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Sunday, October 4, 2020

Social Emotional Learning and This Week's Top 2

Happy Sunday! I hope you all had a chance for rest, renewal, and relaxation. I don't know what it is like where you are but in Texas the weather has been gorgeous! It has been in the 70's and low 80's which is total fall weather to us. I want to break out the flannel and boots and drink all the pumpkin spice lattes. I know...so basic. Haha.

With school back in session whether in person or virtual, the need for social emotional learning is bigger than ever before. We have students who may be struggling with anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, or struggling with emotional regulation. As a past teacher, school counselor, and administrator emotional regulation was always an area that many students needed support. When my husband and I began writing books, I dreamed of creating a social emotional learning series because of what I had learned working with students. I realized the value of SEL and the need to explicitly teach those skills to students. We cannot expect students to just know these skills, we have to teach them just as we do with academic skills. I am so excited that we finally began our SEL series: Thoughtful Bots. Thoughtful Bots was created to be simple, bright, and written in the form of social stories. You can check the books out below. 

My Angry Robot


My Mindful Robot

To accompany these books is a  FREE Printable!! This can be used for students to write or draw their strategies after reading the books. These would be great for a small group or SEL lesson. 

Here are a few examples from a Kindergarten and 1st grade kiddo. I love how one said their strategy to help them feel calm is to lay down and relax and eat ice cream (my love language).




I hope these will be helpful tools as a parent, teacher, or counselor! I am also doing a GIVEAWAY right now for copies of both books! Like The Stylish School Counselor on FB or follow Counseling_and_Confetti on Instagram for more information!

You can also check out Ackers' Books on FB and Instagram.

Now, for this week's Top 2 Fav Items! Each week I will be sharing two favorite items. I am trying to keep it simple. It may range from beauty products, food, accessories, and everything in between.

 

 This week, my #1 FAV item is the Tula Rose Glow and Get It Cooling and Brightening Eye Balm. I seriously get so excited using it every morning...especially when I stay up working late. It helps those under eye bags and helps me wake up in the morning with the cooling effect. 

 

I have been wearing my 2nd fav item on repeat this week. Y'all know it's all about the chains lately. This one is a great price and is the perfect layering piece. And, friends, it is $12!!! It is from one of my favorite shops, Groovy's. 


I hope you all have a great week. Don't forget that you can enter my Thoughtful Bots Book Giveaway! Details are on FB and Instagram.


Confetti & Hugs,

Melanie

Follow Me on Instagram @counseling_and_confetti


 




Sunday, April 5, 2020

Wellness Check In's

Hey, friends. I hope you are well and took some time for self care this weekend. I enjoyed indoor camping and lots of baking. I hope to top off the weekend with reading. I am currently reading EQ Intervention and it is so good! 

Today I wanted to talk about wellness check in's. With what we are all facing right now, wellness check in's are so vital. Checking on our students, teammates/co-workers, family members, and friends is key to supporting each other socially/emotionally. I recently created a wellness check in to utilize in Zoom meetings. Many times in our meetings, we are very focused on the tasks at hand. However, we can't give our best if we are struggling emotionally. We know we can't get to Bloom's without meeting Maslow with our students. This is the same with adults, too. We can't be a highly effective team if we aren't taking care of our people. 

Many of you reached out through Twitter, Instagram, & Facebook asking for the link to get your own copy!! Details on how to access your own, FREE copy is at the end of this post. 


Ways to Utilize the Wellness Check In:

1. You can print the check in and use when we are all back to face to face settings. It can be used at the start of counseling sessions or even be used in a classroom cool off area. 

2. You can use these in a Google Classroom. You can post it under Assignments with Wellness Check In as the Topic. You can set it up where students just respond privately to you to give their number/check in.

3. You can use it as a form. You can use it as a picture in a form and have students submit their info to you. You can either have them enter their name or set the form to where it collects their email address. I would suggest names because their emails may not match up. Example below:


4. You can use it in Zoom meetings. You can do wellness check ins and you can have people enter their number in chat or privately message it (whatever you are all comfortable with). To show it in the meeting, just have it pulled up and share screen.


