Weekly Updates

A list of the Counselor Connection blurbs from the 2020-2021 weekly updates.

Week of 6/14: Summer Resources

Hello families!

We are so honored to be able to partner with each one of you in supporting the learning and growth of your child. This year, we have grown resiliency, persevered, problem-solved, learned about the Trojan Traits, practiced calm-down strategies, and built friendships, among other things!

We are excited to continue to support you and your student next year as we move up with them. So, if your student is finishing up Kindergarten, 2nd, or 4th grade, Mrs. Mullett will continue to be their counselor for next year. If your student is in 1st or 3rd grade, Mrs. Wolfe will be their counselor next year. (If they are in 5th grade, Mrs. Wolfe is helping with the transition to middle school.)

Please keep in mind that we will not be in the office during the summer, but here are some helpful websites to check out:

  • For up-to-date community resources click here

  • Click here for Summer activities in Whatcom County

  • Whatcom Kid Insider has daily indoor and outdoor activities for kids. You can find more information here and here.

  • You can check here for local day events for children and families at Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism.

You can also check out our counseling page at irecounseling.com to see information on a range of topics like behavior, self-esteem, grief and loss, technology, etc., as well as activities for kids and ways to find support in Whatcom County.

We look forward to another year together!

-Marina and Catherine

Week of 6/7: DESSA Information

IRE has an exciting new initiative this year. Our teachers are preparing to implement a tool called the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment, or DESSA. The purpose of the DESSA is to identify which social and emotional skills your child has already learned and what skills they might still need to develop. The screener looks at 8 core competencies:

  1. Self-awareness

  2. Self-management

  3. Social awareness

  4. Relationship skills

  5. Goal-directed behavior

  6. Personal responsibility

  7. Decision-making

  8. Optimistic thinking

We will use the DESSA results to support social and emotional skill development of all of our students. In the fall, the DESSA will be administered by their teacher and results will be communicated with you, along with next steps.

Important ideas to understand your child’s DESSA mini score:

~The Social-Emotional total score is a snapshot of a child’s overall social and emotional skillset.

~Student scores will be accompanied by a descriptive term:

  • Strength indicates that your child has a well-developed set of social emotional skills.

  • Typical indicates that your child is showing expected social emotional skills. About 2 out of 3 children receive a typical rating.

  • Need for instruction was thoughtfully chosen to convey that a child needs support and instruction in this area. That is, it reflects that the student has not YET acquired some SEL skills.

Week of 6/1: Problem Solving At Home

As we wrap up May, we end our focus on the Trojan Trait of Problem-Solving, but as we tell our students, we can still continue to practice and learn this skill all year round. This year our staff has been engaged in learning about Conscious Discipline, which is a way of responding to each child’s individual needs to increase self-regulation, a sense of safety, connection, empathy, and intrinsic motivation in both children and adults. Conscious Discipline has an article about what problem solving can look like between you and your child, so that you can work through conflict in a way that repairs and strengthens relationships. The article is called, "Reconnecting Through Conflict" and can be found here for English and here for Spanish.

Week of 5/24: Sharing Power

Sharing power is a core feature of parent-child relationships. The ways families deal with power struggles lie at the heart of kids becoming responsible, how conflicts are resolved, and the overall quality of our relationships. At its heart, “sharing power” highlights the ways we influence, learn from, and work with each other through our relationships. What’s challenging is that how we share power constantly shifts as kids grow up. What’s exciting is that we discover new things about ourselves and each other when we share power and learn from each other.

Learning begins with connection. Connection creates and strengthens neural connections within the brain! Below is a visual from Conscious Discipline, and additional resources can be found here and here.

Week of 5/17: Problem-Solving

May's Trojan Trait at IRE is problem-solving. Problems and conflict occur naturally - it's a part of living and learning in a community - and kids are learning how to navigate conflict in a way that is respectful and kind. One visual that we use at IRE to help students with this is one that illustrates little, medium, and big problems. Little and medium problems may be things like: someone did something I didn't like, my friends and I are arguing about what to play, we both want to play with the same toy, etc. These are problems that we hope kids can practice coming up with solutions on their own, like ignoring, using an "I" statement, taking turns, walking away, etc. Big problems are ones that involve safety and emergencies where kids should report them right away to a trusted adult.

Oftentimes with small and medium sized problems, kids will come to adults for help. This visual can be a helpful reference to guide the child in brainstorming ideas of possible solutions, so they can choose one and try it.

When talking with students, I compare problem-solving with doing an activity, like soccer. If I want to get better at kicking the ball and I never kick the ball, am I going to get better at it? (No!) Problem solving is the same way and as adults, we hope to guide our kids in the problem-solving process so they can practice how to handle conflict until one day they can do it independently.

