May 21, 2017

Friends Turned Fenemy

I’m sure we’ve all been there. A girl or two is in our office crying their eyes out because of their “friend(s)” hurting their feelings in some way or another. Lets face it, girls can be really mean. If its a group of repeat offenders, it can make you feel really helpless as a counselor. 

Sometimes it really is an innocent squabble between true friends that will figure itself out by the end of the day. That is best case scenario. You lend an empathetic ear knowing that they just need to get it all out and then they will feel better. Other times, it seems as if it is a constant dramatic battle that will only end when all parties involved decide to no longer be friends. That is worst case scenario. You are offering rock solid advice that seems to only temporarily help the situation. The Band-Aid you place on their friendship only keeps the peace for a day or two before some other friendship shattering argument takes place. The delicate balance between friendship and full blown diva style meltdowns can make a counselor who is expected to have all the answers want to pull their hair out.

So why do some groups of friends behave this way? One word; frenemies.

Some “friends” do hold true to the definition of this word through their actions.
Friend: a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection.
The piece that is missing in these volatile friendship groups is the mutual affection component. These groups that find their way to our offices normally contain frenemies, not true friends.

Frenemy: a person with whom one is friendly despite a fundamental dislike or rivalry.
These friendship groups are full of girls who are secretly in competition with each other, girls who are not looking out for each other’s well-being or want to see their “friends” succeed.

Frenemies are girls who act like they are friends but through their actions it is obvious they want to hurt or bring their friends down in order to feel better about themselves at their “friends” expense.

How can we teach our young girls to spot a frenemy? How can we teach them to deal with frenemies or break up with toxic friends? As School Counselors it can feel like a helpless situation, how can we help?

Here are six signs that can help you spot if a “friend” is actually a frenemy.
1.      They are untrustworthy.
They do not keep true to their word or keep your secrets safe. You can never be sure if they are loyal to you or have your best interest in mind.

2.     They do not seem to care about your feelings.
They do not listen to what you have to say, hurt your feelings often or aren’t there for you when you are hurting.

3.     They are hurtful behind your back
When you are not around, they are not a true friend. This could include talking about you, spreading rumors, laughing at your expense or not standing up for you.  

4.     They are not there for you when you need them.
When it really counts and you truly need their time or support, they are nowhere to be found. When you really need a true friend to be there for you, there are not there.

5.     They discourage you and bring you down.
When good things are happening in your life or you need a supportive shoulder to lean on, they do not shower you in positivity.  

6.     They are unfriendly a lot of the time.
Your feelings are often hurt, you’re doubting yourself frequently, and you aren’t happy around this person. When you really sit down and think about it, they just aren’t that nice to you.

Here are five steps to dealing with a toxic frenemy:
1.      Recognize that the friendship isn’t working out. Take time to decide if this person is a friend or a frenemy. Look back at the six statements above and decide if your friend meets those six criteria. If they are a true friend, try to solve the problem that is making the friendship not work, if they are a frenemy, move forward with these steps.

2.     Think about if you want to end the friendship. Is there just a temporary problem? Are you happy in this friendship? Do you want to continue this friendship? If you answered no to these questions then you may want to seriously consider ending the friendship because it isn’t good for you.

3.     If you do decide that you may want to end the friendship, talk to the person directly. Tell them exactly how you feel about their actions towards you. Be true and tell them exactly what isn’t working for you in this friendship. Either give them a chance to change and work on how they are in your friendship or be honest about wanting to end the relationship.

4.     Prepare yourself for them to not take the news very well. It is hard to hear that you aren’t being the best friend or that someone doesn’t want to hang out with you anymore. Be ready for them to say something that isn’t the nicest.

5.     Once you’ve said what you have to say and have dealt with their reactions, move forward with life and try to find new people to form healthy friendships with.

As School Counselors, the best thing we can do is be there to listen to our students and hear their concerns. At times it may seem like trivial problems, however to the kids these problems are their entire world at the moment. We have to take them seriously. We should listen, be compassionate, try to help them problem solve on their own and know when to remove ourselves from the situation. Unfortunately, sometimes there is nothing we can do with girl group drama. We can’t help those that don’t want to help themselves. We can do peer mediation, small groups, guidance classes, individual counseling; sometimes even that isn’t enough. After we’ve done all that we can, if the girls aren’t willing to/can’t work out their differences but still want to be friends, as School Counselors we have to let them figure it out on their own. After a certain point, we have to empower them to make their own choices and deal with their interpersonal issues as they see necessary.

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Click here to read about my Girl’s Group Small Group plan, or you can download your own copy HERE.
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April 13, 2017

Boy's Group Interactive Book

All too often I have boys come into my office upset because of something that happened that caused them to lose their cool, or in trouble for how they responded to the situation that angered them. Sometimes they act out in anger intentionally, sometime they just don't know how to better handle the situation. 