Keys to Using Wellness/Check In:

1. Keep it confidential. I think we all know this one but we want to ensure we are keeping people's check in confidential and not share with others.

2. Follow Up!! We have to make sure if someone says that they are a 3, 4, or 5 that we individually check in on them. Check in's are great but not if we aren't truly using them for the purpose they were created for...and that is to provide support. 

3. Remind everyone it's okay to not be okay. Discuss that it is okay if you're a 4 or 5. Sometimes people are afraid to be open with this. Let them know the purpose of this is to check on them and see how you can help. 


I hope this is helpful for all of you. You can get your own free copy below. The only disclaimer for copyright is that you keep my blog/name information at the bottom of the product. If you use the Google slide version and make a copy, please ensure that the copyright/info is not taken off. Other than that, it is all yours to print or use however needed.


I would love for you to share how you are using it!! 

Please feel free to tag me on the following social media accounts (please just make sure you are following your district/business policies)
Twitter @melroseacker
Facebook: The Stylish School Counselor    (PS I am working at changing everything Stylish School Counselor to Counseling_and_Confetti)
Instagram (where I am the most active): Counseling_and_Confetti


Have a great week. Remember, there are positives each day, sometimes we just have to look for them! 


Throwing confetti your way,


Melanie

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

FREE Activities for HOME

With many schools closing around the country, educators and parents are working so hard to ensure they are taking care of kids! I can personally speak to how hard it can be to juggle working from home and "homeschooling" your own kids. I can't even imagine for parents who are having to work outside the home, as well....I am thinking of you all and sending positive vibes your way. 

I think we can all agree that staying connected to our students and providing easy to use activities is our goal. It is has been so heartwarming seeing the joy on students' faces talking to their teachers. I think the silver lining in all of this is how everyone realizes how vital our education system is. 

Today, I wanted to share some FREE resources with all of you. My husband and I write books over at Ackers Books. One way we wanted to share during this difficult times is to record videos reading our books. I am not sure if you knew this but there are copyright issues if you read a book and record it so we wanted to take that worry out of the way! Below are links to some of our recordings that you can use at home or to share with students (you have our permission)! We are also linking some FREE activities that you can share/use at home or school. 

The first video is from the book My PE Teacher is a Ninja. You can access the video below. 


The second video is My Counselor is a Princess. You can access the video below.


The third video is Hootie Lou (one of my favorite books). You can access the video below:

We also have FREE Activities linked on our website over at Ackers' Books


I hope these resources are helpful as we all navigate these new challenges. I hope you're all staying healthy, practicing self care, and are well. I am SO excited about the next blog post and a freebie that I can't wait to share!!!


Melanie

Thursday, March 26, 2020

All the Feels

I am so excited to share a book review with you all today and a book giveaway. I think we can all agree it has been a heavy past few weeks so I am eager to share something light and upbeat today.

Today I am sharing the book Marcy's Having All the Feels by Allison Edwards. Y'all, this book is pretty precious. It reminds me a lot of the Disney movie Inside Out.




Marcy, the main character, is struggling with her emotions. She really wants to just have the good feelings but realizes how important ALL of the emotions are.


I love how it breaks down the different emotions and gives examples of situations in which a kid may experience those emotions.

This is not only a great addition to your counseling library but also for your home library. It is whimsical and cleverly written.

You can check out my video review HERE.

I don't have students to directly use this with currently but I plan to use this with a kiddo in individual counseling. The first thing that came to mind that would be a great addition is my free Feelings Foldable.



Students can draw the emotion and under the flap write or draw when that feeling has helped them in a situation. Then they can share!

I hope this is a resource you can use in your counseling practice. I hope you are all staying healthy (physically, mentally, and emotionally) during this challenging time.

Lots of Love,

Melanie










Friday, March 13, 2020

Talking to Kids About COVID 19



Good evening, friends! The world has been full of anxiousness lately. People are fearful, businesses and schools are closing, and the toilet paper struggle is real. LOL! (I had to add something light).