Week of 5/10: Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Observing Mental Health Awareness month helps to reduce stigma surrounding psychological illnesses. It also helps to bring the community together and promote learning. Positive mental and emotional health help us control our thoughts, feelings, and behavior; cope with life challenges, feel good about ourselves, and have good relationships.

While adults may often talk about the importance of our own mental health, it is important to realize that children struggle with mental health, too. We should even consider how to support those children who do not seem to be struggling with mental health, because mental health is something that everyone will face at some point in their life. Educating all children on mental health may help a child with a later mental illness, with helping a friend who is struggling, or in just dealing with stressful moments and challenges.

Additional Resources & Activities:

Social-Emotional Activity Calendar May 2021

Helping at Home: Tips for Parents

Mindfulness Resources for Children & Teens

Click here for the infographic: 9 Mental Health Activities To Do With Your Children

Week of 5/3: Positive Self-Talk

Last month’s Trojan Trait at IRE was perseverance! Teachers and counselors facilitated lessons on skills that help us work hard and try our best, even when things are difficult.

While 3rd-5th graders focused on growth mindset, Transitional Kindergarten through 2nd grade learned about the power of positive self-talk. The definition used with students is, “Self-talk is when you talk to yourself in a quiet voice or in your head.” One of the most difficult things for parents to hear is their child using negative self-talk, putting themselves down or saying things like, “I can’t do this because I’m dumb,” or “He doesn’t want to be my friend because I’m stupid.” This can take a toll on children’s self-esteem and leave them more likely to believe they aren’t capable of trying new things or working through a challenge. Big Life Journal has some helpful tips on how to address your child’s negative self-talk and help them turn it into something more positive.

1) Acknowledge the feelings, not the words. 2) Use humor to help them see things differently. 3) Use specific praise to show your child how great they’re doing. 4) Talk openly about negative self-talk. 5) Talk about having a growth mindset. 6) Discuss your best failures. 7) Create an affectionate, welcoming home.

You can read the full article here in English or here in Spanish.

Week of 4/26: Optimism and Dealing with Disappointment

Optimists look at the flip side of negative events for some good, some hope and some reason to be positive. Research has shown that optimists do better academically and socially. Children learn optimism or pessimism from their experiences of success and through their interactions with parents, teachers and other significant adults. Adults model an optimistic or pessimistic attitude by the way they react to both adverse and positive events that happen in their lives.

Optimistic children may explain adverse events in the following ways:

  • Adverse events are temporary. ‘It takes time to find a friend’ rather than ‘No one likes me.’

  • Situations or causes are specific, not global. ‘I am not so good at soccer’ rather than ‘I am hopeless at sports.’

  • Blame is rationalised rather than personalised ‘I was grounded because I hit my sister’ rather than ‘I was grounded because I am a bad kid.’

The Coronavirus pandemic has brought upon many challenges over the last year. With warmer weather on the horizon, more time spent in the school building, the ability to play sports and some opportunities for travel, it has felt like there is an end in sight. But for kids who have spent the past year weathering so much uncertainty and disappointment, there are still challenges. For some kids this phase may feel confusing and upsetting, while others might feel impatient for things to return to “normal.”

Rae Jacobson from The Child Mind Institute states, “Adults are going through some of the same kinds of difficulties, but they often have plenty of experience processing such challenges. Kids, on the other hand, may be experiencing these intense emotions for the first time.”

Adults can help kids navigate through uncertainty and disappointment by providing coping tools and by modeling optimism. The Child Mind Institute recommends that adults listen and validate, be realistic, provide perspective, seek solutions, and help with difficult emotions. You can find the full articles in English here and in Spanish here .

Week of 4/19: Growth Mindset

This month’s Trojan Trait at IRE is perseverance! Teachers and counselors have been facilitating lessons on skills that help us work hard and try our best, even when things are difficult.

3rd-5th graders have focused on the concept of fixed mindset vs. growth mindset. A growth mindset occurs when we believe our intelligence and abilities can be improved upon with effort and the right strategies.

A willingness to confront challenges, a passion for learning and viewing failure as a springboard for growth are all characteristics associated with a growth mindset. This type of mindset is linked with greater happiness, self-esteem, and academic achievement. Research has also shown a link between growth mindset and lower levels of anxiety, depression, and aggression.

In contrast, those with a fixed mindset believe their intelligence and abilities cannot be altered in a meaningful way. As a result, mistakes are often seen as failures rather than opportunities to grow and learn. When stuck in a fixed mindset, we may fear new experiences, avoid risks, and feel the need to repeatedly prove ourselves over and over.

You can find a helpful guide on how to foster a growth mindset in your kids here in English or here in Spanish.

You can also visit the Grit/Growth Mindset page for more resources and information.

