Robinson Student Services
Small Group Counseling
New Students Group
Pre-first, first and second grade students who are new to the Westford Public Schools are invited to participate in our new student lunch meetings. Parents are notified via a letter of their child’s participation. These groups provide the opportunity for new students to meet other new students, tour the building and meet many of the adult members of the Robinson Community. Support and information addressing group members’ particular concerns is provided.
Friendship Groups also known as Lunch Bunch
To support students’ social and emotional development, counseling groups are offered to provide children with the opportunity for extra instruction, practice and support. These groups are typically held during lunch time or snack time and focus on interpersonal and intrapersonal skill development.
Personal space, turn taking, being a good sport, conflict resolution and dealing with teasing are examples of the interpersonal skills addressed at the K-2 level. Intrapersonal skills could include stress/anxiety management, overcoming shyness, impulse control and self-confidence. Regular participation in guidance services can be initiated by a parent, teacher, and/or administrator in consultation with the school counselor. Written parental permission is required for regular participation in these groups. At times, some regular group members may be allowed to invite a friend to their counseling group as part of our “bring a friend” activity.
Short-term counseling groups are offered on an as needed basis. Topics have included changing families groups for children whose families are experiencing a separation, divorce or remarriage, loss and transition groups for children who have experienced a major loss, stress management and overcoming shyness. Referral and permission requirements are the same as for the friendship groups (see above).
Children may self refer to the counselor when they have a worry or problem. At Robinson each classroom teacher and specialist has a counseling pass, also referred to as a teddy bear pass, which children may request. A child in collaboration with his or her teacher will decide if the problem can be worked out in the classroom or needs to be referred to the counselor. If the decision is to see the counselor, a child accompanied by a buddy goes to the counseling office located next to the nurse’s office. If the counselor is available the child is seen immediately and if not usually later that day or the next day. When a child visits with the counselor a note is sent home. Children are always encouraged to discuss their concerns with parents. Similarly parents are encouraged to contact the
counselor with any questions or concerns. Telephone calls are placed to parents when necessary.
Individual counseling is offered on a very limited basis.
Developmental Guidance Lessons
Establishing and negotiating friendship is a life-long journey. Early childhood is the time when children expand their repertoire of relationship skills developed in their families so they can participate successfully in peer relationships outside the home. They need assistance in developing these skills in order to form meaningful peer relationships. Some children develop these skills quickly without apparent effort, while others need direct instruction, opportunity to practice and coaching. Most children need assistance in some areas.
With this in mind, our classroom guidance program teaches basic friendship skills. All our students receive a series of developmental guidance lessons. The focus, quantity and frequency of lessons depend upon the grade level and the particular needs of a given classroom. The Robinson Common Language and Peace It Together program is used as a foundation for all our guidance lessons. In the fall of each year all students receive two lessons which address the following questions:
What is guidance?
How do you see the counselor?
What is the solution wheel?
When and how do you use the solution wheel?
What is the Double D Rule?
When and how to ask for help?
What is teasing? What is bulllying?
How do you deal with teasing?
In kindergarten our classroom guidance lessons begin with what friendship is and is not, overcoming shyness, tattling vs. reporting, how to use the solution wheel and dealing with teasing. Kindergarten lessons are scheduled throughout the year. First grade classroom guidance lessons, called Recess Club, center on friendship skills. Recess Club's weekly lessons are scheduled October through May. Second grade guidance lessons focus on solving problems and conflicts which includes lesson but are not limited to: how to use the solution wheel, feeling identification and expression, self-calming strategies, empathy and perspective taking and conflict resolution skills. These lessons are scheduled for fall.
At the beginning of each guidance series of lessons, parents receive a letter with information about the content of the lessons. Parents are encouraged to contact us with questions and for more information.
What Can You Do as a Parent?
Examine my expectations: Are they consistent with developmentally normal expectations for 5 – 7 year olds? See the resource list below for more information. It is important to understand your child’s temperament and social style. Some children have one or two best friends while others enjoy having a variety of friends. It’s important to recognize and accept that your child may have a social style and needs that differ from your own which may eliminate some problems. The goal is for each of us to be comfortable and genuinely satisfied with our own social group and style.
