movement Changes Mood: Movement can help kids calm down quickly. Practicing calming movements and breathing on a regular basis will help a child learn movements they can pull from when trying to calm down.
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–  Yoga cards such as the Yoga Pretzel deck are easy to use and can be turned into a fun game of selecting a pose and practicing.

–  Cosmic Kids Yoga gets kids moving in a fun yet calming way.

–  Mind Yet has quick guided breathing activities that quickly soothe and calm.
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Change in Visual Focus: If movement isn’t possible due to location or it doesn’t seem to be working, try having your child shift their visual attention. Using a calm down sensory bottle can help to shift focus and prompt relaxation.

Reading, Reading, Reading: This tip seems to make it into almost all of our topics.  Why? Because exploring stories with children is so powerful.  You can select books that are specifically about calming down or you can simply pick a favorite story, find a conflict in it, and discuss how the character resolved that conflict.  Then link the identified successful strategies to personal experiences.

When our children are in the midst of an angry outburst, we should avoid phrases like “It’s OK”, “It’s no big deal,” or “Just calm down.” Although we mean well, these statements can make the child feel misunderstood and ashamed of the emotion. These statements can invalidate the child’s experience because, in his or her world, things are clearly not okay, a really big deal, and if it was possible to calm down, he/she would.

(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!

Switching gears to a health related topic this week since many of us are guilty of NOT drinking enough water! My friend, Christine Egan, has created a free 5-Day Water Challenge!

 

Why a water challenge you ask? Because we are a chronically dehydrated society. As a certified health coach, author, and breast cancer survivor, she’s constantly asked for her #1 health tip. The answer is always: drink more water! When you’re hydrated, you improve energy levels, brain function and mood. (We LOVE the topic of brain function here at The Wise Family!!) It’s a simple way to have more energy, brain focus and create that outer glow — not to mention heal your body from illnesses and imbalances!

Our office manager recently had a baby and this challenge has hit home with her. As a nursing mother, she has experienced first hand how important water is. Dealing with killer headaches and nursing an infant is no walk in the park but as soon as she increased her water intake (more like chugging water 24/7 to keep up with her baby!) her headaches went away, she has more energy and is able to keep up with her bouncing baby boy’s needs.

If you’re up for a healthy challenge, Christine will be sharing tips, motivation, helpful info, and encouragement to boost your water intake daily! Check it out here: http://bit.ly/2nXHHf

I’ll be joining in on the fun too! I love a good challenge and this one is a healthy one. 🙂

Until next week, Be Wise!

How do you know if your kid is normal? That’s a million-dollar question. What is normal? I think that really is the main issue is what IS normal? I think that when we talk about intelligence or what is smart, I mean we can weigh all these things against what is typical?

So what’s typical for your child’s age? What’s typical for your child’s temperament? I think that is a more important thing to look at than normal. But, I also think that if you’re worried about something, first of all, as a parent, you have some gut feelings about your kids. But when you’re worried about something, if it’s getting in the way of your child’s functioning, if something like being worried about missing the bus is getting in the way of your child actually getting to school or if you notice that your child is sort of sad and their sadness is getting in the way of them making new friends. Then really, that’s sort of outside of what’s typical.

When we’re looking at and talking about what’s normal, we’re really talking about what’s typical. It’s not really typical for a child to feel depressed or anxious, so if those are things that you see, then it’s a really good idea to get some support from your school, from your family members, and from a professional so that you can figure out what’s going on and problem solve ways to make it better.

Until next week, Be Wise!

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

In order to navigate the world around us we must understand our feelings. Yet, feelings are extremely complicated. We can have multiple feelings all at the same time. They are fluid throughout the day and depend on individual perceptions. Feelings are also dependent on an individual’s ability to regulate his or her emotions.

 

Even as adults we sometimes have difficulty making sense of our feelings. If this is challenging for adults, think about what it must be like for children – especially those with social communication challenges. But don’t worry! Opportunities to learn about feelings are all around us. Use these strategies to encourage your child (and yourself) to explore your “feelings, feelings, everywhere feelings”:

  • Expand Feelings Vocabulary: Most preschool age children can identify the “main” four feelings of happy, mad, sad, and scared. However, within these feelings there are many variations. Is someone mad? Or are they frustrated? Furious? To get to a more accurate understanding of feelings, children need a broader range of feelings words to choose from. You can support developing your child’s emotional vocabulary by:
    • Read! Read! Read! In The Wall Street Journal’s Saturday essay The Need To Read, author Will Schwalbe wrote “Reading books remains one of the best ways to engage with the world, become a better person and understand life’s questions, big and small.” Read alouds are also the number one way to gain new feelings words and experiences. There are many books specifically written with a focus on talking about feelings. Some examples of these include:

How Are You Peeling? Foods With Moods by Saxton Ferymann and Joost Elffers

Move Your Mood by Brenda S. Miles and Colleen A. Patterson

The Way I Feel by Janan Cain

Today I Feel Silly & Other Moods That Make My Day by Jamie Lee Curtis

However, any book can be used. Discussing what is happening in a story and how the characters are feeling as a result is a safe way for a child to identify feelings. If your child is naming the feelings as mad, sad, happy, or scared, be sure to offer alternate feelings words such as angry, lonely, joyful, or nervous. I often use Mo Willem’s Knuffle Bunny or Elephant and Piggie books with children. These books are rich in illustrations that reflect an array of emotions.

  • Provide opportunities to talk about feelings: Feelings faces charts and images abound. Just by clicking on your phone you have a library of emoji feelings faces. You can also print one out from a quick google search and use this to prompt conversations with your child. Ask “how are you feeling?” or read the feelings words and provide examples of when you have experienced that feeling. Remember that feelings are individualized. The same experience can result in different feelings for individuals. For example, riding a roller coaster may be exciting for one person, fun for another, and terrifying for someone else.
  • Charting Emotions: When reading or talking about feelings, write them down or chart them out. This gives a visual for how feelings change and move.
  • Ranking The Intensity of Feelings: It is important for children to understand that there are no “good” or “bad” feelings. All feelings happen to everyone at some point in time. There are feelings that are pleasant and that we prefer and then some feelings that make us uncomfortable. Children can become more knowledgeable about feelings by ranking the intensity of various feelings. For example, if a child says he is angry ask “On a scale of 1-5, with 5 being furious, how angry are you?”

Having a firm understanding of feelings is key to the practices of empathy and perspective taking. When children can label their own feelings it becomes easier for them to recognize the feelings of others.

(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.

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Until next week, Be Wise!

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

I have a very vivid memory of pulling into the parking lot at my daughter’s pre-school while the classes were outside on the playground. I scanned the area, watching kids run and laugh and then my eyes landed on my daughter.  She was sitting alone, off to the side, quietly running her hands through the grass.  Instantly I got that uncomfortable pit in my stomach and my mind filled with worry.  Why wasn’t anyone playing with my daughter?  Did she not have friends at school?  Was she lonely?  Most parents I have worked with can share a similar experience.  They all want their child to be included.  For some children, the ability to develop friendships comes naturally but for others, a bit more support is needed.

Here are just a few helpful tips to support your child in making friends.​​​​​​​
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Take cues from your child: ​​​​​​​
You may want your child to make lots of friends, but is that what your child wants or needs? When I asked my daughter why she was alone, her response was, “I was playing tag and decided I was done. I wanted some quiet to rest.”

Asking children what they think they need can really help. While it is important to stretch a child and encourage social skill development, try not to force friendships and push children into too many uncomfortable situations. If your child needs shorter playdates or quiet time afterward to calm down, help them find that time.
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Provide opportunities in a safe space:

Support your child’s friendship skill development in familiar environments, such as your home or a park or playground you frequently visit. (Keep in mind that sharing personal toys and belongings can sometimes add another challenging).
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Prepare for what is coming:  
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Talk about the playdate ahead of time, and practice specific social skills. There are so many different ways to do this- some overt and other more subtle.  ​​​​​​​

Playing board games helps children develop the ability to take turns.  It also provides chances to practice pro-social reactions to winning and losing.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Role playing with each other or using puppets is a fun way to practice conversations. ​​​​​Instead of asking “Can I join in?” or  “Can I play with you?”  which allows kids to answer with a yes or no, have your child ask “How can I help?” or “What can I do in this game?”.  

​​​​​​​Use thought bubbles and speech bubbles on paper to help kids think about what is happening and how they feel and to script what they will say (see above suggestions).
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Come up with a Plan A and Plan B in case things don’t go as expected.
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Practice reading facial expressions and non-verbal cues:
This is perhaps one of the more challenging skills to teach, especially to our kids on the Autism spectrum or with ADHD.  Practice this by talking about characters in books or on TV shows. What are characters thinking or feeling?  Why?

​​​​​​​Less is more:
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Like adults, kids really need simply one or two close friends instead of being best friends with a slew of peers.  Also, don’t jump into everything at once. Try one suggestion at a time.  The goal is for your child to get better at social interactions, not become the world’s most popular individual.

 

(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.

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Until next week, Be Wise!