Week of 4/12 Assertiveness

There are boundaries in the world, or lines that should not be crossed. These exist on a physical level, like stop signs or even “personal bubbles” (the space around our bodies) as well as emotional boundaries (things that hurt our feelings). Setting boundaries (saying “no,” “stop” or “I don’t like that”) keeps our bodies and minds safe and healthy.

There are three main communication styles: passive, aggressive, and assertive. (See picture in article) We describe being assertive as a healthy middle - a calm, firm voice and confident body language that respectfully communicates boundaries.

Sue Lively, a teacher and parenting writer says, “If we want our kids to learn to listen to their guts and be comfortable expressing their own limits, and standing up for them, we need to let them practice that skill from a young age.”

In order to do this, this Big Life Journal article gives 5 steps to teaching assertiveness: 1) Talk about the three communication styles 2) Define boundaries 3) Teach “I” statements 4) Build friendship skills and 5) Model confidence.

You can read the full article here in English, or here in Spanish.

“Assertiveness takes practice for all of us. But modeling assertive communication allows both us and our kiddos to reap its powerful benefits, including confidence, high self-esteem and positive relationships.”

Week of 3/29 Upcoming Events

Spring Break is quickly approaching. Here are some things to keep your children busy and happy while school is out.

Spring Break YMCA Nature Camp

The camp will take place here at IRE. If you are interested, you can register here

Launching Success Spring Break Camp (Art & Science)

Camp will include both a science and an art hour or just one program separately. You can call the store at 360-527-2641 to reserve your spot or click here to register online

Spring Break Skate Park

Grab a helmet, pads for some skateboarding! You can register here

You can find information about additional camps in Whatcom County here

Whatcom Kid Insider has daily indoor and outdoor activities for kids. You can find more information here and here

You can check here for local day events for children and families: Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism.

If you are having a difficult time covering the cost for camps or activities, please reach out to our Family Resource Coordinator, Alicia Roberts (aroberts@meridian.wednet.edu) to help problem solve.

Week of 3/15 Self-Regulation


It is tempting to label challenging behavior as oppositional, defiant, manipulative, and attention seeking. It is more accurate and helpful to understand this behavior as a sign that children cannot handle their big emotions (e.g., mad, sad, scared). When they feel overwhelmed, their emotions are getting the best of them. That is, they cannot self-regulate.

Self-regulation is the ability to remain calm, cope with big emotions, and respond appropriately to our environment. Self-regulation is important because it allows children to do well in school, with friends, and at home. It helps children feel good about what they can handle and it helps children feel good about themselves.

It’s important to recognize that managing and regulating emotions is a difficult skill for adults, too. For many of us, this is because these skills were never taught.

Scott Bezsylko, the executive director of the Winston Prep schools for children with learning differences said, “We approach self-regulation skills in the same way we approach other skills, academic or social: isolate that skill and provide practice,” Bezsylko explains. “When you think of it as a skill to be taught — rather than, say, just bad behavior — it changes the tone and content of the feedback you give kids. ”

Dr. Becky Bailey, the creator of Conscious Discipline, teaches a five-step process for self-regulation. In short, the five steps for self-regulation are:

  • I Am- Becoming aware that something has triggered an emotion

  • I Calm- Breathing deeply and noticing emotions without judging them

  • I Feel- Identifying and naming the emotion (Name it to tame it)

  • I Choose- Accepting the feeling and choose a calming activity to help self-regulate

  • I Solve- Now in a calmer state, solve the problem that originally triggered the emotion

In the midst of children’s tantrums or meltdowns, challenge yourself to regulate. Children will tend to mirror the stress and emotions of the adults around them. When we are calm, we can better respond with new insight, compassion, and patience towards them. You can find more information here and here.

Self-regulation is a skill that needs to be supported in children because it is key to their overall success and happiness. Children who can cope with stress, anger, disappointment, and frustration are more able to do well in school, with friends, and at home. Remember that the more children practice regulating themselves, the easier it will become for them to cope with and adapt to change.

Week of 3/8: Healthy Sleep Habits

With the hybrid schedule this year, we are seeing a lot of students having trouble getting into a routine and getting enough sleep in order to come to school ready to learn. Sleep is an important part of both physical and mental health in children, including brain and body development as well as maintaining a child's social-emotional well-being. Here are some tips for you as parents/caregivers that can be helpful:

  1. Dedicate the bed as a space for sleep

With online learning, it’s understandable that kids and families have had to become flexible with where kids do their schoolwork. If possible, try to keep the bed itself just for sleeping or doing something restful like reading a book. If the bed is used for everything from eating and schoolwork to screen time and playing games, the brain can start to associate the bed with highly stimulating activities and it can be difficult for kids’ brains to switch to “sleep mode” when they lay in bed at night.

