2019-2020 CC

April 2020

I can’t believe it’s been over 5 weeks since I sent my last message.  We were right at the beginning of “Stay Home, Stay Safe” and now we’re somewhere in the middle.  If you’re like me, the uncertainty of when we’ll be back to “normal” is really hard.  And I know that piece is extremely hard for my own kindergarten daughter.  I remember writing about her after-school melts back in September…well, let me tell you, those pale in comparison to her coronavirus melts.  So we’re figuring this out together, continuing to move forward and do our best each day – just like all of you.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out about your child – I can be reached via email ([email protected]) or phone (203-491-0194).  All students have been invited to my google classroom (code: kftuqxg) – I post something for all students every day.  I miss my Stepney kiddos – give yours an extra hug from me!

Listed below are one potential event for your child(ren) and three resources (with highlights) for the grown-ups.

"The ABC's of Covid 19: A CNN/Sesame Street Town Hall for Kids and Parents" will tackle issues including education, anxiety, screen time and playdates.
(Saturday, April 25th 9-10:30am)

I’m Over It. My Kids Are Over It. And That’s OK., Blog – Brea Schmidt
"So one day when another challenge comes, they’ll know what they’re capable of … and on the days they don’t have it in them, that someone will always be there to support them.”

How to Stay Mentally Fit During a Pandemic, Sarah McAllister, M.D.

1. You are a Sponge

2. Set Low Expectations

3. Soft Structure (maintain a manageable schedule)

4. See Faces, Hear Voices

5. Get Near Green

6. Activity

7. Let it Go*

8. Talk to a Professional

*Personally, I love any reference to Frozen :-)*

Self-Care in the Time of Coronavirus, Child Mind Institute

1. Make time for yourself

2. Prioritize healthy choices

3. Be realistic

4. Set boundaries

5. Reconnect with things you enjoy

March 2020

Well…this was not the newsletter I thought I’d be sending for March.  If your recent experience has been like mine, you’ve been overloaded with texts, social media, and the news.  If you’re also like me, you have family members that fall in the higher risk category – over 60 and with an underlying condition.

I’ve had brief and very general conversations with my own kindergarten daughter.  (Small blessings – my two year old is happily clueless!)

I don’t want to inundate you with information but simply provide a few resources to use should you want.

My best wishes for everyone to stay healthy and enjoy this “bonus” time with your children.  While every Stepney student and staff will miss each other next week, we are all doing the best for our community – local and global.

Talking to Children About COVID-19 (Coronavirus): A Parent Resource – National Association of School Psychologists (NASP)


Coronavirus And Parenting: What You Need To Know Now – NPR


What to Say To Your Child about the Corona Virus
– Aha! Parenting


Coronavirus Resources
– American School Counselor Association (ASCA)


February 2020

Since I started here four years ago I’ve tried to share with parents more about my role especially classroom lessons.  Each month the Counselor Connection has a recent lessons list; that information is also posted to my website (https://ses.monroeps.org/departments/school_counselor).

However, the details of my lessons might still be a mystery (unless your child is extremely communicative about school!)  One lesson topic – I Feel Statements – spans all grade levels.  Our kindergarten students completed their initial lesson last month and our other grades have had their refresher lesson as well.

I Feel Statements are used when a person wants to share their feelings about a specific situation and start a conversation to resolve it.  This is an appropriate way to be respectful and kind while standing up for yourself.  The students learn that kids and adults can use this both at school and at home.

The statement follows a pattern of:

I feel < feeling word >

when you < tell what happened >

please < ask for what you want to change >.

I’m honest with students that using an I Feel Statement can be hard to do and even adults don’t always use it.  Students learn that practicing makes it easier which is why staff encourages students to use an I Feel Statement as the first step when resolving a peer conflict.  Our hope is that this becomes more natural for students, maybe even using it at home with a parent or sibling!


January 2020

I had a plan for this month’s newsletter.  I was going to share resources for talking with students about tragic events and thought the timing was okay because we were a bit removed from the anniversaries of Sandy Hook and 9-11.  And then Sunday’s devastating helicopter crash happened – one that claimed the lives of three promising young teenagers and six adults – including legend Kobe Bryant.  Personally I’m struggling with this – perhaps because Kobe was close to my own age; definitely because it involved his daughter and her two teammates.  I hope the following links provide useful information whether talking to your children about this loss, Sandy Hook, 9-11 or another challenging event.  

What To Say To Kids When The News is Scary

Highlight: Limit their exposure to breaking news "We can control the amount of information. We can control the amount of exposure," says Rosemarie Truglio, senior vice president of curriculum and content at Sesame Workshop.

Kobe Bryant’s Death: Talking to Kids about Premature Death

Highlight: The helicopter is the hard part. People are not supposed to die in airplanes or helicopters or cars.  We assure our children that we and they are safe. …  With younger children (elementary school age) you respond by saying: “The helicopter crash was really unusual. It is so rare that this happens. But once in a long long while, something goes wrong. And it’s horrible.  The truth is, you don’t hear about the thousands and thousands and thousands of helicopters that fly safely every single day.”