There are SO many different conversations happening and planning that is occurring. However, one of the most important conversations to have is with our kids. If we think about what our kids may have been exposed to (seen or heard) when it comes to COVID 19, it can be concerning and understandable that some kids have increasing anxiety. Some may even have some form of post traumatic stress. An example is a child going to the store with their parent and seeing empty shelves for the first time or long lines wrapped around the store. This can be alarming for anyone. Another example is a kid sitting at a restaurant and seeing the media coverage. I can speak to this personally. I was at a restaurant with my family and my daughter (who has already been quite anxious about the topic) saw the coverage of people in a hospital with masks and the death toll. All of these instances can truly affect a child's anxiety level. So, as a parent and/or educator....how do we start this conversation with our kids? What we share and how we share it makes all the difference.

Below are a few resources and tips for talking to kids about Coronavirus/COVID 19

  • Stay Calm: our kids react based on OUR reactions
  • Talk about it: give facts but choose the facts you give to not cause added stress
  • Avoid 24/7 discussion over the topic 
  • Limit media exposure
  • Keep a schedule (if your child's campus is closed, create a schedule while they're home). We know kids thrive with routine especially during stressful times. (Great example my friend Leslie shared: source: Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents)

  • If your child is feeling anxious, talk about healthy coping strategies such as mindfulness (video HERE), writing or drawing in a journal, talking to a trusted adult, and doing fun activities to take their mind off of the topic
  • Help kids address their fears. The videos below contain great resources to decrease fears and give facts. There are a lot of silly rumors out there or media coverage that can be alarming.

Also, here are great tips from UNICEF:

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by everything you’re hearing about coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) right now. It’s also understandable if your children are feeling anxious, too. Children might find it difficult to understand what they are seeing online or on TV – or hearing from other people – so they can be particularly vulnerable to feelings of anxiety, stress and sadness. But having an open, supportive discussion with your children can help them understand, cope and even make a positive contribution for others.

1.  Ask open questions and listen

Start by inviting your child to talk about the issue. Find out how much they already know and follow their lead. If they are particularly young and haven’t already heard about the outbreak, you may not need to raise the issue – just take the chance to remind them about good hygiene practices without introducing new fears.
Make sure you are in a safe environment and allow your child to talk freely. Drawing, stories and other activities may help to open up a discussion.
Most importantly, don’t minimize or avoid their concerns. Be sure to acknowledge their feelings and assure them that it’s natural to feel scared about these things. Demonstrate that you’re listening by giving them your full attention, and make sure they understand that they can talk to you and their teachers whenever they like.
 

2.  Be honest: explain the truth in a child-friendly way

Children have a right to truthful information about what’s going on in the world, but adults also have a responsibility to keep them safe from distress. Use age-appropriate language, watch their reactions, and be sensitive to their level of anxiety.
If you can’t answer their questions, don’t guess. Use it as an opportunity to explore the answers together. Websites of international organizations like UNICEF and the World Health Organization are great sources of information. Explain that some information online isn’t accurate, and that it’s best to trust the experts.
 

3.  Show them how to protect themselves and their friends

One of the best ways to keep children safe from coronavirus and other diseases is to simply encourage regular hand washing. It doesn't need to be a scary conversation. Sing along with The Wiggles or follow this dance to make learning fun.
You can also show children how to cover a cough or a sneeze with their elbow, explain that it’s best not to get too close to people who have those symptoms, and ask them to tell you if they start to feel like they have a fever, cough or are having difficulty breathing.
 

4. Offer reassurance

When we’re seeing lots of troubling images on TV or online, it can sometimes feel like the crisis is all around us. Children may not distinguish between images on screen and their own personal reality, and they may believe they’re in imminent danger. You can help your children cope with the stress by making opportunities for them to play and relax, when possible. Keep regular routines and schedules as much as possible, especially before they go to sleep, or help create new ones in a new environment.
If you are experiencing an outbreak in your area, remind your children that they are not likely to catch the disease, that most people who do have coronavirus don’t get very sick, and that lots of adults are working hard to keep your family safe.
If your child does feel unwell, explain that they have to stay at home/at the hospital because it is safer for them and their friends. Reassure them that you know it is hard (maybe scary or even boring) at times, but that following the rules will help keep everyone safe.
 