  1. Set boundaries with screen time

Using screens before bed can affect how quickly children fall asleep and how well they sleep. You can reduce these risks by encouraging children to avoid screens in the hour before bed. If you’re having trouble with your kids watching TV or playing video games late at night in their rooms, it may be time to take the screens out of the bedroom altogether or if possible, put the mobile screens in a spot outside of the bedroom once it is bedtime. You can go to our counseling website to learn more about tech tips and healthy ways to do screen time.

  1. Keep a consistent sleep schedule

A circadian rhythm is the body’s natural internal alarm clock that gives signals to your brain and body when it is time to sleep and wake up. For children who go to bed at different times each night, it disrupts this internal clock, making it difficult to go to sleep and wake up when needed. To help this, set a bedtime and wake up time that is the same every day, regardless of if your student is coming into the building or not. Weekends can lend to some wiggle room with this schedule, but having a consistent schedule throughout the week can help kids have a smoother transition to coming into the school building.

  1. Have a consistent bedtime routine

Having a consistent bedtime routine that is the same every night tells our body that it’s time for bed. A bedtime routine may look like: 1) Take a shower/bath 2) Brush teeth 3) Put on PJs 4) Go to the bathroom/wash hands 5) Bedtime story 6) Go to sleep. Some kids may need a visual to be reminded what the next step is in their routine. Here is a site with a free printable that you can edit for your own family.

Week of 3/1: Mindfulness


Being Aware and Being Present

In our busy world, our minds and bodies can get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle and may have a hard time slowing down. It is also easy to get stuck thinking about things in the past or the future, while forgetting to focus on the here and now.

Mindfulness is being present in the moment. The benefits of mindfulness for children and adults are plentiful, including decreased stress and increased resilience.

Practicing mindfulness techniques can help children change their mindset from a Fixed mindset to a Growth mindset.

  • First, mindfulness can help children feel empowered, so they can learn to try new things and take more risks.

  • Second, using mindfulness techniques like deep breathing and tensing and relaxing the muscles can help children overcome anxiety when they make mistakes.

  • Third, by promoting self-love and self-compassion, mindfulness activities can help children overcome negative self-talk.

For more mindfulness activities check out: Mindfulness Activities to do as a Family

For more information about mindfulness, check out www.mindful.org

Week of 2/22: Building Empathy

Earlier this month we talked about a key ingredient to friendship - being a good listener. Another important component for making and keeping friends is empathy. Click here for an introduction on empathy for TK-2nd graders and click here for one for 3rd-5th graders that you can watch with your student.

We describe empathy at school as “feeling or understanding how others feel.” Empathy is an important skill in recognizing emotions in others that can help with friendships, becoming responsible citizens and community members, and showing kindness and compassion.

For tips on how to build empathy at home, you can read this article from Big LIfe Journal. Para español, puede visitar esta página.

Week of 2/15: Technology

Over the years, technology has transformed our world and daily lives. It has provided amazing tools and resources, putting useful information at our fingertips. Technology has given us the ability to attend school remotely, work online, stay in touch with loved ones, and play interactive games with other kids and families. With all these amazing advances, technology has also brought some challenges. While children can still make friends in class, it is becoming increasingly more common to do it online with sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, etc. Not only are parents navigating everyday parenting dilemmas, but they are also now having to navigate digital parenting dilemmas. With new apps constantly being added, it can feel overwhelming to keep up.

Parents play an important role in helping kids become safe, responsible, and productive digital citizens. One of the best ways to do this is to talk with your kids- Listen to the names of websites and apps that they are using, ask questions about things you don’t understand, show an interest in the things your child is doing online. Most young people are perfectly safe online, most of the time. They are doing amazing things. Creating rich communities. Living with great, self-generated rules and protocols. But sometimes, they do need us. For more information, resources and tips, please visit Social Networking Digital Safety and Cyberbullying A parent Tip Sheet.pdf (wednet.edu)

Additional Resources:

Teaching Digital Citizenship: 10 Internet Safety Tips For Students (With Cyber Safety Posters) (kathleenamorris.com)

Talking to Your Child About Internet Safety (csa.gov.sg)

SafeSchools Alert- This system allows you to quickly, easily, and anonymously report safety concerns to school officials 24/7/365.

Week of 2/8: Friendship

This month’s Trojan Trait is Friendship and one key element of being a good friend is being a good listener! When kids have strong listening skills, it not only helps them in their learning, but it can help them make and keep strong relationships.

“Parents and teachers can teach students how to become an active listener by becoming active listeners themselves. Through modelling active listening to your child, he or she is able to see the value and importance of being an active listener. It also gives your child a reference to develop his or her own listening habits.”

