School Counsellors Are There To Help

School Counsellors are trained professionals who understand child development, often with Masters degrees in Counselling or more, who partake in ongoing professional development and extensive mental health training . They know school culture and how the education system works, making them readily able to help youth in an effective manner.

Often the first place students present any concerns are in schools because that is where they spend so much time. The educators get to know students well building trusting relationships. School Counsellors have the whole child in mind with access to a comprehensive background regarding the students history in school, so are often able to make decisions collaboratively in the best interest of students.

If you are a new teacher and have never accessed your School Counsellor , please do so. They are there to help you help the student. When all work together to help our youth it is more likely to make a difference in the life of a child. Now more than ever we must do all we can together to help.

Empathy Chats

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

School Counsellors -> Students -> Families ->Staff

We all need a little empathy at this moment in time. School Counsellors are a key player in providing these chats with students , families and the staff in their schools. Harvard offers some great tips on how to build empathy in your schools

Administrators->School Counsellors

I had a very wise administrator who once said to me that my job was to look after the students his job was to look after me. We all need support at this time. It is a give and take. All of us need a supportive person in our corner.

Let’s be intentional in supporting one another.

We can all :

Be positive in our interactions

Help others feel understood

Make people feel heard. You can use these creative approaches.

Teach empathy lessons

Utilize some empathy exercises with students

Validate their feelings

Work towards solutions

Together we will make this a better year for all by demonstrating empathy.

In Love

31 years ago when I was 30, I gave birth to our first child. She was six weeks premature. I was so scared , but immediately and profoundly in love. There is no experience like it that’s for sure. No one prepares you for the overwhelming love you are about to feel. That love never goes away, but the intensity of it ebbs and flows.

Today I am so grateful for the woman she has become. The two weeks in intensive care are still vivid in my mind. The moments in between can be a blur sometimes. How does time go by so fast?

The teen years were quite the ride, but today as I look at her, I am filled with the intense love I felt for her that moment she was born. Today, she is an amazing, caring, loving, kind, intelligent young woman whom I love spending time with.

Treasure all those moments , even the teen years they go by so fast. In loving our daughter, I became a better human being one who loves her child more than mere words could ever describe. Thank you for being born and thanks to the nurses and doctors who helped her live, especially my dear friend Darlene, one of the neonatal intensive care nurses. I love you my precious daughter. With you in it I know there is hope for a better world.

It’s Not All Doom and Gloom

Living through a pandemic is different for each of us. Your feelings are neither right nor wrong. They just are. It’s ok to talk about and share your feelings. Acknowledging your feelings is essential to your well being. Below are a few feelings that you may be able to relate to. It’s not all doom or gloom.

How you may be feeling:

  • Adaptable You feel that you can roll with whatever happens.
  • Anxious, afraid, or feeling a bit of panic that this fall may cause an increase in infections. Or that someone you care about may now be put in harm’s way when they weren’t before. 
  • Angry or feeling frustrated that some people may not be following the pandemic health rules. Or that the measures in place aren’t enough. Or that you have to look after so many people, your children, your parents, your siblings, others and you may have to work too. Where is the time for you? 
  • Brave You know that you have what it takes to deal with a crisis.
  • Courageous doesn’t mean you aren’t afraid, but that you have the capacity to see clearly and self soothe. It takes courage to be with things the way they are. You feel courage.
  • Conflicted You want to socialize more, but feel that you should still stay at home.
  • Confident that you have the coping skills to assist you during this time.
  • Distrustful of how the government is handling all the guidelines and rules or how things are being portrayed in the media.
  • Determined to live in the present and move forward towards your goals.
  • Grief for a multitude of reasons.
  • Grateful for so many small things.
  • Happy you are surrounded by positive people either virtually or face to face.
  • Hopeful  You acknowledge that the virus is serious, but you will get through this pandemic in the best way possible.
  • Loved by your family. So happy you have them to support you.
  • Powerless like you don’t have any control or say in anything that’s happening.
  • Protective of your routine you do not want to deal with any more change or uncertainty.
  • Positive You get up every day and make the best of your life in a pandemic.
  • Reluctant to rearrange events like celebrations, get-togethers, parties that couldn’t happen during the pandemic
  • Realistic You know that this pandemic isn’t easy, but feel self-assured you have what it takes to get through it.
  • Uneasy about some of your relationships that have changed during the pandemic.
  • Useful You feel like you have been able to contribute in a positive way during this pandemic.
  • Stigmatized or that others may avoid you You may have already had coronavirus, or others think what you do makes you more likely to spread the virus. 
  • Secure and safe You know people are around you that support and help you.
  • Stressed about a lot of things like …
  • Under pressure to return to school/work when you can’t, or when you feel it’s not safe to.
  • Unsupported You may be asked to go back to school/work without having access to things like personal protective equipment (PPE), or feelings of safety and security.
  • Understood You have people who listen to your concerns.
  • Valued Most people respect how you are dealing with the pandemic.

