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Archive for Topic: 'Counseling'

Loss and Grief

Submitted by Elementary School Counselors

According to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, there are five stages of grief. They are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. For those of us who have experienced a loss, we know that there is no set time or order when going through those stages. It is a time when we experience a vast array of emotions. Whether it is the loss of a pet, or the loss of a loved one, children grieve too. There are ways to help them through this confusing time. Activities such as making a memory book, sharing favorite stories about the pet or person they have lost, or meeting with a grief counselor can help to ease some of the pain a child is feeling after a loss. Below are some additional resources to help children through a time of loss and grief.

Click on the following links to learn more about the services offered.

Topics: Counseling

Relational Aggression

Bullying in elementary school

Submitted by Elementary School Counselors

Bullying is a subject that our school district has focused heavily on during recent years.  Sometimes this subject can be overwhelming.  Research shows that one of the best ways to significantly reduce the rate of these incidents is for adults to reach a consensus on what bullying is.

Bullying can take many forms.  The most typical forms of bullying would be either physical or verbal aggression. The third form is referred to as relational aggression.

According to the National Association of School Psychologists, relational aggression is “harm within relationships that is caused by covert bullying or manipulating behavior.”

Covert bullying:

  • Not allowing someone to join a group
  • Refusing to share friends
  • Embarrassing someone in front of friends

Manipulating Behaviors:

  • Giving someone the silent treatment
  • Trying to stop two people from becoming friends
  • Relaying gossip or rumors to the target of the gossip

Because it is less obvious than physical or verbal bullying, it requires careful observation.  Parents may be unclear about how to help their children handle these situations.  The Ophelia Project outlines “The Essential Seven”, which are tips for parents to deal with relational aggression.

  1. Do listen attentively to your child’s stories and ask questions.  Don’t rush the conversation or make light of the situation.
  2. Do teach kindness and try to model it in your home.  Don’t teach your child to get even or take revenge.
  3. Do focus on empathy by asking questions like ‘how would you feel?’  Try role-playing.  Don’t allow your child to believe that his or her feelings are the only ones that matter.
  4. Do talk to your child about relational aggression.  Name it.  Don’t hesitate to confront your child about his or her behavior.
  5. Do model positive interpersonal relationships in your home.  Don’t inadvertently model relational aggression in your own friendship circle.
  6. Do everything possible to make sure your child has friends outside the school’s social scene.  Encourage outside activities.  Don’t make popularity the goal in your family
  7. Do talk daily with your child.  Encourage discussion; ask open ended questions about friends and social interactions.  Don’t ask yes/no or general questions like ‘did you have a good day?’

Awareness is the key.  If parents and children speak with each other openly and honestly about friendship issues and concerns, situations such as relational aggression can be recognized  and be handled in a proactive and effective manner.

Topics: Counseling

Stress and Anxiety

Mother Helping Daughter With Homework In Kitchen

Submitted by Elementary School Counselors

Stress is impossible to avoid. Given the pressures of daily life, chronic stress itself has become a life-threatening situation to many, causing a host of health problems, including

  • Headaches
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Insomnia
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Increased body weight
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease

While we can’t eliminate stress from our lives, we can relieve the fight-or-flight response that sends our bodies into danger mode, and teach ourselves relaxation responses that, over time, will reduce our physiological stress reaction. Here are some tips that can help to reduce stress:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Learn relaxation techniques
  • Maintain healthy eating habits
  • Manage your time effectively
  • Get enough rest and sleep
  • Learn assertive reactions
  • Make time for hobbies and interests
  • Seek out social supports
  • Say no to requests that will create stress in your life.

Acute and chronic stress is not a diagnosable mental illness, but anxiety disorders are. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in America, affecting around 18 percent of the U.S. population in any given year, and almost 30 percent of American adults. Anxiety disorders include:

  • Panic disorder
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Phobias
  • Generalized anxiety disorder

Anxiety is a normal emotion that everyone has from time to time, but for some people, anxiety is a persistent problem that interferes with daily activities such as work, school, or sleep. This type of anxiety can disrupt relationships and enjoyment of life, and over time it can lead to serious health concerns and other problems. Anxiety disorders can occur in children as well as in adults, and must be addressed, since anxiety in children can affect intellectual, emotional and social development, as well as physical health.
In general, anxiety disorders are treated with medication, specific types of psychotherapy, or both. Medication will not cure anxiety disorders, but it can keep them under control while psychotherapy is underway. Psychotherapy involves talking with a trained mental health professional, to discover what caused the anxiety disorder, and how to deal with its symptoms.