This article provides some helpful steps including 1) Maintain eye contact 2) Don’t interrupt 3) Ask questions 4) Repeat back what the speaker says 5) Listen for total meaning. However, every family culture is different on what being a good listener means to you. You can discuss together what being a good listener looks like in your family.


Showing your child how to be an active listener by example is only the first step. It is also important to practice these skills.

Try these activities to help develop and sharpen your child’s listening skills.

  • Read stories to your child. Ask him or her to predict what will happen next. The prediction requires your child to listen to the details to make a logical guess.

  • Cook with your child. Read the recipe to him or her, having your child listen to and follow each step to complete the recipe correctly.

  • Have conversations about things your child is interested in. This gives your child a chance to engage in a real conversation, practicing both speaking and listening.

  • Play the telephone game. Get together with a group and have one person whisper a sentence to the next person. Each person repeats it to the next until the final person. Have this person say the sentence aloud and see how much the two sentences have changed.

  • Create a list of questions with your child for him or her to ask you or a sibling. After one person has answered, see how many the other can remember. Switch roles and see how well the other person does.

  • Play the “spot the change” game. Read your child a short story. Then read it again, making some changes. Each time your child hears a change have him or her clap or raise his or her hand.

  • Get creative with “follow the directions.” Give short, simple instructions and have your child draw according to the directions they hear.

From the article: https://www.oxfordlearning.com/improve-active-listening-skills/

Week of 2/1: Black History Month

February is Black History month. This is a time to celebrate the accomplishments and contributions African Americans have made to our society. It’s important as we embark on this journey of learning that we don’t just remember Black History in February, but all year through. IRE will be featuring some individuals that have made or are making an impact in our history in classrooms and bulletin boards around the school. Please discuss with your students what new person in history they are learning about this week. Think about some activities that you might be able to do with your student(s) at home.

Some possible discussion questions:

  • What black individuals are you already familiar with who have, or are, making an impact?

  • What new stories or facts have you learned about Black History?

  • Reflect on some of these people’s stories. How did they feel? How would you feel?

PBS has an article called, “Teaching Your Child About Black History” that provides parents with tips on how to teach and have conversations with children. As this article mentions, books provide a great starting point for discussions and learning. For the full article click here Teaching Your Child About Black History "Children's books, at their best, invite children to use their imaginations, expand their vocabularies and gain a better understanding of themselves and others. Children's literature serves as both a mirror to children and as a window to the world around them by showing people from diverse groups playing and working together, solving problems and overcoming obstacles” The Importance of Multicultural Children's Books

Here are just some of the many books available. Check with your public library for more ideas or search on youtube for read alouds.

Book list:

Best Black History Books for Kids, As Recommended by Educators (weareteachers.com)

50 KidLit & YA Books with Black Protagonists - WeAreTeachers

Week of 1/25: Trustworthiness

This month at school we have been focusing on the new Trojan Trait of the month - Trustworthiness.

One element of trustworthiness is being honest and many parents and caregivers have run into the issue of not knowing what to do or say when their child doesn’t tell the truth. These lies can range from small fibs to big lies with serious consequences. So what can you do to encourage your child to tell the truth?

One way to talk about honesty is sitting down with your child and reading a book together. Books like The Boy Who Cried Ninja, Ruthie and the Not So Teeny Tiny Lie, and Howard B. Wigglebottom and the Monkey on His Back can help your child reflect on their own behavior while asking questions about the story. Questions like, “How did it make _____ feel when the main character lied to them?” “How did it feel inside when _______ lied?” “What would you do/say if this happened to you?” can help frame your discussion.

Throughout these stories you’ll see examples of why children might be lying - they’re trying out a new behavior, they are trying to boost their self-esteem by impressing their peers, they’re scared or worried about getting in trouble, etc. Helping kids understand the consequences of lying in a way that is consistent with other family values is important. Talking about empathy and how lying affects others, how not being trustworthy can affect friendships, and the value of taking responsibility for their actions, could be just a few things you choose to talk through with your child.

For more on why kids lie and what responses to give depending on the seriousness of the lie, you can read an article from the Child Mind Institute entitled, “Why Kids Lie and What Parents Can Do About It.” Click here for the article in English or haga clic aquí para ver el artículo en español.

Week of 1/18: Self-Care & Community Resources

As we continue to spend more time outside of our normal routines, it is important to learn about the tools that are available to help us cope with the fatigue and isolation that this time of year and the pandemic brings. As well as, be aware of the resources that are available in our community.