5. Check if they are experiencing or spreading stigma

The outbreak of coronavirus has brought with it numerous reports of racial discrimination around the world, so it’s important to check that your children are neither experiencing nor contributing to bullying.
Explain that coronavirus has nothing to do with what someone looks like, where they are from or what language they speak. If they have been called names or bullied at school, they should feel comfortable telling an adult whom they trust.
Remind your children that everyone deserves to be safe at school. Bullying is always wrong and we should each do our part to spread kindness and support each other.
 

6. Look for the helpers

It’s important for children to know that people are helping each other with acts of kindness and generosity.
Share stories of health workers, scientists and young people, among others, who are working to stop the outbreak and keep the community safe. It can be a big comfort to know that compassionate people are taking action.
 

7. Take care of yourself

You’ll be able to help your kids better if you’re coping, too. Children will pick up on your own response to the news, so it helps them to know you’re calm and in control.
If you’re feeling anxious or upset, take time for yourself and reach out to other family, friends and trusted people in your community. Make some time to do things that help you relax and recuperate. 
 

8. Close conversations with care

It’s important to know that we’re not leaving children in a state of distress. As your conversation wraps up, try to gauge their level of anxiety by watching their body language, considering whether they’re using their usual tone of voice and watching their breathing.
Remind your children that they can have other difficult conversations with you at any time. Remind them that you care, you’re listening and that you’re available whenever they’re feeling worried.

Video Resources
Below are some great, kid friendly informational videos about COVID 19/Coronavirus:

Video by Science Mom:
Video by Children's Hospital Colorado
Kids asking doctors their questions

Video for Older Kids by BrainPop


I am also creating and sharing a video that will be released this weekend for kids that will include an activity/lesson. Feel free to use it with students if you are utilizing distance learning in your district or at home with your kids.

I hope these resources are helpful! I think at the end of the day, we all know that this isn't an easy situation to deal with. What we do know is the only thing in our control is to focus on the good and the positives in each day. Talk to your child about the good things that are happening and brainstorm ideas of ways to be kind and help others (from afar-social distancing).

Image result for there is good in everyday quote

I hope you all stay healthy and well!


Melanie Acker, LPC

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Vision Boards & Random Acts of Kindness Day 2020 Ideas

Hello, friends. I don't know about all of you but I have had the most amazing weekend because, here, in the Dallas area we have had the most beautiful weather ever. It was a beautiful 75 degrees today so we enjoyed plenty of time outdoors. I truly believe that sunshine and playing outside brings JOY!!!

There is even some research that proves sunshine brings the positve vibes.

"Exposure to sunlight is thought to increase the brain’s release of a hormone called serotonin. Serotonin is associated with boosting mood and helping a person feel calm and focused." 
"Sunlight cues special areas in the retina, which triggers the release of serotonin."

-Healthline.com
Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, PhD, PsyD on May 25, 2018 Written by Rachel Nall, RN, BSN, CCRN

Today I wanted to share a little about vision boards. My friend and I went to a workshop in my neighborhood at the start of the year to create vision boards for the new year. My other friend had also led a group activity in counseling supervision this past year. 

Vision boards are such an easy, wonderful way to focus in on goals and a vision for your future. When creating a vision board and planning for the future, the individual or group you are working with can decide the timeline. For example, maybe it is 6 months, 1 year, or 5 years. 

The supplies you need are quite minimal. You can use large construction paper, poster board, or a cork board (what our neighborhood session used). From there, you can have magazines, newspaper, ability to print pictures online, stickers, scrapbook material. You can create it with minimal supplies or you can go all out! 



I truly believe that when setting goals, creating a visual makes it seem much more attainable. Just like writing down your checklist can sometimes be motivating, I think seeing what you hope for your future to be can inspire you to DO.

Here is a picture of my finished product:


Another key piece when creating a vision board is to display it somewhere that you will actually see it. I always recommend a client or student to put it in a place where they start the day or get ready so it is right there to remind you of your goals. 

I actually plan to do a vision board night with my husband and kids. What a fun, cheap family night where we can talk about our hopes and dreams...and create visuals of it!!

Another thing I want to share is that tomorrow (Monday, February 17th) is Random Acts of Kindness Day!!! I believe in random acts of kindness everyday but what a fun way to highlight this with students. If you are on low on time, I  have a kind note from the counselor HERE.

