School is out for summer! For some students this is a sentimental time, and for others the last day could not have arrived soon enough! Here are five fun activities that can help you and your students wrap up the school year and kick off summer!
1. Write a letter to your future self. Encourage your student to write a letter to their future self and seal it until the night before the first day of school next year. It could include some encouraging words, favorite quotes, a lesson learned, a poem, a drawing…you could create a summer fun list and see how many fun to-do’s you accomplished.
2. Create a deck of conversation cards with questions like: what was the most memorable moment this year? Who influenced you the most? What is one thing you would do differently? What was your proudest moment? A deck of conversation cards can stimulate discussion and connection. You could also complete the cards alone by journaling your answers.
3. Memory Collage of the year’s best, funniest, and most inspiring personal moments. This is a great way to wrap up the year and create a keepsake to look in the years to come.
4. Create a Sumer Vision Board. This is like the memory collage – but in reverse.
5. Pick a theme for your summer. Maybe you want to relax, get fit, connect with friends and family, have new experiences, be courageous, slow down, get mindful…you might even pick a theme song that captures the essence of what you want your summer to be. Maybe the family picks one to share or maybe each person has their own.
Hope you enjoy these ideas and have a wonderful and fulfilling summer!
Setting and achieving a goal can be a powerful and life-changing experience for people of any age! A study in 2015 by Psychologist Gail Matthews showed that when people wrote down their goals, they were 33 percent more successful! One of the best ways to write out a goal is using the SMART Goals method. Any goal is more likely to be achieved if the goal itself first passes the SMART test:
Specific and Small: To pass the SMART test, the goal must be specific and small in scope. A goal that is too big, general, or too far out in the future can cause overwhelm and stress/anxiety. The key is to chunk bigger goals into smaller more specific ones.
Measurable: To pass the SMART test, there can be no ambiguity about what it means to achieve that goal. For example, to “be happy” or “be more outgoing” are not measurable goals. A SMART goal is either achieved or it is not. The action that drives the goal either happened or it did not.
Attainable and Achievable: To pass the SMART test, the goal must be reasonable and within the power/control of the student. For example, being selected to an NBA basketball team in 8th grade is not 1) achievable or 2) within total control of the student. In contrast, practicing basketball for 30 minutes every day is reasonable and within the control of the student.
Relevant: To pass the SMART test the goal must be relevant (or important) to the individual and connected to other life goals, interests, and objectives. If the goal is not relevant, then the motivation and purpose will be lost.
Timeframe with Start and End Date: To pass the SMART test, the goal must have a clean start and end date. Open or floating deadlines can spell disaster for any goal, project, or intention.
SMART goals don’t have to be school-related, and there’s never an inopportune moment to set them. Even during summer, students can set and achieve goals that are meaningful to their own interests and desires! Give it a try! And once your child sets and achieves the goal, don’t forget the most important part…to celebrate!
How are fear and anger connected? This relationship is easily understood by way of “The Anger Iceberg” (a model developed by The Gottman Institute). Only 1/3 of an iceberg is visible above the water – a small peak that symbolizes ”anger.” The bulk of the iceberg hangs below the water – and this represents “fear.” Basically, anger is what we “see,” while fear lurks hidden beneath the surface.
When fear is triggered, the brain and body enter a “fight, flight, or freeze” state (aka survival mode). Anger represents the instinct to fight, serving as a protective factor by signifying strength and power. Imagine the tiny chihuahua who takes on the German Shepard by snarling, barking, and showing his canines. The chihuahua is trying to communicate strength and power to a perceived threat.
“The Anger Iceberg” reminds us that an angry child is a fearful child. So, next time your child (or you) is angry, try to look below the surface…what is the driving fear thought? Fear of not being good enough? Fear of rejection? Fear of looking stupid? Fear of not being loved?
Now that you know anger is driven by fear, you can respond in a supportive and solution-focused way without being pulled into an anger-fueled battle.
Setting boundaries is fundamental to building healthy relationships. We probably all agree on this but may have different ideas about what boundaries are and how to set them. This week, I want to discuss some pitfalls of setting boundaries, and then offer some alternatives and other tips.
A boundary separates one person’s thoughts, feelings, and actions from another person’s. In other words, it defines where you leave off, and I begin. Different kinds of relationships have different boundaries.