When you are a parent, self-care often slips to the bottom of the list. But taking care of yourself is not a luxury. It is essential. And during this difficult time, when children are home and stress is running high, it is more important than ever. I hope you find this article from Child Mind Institute helpful. Find the full article here: Self-Care in the Time of Coronavirus

Below is a list of community resources that are currently available in Whatcom County:

Whatcom Asset Building Coalition- up to date Covid-19 resources

Community Resources During COVID-19

The Opportunity Council-Community Resource Directory

Opportunity Council Community Resource Page

IRE Counseling

Irene Reither Elementary Counseling Page

Bellingham Experience- local virtual events for children

Bellingham Experience Events

Week of 1/11: Supporting Kids with the News

Lately the news has been filled with tense, stressful, and sometimes violent stories - both nationally and globally. No matter how old your kids are, this can affect them emotionally. I hope you can find this blurb from a Common Sense Media article helpful, as you and your family navigate tough questions and topics.

Addressing News and Current Events: Tips for all kids

Consider your own reactions. Your kids will look to the way you handle the news to determine their own approach. If you stay calm and rational, they will, too.

Take action. Depending on the issue and kids' ages, families can find ways to help those affected by the news. Kids can write postcards to politicians expressing their opinions; families can attend meetings or protests; kids can help assemble care packages or donate a portion of their allowance to a rescue/humanitarian effort. Check out websites that help kids do good.

Tips for kids under 7

Keep the news away. Turn off the TV and radio news at the top of the hour and half hour. Read the newspaper out of range of young eyes that can be frightened by the pictures (kids may respond strongly to pictures of other kids in jeopardy). Preschool kids don't need to see or hear about something that will only scare them silly, especially because they can easily confuse facts with fantasies or fears.

Stress that your family is safe. At this age, kids are most concerned with your safety and separation from you. Try not to minimize or discount their concerns and fears, but reassure them by explaining all the protective measures that exist to keep them safe. If the news event happened far away, you can use the distance to reassure kids. For kids who live in areas where crime and violence is a very real threat, any news account of violence may trigger extra fear. If that happens, share a few age-appropriate tips for staying and feeling safe (being with an adult, keeping away from any police activity).

Be together. Though it's important to listen and not belittle their fears, distraction and physical comfort can go a long way. Snuggling up and watching something cheery or doing something fun together may be more effective than logical explanations about probabilities.

Tips for kids 8–12

Carefully consider your child's maturity and temperament. Many kids can handle a discussion of threatening events, but if your kids tend toward the sensitive side, be sure to keep them away from the TV news; repetitive images and stories can make dangers appear greater, more prevalent, and closer to home.

Be available for questions and conversation. At this age, many kids will see the morality of events in stark black-and-white terms and are in the process of developing their moral beliefs. You may have to explain the basics of prejudice, bias, and civil and religious strife. But be careful about making generalizations, since kids will take what you say to the bank. This is a good time to ask them what they know, since they'll probably have gotten their information from friends, and you may have to correct facts.

Talk about -- and filter -- news coverage. You might explain that even news programs compete for viewers, which sometimes affects content decisions. If you let your kids use the Internet, go online with them. Some of the pictures posted are simply grisly. Monitor where your kids are going, and set your URLs to open to non-news-based portals.

Click here for the whole article.

Week of 12/14: Grief and Loss

Winter break is coming up, which oftentimes comes with different traditions and activities. Many associate this time with celebration and family, but there are also many who have experienced grief and loss, making this time of year challenging. Grief and loss can look different for everyone - it can mean grieving over the loss of a loved one, but also the loss and disappointment of a year where things look different (i.e. change of plans, not being able to see family, a disruption of traditions and routines, etc.)

The way children grieve is dependent on many things including age, personality, and religious/cultural background and it can show up in a variety of ways. All children benefit from having a supportive family that can grieve alongside them and help them process their emotions.

One activity you can do as a family is read a book together - not only will this provide a springboard for conversation, but will also provide that time of undivided attention and connection. A book I use often when talking to students about someone they love or miss is The Invisible String. You can find a read-aloud version of the book here.

Another helpful resource for families who have experienced a loss of a loved one is Safe Crossings' pamphlet Helping the Grieving Child, which can be read here.

More resources and activities regarding grief and loss can be found on our counseling website: https://www.irecounseling.com/caregivers/social-emotional-resources/griefloss

Please don't hesitate to reach out to one of our counselors if your family needs extra support during this time.

Week of 12/7: Building Emotional Regulation at Home

Last week I talked about one way we are teaching emotional awareness and self-regulation here at school - the break spot. We designed the different elements of the break spot from Conscious Discipline, which provides a way of responding to each child’s individual needs to increase self-regulation, a sense of safety, connection, empathy, and intrinsic motivation in both children and adults. This week I want to share a post from Conscious Discipline on how to teach self-regulation at home. The article discusses the importance of first learning skills ourselves as adults so we can then model and teach it to children. It then gives some strategies on how to help children calm down when they are experiencing strong emotions. Conscious Discipline says, “A calm adult and deep breathing are the first steps to teaching children self-regulation.” You can read the full article here and explore the many free resources from Conscious Discipline here.

