Friday, November 18, 2016

My Child is Anxious!!

If you are reading this post, you may have at one point worried about your child's level of anxiety. But what is Anxiety? And how can YOU, the parent, help deescalate this feeling?

Anxiety is a feeling that everyone experiences, and for some, may even help function well in difficult times. It’s a normal emotion that many feel when they are faced with nervous situations, such as taking a test, before an interview or even when making an important decision, and often presents as nervousness, worry or fear. 

When faced with danger or a threat, anxiety acts as an alarm system to keep you from harm.  It triggers your “fight or flight” response. 

Children naturally have many more fears than most adults, although most fears eventually go away as they grow.  When evaluating your child’s anxiety, it is important to keep in mind the age appropriateness of their emotional response.
Carolyn Webster-Stratton, Ph.D., from University of Washington, wrote a great article called, “Helping Children Learn to RegulateTheir Emotions”. This article explains and provides tools for parents to help their children learn to control anxiety in an effect and age appropriate way.

In summary, Carolyn explains many steps a parent can take to support their little one if they notice a heightened level of anxiety.  These are nine of the twelve points that stuck out for me:
1.    Provide as much stability and consistency as possible.
a.     i.e. consistent limit setting, clear household rules, predictable routines & consequences, etc.
2.    Accept your child’s emotions and emotional responses.
a.     While emotional responses can be draining, your patience and acceptance are crucial factors in your child learning to cope with his/her emotional responses.
3.   Talk about your own feelings.
a.     Children learn from what their parent’s model. Your children will be less likely to resort to behavioral expressions of negative emotions if they see you use language to express your own emotional state.
4.    Encourage children to talk about feelings – avoid directives about feels.
a.     Avoid saying, “Don’t be sad,” or “You shouldn’t be angry about that.” Instead, try saying, “I see you are said about that: Can you tell me what happened?”
5.    Model appropriate emotional regulation.
a.     Similar to 3, it is important to model the behavior you expect your child to exhibit. Rather than exploding or using swear words to express yourself, you can say, “I feel disappointed that this is not going my way. I need to take a break.”
6.    Teach your child positive self-talk.
a.     Rather than saying, “I can’t do it,” or “I’m going to lose it!”, say “I can do it,” and “I can calm myself down.”
7.     Identify triggering events and use them to teach problem-solving.
a.     You want to teach your child to generate several possible solutions to a problem. This will give them confidence if/when they are triggered.
8.    Use a Time Out for inappropriate emotional angry outburst.
a.     Yelling at your child for misbehaving or giving in to your child’s emotional outbursts actually increases the likelihood they will continue in the future. Using a Time Out .
9.    Praise your child’s efforts to regulate their emotions.
a.     “I am really proud of you for working hard even when it was difficult.”
b.     “That was great. You calmed yourself down.”

Additionally, I would add:
1.     Use the “Size of the Problem” chart to identify appropriate level of response. – (see “Size of the Problem” post for more info.)
2.     Create a “Worry Box” at home where your child can write down a “worry” or nervous feeling that can be left in the box.
a.     I explain to students that when they have big nervous or worried feelings, they can write down or draw the feeling, then leave it in my worry box for me to hold on to.  This way, they will not carry the feeling with them all day. I welcome them to come take it back at the end of the day if they feel they need it, but that I will keep it safe in my box for the day. (They almost never come back for the feelings). Having a worry box at home is a great tool for communication with you and your child.  You can ask your child to write or draw when they have feelings they either don’t want to have or that they would like to talk about with you later.
3.     Establish a safe zone at home such as a “Cool Down Corner” with tools where your child may defuse. Here are some helpful tools to keep in your corner.
a.     Size of the Problem chart and/or Zones of Regulation poster.
b.     Cool Down Tool Box
c.      Lazy 8 Breathing
d.     Kimochis
e.     Timer
f.      Pen & Paper – I even encourage using Mr. Sketch markers because they smell yummy and encourage students to take a deep breath when they smell the marker.
Or any cool down strategies or tools that work best for your family.

Mastering cool down techniques for anxiety takes time, especially for children. Keep in mind that anxiety is a normal and healthy feeling. If the feeling is not impacting your child’s daily functioning, do not see the behavior as a red flag. 

In our school district, we are lucky to have a highly educated and dedicated staff of teachers who use amazing tools in their classes that help your children perform at their highest level.  If you ever have concerns regarding your child’s anxiety, please do not hesitate to reach out to their teacher for support. 

As an endnote, please keep in mind the time of year when evaluating your child’s level of anxiety.  With the holidays around the corner, we will naturally see a heightened level of feelings, especially anxiety.  Keep a few strategies in your back pocket and know that, not only is your child normal for feeling anxious, but you are normal for feeling overwhelmed! 

On that note, happiest of Holidays to all of you!  And when times are not so happy, remember to take a deep breath in….and now out.