If you think you have an anxiety disorder, the first person you should see is your family doctor. A physician can determine whether the symptoms that alarm you are due to an anxiety disorder, another medical condition, or both.

Further Resources self help.htm

The Worried Child: Recognizing Anxiety in Children and Helping Them Heal by Paul Foxman

Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: An Updated Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases and Coping by Robert Sapolsky, Ph.D.

National Geographic Documentary explaining Stress and Anxiety, by Dr. Sapolsky

Topics: Counseling

How to Get the Most Out of Your Conferences

Submitted by Elementary School Counselors

Parent-teacher conferences can be stressful for teachers and the parents.  As a parent, you are your child’s first and most important teacher. You and your child’s school have something in common: You both want your child to learn and do well. When parents and teachers talk to each other, each person can share important information about your child’s talents and needs. Each person can also learn something new about how to help your child. Parent–teacher conferences are a great way to start talking to your child’s teachers.  Below are suggestions that can help make the most of parent-teacher conferences.

  • A two-way conversation. Like all good conversations, parent–teacher conferences are best when both people talk and listen. The conference is a time for you to learn about your child’s progress in school.
  • Emphasis on learning. Good parent–teacher conferences should focus on how well the child is doing in school. They also talk about how the child can do even better. To get ready for this conversation, look at your child’s homework and tests before the conference. Be sure to bring a list of questions that you would like to ask the teacher.
  • Opportunities and challenges. Just like you, teachers want your child to succeed. You will probably hear positive feedback about your child’s progress and areas for improvement.
  • Progress. Find out how your child is doing by asking questions like: Is my child performing at grade level? How he or she is doing compared to the rest of the class? What do you see as his or her strengths? How could he or she improve?
  • Support learning at home. Ask what you can do at home to help your child.
  • Make a plan. Determine the teacher’s expectations and work together with the teacher to develop a plan that you both think will work. It is a good idea to focus on one problem at a time so that the child will not be overwhelmed and will have a better chance of success. It is also important to determine if the child has control over what he is doing.  Write down the things that you and the teacher will each do to support your child. You can do this during the conference or after. Make plans to check in with the teacher in the coming weeks and months.
  • Talk to your child. The parent–teacher conference is all about your child, so don’t forget to include him or her. Share with your child what you learned. Show him or her how you will help with learning at home. Ask for his or her ideas.
  • Do not stay beyond your allotted time. If you find more time is needed, plan a follow-up meeting with the teacher.

Conferencing is a wonderful tool to open communication for both parents and teachers.  Enjoy the time together and know you are both working toward supporting and teaching your child.

Some information gathered from Parent –Teacher conferences: Working as a Team and Making the Most Out of Your Parent Teacher Conferences.

Topics: Counseling

National Bullying Prevention Month

Submitted by Elementary Counselors

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Bullying and harassment is against the policy of the State of Iowa, as well as of the West Des Moines Community School District. All schools throughout the WDMCS promote procedures and practices to reduce and eliminate bullying and harassment.

Some events happening across the district for National Bullying Prevention Month:

  • On Mon., Oct. 7, students and staff will be wearing blue in support of National Bullying Prevention Month.
  • Parents and guardians are invited to join members of our community for renowned author and bullying prevention speaker, Rosalind Wiseman, on Sunday, October 13 at the Valley Community Center (4444 Fuller Road, WDM).  Doors will open at 6 p.m. and the presentation will begin at 7 p.m., with a book signing beginning at 8:30 p.m. Wiseman’s book Queen Bees and Wannabes was the impetus for the movie Mean Girls.

Parents, guardians, school staff and other caring adults in your child’s life all have an important role to play in preventing bullying. Ways you can help your child include:

  • Talk about what bullying is and how to stand up to it safely.
  • Reinforce that any kind of bullying behavior (physical, verbal, emotional and/or cyber bullying) is unacceptable. Make sure your child knows how to get help and who they can go to as a trusted adult for help.
  • Keep the lines of communication open. Check in with your kids often. Listen to them. Know their friends, ask about school, and understand their concerns.
  • Encourage kids to do what they love. Special activities, interests, and hobbies can boost confidence, help kids make friends, and protect them from bullying behavior.
  • Model how to treat others with kindness and respect.

We also encourage you to check out the following bullying prevention websites for many wonderful tips and bullying prevention resources to use with your child.

Topics: Counseling