What other feelings are you feeling ? Acknowledge them and share with a trusted confidant. You can also check out some strategies to help here.

Your feelings are important. Each child, teen and adult will react differently based on numerous factors. My hope is that no matter what happens you have the supports and coping skills to overcome whatever challenges come your way, it starts with acknowledging your true feelings. 

Life is not all doom and gloom in a pandemic.

101 Ways To Kick Start Your Day In A Positive Way: A Guide For Educators Parents and Students

This is a collaborative blogpost by Erin Luong and I along with a few ideas from friends.  As mental health educators we believe that a focus on our mental health and well being is foundational to all education. It is impossible to focus on academics if students are not feeling secure. We believe it’s important to intentionally embed a focus on well being into every lesson with young people. All of us need to use positive self talk and coping strategies to feel better . We can all do one thing a day that will help us cope during this unprecedented time.

Hoping some of these tips help you start the day as an educator. You can post a tip for the day using Canva or just text your student the tip to start their day. As an educator I am sure you can find many creative ways to use this as you move online. 

  1. Just for today I will start and end my day in a positive way.
  2. Just for today I will remember that I am ok and all will be well with the world.
  3. Just for today I will be proud that I stayed home and did my part to help.
  4. Just for today I will be grateful for all the front line workers that are helping us.
  5. Just for today I will celebrate our shared humanity.
  6. Just for today I will head outside and let the sun hit my face. I will take some fresh air breaths and listen, it may sound quieter and more peaceful than usual. I will think about what I hear, how the sun feels on my face and how those deep breaths make my body feel. Susan Fueller
  7. Just for today I will send some positive intentions out into the universe. 
  8. Just for today I will think of ways to make the world a better place.
  9. Just for today I will learn to say I love you in as many languages as I can think of. 
  10.  Just for today I will post a positive message in my window and or use sidewalk chalk to write a message for others in my neighbourhood to see.
  11.  Just for today I will connect with two people that lift my spirits.
  12.  Just for today I will write or talk about one thing I am grateful for no matter how small. Helen MacKinnon
  13.  Just for today I will remain hopeful.
  14.  Just for today I will look back at old photo albums and tell stories from the past which made me who I am today. 
  15.  Just for today I will look in the mirror and recognize that I have a purpose for being here.
  16.  Just for today I will make sure I am moving my body for at least 30 minutes.
  17.  Just for today I will be kind to my mind.
  18.  Just for today I will have an eye staring contest. Juliana Miller – MacPherson
  19.  Just for today I will tell the people that I care about that they matter to me.
  20.  Just for today I will not worry about what is in it for me, I will think only about what I can do to help out in every situation. Gail White
  21.  Just for today I will dress in my favourite colour and eat my favourite food. Laurel Hunt
  22.  Just for today I will listen to one of my favourite songs and sing along. Leena Booth
  23.  Just for today I will say I am courageous, strong and can make a difference.
  24.  Just for today every time I wash my hands I will tell two silly jokes and laugh. Karen Hudson
  25.  Just for today I will talk about helpful and unhelpful worries with an adult.
  26.  Just for today I know that I am safe and I can control my thoughts.
  27.  Just for today I will wish upon a star.
  28.  Just for today I will remember that challenges can be opportunities.
  29.  Just for today I will go for a walk and notice all the beauty around me.
  30.  Just for today I will remember that all my feelings are ok. It’s ok to be scared etc.
  31.  Just for today I will remind myself that just because I made a mistake doesn’t mean I am one.
  32.  Just for today I will stay strong and well.
  33.  Just for today I will share my favorite song/poem and we can sing or say them together or to each other.  Sheri Edwards
  34.  Just for today I will not give up.
  35.  Just for today I will ask God to get me through today.
  36.  Just for today I will look at one way I can see the opportunities because of the challenges of today. 
  37.  Just for today I will reevaluate my priorities and tell someone what I think.
  38.  Just for today I will let go of any thoughts that don’t help my peace of mind.