Best to you all!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

I'm back!!

Hello Mill Valley Families,

As most of you know, I've been out caring for my new baby, Rory, who just turned 3 months old. Although it was tough leaving him, I'm SO excited to be back and working with our amazing students again. 

That being said, we would like to announce some changes within our counseling locations.  As of this year, Jason Mountsier, Claudia Trinklein-England and I (Jen Ferrer) will be at the following locations:

Claudia Trinklein-Engman
Monday - Strawberry Point Elementary School
Tuesday - Old Mill Elementary School
Wednesday - Strawberry Point Elementary School
Thursday - Old Mill Elementary School
Friday - Park Elementary School

Jason Mountsier
Monday - Tam Valley Elementary School
Tuesday - Park Elementary School
Wednesday - Tam Valley Elementary School
Thursday - Tam Valley Elementary School
Friday - Tam Valley Elementary School

Jen Ferrer
Monday-Friday - Edna Maguire Elementary School

If you need to contact your school counselor, please refer to your school's website, or speak with your child's teachers.

This year our counseling staff is excited to spend some more time in our classrooms teaching various character building guidance lessons.  Two programs we will utilize in these lessons are the Kimochis and Zones of Regulation.  A primary goal of ours is to provide our students with the tools to effectively communicate, as well as, regulate their bodies.

Some blog topics to look out for this year:
How to Size your Problems
Bully Awareness
My Child is Anxious!
Friendship Dos & Don'ts

Anger and Self-Control
Zones of Regulation
& of course, Kimochis (a personal favorite!)

We look forward to another great year of learning and community building.

Best to you all!

Jen Ferrer
Edna School Counselor

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Zones of Regulation

Many students experience some form of struggle when transitioning into a new school year. Can you blame them? They have a new teacher, new classroom, and new classmates. Imagine starting a new job every year with the expectation to always be flexible. That would be a tough pill to swallow for many. To support with the many transitions our students face, and even the many feelings popping up throughout the year, our teachers have utilized an innovative social/emotional learning technique. This tool is called the Zones of Regulations

Our school counselors had the opportunity this month to teach several Zones of Regulations lessons in our Kindergarten and a few first grade classes, and the students love it! But, you might be wondering, what are the Zones of Regulation?

The Zones is used to teach self-regulation by labeling all the different ways we feel and states of alertness we experience into four zones.  The Zones curriculum provides strategies to teach students to become more aware of their emotions, improve controlling their emotions and impulses, managing their sensory needs, and improving their ability to problem solve conflicts.  

The Four Zones
The Blue Zone is used to describe low states of alertness (low energy), such as when one feels sad, tired, sick, or bored.

The Green Zone is used to describe a calm state of alertness. A person may be described as happy, focused, content, or ready to learn when in the Green Zone.  Being in the Green Zone will help students be successful in the classroom.  

The Yellow Zone is also used to describe a heightened state of alertness and elevated emotions; however, one has some control when they are in the Yellow Zone.  A person may be experiencing stress, frustration, anxiety, excitement, silliness, the wiggles, or nervousness when in the Yellow Zone.  

The Red Zone is used to describe extremely heightened states of alertness and intense emotions.  A person may be elated or experiencing anger, rage, explosive behavior, devastation, or terror when in the Red Zone. A person is described as “out of control” if in the Red Zone.  

During my Zones lessons, I started by asked the students to identify what each color represents when in their car at a stoplight. Yellow = Slow Down, Red = Stop!, Green = Go (Ready to learn), Blue = Need a break (Rest stop)

After we identified the meaning of each color zone, we worked as a class to match feelings with zones. We identified the following feelings:
Blue Zone: Shy, Sick, Tired, Sad
Green Zone: Happy, Calm, Good Listener, Brave
Yellow Zone: Silly, Frustrated, Worried, Scared
Red Zone: Mad, Yelling, Out of Control

Tools and Strategies

Our students learned about a simple breathing method to help calm their bodies if they are in the yellow or red zone. This method is called “Lazy 8 Breathing”. To use this method at home, you can ask your students teacher for a copy of the "Lazy 8 Breathing", or you can make your own. This is how it works:
  • Put your pointer finger on the star and start by following the arrow around "Breath In". Take a deep breath in.
  • As you cross over to the other side of the Lazy 8, slowly let you breath out (like you blowing out birthday candles)
  • Continue breathing around the Lazy 8 until you have a calm body & mind (3 times are recommended for students).
Another tool the students learned is Positive Self-Talk. Positive Self-Talk is encouraging self-talk you use inside your head, such as: "I think I can," "I have done hard things before," "I know I can do it."

Positive Self-Talk is a great tool to use when in the Blue or Yellow Zone. 

How can you use The Zones of Regulation?

Students have received instruction in identifying the emotions that go with each zone, as well as, tools and strategies.