Teach and practice positive social behaviors: Dr. Ron Taffel, Ph.D. recommends that you help your child learn to solve his or her own problems, so that s/he gradually develops greater insight, confidence and social skills. This means avoiding the urge to solve your child’s problems for him or her which is a role into which it is easy to fall. Sometimes it helps to think of yourself as a facilitator of a process rather than the problem solver. The Resolving Conflicts and Solving Problems page has more information.
Teach and model how to patch up their fights and disagreements. Modeling these skills in your relationships with your family members is a powerful learning tool for children.
Don’t ignore mean behavior. Remember making mistakes is part of the learning process. Comfort the child who has been hurt. State that the mean behavior is inappropriate and what is appropriate: “We don’t hit others when we are angry. We use our words.” Be specific when describing the inappropriate and appropriate behaviors and words. Referring to the I-Care Rules can be helpful, “We use our hands and feet for helping.” Try to determine what motivated the behavior. Does you child lack a skill? Is s/he feeling jealous? hurt? angry? left out? frustrated? Are the adult expectations realistic and developmentally appropriate? Base further intervention on what you discover is behind the behavior.
Share your childhood friendship stories as a means to teach your child about the benefits and challenges of friendships and how to work out problems. Sharing stories teaches children that social difficulties are normal and that you understand.
Use the what-if game to reinforce the friendship skills being taught at home and school. Children love this game. You can make up cards with various situations on them. Have a family member pull a card, and then have each person talk about how they would deal with the problem. It helps to have the solution wheel handy. Some families make this a dinner time routine.
Reading aloud with children is a great way to teach skills as well as open up discussion about their problems, worries and concerns. Click here for children’s books that help children develop skills for better peer relationships.
See additional information below for more strategies.
Encourage and praise prosocial behaviors: Catch your child acting in a friendly manner and reinforce it. Also, remember to compliment your child’s efforts to use positive social behaviors.
Provide opportunities for socialization outside of school. Some children need to be taught how to arrange a play date as well as coached and supported as they become confident in this new skill. See Good Friends Are Hard to Find for more information on this.
Additional information regarding specific skill topics and what parents can do to reinforce them is available in the links below.
Interactive Resources For Parents/Children
Out on a Limb: A guide to getting along is designed by the University of Illinois Extention to teach children conflict resolution skills.
Rotating Faces is an interactive activity that teaches children about feelings.
Spark Top a website designed by SchwabLearning for parents and kids with learning disabilities. Includes resource information as well as interactive games.
Chapman Weston, Denise and Mark Weston. Playful Parenting. New York: Putnam, 1993.
Domash, Leanne and Judith Sachs. Wanna Be My Friend?: How to Strengthen Your Child’s Social Skills. New York: Hearst Books, 1994
Faber, Adele and Elaine Mazlish. Siblings Without Rivalry. New York: Avon Books, 1987.
Frankel, Fred and Barry Wetmore. Good Friends Are Hard to Find: Help Your Child Find, Make and Keep Friends. Glendale, CA: Perspective Publishing, 1996.
Schaefer, Charles and Theresa Foy DiGeronimo. Ages & Stages: A Parent’s Guide to Normal Childhood Development. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2000.
Taffel, Ron and Melinda Blau. Nurturing Good Children Now: 10 Basic Skills to Protect and Strengthen Your Child's Core Self. New York: Golden Books, 1999.
Taffel, Ron. And Melinda Blau. Parenting by Heart: How to Be in Charge, Stay Connected, and Instill Your Values, When It Feels like You've Got Only 15 Minutes a Day. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., 1991.
Thompson, Michael. Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children. New York: Ballantine Publishing, 2001
Goodman, Robin F. and Anita Gurian. Friends and Friendships.
Learning Disabilities Online: Social Skills Information
Tufts University Child and Family Web Guide
The Ohio State University Extension’s Backpack Buddies. Children’s Friendships.
Guidance pages created by Mary Terrio, Robinson School Counselor, except as noted.
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