  39.  Just for today I will remember not everyone reacts to events in the same way. I will be positive today.
  40.  Just for today I will remember that I am loveable and capable.
  41.  Just for today I will take a break from watching or listening to any alarming news.
  42.  Just for today wear my clothes inside out and walk backwards. ( Laura Cormier) 
  43.  Just for today I will take care of my mind by listening to some soothing music.
  44.  Just for today I will do one activity that I love and enjoy.
  45.   Just for today I will check in with my parents and/ or grandparents to bring a smile to their day.
  46.  Just for today I will find a calm space just for me. 
  47.  Just for today I will write about my feelings in a journal.
  48.  Just for today I know that I can deal with life’s difficulties.
  49.  Just for today I will smile often.
  50.  Just for today I will say to myself I can cope with this uncertainty.
  51.  Just for today I will draw out my worries.
  52.  Just for today I will talk to an adult about what is concerning me.
  53.  Just for today I will visualize my safe place ( a beach, being with my favourite friend , playing and singing in the rain).
  54.  Just for today I will do more of what makes me happy.
  55.  Just for today I will find two ways to distract myself if I start to catastrophize.
  56.  Just for today I will let go of anything that upsets me.
  57.  Just for today I will reassure myself that all will be well with the world.
  58.  Just for today I will calm my wandering mind by doing something that is fun.
  59.  Just for today I will unwind by taking time out of my day to draw, paint, sing, dance or play a game I love.
  60.  Just for today I will read a book for 15 minutes for pleasure.
  61.  Just for today I will be easy on myself.
  62.  Just for today I will look for solutions.
  63.  Just for today I will talk kindly and gently to myself just like I would my best friend.
  64.  Just for today I will watch a funny movie or talk to a funny friend. I know laughter will help.
  65.  Just for today I will remind myself that I matter.
  66.  Just for today I can  journal for 10 minutes.
  67.  Just for today I will open my heart to new ways of thinking and doing.
  68.  Just for today I will spend some extra time with people I love.
  69.  Just for today I will use my imagination to imagine the best that can happen.
  70.  Just for today I will remind myself of one good thing I can do for the world.
  71.  Just for today I will  love with all my heart.
  72.  Just for today I will tell myself that life can be tough sometimes , but so am I. 
  73.  Just for today I will say I am strong, I am kind and I can do anything I make up my mind to do.
  74.  Just for today I will recognize that I cannot change the circumstances, but I can change my reaction to it. 
  75.  Just for today I will practice breathing deeply.
  76.  Just for today I will write 3 things I am grateful for.
  77.  Just for today I will look at some old pictures and think of the positive memories of that time.
  78.  Just for today I will make something new.
  79.  Just for today I will create a song, a piece of art , a new recipe, or something I have always wanted to create.
  80.  Just for today I will take a picture of something that brings me joy.
  81.  Just for today I will lift someone else’s spirits.
  82.  Just for today I will spread some kindness and love in the world.
  83.  Just for today I will make hot chocolate and eat my favourite cookie.
  84.  Just for today I will write a love letter.
  85.  Just for today whenever I find myself thinking negative I will challenge those thoughts.
  86.  Just for today I will reach out to someone who needs it.
  87.  Just for today I will jump for joy.
  88.  Just for today I will start a blog, a vlog or share something that makes the world a better place.
  89.  Just for today I will share at least 2 jokes with others.
  90.  Just for today I will connect with someone from a different generation than I am, to learn more about how they see the world.
  91.  Just for today I will try a new recipe from a different culture.
  92.  Just for today I will learn to make a friendship bracelet.
  93.  Just for today I will collaborate with a friend on a project to make the world a better place.
  94.  Just for today I will make a playlist of songs which inspire me.
  95.  Just for today I will play a board game with my family.
  96.  Just for today I will make a short video. 
  97.  Just for today I will try a zoom chat with friends.
  98.  Just for today I will focus on what I need.
  99.  Just for today I will share something I am passionate about.
  100.  Just for today I will tell my colleagues and friends how much I appreciate all they do. 
  101. Just for today I will reach out to see if I can help someone else in the world.

