Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Conflict Resolution

Conflict resolution is an area I focus on a lot in my counseling program.  It seems, inevitably, in the second half of the school year, we have more and more conflicts between peers.   Add in that we are a year-round school, and some groups of kids have been together for YEARS, and we may get more than our fair share of conflicts!  :)

I focus on really teaching the conflict resolution skills in 1st grade and then building on this foundation with some higher level skills in the upper grades.  The basic skills we teach in first grade are really the key to easily solving conflicts at school and home (not that your children ever fight with brothers, sisters, cousins or neighbors!) ;)

Below I am listing the 12 basic strategies that our students are taught.  We usually ask the students to try at least 3 strategies on their own before they ask for adult help.

1.  Walk away--This strategy is so simple.  Someone is doing something you don't like, and you simply walk away!  We know to do this as adults, but kids have to be taught to do this!
2.  Ignore--This strategy also has to be taught.  We teach students how to ignore in a way that is not rude or mean.
3.  Say please stop.  We ask them to say these words in a firm but nice voice.
4.  Talk it out.  For this strategy, students are asked to talk it out using  "I statements."  For instance, a child might say I feel sad  when you leave me out of the game.  Please let me play. This is the most difficult strategy and one that we practice A LOT!
5.  Wait and cool off.  Students are taught to walk away when they are angry and to take at least 10 deep breaths to calm down.
6.  Share and take turns.  An oldie, but goodie!   Such an easy way to solve most elementary age conflicts!
7.  Go to another game.  This strategy is similar to walk away.  Students are taught that if someone is being mean, or they are having a conflict, sometimes the best thing to do is go play with someone else.
8.  Make a deal.  Students are taught to problem-solve and find a win-win solution.  This means that each person should at least get a little bit of what they want.  As adults, we call is compromising.  :)
9.  Apologize.  Students are taught that everyone makes mistakes, and if you make a mistake, you should say I am sorry.  Students are taught to say what they are sorry for, and to say what they will do in the future instead.
10.  Forgive.  Students are also taught to have forgiving hearts.  If someone makes a mistake and apologizes, we should try to forgive and move on.
11.  Stick with Friends.   If someone is being mean to you, surround yourself with friends!  You will fill better AND the person will probably leave you alone.
12.  Shake it off.  Sometimes little things happen that are really not a big deal.  So someone stepped on your foot, but you are okay. . . students are taught to not sweat the small stuff!

Thank you for reinforcing the use of these skills at home and school!  Hopefully they will help make your home more peaceful as well!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Reach Higher!

I am so excited about what we have going on in our counseling department!  You may have heard that I recently went to Washington, D.C. and met Michelle Obama!!  She was honoring me, along with 15 other semifinalists and 5 finalists, for the ASCA School Counselor of the Year.

 

Mrs. Obama is so inspirational, and her latest program is very close to my heart.  The Reach Higher Initiative focuses on helping ALL American students to go to college!  Her program focuses on funding more school counselors to help with guiding students, as well as with making college more affordable.

Over the past few weeks, my intern and I have been teaching 4th and 5th grade students about college-readiness and how education influences career choices.  Students have learned about the different types of colleges, the different degrees that can be earned, and the connection between level of education and projected salary.

The students love it!  It brings me such joy to teach all students that college is an option FOR THEM!  Some students, as young as 4th grade, have shared that they don't think they can afford college.  Some have shared that no one in their family has gone to college, and it isn't something they ever considered.  By the end of the lessons, ALL students have reported that they think college is an option.  What a wonderful feeling to help our students DREAM BIG and to show them how to get there!

All students were given the homework of asking people they know about where they went to college, and what degree they earned.  Some students were not even sure where their parents went to school.  So start talking to your kids about college now!  It's never too early to start planning for a successful future!!

The picture shows the door of the counseling office.  We are showing our Alma Maters--I went to NC State for graduate school and my intern is currently enrolled at UNC. . . . so we are a SUITE DIVIDED :)


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Grieving and the Holidays

For those of us who have lost a loved one, the holidays can bring up lots of feelings--some good and some sad.  This is true for us as adults as well as for children.  When the holidays approach, and we are surrounded by family, we especially notice those who are missing.  We remember memories of other holidays, and miss their presence.