Here are some things that can be done to support The Zones of Regulation at home:

  • Practice identifying the emotions that go with each zone.
  • Practice Lazy 8 Breathing at home. (It is best to practice the tools and strategies when the children are calm, so they will be comfortable to use the tools when they are not in the green zone)
  • Share your positive self-talk. "I'm not giving up even though I am frustrated. I can do this."
  • Suggest positive self-talk when you see your child is reluctant to try something new. You can whisper in his/her ear, "John, I know you can do it! Tell yourself, 'I can do it!'" 
  • When you see your child overcome a challenge, you can say, "I noticed you stuck with that. What did you say inside your head to help?"
  • When you see your child in the blue, yellow or red zone, prompt them to identify what zone they are in and to identify a tool or strategy they can use to get back to the Green Zone.
The Zones of Regulation, along with the Kimochis, will be something our students use daily in elementary school and even some in middle school. If you wish to know more about the program, feel free to contact your school's counselor or teacher.  And practice yourself! What Zone are in you right now? 

Thank you all :)

Jen Ferrer
School Counselor

Monday, August 31, 2015

Welcome Back Mill Valley Families

We are so excited to get our Counselors' Corner blog started up again!

I know for some, summer felt long and for others, perhaps not long enough! Either way, we're back! Claudia, Jason (Mr. M) and I (Ms. Jen) would like to welcome you all back for the 2015-16 school year. We are so excited to see some familiar faces at our schools, and very excited to see some new faces.

For this first post, we will simply give you some basic information about our MV Elementary Counseling Program.  We currently have three School Counselors and three School Counselor Interns for our five elementary schools. The allocation is as follows:

Strawberry Point - Claudia Trinklein-Engman & Jan Gibbs (Intern)
Park Elementary - Claudia Trinklein-Engman & Jen Ferrer
Old Mill Elementary - Claudia Trinklein-Engman & Meredith Mishel (Intern)
Tam Valley Elementary - Jason Mountsier & Jen Ferrer
Edna Maguire Elementary - Jason Mountsier & Jen Ferrer & Kristen Hartley (Intern)

Claudia's Schedule:
Monday - Strawberry Point Elementary
Tuesday - Old Mill Elementary
Wednesday - Strawberry Point Elementary
Thursday - Old Mill Elementary
Friday - Park Elementary

Jason's Schedule:
Monday - Edna Maguire Elementary
Tuesday - Edna Maguire Elementary
Wednesday - Tam Valley Elementary
Thursday - Tam Valley Elementary
Friday - Tam Valley Elementary & Edna Maguire Elementary

Jen's Schedule:
Monday - Park Elementary
Tuesday - Tam Valley Elementary
Wednesday - Edna Maguire Elementary
Thursday - Edna Maguire Elementary
Friday - Tam Valley Elementary

We are excited to continue our Kimochis program, as well as our Bucket Book and No Bully programs.  You may also see characters from the latest and greatest movie "Inside Out"make an appearance at our schools, along with some Zones of Regulation.

Some blog topics to look out for this year:
Bully Awareness
Screen time/Managing electronics
Zones of Regulation
Kimochis (a personal favorite!)
As well as, tools for completing homework at home and information about in-class lessons managed by our counseling staff.

If there are any topics you would like addressed or even if you would like additional information about one of these topics, please never hesitate to contact your school's Counselor.

Additionally, our district has two School Counselors at the middle school, Mill Valley Middle School. Randi Josephson and Alison Goodman also post helpful information and articles on their school website.  They discuss topics various topics such as, perfectionism, helicopter parenting, and many more. We will post information about new articles and topics they add throughout the year, so keep a look out!

And finally, you maybe be wondering how to contact your School Counselor.  We encourage parents to first speak with their child's teacher for any questions or concerns, however, we welcome direct contact as well. To contact your school's Counselor, please visit your schools website and search under "Staff Info" for their email address. Please remember, no question is a bad question!

Edna Maguire
Old Mill
Tam Valley
Strawberry Point
Mill Valley Middle School

Let's have a great year!
Thank you :)

Claudia, Jason (Mr.M) and Jen 

Sunday, April 19, 2015


By Jan Gibbs - M.F.T Intern & School Counselor

When I reflect on parenting our 2 daughters, who are now women, I remember frequently asking myself, “How can two children grow up in the same household with two parents who have agreed to be consistent in parenting, enforcing the same rules and, in general, holding  the same expectations in regard to behavior, end up being so very different?

Our older daughter was rather mellow, willing to please, compliant and cautious enough to be successful in her endeavors, but took enough calculated risks to be challenged without being challenging. Our younger daughter seemed to come into the world looking for a party. She would leap first and ask questions later. Often we felt more than a few steps behind her. They each had such different styles.

How we, as parents, interacted with each child seemed to differ depending on how alike or different we were to each one.

When I found this article, it answered a lot of the questions I had years ago and many I hear from parents of students I counsel now. I hope you find it useful.