Week of 11/30: Break Spots at School

If you have watched me on a morning meeting or seen some of my SEL videos, you know I talk a lot about FEELINGS - specifically about recognizing them and calming down when we experience strong emotions. Not only is this helpful throughout the day when conflict arises, but it helps reach the goal of kids becoming resilient, meaning the ability to bounce back and recover from difficulty.

Self-regulation, or the ability to calm oneself, is a skill necessary to build resilience. This learning is important because not only does it help kids make and keep friends, but it also helps them thrive academically! When students are emotionally aware and able to regulate their emotions, they are more likely to be able to learn, problem solve, and think clearly.

In order to help teach students emotional awareness and self-regulation, we have a “break spot” in every classroom, where students can go when they are experiencing strong emotions. There are specific steps in the break spot that guide students to calm themselves, recognize how they are feeling, choose a teacher-approved activity to regulate, and then problem solve before returning to class. It is another learning space in the classroom, where students are learning and practicing how to self-regulate.

Break spots is just one of the ways we help teach emotional awareness and self-regulation at school. Future weekly updates will have some information on how you can teach these concepts and foster resiliency at home.

Week of 11/23: Control and Safety

Last week was our first week with all grade levels at school doing hybrid learning. You may have heard from your students how school felt a little different and saw some mixed feelings about being back in the building. I heard students express a range of emotions from feeling a little nervous to excited to be back. Our students are experiencing a lot of change right now and things are happening that are outside of their control - and let’s be honest, even us adults are experiencing this! You may have noticed your child communicate their response to this in various ways - big explosive behaviors, defiance, apathy, tears, withdrawal, etc. So what can you do to care for them during this time? Two areas that children can benefit from are a sense of safety and a sense of control.

We can instill a sense of safety in children by making sure they are physically safe and feel loved and cared for. Children also feel safe when there is predictability and structure. This website has a helpful guide for parents and caregivers on building routines, structure, and rules so kids feel more safe and secure in a predictable environment. (The information is available in Spanish and English)

We can foster a sense of control in a variety of ways, depending on the age of the child. Naturally, kids won’t have control over everything and there are decisions you make as the adult for your family. However, there are small ways to build in opportunities for children to have their voice heard.

-Give simple choices. For example, if you have a younger child who needs to clean up after playing, you can ask: Would you like to clean up in 4 minutes or 5 minutes? Or, would you like to leave the park in 2 minutes or 3 minutes? You notice that both options are ones you are OK with, but the child gets to make a choice within that event.

-Let them decide the order. For example, kids can help build your family routine or day together. Younger kids may get two or three options, (would you like to brush your teeth first or put on your pajamas first?) whereas older kids can look at the work they need to do for the day and help put it in order.

-Give them a job. Chores don’t just help you out!. Having an age-appropriate chore or “job” that the child is in charge of can help them feel like they have something in their control and that they have something to contribute to the family or their community.

If you need more ideas on how to build a sense of safety and control in your home, or if you are experiencing some behaviors at home that you need support with, feel free to reach out to our counselor at cmullett@meridian.wednet.edu

Week of 11/16: Gratitude

Many of you may be experiencing a lot of changes and stressors during this pandemic, and I know your kids may be experiencing strong emotions as they adjust to new expectations and new routines. One thing I talk to kids about is what to do with their strong emotions. Coping skills or calm-down strategies can help build resilience in children, meaning they are better equipped to manage stressful and challenging situations. One coping skill we can practice with kids is gratitude.

Benefits of gratitude for kids

Studies show that gratitude for kids can be a very powerful tool, with lots of benefits to mental and physical health. They include things like:

  • Higher levels of happiness and optimism

  • Improved sleep

  • Less stress and an improved ability to cope with stress

  • Fewer physical problems

  • Reduced depression

  • Less aggression

  • Increased self esteem

  • Improved resilience

One activity to do with your kids is a gratitude game, which can be found in English and Spanish here. For more activities and more about teaching kids about gratitude you can read this article.

Week of 11/9: Respecting Differences

It's November and that means we are focusing on a new Trojan Trait - Respect. This week's lesson with students will focus specifically on what it looks like to respect differences and disagree respectfully. Differences happen in every community - things like how we look, what we wear, what we eat, what our families look like, our likes and dislikes, our opinions and beliefs can all be different. One of the foundations of respecting others is empathy - "feeling or understanding how others feel." Empathy can help us think about the other's perspective and reflect on how we would want to be treated if we were in their shoes. We talk about what empathy and respect looks like within the school community and as a family, you may want to talk about what respect looks like in your community. Here are some possible questions to help guide your family discussion:

-What are our family values and what are things that are important to us? What are the things that make us who we are?