First, it is important to remember that children grieve differently than adults.  While we might appear sad, a child might present as hyper.  Or they might start acting out a bit.  This could be your clue that your child is grieving.

Supporting your child through this process is very important.  The best way to support them is to keep the lines of communication open.  Allow them to share their feelings and memories with you.  If they do not feel comfortable talking about their feelings, encourage them to draw a picture or write about their feelings.  They can even keep the drawing or writing private if they prefer.

You also might want to discuss with the child if they would like to do anything special to remember the deceased person.   Common practices include enjoying a meal of their favorite foods, sharing special memories, hanging up a special ornament on a tree, lighting a candle in their memory, or making a donation in that person's honor.  The child might even want to make a special gift for the person.

Other suggestions for helping your child during this time include 1.  Trying to keep things as normal as possible.  Normal routines are comforting to children. 2.  Make sure your child is getting adequate rest and is eating healthy foods.  By doing this, your child can feel his/her physical best, and be best able to handle difficult feelings.  3.  Give lots of hugs if your child is comfortable with physical affection.  Physical touch is comforting.  4.  Let your child know that it is okay to feel sad and/or cry.  It's important to not hold feelings inside.

If you find that your child is having difficulty this holiday season, feel free to contact me at lfillard@wcpss.net or at (919) 773-9557.  Many children might feel more comfortable talking to an outside person for fear of upsetting their parents.


Friday, June 21, 2013

Social Media Safety

Social Media Safety for Kids and Parents

Over the past year, we have been seeing more and more issues arising from social media. . . yes, in elementary school!

Students are accessing more and more sites and apps.  Most students are using ipods, ipads and phones to access these apps, and their parents are often not aware that they are using the apps or how they are using the apps.   Students who have never been in trouble are getting caught up in cyberbullying, teasing, and rumors.  And many students are "friending" people that they do not know and sharing private information online, putting themselves in very dangerous situations.

Here you can find an article about the new challenges of monitoring online activity: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/monitoring-children-online-activity-facebook-article-1.1291993

Here's some information and tips to keep your child safe online. Together we can keep our students safe and teach them to make response decisions online and in real life!!
First, here are some general safety tips to share with your child:
Be picky about your “friends”—never add anyone who you don’t know in real life, and don’t add people who are “questionable” friends
Don’t post personal information about yourself such as address, phone number, where you live, where you are going on vacation, school, etc.
Don’t post pictures that you wouldn’t want EVERYONE YOU KNOW to see. Once you post it, you can’t take it back.
Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t say in real life to the person’s face. Lots of “good kids” get in trouble for saying bad things online.
“Grandma rule”—if you wouldn’t want your grandma to read it or see it, don’t put it online.
Respect age restrictions. If the app does not allow users under 13, then you don’t need to be using that app!
Set the strictest privacy features possible. Get your parents to help you if need be.

Popular Apps and Sites:You Tube:
Age requirements: 13 and older
Risks: Contact with strangers; posts and comments are allowed; videos can be shared via weblink; people can post videos of you without your permission; inappropriate videos can be watched; Safety procedures: Set account to highest privacy settings; do not allow people to post material with you in it.


Facebook
Age requirements: 13 and older
Risks: Contact with strangers; sharing inappropriate content; cyberbullying through chat/posts; photos can unknowingly be saved and shared; your location can be disclosed.
Safety procedures: Only accept people you know in real life; do not talk to strangers; monitor the material you post; set account to private.


Instagram: 
Age requirements: 13 and older
Risks: Inappropriate photos that can’t be taken back; inappropriate comments made or received; strangers; all pictures/content are property of Instagram; “photo map” identifies your location; photos can unknowingly be saved and shared; can be shared with Facebook and Twitter allowing more people to see your posts without your permission; hashtags that are used can be traced to your account.
Safety procedures: Only friend people you know. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want grandma to see or read. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t say in person. Use privacy features.