Boundaries fall along a spectrum:
Enmeshed Healthy Rigid
(too close, ill defined) (clear, appropriate, comfortable) (too far apart, inflexible)
1.Pitfall #1: Trying to change someone else’s behavior.
- In reality, we set boundaries by changing our own actions, not by coercing or manipulating others.
2.Pitfall #2: Using words to set a boundary.
- Actions set boundaries, not words. Oral demands lead to power struggles.
For example, if while playing a boardgame, a child cheats, asking the child to change her behavior crosses boundaries and doesn’t work. Instead, put the game away, and do something else.
You teach people how to treat you – with your actions (not your words).
- You are always doing this.
- It’s best to set boundaries early (the sooner, the better).
- It’s easier to relax firm boundaries then tighten flexible/unclear ones.
Ever ask your student, ”How was school?” and all you get is “I dunno” or “fine”? It has been my experience that both parents and kids/teens crave a more meaningful discussion but are not always sure how to make it happen. This week, I want to share 5 ways to connect with your student of any age:
1. Change the Way You Ask: Rather than asking, “How was your day?” try phrases like “I wonder if…” or “Tell me about…” or “What was something funny that happened today?” or “When did you laugh?” or “What was hard about today?” You can also get more specific, such as “Who did you sit by at lunch?” “What was for lunch?” Or “What was the topic in history class?
2.Model How to Connect: Share details about your day first. Describe a situation at work and how you responded. Share a funny story about your boss. Share a proud moment or achievement. Describe something you learned. Share what you had for lunch and who you sat next to.
“Every good conversation starts with good listening.” – Unknown
3.Create an Open and Receptive Atmosphere. Turn off the radio. Put the phone away. Talk less. Listen more. Embrace moments of silence. Genuinely pay attention to the response your student gives. Follow up on a previous bit of information to show you really care and do remember.
4.Fine Tune Your Active and Reflective Listening Skills: Don’t problem-solve. Don’t rescue. Don’t teach. Just listen. If you’re unsure how to respond, just try reflecting back what your student shared. For example: “That sounds frustrating.” Or “Seems like you put in a lot of effort.” Or “You sound sad.”
5.Routinely Use a Theme: When your child climbs in the car, during dinner, or at bedtime, consistently use the same theme to open up a discussion. One theme I use with clients is “Petals and Thorns.” A petal is something positive while a thorn is a disappointment, struggle, or challenge. You could also use successes and challenges, hits or misses, Thumbs up/Thumbs down, or any other variation of this theme. Consistently using the same conversation starter can help prompt topics and may get your student thinking about it even before you ask!
Try these out and see how they work. Practice patience – and remember that success takes time. All good communication starts with good listening.
Self-advocacy is a highly useful skill. For this conversation, advocacy refers specifically to a student’s ability to speak up in order to get a need met or a problem solved at school. (I am not referring to expressing ideas or imposing viewpoints on others. This is a different skill set and a different type of advocacy).
“When you really listen to another person from their point of view, and reflect back to them that understanding, it’s like giving them emotional oxygen.” – Stephen Covey
So… how exactly do we help students develop effective strategies for representing themselves and gaining access to what they need?
Step one: Create a safe space for the student to speak up and share thoughts, needs, and desires. Students will make requests for help when they feel supported, heard, and safe.
Step two: Help the student identify and clarify what specifically is needed.
Step three: Explicitly teach self-advocacy skills, such as by exploring different formats for speaking up, what to say, how to say it, and when to say it. You might roleplay conversations, identify specific opportunities or times of day, or help compose emails. Effective self-advocacy comes in many forms – and the form chosen must suit the advocator!
Step four: Process through any barriers. This may involve simply validating how difficult it can be, identifying shame triggers, or using concrete solution-focused problem solving/brainstorming.
Step five: Reinforce and celebrate even the smallest of victories. For example, maybe the student didn’t speak up today and ask that question in class, but they thought about it!
Step six: If student continues to avoid speaking up, dig a little deeper and circle back through steps 1-5. What is really preventing them from communicating their needs and wants?
Try out these tips… see what works… and have fun! Join us for the next podcast, where we’ll continue to “learn about learning” and share ways to help your student (and yourself) live a more positive and fulfilling life.
Today we’ll look at the last piece of the R Solutions for Everyday Living. As previously discussed, each R Solution targets one or more area of executive functioning (EF). This week’s R Solution is: Review and Recharge.
