Counselors Corner

Welcome to the Bolles Counselor Corner where each week we share food for thought from the Bolles Counseling team.

The Counseling Team

We hope you enjoy these posts and if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out:

Katie Cussen:, (904) 256-5105
Lauren Genduso:, (904) 256-5114
Brynne Plant:, (904) 732-5709
Shelly Serafin, WH: (904) 256-5279/PVB: (904) 732-5931


Reducing Anxiety
To get us started for the year, here is a great article for kids and here is a great article for teens that include strategies to help your child reduce anxiety and increase learning this year.

Processing Safety
Over a week has passed since the horrible Manchester tragedy and most have already dealt with the tough conversations that came along with it, however, upcoming summer travels and events may cause spoken or unspoken anxiety for your children as they continue to wonder about their own safety. Here are a few resources to review to be prepared for discussions and what to look for. This first article from Common Sense Media specifies this topic by age, which is a great place to start.

Other articles to review:
Talking to children about difficult news
How to talk to your kids about terror
How to talk to kids about the Manchester terror attack

What are Your Family Core Values?
As we approach summer and maybe hopefully have some more downtime with our families, you may want to consider what core values you want for your family and making them visible for all to see along with your families unwritten code of treatment of one another. It can be incredibly powerful for a family to have this clearly defined and available to refer to as a family. Here is a great article to help with this task.

Online Challenges
Last month, we talked about online challenges that teens easily get caught up in. Justin W. Patchin, Ph.D., an expert about teens and their cyber world, says "Part of it is the need to fit in, to be a part of the pack, to be appreciated. The last thing a teen wants is to be excluded. Even if no one else is doing it yet, they think maybe it’s a way to get likes, followers, recognition if they take this risk.” To this extent, we want to make you aware of an online challenge called the "Blue Whale" that’s allegedly targeting teens in Russia and may now be finding its way around the globe. We are trying to get ahead of this, in case it becomes a U.S. trend. Here is an article published just last month.

Finsta Accounts
A "Finsta" account is defined as a "second or fake Instagram account" and more and more teenagers are using these to hide posts from their parents since parents increasingly utilize social media themselves and monitor their child's activity. We wanted to make you aware of this activity and share this article which provides some insight regarding these "private" accounts.

Talking to Your Teen Son
There is so much out there about teenage girls, but we found some great information on connecting with your teenage son and wanted to share it. Growing the parent-son relationship in the teen years involves embracing a philosophy. "If you stay present, really believe in the kid, treat him like the expert in his life and talk at the pace he's able to listen, then the details will work themselves out," says Kenneth Ginsburg, co-director of the Center for Parent and Teen Communication at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Click here to read a great article we found.

"13 Reasons Why"
In keeping with the counseling offices' mission of student wellness: we wanted to make you aware of a popular Netflix TV series that has caught the attention of our students. The show is called "13 Reasons Why" and is based off the bestselling novel by Jay Asher. This show describes a teenage girl's reasons why she planned her own suicide. It is recommended for mature audiences, which means it may not be suitable for children under the age of 17. Regardless of the rating, our students are watching this series, which is why it is crucial for parental involvement. Here is a parent guide on this series and here are some questions to open up a conversation.

Rewarding Honesty
We know that it can be very hard to remain calm when your children tell you something they've done wrong or that you don't want to hear, but it is the key to getting them to tell the truth. Here are three great articles on celebrating honesty: “Want Honest Kids?” “Four Steps to Raising an Honest Teen”; and “8 Ways Parents Can Reduce Teenage Lying.

The X Plan
Whether you have a child in lower, middle or upper school, it is a good idea to think and talk about how to get out of uncomfortable situations. It is vital to think ahead and ideally roll play with your child how to handle themselves in a situation where they would feel pressured into doing something they didn't want to do. Here is an idea we found on a great exit plan. Even if your child does not have a phone, think about other code words or ways that they can call you to get out of an uncomfortable situation.

Body Image
Some additional tips that have been shared:

  • Remember to recognize individual strengths and what makes you, you! Think of 3 things that you like about yourself.
  • How do we take care of our bodies (not only our physical but also mind and spirit)?
  • Thoughts and messages about food (all foods fit, importance of moderation, food has no moral value- eating something does not make you good or bad)
  • Body Image shapers - beauty ads, magic of Photoshop, those images we see all the time are not real
  • Comparison is the thief of joy
  • Self-talk – can be positive or negative, so plug into positivity! Shred the negative thoughts!
  • Feel all the feels – it’s ok to feel all the emotions, and you don’t have to apologize for your emotions.
  • Stand up for yourself - Girls practiced using “I messages” – I feel…when you…because…I would like you to…
  • Take away messages: Be kind to others AND dare to love yourself!
  • As a parent it is especially important to remember that our children are always watching and listening to us. Be careful about what you say about your own body, looking at yourself in the mirror, and what you say about food- “oh, I have to skip breakfast because I am going out to lunch or I had that cupcake last night, etc.” or “I need to lose that last five pounds” or “carbs are bad”- remember again, all foods fit and we need our children to know to not create lifelong issues with food and body. And this is not just a girl issue, it effects boys too. Boys struggle with topics like feeling they have to be muscular, tall, lean, athletic.

