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Archive for August, 2015

Adjusting to a New School: Anxiety and Making Friends

Monday, August 31st, 2015

In this uncertain economy, relocating is usually accepted by the grateful job hunter as just a part of the job description. The impact on the children cannot be minimized, however, and children will process the event in their own way depending on their age, the number of past moves they can recall, and the distance that will be traveled. Important questions are: Will there be an acculturation issue?  Will there be a language barrier?  Has your child ever visited the area in which you intend to relocate? Guarding against new school anxiety is all about learning the landscape.

Here are some things the experts recommend when adjusting to a new school and town:

1. Make choosing a school a team effort.  If you’re choosing between a few schools, talk with your child about what each one has to offer. After you choose the school, allow your child to visit and take a tour. This will greatly reduce new school anxiety.

2. Take time to say goodbye to the old school. Make a scrapbook, or ask all the kids in the class sign a T-shirt, picture frame, or an autograph book. Make sure you also give old friends and teachers information about how to stay in touch with your child.

3. Keep a positive focus! Present the new school as a place where they will learn new things and make friends.

4. Encourage school involvement. Your child is more likely to engage academically if he/she feels connected through a school activity, club or sport. Ask:

  • What are your goals for the school year?
  • How are you going to get involved in school outside of the classroom?
  • What is your favorite thing to do right now and how might you find others like you?

5. If you are moving your family to a location where a different language is spoken, think about learning the language and culture together. Conversing at the dinner table only in the new language can lead to lots of laughs.

Some good resources are:

For younger children:

The Berenstain Bears Go to School, by Stan and Jan Berenstain (Random House, 1978)
Arthur’s Teacher Trouble, by Marc Brown (Trumpet, 1986)

This was originally published in 2012 but it is still a great resource!

Dr. Kate Walker Ph.D. is owner and CEO of found in The Woodlands TX.


Children with Special Educational Needs: A Guide for Newcomers and Ex-Pats

Sunday, August 23rd, 2015

This article by therapist Jason Davis was originally posted in 2012 but it contains great info parents can use now.

Parents who have concerns about a child’s academic or behavioral progress turn to schools to help them determine what is best for their child. Likewise, when school personnel notice a child having difficulty maintaining passing grades or appropriate behavior, they will act as a special education advocate and may turn to parents to introduce options for intervention.

In the United States, school districts have programs that can assist parents in determining the appropriate academic placement and interventions for their children with special educational needs. Many parents do not know what these programs do or how they can best assist their child and it can indeed be confusing. Most interventions will either be classified as 504 or Special Education.

The term, “504 program” comes from Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This national law protects qualified individuals from discrimination based on their disability defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits major life activities. If parents or the school can document that a child has a disability, part of the special education process are interventions that can be designed to help the child succeed academically. 504 interventions are usually classified as “accommodations.” Examples of disabilities that can be covered under the 504 program include everything from something temporary like a broken arm to chronic conditions like dyslexia, ADHD, or diabetes.

Special education programs fall under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). These programs are designed for children who have a disability that is considered a “qualifying condition.” Examples of qualifying special education disabilities are blindness, deafness, and developmental delays. Children receiving special education services will have an Individual Education Plan (IEP) rather than accommodations.

Parents are encouraged to visit the government website for IDEA and talk to their local school district to learn more about disabilities that fall under both 504 and special education and how they can partner with their school to develop the best plan for their child.

Jason Davis is a Licensed Professional Counselor. He received his Masters of Science in Counseling from the University of Houston Clear Lake and a Bachelor’s Degree in Theater from the University of Texas at Austin. He can be found providing counseling services at in The Woodlands, Texas. Contact Jason at 936-697-2822 or

Taking Your Stuff [disability, addiction, anxiety, etc.] to College Part 2

Monday, August 17th, 2015

When a child has struggled with issues such as eating disorders, cutting, and substance abuse, it’s important to think ahead before they go off to college. Last week I wrote about the services that are available at most colleges and universities. This week I will discuss ways to maintain clear communication with your student once he or she is away at school and construct a plan ‘B’ if you see they are struggling.

Your child may not like it, but there are ways to maintain clear communication without crossing that boundary into becoming a helicopter parent. In fact, if you have a history of helicopter parenting, you may struggle with these tactics. Here is how I explain the difference to parents: Helicopter parenting implies that you are actively trying to impact outcomes and control your child’s behavior. Instead I want you to observe, and when you discover immanent danger, intervene with natural logical consequences.

How do you observe your adult child away at school and have clear communication without controlling? First, before your child goes away, as parents you must clearly define priorities and expectations. Let your child know coping with his or her struggle or learning difference takes precedence over academics and social life. Encourage your child to suggest strategies to cope with her struggle or difference and then discuss the natural logical consequences for ignoring those healthy strategies. Let your child know you will be observing her purchasing behavior. Form a relationship with your child’s resident advisor or other student advocate on campus let your child know you will be asking them to report any concerns. Finally, let your child know you will be dropping in unannounced on occasion to see how she is doing.