The kids I work with are young; anger is a big emotion. Most adults do not even appropriately handle their anger, how can we expect these little ones to keep in control? Instead of punishing them for losing their cool, I want to teach them the skills to understand and manage their anger. I want to teach them skills they can take with them into adulthood that will help them to become better people overall.

Building on this idea, I created a small group curriculum for boys designed to do just that. It’s not that girls don’t get angry, I just see a lot of resources for girls and not many specifically for boys.  I made it just for boys to get them hooked, excited, feeling like they were invited to a special class by someone who cares.

 This small group curriculum is packed with 10 interactive activities designed to teach students more about their specific type of anger, how to handle situations that anger them and role-play common anger inducing situations all while they have fun making their own interactive book. 

I just finished up a small group using this resource with four fifth grade boys. They had a blast learning how to control their anger and keep calm while they designed their own Calm Down Control book. Each session, they created an additional page or two of their Calm Down Control book. I utilize cardstock paper instead of an actual notebook. At the end of each session, I collected the pages and keep them all until the end of our group. I then stapled the pages together and let the students take their Calm Down Control Book home. 

I made a book along with the boys. They said I was the only girl allowed in the group and I was invited in under special circumstances. I’m currently pregnant with a little boy so they said I was kind of like a boy and could join in. kids are seriously so funny.

Below is an outline of our sessions together and pictures of the book that I created.

I cannot wait to run this group again with another set of students.

Session #1: Group Intro, Group Norms, Get to Know Me Activity

Session #2: Anger Triggers

Session #3: Anger Types/Describing Your Specific Anger

Session #4: What Does Your Anger Feel Like?

Session #5: Steps to My Anger

Session #6: Who Has the Control?

Session #7: Who Should Have Control?

Session #8: Keep Calm Tools

Session #9: Role-playing, How Could You Control Yourself?

Session #10: What Works Best For You/What Did You Learn?

In the end the boys have a clear understanding of their specific type of anger, acceptable behaviors when upset, ways to handle their anger, calm down tools/strategies and what works best for them.

I’ve seen a major decrease in episodes of anger explosions with the boys in the groups that I’ve had create this book so far. I’m sure your students will learn a lot about their anger, while having fun too!

You can download your own copy HERE.

March 26, 2017

Girl's Group (Interactive Book)

At least three times a week I get complaints about the dreaded girl drama. It never fails. Girls these days are mean to each other. Sometimes it’s on purpose, sometimes it is on accident. Whether it be unintentional or malicious, in every grade level grades 2-5, there are multiple students guilty of this girl on girl drama.

It may sound silly. You may be thinking, “They’re so young! Just tell them to get over it.” While it may be true that some of the drama and reasons for the fighting are absolutely ridiculous, right now that’s their whole world and their main focus. These girl drama problems mean a lot to them in the moment and can leave lasting damage. It can also take away from their learning and cause classroom wide issues.

I decided that I had enough of the inflow of young girls running to my office in tears because someone was being a fake friend to them, or a “frenemy” as they called it. I decided that maybe I could help them realize how painful their actions were to the people they call their friends.

I started different variations of Girl’s Groups throughout second-fifth grades (I tried it with first but it was a little over their heads). The length of the group depended on the needs of the group and severity of their issues/drama. There are ten possible sessions, I mixed and match and skipped sessions as needed to create different versions of this interactive Friendship Book to fit each groups unique needs. Below is an outline of a group I did utilizing the full ten sessions, creating the full Friendship Book:

Session #1: Group Intro

Session #2: What is a Friend or Frenemy?

Session #3: Quality Sorts

Session #4: Situation Sorts

Session #5: Questionable Friendships

Session #6: Healthy Friendships

Session #7: How to Deal

Session #8: Role-playing Friendships

Session #9: Letter Writing

Session #10: Self Reflection

In the end the girls have a clear understanding of behaviors of a good friend, how to avoid being a frenemy, how to handle a frenemy and how to respectfully break up with a friend who isn’t the best for you.

I’ve seen a major decrease in drama in the groups that I’ve had create this book.

You can download your own copy HERE.

March 8, 2017

Worry Flipbook

Students are filled with worry and stress this time of year due to end of the school year demands and test success pressure. Now more than ever they need help with anxiety and worry. Students have been showing up in my office left and right with complaints about worry. It is nice to have a quick to make activity on hand to help them work through their worry and get back to learning.

This flipbook is perfect for just that. All together it takes about a minute to make. I double side print it on colorful paper (make sure to set your printer to flip on the SHORT side or else it won’t print correctly), line up the pages, fold the pages over and staple them together. 

Just like that, your flipbook is ready for use.

It came in handy this week when a little girl and her male best friend came to my office. She was in tears about have to take the FSA (state test in Florida). He was trying hard to make her feel better, but he himself was pretty nervous about the test too. 
I immediately thought of this book.

As we worked through it together, they realized they were also pretty worried about their friendships. They both didn’t really know how to talk to others and make new friends. It broke my heart when I saw them draw these. 