15 Tips for Talking with Children about Violence

Highlight: Start by finding out what your child does/does not know about the event.

Talking to Children about Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers

Highlight: There is a difference between reporting, tattling or gossiping.  You can provide important information that may prevent harm either directly or anonymously by telling a trusted adult what you know or hear.

Handling Tragedy: How To Talk With Kids About Sandy Hook

Highlight: The right words, especially with younger children, need to blend explanation with reassurance.

Talking to Children about Tragedies & Other News Events

Highlight: Signs a Child Might Not Be Coping Well: sleep problems, physical complaints, changes in behavior, emotional problems.

December 2019

As 2019 comes to a quick close, it’s important to take a minute to stop and reflect on the year.  For many families, there has been a mixture of highs and lows, happy and sad memories.  With the upcoming holidays and break, there is extra time to spend with loved ones – be it family or friends.

I invite you to get to know each other a little bit more over this break.  We often fall into the routine of asking the same questions and sharing similar answers.  (I mentioned this in January 2018 – questions to ask instead of “How was your day?”.)  Attached is “December Discussions” which can be used to inspire new conversations as we head into the New Year.  (I’m sending home a printed copy as well.)

I hope that everyone has warm, safe and happy moments over the next two weeks and we’ll see you all in 2020!

November 2019

Family, Food, Friends, Fun.  My wish for every Stepney student is a long weekend filled with those.  The importance of “downtime” is a sentiment shared across the district as all Monroe staff was reminded about our homework free period this upcoming weekend.

I also challenge everyone, myself included, to spend some technology-free time this weekend.  In my previous district, counselors encouraged high school staff and students to temporarily change their social media profiles to reflect their tech-free break.

Families who attended Stepney last year know that I am a proponent of Wait Until 8th, a national campaign which empowers parents to wait until at least 8th grade to give their children a smartphone.  (This does not refer to all cell phones, only smartphones.)

With almost 100 new students (K-5) this year, I felt it was important to share this message again.  I encourage you to visit the website (click here), read through the material, and consider making the pledge for your child or children.  Once ten students/families within a grade have committed, the pledge becomes active, giving parents and students community support.

The long and short of it is – technology is here to stay; and teaching our children how and when to use it responsibly is more important than ever.

I’m thrilled to announce our 3rd grade pledge is active and our other grades (with the exception of K) are very close.  There will be a sign-up table at evening conferences on Tuesday, December 3rd and Monday, December 9th, and I will be available to talk with interested parents.

October 2019

Now that the school year is in full-swing, it’s a good time to stop and think about how routines – homework, meals and bedtimes – are going.  Two of the most helpful things we can do for our children is provide healthy food and establish strong routines, including bedtimes.  I know I’m not sharing anything novel but rather suggesting a “status update.”

I found an article “10 Healthy Habits Parents Should Teach Their Kids” that’s a good start:

  1. Make eating colorful

  2. Don’t skip breakfast

  3. Pick enjoyable physical activities

  4. Don’t be a couch potato

  5. Read every day

  6. Drink water, not soda

  7. Look at labels (food labels, not designer)

  8. Enjoy a family dinner

  9. Spend time with friends

  10. Stay positive

While nutrition is certainly important (half of this list references smart eating habits), I’m disappointed the list leaves off any reference to sleep.  Study after study has shown the importance of good sleep habits including getting enough sleep.  And yes, the reality of early bedtimes can be very challenging with all that families have on their schedules.  If you want to take a read of one mom’s bedtime views, her Filter Free Parents article can be found here.

And to return to nutrition (see it’s that important), that includes snacks – both at home and at school.  The Dairy Council of California created a great flyer about snacks (click here).  One tip that I thought was really helpful when thinking about school snacks is “Combine snacks from at least two food groups to pack more nutrients into your child’s diet—it will be more filling and will hold them over until their next meal.”

September 2019

I hope this email finds everyone well and settling into the routine of the school year.  It’s been exciting to see all the students over the last few weeks and especially fun to meet all our new students.  This school year is extra-special for me as my daughter started kindergarten in our town.

Being a school counselor I’ve read about the transition back to school but hadn’t experienced it firsthand.  So yes, I’ve now witnessed the meltdowns over socks or ChapStick that really aren’t about socks or ChapStick.

For those of you experiencing this for the first time or those who could use a reminder that much of what we’re experiencing as parents of young students is normal, here are links to two blog articles about after-school restraint collapse.

Motherly: After-school restraint collapse is real – here’s how to help your child

Scary Mommy: After-school restraint collapse is real, and this is what it means
(There is some colorful language used.)

For those of you new to Stepney, I will teach a counseling lesson in each classroom four times spread out over the course of the year.  At the bottom of my monthly emails will be a list of the most recent lesson for each grade level.

I wish all of you a great last weekend of summer and a fantastic school year!