Counselor Corner

March 2021

I hope that everyone is staying safe and healthy!


It has been wonderful to welcome more students into the building! They have been teaching us all a great deal about patience, flexibility, and resilience, and I am incredibly proud of them.


I have been continuing my virtual lessons using the Second Step program. In our K - 5 classes, we have been learning about kindness, managing big emotions, and making mistakes. In grades 6 - 8, we have been focusing on conflict resolution, helpful vs. unhelpful stress management techniques, and positive vs. negative self-talk. We have continued learning about how our decision-making can be impacted by emotions, and what we can do to recognize the signals our bodies give us when we begin to feel overwhelmed.


We are working to bring some exciting virtual presentations to all of our students! We will again be partnering with Pass It Along to bring their Discover Your Passion and Purpose program to our 8th grade students. We are also in the process of scheduling virtual social-emotional programs for all of our students in the coming months!


Please remember that I am here to support the students however I can. I am available to meet via zoom if a student needs help or just wants to talk! Don't hesitate to reach out if I can support you in any way.


Please continue to read below for some information that I hope you will find useful! My website is updated regularly as well. You will find my virtual office there, which is updated with links to resources and lessons.


Sincerely,

Mrs. Stiles

mstiles@greenhills.org


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International SEL Day

The second annual International SEL Day is March 26, 2021! SEL Day is an opportunity to collectively spread the word about the importance and impact of social emotional learning. Working together, we can raise awareness for SEL, bring on new SEL stakeholders, create artifacts that demonstrate SEL in action, share SEL best practices… and more!


Social-emotional learning (SEL), as defined by CASEL (Collaborative for Social-Emotional Learning) includes five key areas of competence: self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, relationship skills, and social awareness. While many people recognize the importance of these skills in everyday life, research indicates that participation in an SEL program at school improves academic performance by an average of 11 percentage points, decreases the likelihood of behavior issues and anxiety, and increases a student’s ability to manage stress and depression. SEL programs also have been shown to improve social relationships, feelings towards school, and positive attitudes (https://casel.org/impact/).


This year, we are extremely lucky to be able to offer a lesson focused on social-emotional learning to each student almost every week. Whether it is the kindergarten students learning how to recognize big emotions in themselves and others, the 4th grade students focusing on empathy and perspective-taking, or the middle school students learning about goal-setting and stress management, these are lessons and skills that they will hopefully take with them well beyond their Green Hills career.

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Discover Your Passion and Purpose

Green Hills School has been partnering with Pass it Along for a number of years now to bring their programs to our 8th grade students. We feel very lucky that, in spite of the challenges this school year has brought us, we will still be able to offer their Discover Your Passion and Purpose program to our students. This is a self-discover program rooted in social-emotional learning. Following the completion of the program, students will have to opportunity, if they choose to, to work on a community service project. More information will be sent to families of 8th grade students in the coming weeks.
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Children's System of Care Offers Support for Families

The NJ Department of Children and Families is sharing the following information regarding opportunities for families to receive support services:


"Kids, teens and young adults are coping with a lot, from uncertainty associated with the COVID-19 pandemic to the social impact of civil unrest and protests. On top of the general challenges that come with growing up, many young people are feeling heightened senses of anxiety, depression and loneliness. For some, this can lead to extreme behavioral changes – like acting out, substance use or running away from home.


DCF's Children's System of Care (CSOC), formerly the Division of Child Behavioral Health Services, serves children and adolescents with emotional and behavioral health care challenges and their families; children with developmental and intellectual disabilities and their families; and, children with substance use challenges and their families. CSOC is committed to providing services based on the needs of the child and family in a family-centered, community-based environment.


The Children's System of Care offers a wide range of services for children up to age 21 for behavioral health or developmental disability needs. These services include community-based services, in-home services, out-of-home residential services, and family support services. For questions about or to access behavioral health or developmental disability services for children and youth, call the 24-hour, toll-free Access Line at: 1-877-652-7624."

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Helping Kids Make Decisions

Making important decisions is challenging, even for grown-ups. Decision-making is a skill that is developed over time, and is often a critical part of social and professional success. This article (click here) from the Child Mind Institute provides some advice and guidance about how to best help children develop this crucial skill.
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Mindful Minutes

It likely goes without saying that students might be feeling more stress and anxiety lately. One practice that can help decrease and manage overwhelming feelings when they arise is mindfulness. Mindfulness helps to bring our focus to the present moment to observe our thoughts without judgment. The practice can also help to minimize negative thoughts that can spiral out of control. I have created a playlist of short mindful minute exercises for students to listen to when they feel the need to reset their thoughts or emotions. I will be adding to the playlist (click here) throughout the rest of the year.
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44 Books About Mental Health for Young People

I know that I am always looking for book recommendations for my students and for my own children at home. I especially love it when the book can help a child process feelings or gain a better understanding of common emotional challenges. Child Mind Institute has provided a wonderful list of 44 books, that include books appropriate for ages 5 - 15. The books focus on a range of mental health topics, including anxiety, bullying, depression, self-esteem, grief, and more. Click here to read the list.
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What Can You Control?

Many young people are feeling stressed and overwhelmed right now. One way to help manage stress is to focus on letting go of things that are not in our control. I usually start talking with students about this in the early elementary grades when we discuss tattling vs. getting help, and recognizing that we cannot always control the behavior of others. Right now, there are many aspects of their lives that students cannot control: school being fully remote, sports and extracurricular activities being canceled, social lives being impacted, etc. But, there are many things that they can control: finding gratitude in small things, connecting with friends in different ways, learning something new, etc. The more they shift their focus away from the things outside of their control, and towards the things within their control, the more they likely they will be to build healthy coping and stress-management skills.
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Signs of Depression During COVID

It is absolutely normal for students to be struggling emotionally right now. We are going on nine months of incredible stress and uncertainty, and there are bound to be huge feelings about it. But, when does it move from the expected ups and downs and frustrations into something more serious like depression? It is important to be able to recognize the signs of depression in children, and I think this article does a good job of helping us do that. To paraphrase the article, "If you see the signs take note. If they last, take action." Click here to read the article.

Dealing with Big Feelings

It is not unusual for children to have a difficult time navigating big emotions, even under the best of circumstances. It is no surprise, then, that managing these big feelings might be even more challenging during these times. As adults, it is important for us to equip ourselves with strategies to help our children cope when they feel overwhelmed. We may be seeing more anger or lashing out than we are accustomed to, and I read an article recently that I thought offered some useful suggestions about how to best help children handle their more difficult emotions. Click here to read the article.
I have updated my webpage to include a virtual office where you will be able to find lessons and other helpful resources! It is a work in progress, so be sure to check in regularly for new information! Click on my bitmoji above to take a look around!
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We are thrilled to incorporate the Second Step social-emotional learning curriculum into our school this year for grades K-8. Second Step is a research-based social-emotional learning program designed to improve students’ social-emotional skills, such as emotion management, impulse control, problem solving, and empathy. Second Step skills and concepts are designed to help students both in and out of school. The curriculum includes an entire Bullying Prevention Unit, and it can be implemented both virtually and in-person!


Grades 6 - 8 will begin the year by focusing on mindsets & goals. We will learn more about developing a growth-mindset, building empathy, creating action plans, and goal-setting!


Grades K - 5 will begin with a focus on respect, assertiveness, empathy, and positive self-talk!