Natural logical consequences are the keys to intervening without controlling. Here is an example: John and Joan are parents and they discover their daughter Jan, who is a recovering alcoholic, has been skipping classes and she stopped going to the student alcohol recovery group. Before Jan went away the family agreed her recovery was the most important priority and Jan even picked out the recovery group on her own. Now, Jan tells Joan that the recovery group is full of people she doesn’t know and she doesn’t really have time for it because her studies are so intense. She tells her mom she’ll go, “if you want me to fail all my classes.” If Joan and John were still helicopter parents they might tell Jan she doesn’t need to go to her recovery group and just focus on her studies. They might lecture Jan or try to guilt or bribe her into going to the recovery group. They might worry that setting limits with Jan would stress her further and even make her start drinking again.

John and Joan are not helicopter parents, however, and they discuss their observations. First they notice their daughter is not taking care of her addiction. Because that could mean life or death for their daughter, they decide to address that first. Second, they acknowledge their sadness that their daughter may not be ready for college. It was Joan’s alma mater and they both must grieve their dream for now. Finally, together they call Jan and remind her that as a family they decided that Jan’s recovery was more important than school and if she can’t do both then she is choosing to come home to finish her education. If Jan chooses to stay away at her current school, they let her know they love her and they honor her decision, but they will not support that decision financially.

Jan may feel like her parents are trying to control her, but in fact, Joan and John are setting a boundary. The boundary is unpleasant for Jan but it is teaching her than Joan and John will not enable her unhealthy coping. It also lets Jan know Joan and John will not lecture or shame her and they will love her no matter what she decides to do.




Taking Your Stuff [disability, addiction, anxiety, etc.] to College

Monday, August 10th, 2015

This month is all about ways you can help your child transition successfully to higher education and independence. My last article discussed helping your child make the transition, and this week I’m going over the services that are available at most colleges and universities. My next article will discuss ways to maintain clear communication with your student once he or she is away at school and construct a plan ‘B’ if you see they are struggling.

Sending a child off to college who has experienced emotional and behavioral struggles can be hard. Issues such as eating disorders, cutting, and substance abuse require the help of outside therapists and medical experts. Similarly, mood and behavior difficulties like depression, anxiety, or ADHD, may require additional educational interventions such as a 504 plan. Educational differences such as dyslexia and dysgraphia may also require special education interventions. By the time a child turns eighteen, most parents have become experts at accessing services that help their child feel better, stay healthy, and succeed in school. The question becomes, then, how do you help your adult child maintain the same level of interest in self-care and success when they go to college?

Depending on your child, you can start by looking at colleges that address his or her need. The University of Iowa offers students with intellectual, cognitive, and learning disabilities access to the REACH program. Through The Learning Center on the West Virginia Wesleyan College campus, students with learning disabilities, attention disorders and other special needs can find a wide range of support options ( If you don’t know where to start, educational consultants can be a tremendous source of information to help your child plug in to the right college or university.

If your child has his or her heart set on a particular university, then be sure to tour services such as the student writing center and campus TRIO programs (federally funded programs on many campuses that offer everything from free tutoring, writing help, to financial help). Your child’s campus will always have an ADA office so include that in your visit when you take your college tour.

Here are some tips from

  • While a high school is required to identify your requirements and provide free appropriate public education to meet them, a post-secondary institution is not required to waive or change academic requirements. However, colleges cannot discriminate on the basis of disability, and must provide the necessary adjustments for you to function academically. This includes housing for students with disabilities that is comparable, accessible and affordable.
  • While disclosure of your disability to a college is voluntary, it is necessary in order to qualify for assistance. You may apply for an adjustment at any time, but it is recommended that you do so early. Initiate contact with a school before the college application process begins, and ask questions. It may take some procedural time for your application to go through, and requirements may vary amongst different colleges.
  • You will also need to provide proof of your disability, so be sure to research what is necessary for different institutions, and start your evaluations before senior year. Neither the state nor your college is responsible for the cost of obtaining documentation of your disability, but your state vocational rehabilitation agency may provide funding.

Getting the Most From Therapy: Sleep Better

Friday, August 7th, 2015

Coming to therapy is a big decision. Individuals come to therapy for personal marriage, and family issues. Therapy works because of the relationship between you and your counselor. She will help you achieve insight by showing you roadblocks holding you back, and thinking errors keeping you stuck.

Whether you are coming to therapy for yourself, your marriage, or a family member, you will get the most out of your time and money if you commit to work both during your sessions and on your own. Take time to make small changes and talk to your therapist if you are not getting the results you want. While there are no guarantees, therapy often leads to better relationships, solutions to specific problems, and significant reductions in feelings of distress. Here are some week-by-week tips for getting the most from your therapy:

Week 1
Start cutting back on caffeine and get a journal. Cut simple sugars from your diet. Take a walk outdoors. Make an appointment for a physical.

Week 2
Cut caffeine from your diet and add something healthy. Each day walk outdoors and write something in your journal you are thankful for.

Week 3
Start a bedtime routine. One hour before bedtime take a warm bath or shower. Thirty minutes before cut out TV and computer. Five minutes before breathe and relax.

Week 4
Help someone in need. Give your time at a soup kitchen, meals on wheels, or a thrift shop.

Want more detail? Check out or 30 day transformation. It’s a FREE download here.

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