They explained that they didn’t know how to talk to other people. They said they like each other but wanted new friends but didn’t know how to make them. This was great information for me to find out because I now knew that if they learned some social skills surrounding friendship some of their extra anxiety would dissipate. I planned to meet with them the next week to help tackle that issue.

For today, we just tackled their FSA worries since that was the reason they came in and was the most pressing issue at the time. This flipbook had them explore what exactly worry means, identify their worry, recognize and explain how worry makes them feel, ways to take control of their worry, ways to manage worry and what strategies to control their worry may work best for them. 

They seemed to feel much better when we were done working through it together. She decided she was going to utilize the “write it out” strategy when she was worried. She said she was going to write down her problems and let them be the paper’s problem. He really liked the visualization technique and was going to picture himself on a beach with his family acing the test.

It really makes me happy when I can help little ones cope with their big emotions.

You can download this activity by clicking HERE.

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March 6, 2017

Turtle Flipping

“I am here today to talk to you about what it means to be helpful. Who can tell me what being helpful means?”

“It’s when you help someone!”
“Doing things that are nice to help people!”
“When someone falls you help them up!”

It’s interesting how hard it is for kids to put the definition of helpful into words.

“I’m going to show you a video and we’re going to see if the creatures in the video decide to be helpful or not.”

I then put on this video.  I do not own this video nor do I know who created it. It’s just super cute, hooks their attention and makes my point really well. I mute the volume and let it play.

While the video is playing, I start the meat of the lesson by saying, “This turtle over here is flipped over on his back (point to the upside turtle). Who has ever seen or knows what happens when a turtle is flipped over?”

Eventually we get to the answer that they cannot flip themselves back over and have to wait until someone comes along and decides to help them get back on their feet.

“That’s right, he’s upside down and helpless. He needs someone to come help him get back on his feet, he can’t do it by himself. How do you think that turtle feels?”

I get a wide array of answers such as scared, sad, mad, frustrated, upset, hopeless, etc.

“He’s probably pretty sad, wishing he hadn’t gotten himself into this situation hoping someone is nice enough to come help him get back on his feet. If we saw a turtle flipped over, it would be super easy for us to flip him back. We would use our hands and just pick him up. Turtles don’t have hands. The only tool they have is their head. Imagine if I fell on the floor right now and the only way you could help me get up is by using your head. How easy would that be?”

They usually get wide eyed and whisper about how they would break their necks if they tried that. I have to add that I am eight months, beyond super pregnant right now, so it is even funnier to see their reactions to this question since I have so much extra weight to throw around.

“It would be really hard right?! That’s exactly how hard it is for this guy to help him. How easy would it be for him to give up and walk away?”

“Super easy!”

“It would be! Look at him, he already needs a break!”

Usually we’re around minute two in the video and at this point the turtle really is taking a break.

“He needs a drink and a snack and probably wants to go hang out with his other turtle friends who didn’t get themselves into this situation! Let’s see what he does.”

I skip through the video by 30ish second intervals making a big deal about how hard he is still trying. When we get to minute four, I take a vote to see who thinks he’s going to be able to do it and who thinks he’s going to give up.
They watch in anticipation and every class I’ve had starts to cheer the little turtle on. One class even chanted, “You can flip him! You can flip him!” and clapped loudly and applauded when the turtle landed on his feet.

“Yayy! He did it! His turtle friend is now on his feet and ready to go. How do you think he feels now?”

I get a mix of happy, excited, calmer, etc.

“What I want you to remember about this video is that it was difficult for this turtle to accomplish this. He had to work really hard, but in the end it was totally worth it because he might have saved the other turtle’s life. It may not always be easy to help someone else, but it is almost always worth it.”

I then move into my situation card game.
“I have some cards here that have situations on them that challenge you to help out, to be turtle flippers, just like the turtle in our video. Let’s do a few together.”

I read three or four situations and let them answer in a class discussion format. We then give every student a card and have them utilize the stand up, hands up, pair up Kagan Strategy to partner up and discuss their cards.  

They each stand up, put their hands up in the air, find a partner and put their hands down. Students who still need a partner look for someone with their hands still up. Once they are all partnered up, they read their card to their partner and their partner answers. The other partner then reads their card and waits for an answer. After a few minutes, I say, “switch cards, hands up, pair up”. The students switch cards and are off to find a new partner.
When ready, I collect all the cards and have all the kids go back to their seats.

We then start on our activity sheet. I put the sheet up on the overhead and have a student read the sheet and then we talk about what they are supposed to do with the activity sheet.
After they understand that I want them to draw a picture and write a sentence about how they can be helpful, I pass out the sheets and let them get to work.

It is so fun to see where their minds go!

When finished, I let them keep the worksheets as a fun memory of our time together. Some teachers have decided to collect the sheets and put them in the student’s leadership notebook. I love that I am doing a lesson the teachers feel is worthy to include in such an important notebook.

Download your own copy of the “Will You Help Flip the Turtle?” cards HERE.

Download your own copy of the “I Can Be Helpful” activity sheet HERE.

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