Kik:
Age requirements: 13 and older
Risks: Contact with strangers; inappropriate pictures/videos that can be sent to others; phone number, email, and other personal information can be disclosed for legal action and/or people at risk of being harmed; allows vague user names to anonymously post material; photos can unknowingly be saved and shared.
Safety procedures: Make sure your profile is private. Block users who you do not know or who may be sending inappropriate content.


Twitter:
Age requirements: None
Risks: Archives tweets; strangers; inappropriate pictures that can’t be taken back; inappropriate messages received or sent; hashtags that are used can be traced to your account; photos can unknowingly be saved and shared.
Safety procedures: Set your account to private; monitor the content you post; do not accept stranger’s follow requests; do not disclose personal information.

Snapchat:
Age requirements: 12 and older
Risks: Contact with strangers; deleted messages cannot be retrieved; messages can be captured by screen shots
Safety procedures: Make sure your profile is private. Block users who you do not know or who may be sending inappropriate content.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Gossip and Rumors

I am currently visiting all of the 5th grade classrooms, and our topic is Gossip.  By upper elementary, the students really begin to notice things that are different about each other.  If a kid dresses differently or acts differently, that can turn into kids gossiping about that student.  Gossiping can be very hurtful, so we are reading a book entitled Trouble Talk that addresses this topic. 

During the lesson, students learn that before they spread a rumor, they should ask themselves three questions:

1.  Is it True? 

2. Is it something Good?

3. Is it Useful information?

If students are unable to answer "yes" to all 3 of these questions, then they should not share the information with others. 

Students were left with these thoughts on Kindness towards others:

Kindness sometimes means NOT doing something.

Not making that comment.

Not noticing that flaw.

Not assuming the worst about someone else.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Bullying 101

Bullying is a hot topic in the news and in the schools these days.  At MCES, formal bully prevention lessons start in 2nd grade and continue through 5th grade.  Parents are an important part of bullying prevention, so let's go over what they learn!

First they learn the definition of bullying.  When we discuss bullying, we are talking about any number of "mean" behaviors.  These behaviors can be the stereotypical bullying behaviors (punching, stealing lunch money, etc) or non-stereotypical (spreading rumors, rolling eyes, etc.).  But for these behaviors to be truly bullying, they have to meet three criteria:
1.  They are repetitive:  bullying is a behavior that happens every day or every week.  
2.  There is "intent to harm."  The bully has the intention to be mean and to hurt the other person.  
3.  There is an imbalance of power.  The bully has more power, maybe because he/she is bigger, older, or more popular.

So what strategies do students learn to defend themselves against bullying?  They are given a huge bag of tricks, starting with simple strategies at the younger grades, and then moving to more complex strategies later on.  Some strategies include walk away (toward an adult), laugh it off or make a joke, ignore, agree with the bully, stick with friends, tell an adult, and tell them to stop (and we practice how to say this assertively) to name a few.

Kids might not remember all those strategies, but I do ask them to remember the most important two.  The first is the ONLY strategy for physical bullying:  Tell an adult.  Physical bullying is a SERIOUS problem and we don't want elementary students trying to handle that on their own.
The second I ask them to remember is the "stick with friends" strategy.  Remember from the definition that the bully has more power than us. . . . UNLESS we stick together.  Then we have power in numbers!! I demonstrate the concept by having a student break a single pencil.  Of course it easily snaps in two.  I then ask the student to break a whole handful of pencils.  This task is impossible, demonstrating how strong we are when we all stick together.

If you have any questions or concerns about bullying, please don't hesitate to call anytime!


Monday, September 24, 2012

Natural Consequences

As many of you know, I am a mother in addition to being a school counselor.  We currently have a 3 year old, and if you remember, this is a time that challenges your patience and parenting skills! So just like you, I often find myself looking for new strategies and insights.  

I have found that oftentimes, in our attempts to teach our children right from wrong, we are very busy coming up with consequences for their negative behaviors. . . and it is exhausting!  Are we punishing them, or ourselves, with these elaborate consequences??  I am a firm believer that when possible the best consequences are natural consequences.

I came across a great article about how to use natural consequences effectively.  Very importantly, it talks about how parents unknowingly sabotage the natural consequence. 

Check out the article at http://blog.positivediscipline.com/2012/04/natural-consequences.html!