Print a few on color paper, cut out, and leave positive notes around your building for teachers, students, parents, etc.

Need a few ideas but you are low on time? Here are a few, super quick ideas:

  • Have blank post its in a central location with a sign that says to write a positive note and pass it on
  • Have each hallway or grade level choose a kindness project tomorrow but give them a deadline to complete it. Have them write their kindness project on butcher paper, decorate, and they can all sign it and hang it at the end of their hall or in the main hallway
  • Highlight random acts of kindness that have been done this school year on announcements. Celebrate kindness and hopefully it will spread!!!
  • Show these precious Pass It On videos HERE during lunches or during announcements (if your school is set up for that)
I hope you all have a wonderful Random Acts of Kindness day tomorrow. I am staying up tonight to write some encouraging notes to various people. Remember, it does not have to be something that costs money. Kindness is FREE!!! 





Melanie

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Self Care Sunday and Compassion Fatigue

Sometimes caring too much can hurt. I have struggled with this a lot as an educator and parent. I care so much that sometimes it causes stress. For those of you who may be reading this and are educators, this may sound familiar. We love our students so much and so badly want to ensure we are supporting them to the very best of our ability. We think about how they may be doing over breaks, for some we may worry if their basic needs are being met, and we may worry or stress about how they are doing socially, emotionally, and academically.

There are many professions that can experience compassion fatigue: health professionals, counselors, caregivers of those who may be ill or aging...but what exactly is compassion fatigue?

Compassion fatigue is an emotional (and sometimes physical) state that one experiences when they are preoccupied with the stress or suffering of those that they are helping which can sometimes cause a secondary stress for the person who is helping.

What are the symptoms of compassion fatigue?

The American Institute of Stress outlines the following:

Symptoms of Compassion Fatigue
– Affects many dimensions of your well-being
– Nervous system arousal (Sleep disturbance)
– Emotional intensity increases
– Cognitive ability decreases
– Behavior and judgment impaired
– Isolation and loss of morale
– Depression and PTSD (potentiate)
– Loss of self-worth and emotional modulation
– Identity, worldview, and spirituality impacted
– Beliefs and psychological needs-safety, trust, esteem, intimacy, and control
– Loss of hope and meaning=existential despair
– Anger toward perpetrators or causal events


Compassion fatigue is a process, it doesn't just happen overnight. You may be reading this right now and thinking, "Oh my goodness!!! I have compassion fatigue!" You very well might be suffering from it. So, how do we overcome compassion fatigue??

Below are some tips. Let me preface this by saying I am far from perfect. I have to remind myself to practice these very things (especially sleep). But can I tell you how powerful positivity and starting your day with something motivational is? I wake up each day with positive self talk.
The struggle is real but these are some tips to set you up for success.
 I can't even begin to share how important it is to have "a person." Someone you can call and vent to and then laugh about it with. I think out of the whole list that is the most important. It's good to have someone you can trust and share with. We never want to carry our negativity on our sleeve and then live in it because we will be what we carry.

Now on the same note, I want to talk about Self Care Sunday! 
Remember that self care can be as simple as taking a warm bath and watching a funny show or curling up with a good book and a cup of coffee. However, self care is more than that. Self care is realizing what you want and adjusting your routine and habits to get you there. If you are finding yourself frantically trying to get through the week, set aside time to intentionally plan and put habits into place like prepping each Sunday. Self  care can be a little moment or a life changing moment. 

I am so excited about some things to come to share with you all in the next month (a new book). 

Some of you have asked about my LPC, as well, and it is going great. I am on track to finish in February. It has went by so fast and I am loving every moment of it. I know supporting others is what I was made to do and I can't believe I will be finished soon. I am a bit sad because I love my supervisor and our group. 

On a side note, I have to share this picture. For those of you that have watched my videos...I always start with a "Hey, yall!" My sweet Ella took this picture of me this past weekend at a little shop with a mug with that saying. 
I hope you all have a great week and make sure to take time for you. We talk about SEL needs for our students...remember they are just as important for those leading them! 


Melanie