Helping Students Develop Executive Skills for Online Learning


For some young people, knowing how to organize materials, plan a work schedule and manage their time comes as naturally as breathing.  For others, these skills can be acquired with simple coaching and/or modeling from helping adults.  For young people diagnosed with ADHD or other challenges that impact the development of executive functioning skills, learning how to organize, plan, filter distractions, sustain attention, meet deadlines, regulate impulses, and all of the other skills needed to do well academically–and stand a chance at navigating distance learning–do not come naturally but rather require intensive, focused teaching.


This post, written by Sarah Gonser for Edutopia, provides a great list of the skills and strategies students need to develop and master the skills they need for learning.

Original link: https://www.edutopia.org/article/how-help-middle-school-students-develop-crucial-skills-year

Self-Care and Relaxation Resource


I have been the beneficiary of the ideas of a lot of creative, talented professionals in School Counselor groups this Summer.  As we all move in to what we know will be a challenging year, I am grateful for the spirit of collaboration in sharing materials.


Here is a virtual Faculty Relaxation Room I created–with the help and models of many others.  The image is below; please click on the link above to access the actual room online and to be able to click the links to explore the resources!  I hope you enjoy!




Back to School Resources for Parents & Caregivers



As parents, caregivers, and people who care deeply about the well-being of young people, we are connected in our efforts to make the best possible decisions for kids as the 2020-21 school year resumes this Fall.  While it is clear that there is no one-size-fits-all pathway and that what works well for one family or community may not work at all for another, my hope is that in these days and weeks, we will give each other a lot of grace and support and maintain the positive assumption that we are all doing the best we can with the information and resources that we have.


In the space that follows, I am sharing my own personal, curated collection of videos, posts and resources that I have found most helpful when it comes to thinking through safeguarding kids’ emotional, social, and mental health as they return to school in September.



Pediatrician gives advice about sending kids back to school in viral video 

Spoiler Alert:  “The decision that you make about school is the right decision.  That’s it.  Each decision is imperfect….How you choose to think about the decision that you make will make it right.”

Classroom Job Assignments for this School Year

As you’ll see as soon as you open this link, this video was made to get a laugh…but as with most good humor, it’s funny because of the grains of truth it contains.  Please have a laugh at the video, then read my more serious request below:

Classroom Job Assignments for this school year….

Classroom Job Assignments for this school year….Collaborate with your colleagues on which of these will work for you!!TiKTok and IG: gerrybrooksprin Thanks Pam Thomason for the idea.

Posted by Gerry Brooks on Friday, July 3, 2020

A looming concern for me is how to extend the culture of kindness that Swain works so hard to create amidst the inevitable anxiety and apprehension that many students will carry in with them upon their return to classrooms and peer groups.  While it would be understandable for a well-meaning young person to back away in fear from a classmate who sneezes, to loudly point out someone who forgets to put their mask back on after a meal, or to spread the news that “So-and-So” got sent home this morning because he had a fever,” these fear-based behaviors will be perceived as hurtful and will create a school climate of isolation and fear, when what we all are working so hard for is to create conditions of safety and inclusion. We also want to make sure that students don’t repeat concerns they may have heard caregivers discuss, such as “So-and-so’s parent works in a hospital so they might have the virus” or even “He/she traveled to [country/state with a high incidence of COVID-19] so we shouldn’t play with him/her.”

I ask all parents & caregivers to have loving conversations with your child(ren) prior to their return to school in which you plan for how to keep themselves safe (social distancing, wearing masks, etc) while simultaneously expressing concern and compassion–rather than fear or even contempt–for others. 

With forethought and practice, I know we can help kids get their wording right.  As faculty, we will be using consistent positive & nurturing language to remind students how to care for each other upon the return to school.



The Breathing Fish

Square Breathing

The Power of One Breath (by GoZen)

Bring it Down (by GoNoodle)

This is such an uncertain time in all of our lives, filled with worries, anxieties, and concerns about health, safety, security and well-being. Now, more than ever, being able to manage stressful thoughts and control uncomfortable feelings is key for adults and kids alike.  During the school year, social-emotional skills such as mindfulness, stress management, problem-solving, and maintaining a positive mindset are taught and practiced regularly.  Skills like mindful breathing–the most efficient and effective method for calming an anxious, agitated brain–are easy to practice at home.  Studies are clear that the more mindful breathing is practiced, the more effective it is for calming worries and helping people feel emotionally regulated.  I highly recommend free apps like Calm and Insight Timer and love these videos (listed above) for kids.