    Additional Resources
    As we know our community continues to grieve, we wanted to offer a couple more resources that you may want to consider. This book has come highly recommended to us and we have ordered a couple copies for our upper school library (it is too advanced for middle school students). Here is a description along with a link to the book: "My Living Will" is the story of former major league pitcher John Trautwein, and the unbelievable tragedy which befell him and his family when his fifteen-year-old son, Will, took his own life. There had been no warnings, no obvious signs of anxiety, depression, or unhappiness; nothing. A family and a community were left stunned as they pondered how a young man like Will Trautwein, a healthy, happy, popular, athletic, and musical teenager, who came from such a loving home, could lose the will to live.

    Here is another novel that is coming out April 4 for teens. "Speak of Me As I Am." We just ordered our advanced copy. Also, remember when ordering from Amazon that if you enter and choose Bolles as the organization to donate to -- every bit helps us achieve our goals!

    Lastly, an announcement was put on Schoology today for the students about a weekly peer support group with the counselors that will begin on Friday, February 24 during lunches. All students are welcome and encouraged to let Mrs. Cussen know if they plan to attend. As always, both counselors are available individually for students as well.

    Binge Drinking
    Excerpt from…“Binge Drinking and the Independent School Student” by Rosemary Baggish and Peter Wells

    "Parties, particularly unchaperoned parties, represent the primary venue for binge drinking. When asked how often the student had attended parties in the month and how often the parties had been chaperoned by an adult, on average, binge drinkers reported attending unchaperoned parties 53.7 percent of the time, although the heaviest drinkers attended unchaperoned parties 63.5 percent of the time. Some drinking occurred after school -- on average, 29.9 percent 10.7 percent drank alone after school -- although for the heaviest drinkers, the rate more than doubled."

    "Adults have an important role to play in adolescent drinking and binging, particularly since adult permission is highly correlated to excess. For adolescents whose parents allowed them to drink at home, the rate of binge drinking (42.3 percent) was twice that of those not given permission. Compared with the binging rate for adolescents who are not given permission to drink, the binging rate quadrupled (19.4 percent) for those whose parents allowed their friends to drink in their home; the rate nearly quadrupled (36.9 percent) if the children were given permission to drink outside the home."

    Disagreeing Appropriately
    It is natural to disagree with people, here is some food for thought on how to help your teen learn how to appropriately disagree. “This powerful skill gives kids the opportunity to be heard, and helps them think before speaking while presenting their views in a calm, reasonable manner.”

    Dealing with Anxiety
    As your middle or upper school student approaches exam week, make sure they take time to reduce the stress we all feel when faced with a task. We all experience anxiety from time to time and this article is full of tips on how to ease anxiety.

    Acting Out
    When our children start acting out, we are often at a loss of what to do. Some food for thought can be found here on how to handle those tough times from Josh Shipp, teen parenting expert.

    Some food for thought about the benefits of movement for all of our children. As you encourage your children to be active, remember to keep the focus on fun and enjoyment. Studies show that even half an hour a day of exercise can help kids brains function and focus better. Find activities they like to do, not necessarily what you think they should do. Keep them happy with movement — there are so many options, let them explore until they find what works for them.

    Middle school Grade 8 students had the benefit of hearing from National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) presenters on Monday, November 14 during P.E. class. The presentation was delivered by a trained two-person team, one of whom is a young adult living in recovery with a mental health condition. Through education, “Ending the Silence” instills a message of hope and recovery and encourages teens to reduce stigma and end the silence surrounding mental illness. Here are two handouts for review and discussion with your child: How to Help a Friend; Parent Guide.

    Allowing Your Teen to Complain
    I think most have experienced asking your child, "How was school today?" and all you get is "fine." I hear all the time from students they just want their parents to listen and not try to fix their problems, correct them, or "flip-out" — their words. Here is some food for thought from The New York Times. "Allowing teenagers to complain is not the same as endorsing their complaints." Your children want to be heard and validated. It does not mean you agree, but you are listening to their experience.

    Over the past week, we have had class meetings on the Middle School Bartram campus to discuss and reinforce our school attorney's presentation earlier in the month. This past week we focused primarily on harassment. We discussed how you can stand up, say no and let someone know about what you are experiencing. Here is some additional information to consider incorporating into your modeling and conversations at a home about harrassment.

    Underage Drinking
    As you may have seen on billboards on I-95, it is never too early to start talking to your kids about underage drinking. The Bolles School couselors know this is a another subject that we do not like to think about and is often uncomfortable to address. Here are some helpful parent resources when discussing this topic with your children.

    What Teens Need
    We all know that parenting teens can be extremely stressful and drive us to our wits end. On this subject, we would like to share with you this Wall Street Journal article "What Teens Need Most From Their Parents." It should help put the thought in your mind as you go through your day to remember teens just want to be heard. So be patient, listen, hug and comfort them. It will probably make your day better as well.

    Raising Includers
    We asked students for examples of how they can show courage, integrity and compassion in our Bolles community. We specifically talked about looking for situations where we can include others. I share this article from the Huffington Post, “How to Raise ‘Includers’” which fits perfectly with these thoughts.

    Middle School
    These links provide information about good points to consider as we all deal with the ups and downs of middle school life. The first blog is from Michelle Icard, author of the book, Middle School Makeover: Improving The Way You and Your Child Experience Middle School. The second is from Sue Acuna, co-author of Middle School: The Inside Story.

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    Co-ed Day and Boarding College Preparatory School from Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 12

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