Now is the time to take a break from our EF work, look back at our journey, and review progress! If your students set a S.M.A.R.T. goal, did they accomplish it? Where did they excel, and and where did they get hung up? Parents and students can do this together. Just remember, this should be a positive, constructive process. Just because there’s always room for improvement doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate successes along the way.
Here are some areas to Review: Did our S.M.A.R.T. goal target the real EF deficit? What went well over the previous weeks, and what didn’t? What times or activities caused anxiety, frustration, or “blow-outs”? When/why did things not get done? What tasks or activities on our checklists could be added, deleted, or moved around? Are there any skill “gaps” that got missed? (Tip: Use “I’m wondering…” as a conversation starter)
Recharge: Recharging looks different for everyone, and everyone needs it! Developing and using EF strategies are hard work, and for some, the use of EF strategies will always feel upstream. Therefore, it is important to determine how your child recharges (which they show us through their actions and interests) and build that activity (or that “non-activity”) into their rhythm and routines. (Tip: Put “recharge” on the student’s to-do list!)
Hope you’ve enjoyed this series! Join us for the next podcast, where we’ll continue to “learn about learning” and share ways to help your student (and yourself) live a more positive and fulfilling life.
This is the fourth segment in a series about executive functioning (EF): our “5 R Solutions for Everyday Living.” In this episode, we discuss how and why “Rhythm and Routine” can alleviate problems with EF.
You can create Rhythm and Routine for any segment or transition in your day that is challenging or causing unnecessary stress and conflict. I prefer Rhythm and Routines to “schedules.” Schedules are based on specific times, such as start times, length of time, and ending times. Rhythm and Routines allow for more flexibility while consistently ensuring the same tasks (and sequence/order of those tasks) are always stays the same.
Let’s look at school mornings. Take a minute and reflect on your morning routine from wake-up to drop off at school—how is that going? Do you have a routine or established rhythm? How consistent are things remembered versus forgotten? How often do you have to circle back home (tire screeching) to grab a mask, lunchbox, or homework? School mornings are often a stress-filled sprint for families. By creating a set morning routine that follows a stable and predictable rhythm, the habit of chaotic mornings can be completely transformed!
There are 4 keys to establishing a successful morning:
1) Identify all the items that need to be done (your child should help with this).
2) Chunk the items into smaller segments based on where in the house they take place, and put them in order based on the layout of your house and logic (brushing teeth and combing hair are in bathroom and brushing teeth happens after breakfast).
3) Create a checklist with visuals that follows the order/sequence (put this list in a plastic sleeve so that items can be checked off with a dry erase marker each morning—checking it off the list is part of the routine).
4) Create and implement a system of rewards and reinforcers (more on that next time).
Be sure to check out our latest podcast/video (embedded above) for more details about Rhythm and Routine!
A Free Presentation Series for Parents with Students of All Ages
Individual Matters hosts a series of presentations for parents of students of all ages. Join Dr. Katen and other local experts to learn about all things that have to do with learning.
The presentations take place on the FIRST TUESDAY of every month for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year. Topics will include:
- Learning Simulations
- ADHD: What is really causing the attention problem?
- Dyslexia and other Learning Disorders
- Auditory and Visual Processing
- Executive Function and Learning
- Learning Styles and Using Strengths to Find Success
- Gifted and Advanced Learners
- Successful Learning Skills: Organization and Homework Strategies
- Autism and Other Social Challenges
- IEPs, 504s, and Advocating for your Child at School
- And many more!
Location: 2530 E. Foresight Circle, Grand Junction, CO 81505
Day/Time: 1st Tuesday of each month, 5:30-7:00pm
If you can make it, please RSVP by email or phone so we can be sure to have enough seats and snacks.
Hope to see you there!
We are very excited by the upcoming “Saturday Series” at The Lexington School: November 5, 2016.
Dr. Katen will present: “Students with Learning Differences: Navigating the Challenges.” Topics include:
- Different ways that students think and learn
- What learning differences are and how they impact learning
- Social and emotional challenges experienced by children with learning differences
- How to support your child’s unique temperament and learning style
This is a unique opportunity to:
- Gain valuable insights
- Learn helpful strategies
- Participate in hands-on activities
- Collaborate with other parents and professionals.
Parents and professionals from all schools welcome. To register, visit www.thelexingtonschool.org/Page/Saturday-Series
The Lexington School will award attendees with certificates for Continuing Education/Professional Development Credits.