-Let's think of someone in our lives who may be different than us and put ourselves in their shoes - how would they want to be treated?

-How might differences be a good thing?

-What does it look like in our family when we disagree with someone, inside or outside our family unit? How can we disagree respectfully?

-Why is respect important? How does respect or disrespect affect a community?

The 3rd-5th grade video that will be watched from home this week can be found here and the TK-2nd grade lesson that will be taught in the classroom can be found here.

Week of 11/2: Counselor Lunch Bunch

We are so excited to have had some of our students back in person! In transitional Kindergarten through 2nd grade, we have stopped doing social emotional learning (SEL) videos as the teachers transition to teaching SEL in the classroom with the curriculum Second Step. The main concepts taught are: skills for learning, empathy, emotion management, and problem solving skills.

3rd-5th graders will start Second Step once we move to hybrid learning, but for now, we continue with our SEL videos. We have been talking about “calm-down strategies” with the goal of learning, practicing, and trying them over and over again when we are calm so we’re more likely to use them later when we really need them.

If your student is a 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th grader, there will be a weekly Zoom Lunch Bunch starting this week that will be a time for students to connect with their peers. This is completely optional and students and families can choose whether or not to participate from week-to-week. Lunch Bunch will be available whether students are 100% online learning or are doing hybrid.

2nd/3rd Grade:

B Group will meet on Mondays at 12-12:30pm

A Group will meet on Wednesdays at 12-12:30pm

4th/5th Grade:

B Group will meet on Tuesdays at 12-12:30pm

A Group will meet on Thursdays at 12-12:30pm

The Zoom link is: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89497744696. Please make sure your child is using their first and last name on Zoom so Mrs. Mullett can approve them to come into the meeting from the waiting room. If for any reason the lunch bunch is cancelled for that week, there will be a message that pops up when you join the waiting room to notify you of the cancellation.

This information will also be posted on your child's SeeSaw or Google Classroom. I look forward to connecting with your students!

Week of 10/19: Feelings


This week the students in transitional Kindergarten through 2nd grade will be reading two books with Mrs. Robertson - one about coming back to school and one about friendship. The book In It Together recognizes that there could be a mix of emotions from students who are returning to school for hybrid learning. You can read this book as a family and discuss how your child is feeling about coming back to school (and YOU too - it's good to model recognizing and naming your own feelings.) During SEL lessons, we have been practicing using feelings words and using the sentence structure, "I feel____." We've also been emphasizing that all of these emotions are OK and even though negative emotions can feel uncomfortable, they are important! In moments of negative emotions, sometimes it's helpful to think about positive things or practice gratitude, but other times it's appropriate to just sit with the negative feeling. If you're unsure of what to say when your child expresses that they feel nervous, sad, or angry you can start by saying, "It's ok to feel that way and I understand why you would feel that." If your child is feeling a really strong emotion, one calm-down strategy students have been learning is belly breathing. This is where you put your hands on your stomach, breathe in through your nose (noticing how your stomach goes out), and out slowly through your mouth (noticing how your stomach goes in). For an example of a belly breathing exercise, you can watch this video.


This week students learn with Mrs. Mullett what exactly is going on in their brain when they are experiencing strong emotions. The picture shows a fist, where the tops of the fingers represent the thinking part of our brain and the thumb underneath represents the feeling part of our brain. When people experience strong emotions, we call it a "flipped lid" because when people are feeling really angry, scared, sad, etc., they are no longer thinking clearly and are more likely to behave with their emotions driving them. Maybe you have seen this with your own child where they are so upset that they're not communicating clearly or respectfully, they're showing unkind behaviors or aren't listening to any reasoning. This is because before they are able to think about communicating and problem-solving, they need to first calm down. This video with Mrs. Mullett is helpful for family members and students to watch so we can be more understanding of how our brains react during strong emotions. In the second SEL video, Mrs. Mullett introduces the idea of calm-down strategies and why they're important. You can discuss as a family what's already in their "calm-down toolbox" - what they already do when they need to calm down - and in future videos we will teach and practice some specific skills.

Week of 10/5: Kindness

This week is our first full week of October and we have a new Trojan Trait of the month - Kindness! Lately the counselors have been talking about the importance of empathy - feeling or understanding how others feel - and why it's so important. We also read the book "A Little Spot of Kindness" to share specific examples of what empathy in action looks like.

You can talk about empathy and kindness together as a family and discuss questions like:

  • What does it mean to have empathy and why is it important?

  • What are some examples that we've seen lately (either in real life, in books, or on shows) of someone showing empathy?

  • What's one kind thing we can do this month as a family?

You could even do some Kindness Shoutouts as a family and use positive and encouraging words to say something like, "I noticed _____ showed kindness when they _____"

We hope this month will be a time we can spread kindness, in person or online.