Answers to FAQ’s About Anxiety in Children and Adolescents


For pre-school through elementary students, these free, printable storybooks, written by Speech/Language Pathologist Tara Tuchel, are absolute treasures!  Her “COVID-19 stories” prepare children for a multitude of scenarios and situations related to going back to school and being around non-family members.   From “Why Does My Teacher Look Different?” to “Riding the Bus Will be Different” to my personal favorite, “Greeting My Teachers & Friends” Tuchel’s 19 storybooks are a tremendous resource for teachers, family members and even young readers!
I’ll continue to add to this list through the month of August, so please check back!  If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to email me at swhitson@swain.org.

Answers to FAQ’s About Anxiety in Children & Adolescents


As a School Counselor, one of the most common topics I am consulted on by teachers, administrators, and parents is anxiety.  Anxiety disorders are the most common and pervasive mental disorder affecting children and adults in the United States.  According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety impacts 1 in every 8 children.  With rates this high, it’s important for any adult living or working with young people to have a basic understanding of this health issue.

In this post on Psychology Today, you’ll find my responses to eight of the questions I am most frequently asked about anxiety in young people:





Is She Lying? Or Is It Truth to Her? The Role of Perception in Conflict


In this excerpt from my book, Parenting the Challenging Child, I share a real-life example of a mother-daughter conflict based on their differences in perceiving a stressful event.  You are invited to “listen in” on their conversation and see how the mother turned the conflict into a relationship-building opportunity.


Is She Lying?  Or Does She Really Believe What She is Saying?


Original link: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/passive-aggressive-diaries/201909/is-she-lying-or-does-she-really-believe-what-she-is-saying

Working with Kids with Challenging Behaviors


Kindness is…


How to Change Passive Aggressive Behavior


Is there a passive aggressive person in your life?  A child, friend, colleague, supervisor, spouse, relative, teacher or other person who makes you feel like you are on an emotional roller coaster–friendly one day, but then full of unspoken hostility the next?


If so, chances are good that you are interacting with someone who uses passive aggression as their primary means of expressing anger.  What exactly does that mean?  And what can you do about it?  Click the links to see my recent posts on Psychology Today about how to recognize passive aggressive behavior and how to change it in the long term.


To cut and paste the original links, see below:


What is passive aggression?: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/passive-aggressive-diaries/202006/changing-passive-aggressive-behavior


6 steps for changing passive aggressive behavior: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/passive-aggressive-diaries/202006/6-steps-changing-passive-aggressive-behavior#_=_





Teaching Tenacity to Students During COVID-19


I want my students to know that even when we are apart due to COVID-19, we are still learning and growing together.  To that end, every Tuesday I send them a short video about tenacity, along with a story or example of tenacious behavior in action.

Last week, I challenged my students to set a goal for themselves–to set out to achieve something that couldn’t be completed in a single day but rather would take days, weeks, or even months to complete.  The idea is for kiddos to gain first hand experience at persisting through challenges, overcoming obstacles, motivating themselves over time, and eventually seeing how their TENACITY can pay off.

I’ve heard some great examples from kids, including plans to plant and tend to a summer garden, plans to learn how to do a cartwheel, and plans to learn how to play the ukulele.  I also receives photos of these two outstanding examples of projects that require tenacity:  clearing out a giant wood pile and assembling a 500 piece puzzle.


Way to go, kiddos!!  I am proud of the goals you have set and I hope you are proud of your efforts!!



Tenacity Tuesday


Hi all,


Since we’ve been under stay-at-home orders in our state and school has turned into “virtual school” for the last few weeks, I’ve been making short daily, themed videos for my students.  The theme for Tuesdays has to do with the character traits of perseverance and persistence, or, as I like to call it, Tenacity Tuesday!


This week, I made a short video for PS-Gr 5 students about changing automatic negative thoughts (e.g. “I can’t do it” or “It’s too hard!”) into more positive, realistic, tenacious ones (e.g. “I can’t do it yet,” and “With practice, I’ll figure this out!”) This video features classic CBT skill building, helping kids understand the connection between thoughts, feelings & behaviors.


Find more of my Tenacity Tuesday videos on YouTube here or using the link below:



Go to Top