Relational Aggression in Elementary School: The Search for the Power Between

Free Spirit Publishing Blog

By Amanda C. Symmes, LICSW

Relational Aggression in Elementary School: The Search for the Power BetweenSome days I find “Notes to the Counselor” scrawled on recycled scraps of paper and stuffed into a box outside my office. These notes, usually authored by girls, hold genuine pain that graphite cannot contain:

Dear Ms. Symmes,
Jill and Dasia won’t talk to me anymore. We used to all be best friends, but now they keep whispering about me, and when I try to talk to them, they roll their eyes and walk away. They also said I cannot be in their group for the social studies project anymore and I don’t know what to do! Please help!

Other days, I open my office door to find someone who has left lunch crying because she cannot “handle the drama anymore.” She tells me, “Leilani posted a duet with me on Musically, and then Cece said in the comments that I was so ugly and…

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Endings and Beginnings: Setting Goals for Summer Success

Free Spirit Publishing Blog

By Beverly K. Bachel, author ofWhat Do You Really Want? How to Set a Goal and Go for It! A Guide for Teens

Endings and Beginnings: Setting Goals for Summer SuccessAt the beginning of the school year, we encourage kids to set goals. But by now, most kids (just like the rest of us!) are looking forward to summer vacation. In the flurry of year-end projects, field trips, and final exams, goals may no longer be first on our minds. But that doesn’t mean they can’t still be a springboard for success—as these examples show:

  • As seven-year-olds, twins Emma and Amy Bushman attended a summer cooking camp. As teens, they founded Bake Me Home, a charitable organization whose delicious cookies brighten the lives of others.
  • Dylan Spoering, at age eight, wanted to do something nice for his neighbors one summer. The result? A free front-porch concert that went viral, giving him a taste of what…

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Children need coregulation

In her article Self-Regulation Doesn’t Exist!!

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW explains the importance of co-regulation and how we as parents or caregivers , even trusting loving partners can be so instrumental in helping others regulate their emotions. As Robyn states so well “What really works isn’t teaching self-regulation. It’s giving children experiences of co-regulation over and over and over again. Until their brains literally take in and imprint the regulated adult. Then the coregulation becomes internalized…but it’s still coregulation.” That’s what I love about Child Parent Relationship Training, that’s what I love about play therapy and involving the parents in my work. It’s all about the Relationship. Parents finally learn to demonstrate and affirm to their children “I am here. I hear you. I understand you.” In providing that Circle of Safety, the child learns to self-soothe, have freedom to express, share, explore and heal.  It’s powerful and it works!

Middle School Changeup: Strategies for Students, Parents, and Teachers

Do any of you have a child entering into middle school next year? I do and my other one is already there. It was quite a transition! But never too early to start getting prepared – here are some tips – i especially love #6 – be attentive to your child’s learning style and accommodate accordingly! Mine is a visual learner so I’ll have to make sure to keep that in mind! (It helps that I’m one too:)

Free Spirit Publishing Blog

by Janet Fox, Free Spirit author ofGet Organized Without Losing It

janet fox FSP author copyright Free Spirit PublishingThe transition to middle school from elementary school is a huge milestone in a child’s life. It can also be fraught with difficulties, especially if the child in question struggles with organization. Middle school kids are expected to manage assignments on their own, keep lockers, remember books and assignments, move from classroom to classroom without supervision—and for most kids these are new responsibilities that take some adjustment. Can parents and teachers help make this transition easier? You bet.

Here are a handful of strategies designed for the elementary to middle school changeup. Whether you are a parent or teacher, these suggestions may help your struggling kids.

  1. Before school starts in the fall, help your child find and put together a binder with dividers for each subject. As your child brings home papers and homework, teach her how to…

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How to Help Your Students Manage Schoolwork Deadlines

Free Spirit Publishing Blog

By Janet S. Fox, author ofGet Organized Without Losing It (Revised & Updated Edition)

How to Help Your Students Manage Schoolwork DeadlinesWhen I was in my early teens, I realized—the night before the project was due—that I’d forgotten to prepare an oral presentation, essay, and poster on a South American country. My mother was furious, I was frantic, and the presentation I put together in the dark of night was a disaster. I don’t remember my exact grade, but I’m sure it was pitiful and I was deeply embarrassed.

This was a true life lesson, and is perhaps one small reason why I love to help kids manage their schoolwork deadlines so they don’t experience such stomach-churning moments. Here are some tips that I hope will help you and your students with the essential skill of time management.

The Tool to Use: A Student Planner
First, I recommend that all students have a personal planner or…

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Wall and Gatekeeper

As parents, we know it is our role to prepare our children for the world they will live in. But we also want to protect them. We experience their growing independence and we become fearful. How do we navigate all these choices and freedoms the world offers them? How do we guide them? Instruct them? While also protecting and sheltering them?

