Counselor's Notes - January, 2014

Mrs. Cyndie

How to Help Your Kids Remember, Listen, & Stay Organized

Why Kids Don't Remember, Listen or Stay Organized

Many of our kids are disorganized, forgetful and it seems like they have selective hearing. They struggle with short-term memory, and will often ask you to repeat yourself. When you send them to their room to get their shoes, they come back down 45 minutes later with a really cool Lego project they built. Some of that is an executive function issue, which we'll get to. Some of your kids also have auditory processing issues. I struggle with that. Words get jumbled in my brain-it's one reason I don't like speaking on the phone or ordering through drive-throughs.

Here's the thing. With a brain that is busy and disorganized, it does make it more difficult to remember things, BUT that is NOT an excuse. I want your kids to learn how to listen, remember and follow directions. Here are some tools:

- Make your directions very specific and concrete. Using generalities disappears into the ether. Give specific time limits. We are leaving at 3:42. Bedtime is 8:51.

- Use a firm, non-emotional, matter of fact tone with your kids. Do not rationalize, explain or go on and on. Get your kids accustomed to this tradition in your home: "I will tell you once. After that, I will enforce a consequence without saying anything else." Your kids CAN listen when it's important.

- Create traditions in your home and classroom. When we had 1500 kids in our home, I got tired of reminding them not to run through my front door. I learned how to say HALT in 14 different languages but it didn't work...until I created a tradition. "Guys, here is the tradition in my home. When anyone walks through my door, they must do so in slow motion." The kids loved it. And when their parents came to pick them up or the UPS guy brought a delivery, guess what? They made them walk into my house in slow motion. It's just the way we roll in our home.

- Create anchors in the schedule that your kids can count on. Technology-free Tuesday-the kids know there are NO video games that day so don't even ask. But I will play a board game or go outside with you. Or you can sit and be bored and miserable, I'm okay with that as well. On Wednesdays, we eat dinner in our pajamas. Friday is movie night.

- Simplify your lifestyle and home. Clutter in the home contributes to more clutter in the brain.

- Use non-verbals. Turn lights off to signal dinner time. Music has rhythm so it's good at pacing your kids to move, without having to yell! When it's time to eat, take a bath, leave the house, pick up toys, etc., play a certain song so they associate the song with that activity. "Bet you can't get your clothes on before this song is over."

- Your kids are going to struggle with this their entire lives. So teach your kids to make written lists as reminders. The process of writing tasks on paper helps imprint the task on the brain. DO NOT become the reminder for your kids-just say, "Make a note" and let them own the consequences when they forget something. It's worth the short-term pain and inconvenience to teach them this.

- My son used to be the most disorganized, forgetful kid you can imagine. But he's seen me practice this for years. When I get back from my errands, there will be a note on the floor, "Lay out chicken" so we can eat at 6pm instead of midnight. My son is a master list maker now.

- Teach your kids to use concrete tools. I set the timer on my iPhone to remind me that laundry needs to be put in the dryer or I have a scheduled phone call. Don't remind them to get off their video games-they can set an alarm on their phone or use a timer. They need to be responsible. Do not be their timer for them!

- Many of your kids forget to turn in homework even though they completed it. Create a tradition-as soon as homework is completed, they scan and email it to their teacher. Every morning, they go immediately to the office and put their homework in each teacher's mailbox. They wear four rubber bands on their wrist to remind them they have four assignments to turn in. It's a visual reminder.

As you can see, these strategies are practical and work for ALL kids. Your child doesn't have to be diagnosed for this insight to work. And this is just one short excerpt from this program.

Now imagine all the different interactions with your kids throughout your day. Now picture a different outcome with your kids. What does it mean for you and your kids to have positive interactions that foster a better relationship? It means everything. Your kids will thank you.

Reprinted from: Kirk Martin/ Celebrate Calm

Master Gardners' Fruit of the Spirit for January is KINDNESS (Pomegranate)

What is it about a Pomegranate that would remind us of Kindness? It's because a Pomegranate is made up of all the little parts within...and that's the way Being Kind is: We are KIND because of "All the little things we do." Here are a few examples of things you can do:
  • Treat others in ways that will make them want to spend more time with you (Be helpful, considerate, give them compliments & build them up to help them feel better about themselves, etc.)
  • Look for opportunities to perform "Random Acts of Kindness" (to strangers, those who least expect it, & to those around you)
  • Look for those who seem left-out or over-looked...Include them
  • Reach out to New Students...Help them fit in, get involved & make friends

Remember that the SEEDS you plant in your garden, are the CROPS you'll eat from the rest of your life...

What are YOU Planting in YOUR Garden?

CARE : Help Hurting People

We have all learned that the holiday season is hard for many people.

Make a difference by showing you C.A.R.E.


When someone is hurting, we often don't know what to say or do. But even simply expressing, "I don't know what to say but I'm sorry and I care about you," in person or in writing can bring a lot of comfort.


When we try to help someone, it's easy to try to direct their emotions or give advice. By accepting others and allowing them to safely express sadness, anger, fear, frustration, and other emotions in our presence, we help them heal.


You can take action by bringing a meal, babysitting, or running an errand. Or you might do something more symbolic like donating to a charity in honor of a loved one, writing down a special memory in a card, or giving a thoughtful gift.


People are often flooded with attention when a loss occurs but support usually decreases over time. By remembering and continuing to reach out, especially during the holidays and on special occasions, you can help bring encouragement and hope.

LUNCH BUNCH : New Opportunities for Friendships

I'm VERY excited to have the help of a new volunteer this year. Katy Reid is a WGSU student who plans to graduate in Psychology next year, & pursue a graduate degree in Occupational Therapy. Her career goal was fueled by the experience she had last Summer working as a camp counselor for students with disabilities in California. She has a special heart for helping those with symptoms of Aspergers & Autism.
When she called me to ask if there was anything she could do in my schools to help kids & to gain more experience in working with this age group I was thrilled. Ever since funding had cut a position once held my John Lebowitz to provide support groups, I had felt our kids had been without a valuable resource. When I suggested my idea to Katy she was enthusiastic & has already began meeting with me to make plans to begin.
We plan to select a small group of students from each grade who struggle with low self-esteem &/or who feel they struggle with social skills & therefore need help in learning how to establish & maintain friendships. We also hope to have a few spots available to "helpers with hearts" in each group. Our plan is to meet with students during their lunchtimes each Monday to play getting to know you games, discuss different topics of concern, & create a safe group of friends in which to practice social skills & develop stronger self-esteem.
Interested students & parents may sign-up outside the counselor's office, or turn their names in to a teacher for nomination. Parents can also email their requests. In addition, we will be asking teachers to identify those who might benefit from this group. I think it will be a wonderful new resource for our kids>

Welcome to Jennifer Howard, Graduate Student in Counseling, doing Internship this Spring at BMS

Jennifer completed her practicum Fall semester at Sharp Creek Elementary School, will be with us at Bremen Middle in the Spring, and plans to have her final internship in a high school next Fall. This way, she'll have experience at all three levels before she graduates. She is only taking a 3 hour internship course this Spring, which ends up being about a 20 hour work week, because she also work full-time (Monday through Friday from 2pm to 11pm).

I am very excited to have extra help & look forward to see all the skills, ideas, & energy Jennifer brings to help our students. She'll be helping with all aspects of counseling as her skills & comfort level allow. It's really going to be a busy second half of the year & I'm really counting on Jennifer's help with things like Classroom Guidance, Character Ed., Career Fair, Career Expo, Supports Groups & Individual Counseling, etc.