What is your Just for Today ? Please share with us so we can share with educators from around the world.

Why I Volunteer : Youth Champion Initiative

 

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I could not be prouder to volunteer with the Youth Champion Initiative . What the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre , Youth Smarts Calgary and Canadian Mental Health do to support our youth is inspiring and so extremely important. I love that I am able to help in a tiny way .  Kim Campbell and Ashley Lamantia  lead the way to help youth day in and day out. Thanks for all you do all year-long.

 

The real reason I volunteer for this initiative is that if I can help in some small way to promote the work that Sheldon Kennedy has already done and is doing to make a difference for youth, especially when it comes to child abuse and sexual abuse, then I too can feel like I have contributed . I can be very proud to stand up and say I have done my very small part to open the door to this discussion and be a part of the incredible work already being done. I can celebrate students and staff who also want to make a difference when it comes to child advocacy.

According to the SKCAC in 2008 there were 14,403 substantiated cases of child abuse in Alberta. 7091 infants , youth and children were seen at the centre and 124 new cases are assessed each month.

Mental health and trauma affect way too many of our students , so collaborating with people who are continuing to have an impact makes me feel I have contributed to a society that cares about the mental health and the wellbeing of our youth and that is something for me that is so worthy of doing!

Crisis Response: School Counsellors Are You Prepared?

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Handling a crisis can impact the school and the School Counsellor in ways that are unforseen. The School Counsellor often takes the lead along with administration in our schools, but may be missed in recognizing the support they need because of their uniques role in offering social emotional supports to so many.

This podcast below will help all School Counsellors in a preventative way . Thanks to Trish Hatch @hatchingresults for the excellent podcast on Putting Out The Fire: A School Counsellors Role in Times of Crisis.

Your comment,  “what’s unique about the School Counsellor is that they are involved in the crisis as well, what often happens is the School Counsellor puts their own needs aside as they take care of others.” This concept is so important for all to recognize. We are helpers and how we model handling a crisis is vital.  If we remain calm, then students and staff will see that . As a School Counsellor I know I often handled crisis with calm , but on the inside I knew I  would need support after the crisis was over. That’s why debriefing and supports are essential.

If we are the leaders in our Student Services teams, we need to monitor how our team is doing and if they have been triggered by the crisis for whatever reason. We need to step in and step up to support them. Even if that means letting them know it is ok to step back and let others handle the crisis. The School Counsellor may have worked with the student or students related to the crisis , so they may need time for themselves to process and take care of their own needs. We too as the leader may be impacted so we need to be self-aware and know when we ourselves need to step back. This is one of the many great reasons to have districts who have a district crisis team that can come into the school and assist.

We are most certainly in the uniques role of helping others , so having a supportive admin. team is essential. Fortunately for me I have had wonderful leaders who know, support and understand the role of School Counsellors.

I hope you will use this podcast as a reflective tool and a great segue to important discussions with your counselling teams.

For easy access to this podcast, click here and listen to the end. It is perfect PD all online  for School Counsellors.

At 20:00 check out Vanessa Gomez Lee where she discusses ( a crate, a file box) I’ll call it a CR Kit for SC that every School Counsellor should have .

All districts have an emergency response plan and lock down kits each unique to their district. The CR School Counsellor Kit will be different . What should be in the kit that is different from your lock down kits?

Crisis Response Materials

  • Brochures or other materials on natural responses to grief. So many other great resources here .
  • Crisis Plan
  • Important Phone numbers
  • Community Resources
  • Kleenex
  • Markers and Paper for Students to write or draw their feelings

What else do you think should be in this kit?