Susan Merrill, founder of iMom and author of “The Passionate Mom: Dare to Parent in Today’s World” offers some great guidance in her 26 page Ebook  “How To Prepare Your Kids for the World”. She helps parents, such as you and I, navigate our role as Wall and Gatekeepers for our children – covering everything from choices, school, friendships and free time to electronics, cell phone, social media, driving, dating, and college. Merrill states “You are so many things to your child. You are a wall—the one who will vigilantly protect your child. And you are the gatekeeper—the one who will diligently train your child for a future beyond the wall. The wall is the foundation for protecting, and the gates are the opportunity to test your child’s readiness to live well outside the wall.”

Attached are the links to her article in iMom as well as her Ebook. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

And for more resources, please check out iMom ( It is by far one of my favorite resources as a therapist and parenting educator.

Good reading!

How to Prepare Your Kids for the World — iMom




Back to School Organization

As I’m trying to get my own life more organized this year, I think of all the parents, tween and teenagers that want this year to be different!  In 2017, clutter just seemed to pile up everywhere, on the floor, kitchen table, in front of doors, in bedrooms, living rooms, and then carried on over to school lockers. As a result, they couldn’t find anything, papers got misplaced, ripped or even lost and assignments are forgotten. Stress builds up, panic sets in, kids get overwhelmed and shut down. Parents are praying for an end to all this – and hoping this year grades will go up, papers won’t get lost and assignments will get turned in!
So I thought I’d share a couple helpful videos to get you started. Trust me, there are plenty out there! But perhaps this will give you a little taste…After all, you just have to get started!! And it all has to do with 4 things: 1)  a binder, 2) a color coding system 3) a backpack tag and 4) goals calendar! So here we go –
1)  This first video shows you how to organize your binder and school notebook in two ways: 1) in a traditional 3-ring school binder or 2) a non-traditional binder without rings (more like an accordion organizer)   Check it out here:
2) This second video gives you great Color Coding ideas!!! I wish I had known this when I was in school – I would have had so much fun with it! But of course, we didn’t have all the cool colorful materials that are out today!   Check it out here:
3) has some great resources. Here’s a cool little tool – a Backpack Checklist Luggage Tag your kid can put right on his/her backpack  (who’d ever think of that??)  Check it out here: BackpackChecklistLuggageTags
4) Finally, a printable Calendar with Goals for each month.   Check the Calendar out here: 2018 Goals Calendar A Printable Planner

Is Your Child Ready for a Smartphone?

We often get asked this question by parents and smartphones can often be a source of tension and family conflict. However, we realize this day and age there are also lots of pros. This article outlines such pros/cons as well as detailing where to begin. Be Prepared! Be Clear with Rules and Restrictions! And Stay Engaged!

Free Spirit Publishing Blog

By Eric Braun, coauthor ofThe Survival Guide for Money Smarts: Earn, Save, Spend, Give

Is Your Child Ready for a Smartphone?Probably the one thing I wanted more than anything else as a kid was the Millennium Falcon. That toy, a Star Wars spaceship the size of my torso, was the coolest thing I could imagine. To this day, I can’t think of anything I’ve ever coveted as badly as I did Han Solo’s “fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy.”

Today, of course, our kids want smartphones—more than toys, more than bikes, more than anything. And while I’m sure my parents had some consternation over whether to buy me the toy I wanted, I’m also sure that the decision whether—and when—to get my kids their first smartphones was way harder. The Falcon was expensive, sure, and like the ever-present screens of today, it did threaten to keep me indoors instead of playing outside. But…

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Kristina Cowan- tremendously gifted and inspirational author shares an “Interview with Fathers Reaching Out.” — Women’s Health Today

Kristina Cowan, author of When Postpartum Packs a Punch has recently been interviewed by Mark Williams of Fathers Reaching Out. Enjoy the interview below.

via Kristina Cowen Interview with Fathers Reaching Out. — Women’s Health Today

Hot cocoa breathing sensory art activity 

Love this post authored by Kristina Marcelli Sargent who has a breadth of creative therapy interventions!! I”m definitely going to be doing a lot of “hot cocoa” breathing with my clients this Fall and Winter!

Art of Social Work

You may have already heard of the technique to help children learn deep breathing by allowing them to imagine smelling hot cocoa then blowing on it to cool it off. I have used this technique with children of all ages and find it particularly helpful for children who need the more tangible image to remind them of the skill.

I recently started having children draw their own good morning mug that would remind them of something positive in the morning. I then allow them to use chocolate SCENTED marker to color the hot cocoa and use cotton balls for marshmallows. This allows the child to experience multiple senses during the activity and can help them better remember the skill by integrating the experience! Children really enjoy learning deep breathing this way and it can help them remember to breathe in their nose and out their mouth (smelling hot cocoa in…

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