  • Water
  • Stress balls ????????

I would love to hear your ideas. Again thanks to all the great School Counsellors who not only take the lead in their schools , but are always willing to share and help others . Thanks #scchat!

 

Using Art to Heal

 

 

 

Life is a process of healing and I love to create more than ever before.  Using art with students is a wonderful way to connect with them and let them express themselves. We often use art as a way to talk and share. They inspire me and I have found another way to help them. I am not an art therapist , but that does not mean I or you cannot use art in your counselling sessions to help students. Referring students as always when needed to a certified Art Therapist is ethical.

Here are some ideas to get you to start on your own creative journey. Let go of the fear and create art anyway. You may become a better teacher or counsellor.  I know I have. A new chapter … a new journey. An ever ending journey of learning for me and I hope for you.

Childhood Trauma School Counsellors Can Help: Change the question from what’s wrong with you to what’s happened to you and how can I help?

 

According to the Sheldon Kennedy Youth Advocacy Centre, in 2008, there were 14,403 substantiated cases of child abuse in Alberta.*

  • 6665 Infants, Youth and Children assessed at the Sheldon Kennedy CAC to date
  • 124 New cases assessed per month at the Sheldon Kennedy CAC
  • 11690 Visits from children to our Child Space since July 2013

For updated stats go to the SKYouth Advocacy Centre.

 

I am fortunate to volunteer for the Sheldon Kennedy Youth Advocacy Centre with #youthchampionsyyc. The Youth Champion Initiative in collaboration with Youth Smart  empowers junior high and high-school students to develop their leadership capacity by taking responsibility in their school communities to promote a climate of well-being, healthy relationships and resiliency.

We know that adverse childhood experiences ACES have a long-lasting impact and there is much to do when it comes to trauma in youth.

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Today on 60 minutes Oprah Winfrey is bringing her voice to the world by discussing childhood trauma with Dr. Bruce Perry.

CBC did an amazing three-part series on childhood trauma. Thanks to @HeatherTuba for sharing.

You can listen here:

PART 1 : “Our bodies psychological armour … How do some children remember abuse ? The link between obesity and trauma. Have a listen  CBC ALL in The Family Part 1 

PART 2: Childhood trauma is increasingly being seen as a major factor in academic under-achievement. Have a listen CBC All in The Family Part 2.

PART 3: Understanding and healing  childhood trauma is essential. Have a listen to part 3 in this series CBC All in The Family Part 3.

There is much to learn when it comes to childhood trauma. My hope is that these resources will help you start a dialogue with educators and others re childhood trauma and the effects.

There is help and support in your community and School Counsellors are one of the many people who can help students with childhood trauma. It does take a village , but the relationship with a School Counsellor may be a start to changing a child’s life. What is your ACES score? What is the ACES score of some of the students you serve?  You may be the person who will make a difference in their life. Won’t you join in and help?

 

Anxiety: Plugged In Or Out? How Can We Help Mitigate The Effects Of Social Media On Our Kids?

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guest post by: S. Helen MacKinnon

The impact that social media has on kids is undeniable. A recent article in the New York Times highlights some of the more concerning issues.

I don’t think we need  much convincing that social media has had an impact on all our lives and it is not going away anytime soon. I am a neophyte when it comes to social media, but in my work with children and their families over the past 30 years has allowed me a first hand insight into the world of children and their families.

What can we do as parents, counsellors and educators to mitigate the impact that social media is having on our young people? As in any situation where we are trying to teach children, we ourselves need to be the role model. We need to examine the message we send our kids when we are engaged in use of our own devices. What parameters do we have for ourselves when it comes to use of devices?  Do we actually have discussions with our kids about amount of usage, times and places that are no go zones for adults and kids? Do we understand the  safety issues and if not do we educate ourselves about these issues and discuss them with our children?  Yes, with any privilege comes responsibility, both for us as the adult and for our children whom we must guide to be ethical digital citizens. Don’t let their media skills fool you! Although they appear to be very savvy in the area of technology, they do not have the life experience or a fully developed brain that allows them to project the outcome of what they may see as just having a little fun or wanting to fit in.