Mindfulness Coloring

Improving mental health in children has been growing in conversation over the past few years, particularly during and after the Pandemic. For some, providing mental health support or instruction is even considered “controversial” or “woke.” I hear quite often in my schools that kids are just different than they used to be. I’m not quite sure about that. Kids have always had stress and anxiety.

Mental health has always had a stigma and people who need mental health help have often been considered “weak” in the past. So, I think it’s just a matter of a cultural shift in understanding that kids are struggling, adults are struggling, and learning how to understand and cope with our emotions is not embarrassing. In fact, it’s healthy.

Of course, there have never been enough counselors, social workers, of school psychologists to meet every child’s need in schools. We are spread very thin, as you are probably aware of if you are one of us. With the right tools, effort, and some creativity, however, we can still make a difference for many students through school-wide SEL, school-based counseling, and individual therapy in schools.

A little research on the current state of mental health of our kids

The CDC indicates that 1 in 6 U.S. children aged 2–8 years (17.4%) had a diagnosed mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder. In addition, diagnoses of ADHD, anxiety, and depression become are more common with increased age. Behavioral problems are also increasingly common among children aged 6–11 years than younger or older children. For most parents, seeking outside, or private, mental or behavioral health treatments for their children is either not a possibility due to finances or extremely difficult to find. This is why it is so important that all schools provide all three types of social, emotional, and behavioral supports in their school.

What is the Three-Tiered Model for

Mental Health Interventions in Schools?

In my experience, mental and behavioral health treatments in schools is set up in a three-tiered approach. Think upside down triangle or an umbrella. At the top of the umbrella, is a school wide system for Social and Emotional Learning. This may look like a mental health theme of the month, a program that the school is doing school-wide, classroom circles, or assemblies on topics, such as building self-esteem.

School-wide mental health (SEL) can benefit all students who may not know information on having a positive mindset, practicing mindfulness, or reducing stress. It helps students who have minor concerns from time to time, but who are not noticeably impacted regularly by their area of slight challenge.

Do counselors help with school-wide Social and Emotional Learning? Absolutely.

Counselors can be involved as much or as little as their school needs to implement a school-wide system for supporting students. They can provide SEL curriculum, create their own SEL curriculum, provide professional developments to teachers, or just send out an “SEL video of the week” if their schedule is packed.

Your involvement as a counseling provider for school-wide SEL all depends on your school’s culture, needs, and leadership from your principal. It also depends, of course, on the counselor’s personal motivation an enthusiasm for doing school-wide support.

What is School-Based and Small-Group Counseling Exactly?

School-based counseling is generally the 2nd tier of intervention for social, emotional, or behavioral concerns. It is a more narrow focus of support for students with specific areas of mental health challenges. For school-based counseling, a counselor or school psychologist will typically support students in a small group setting to address challenges in a more targeted way.

This may look like a lunch bunch for teaching social skills, a grief group, a coping skills group, executive functioning skills, or an anger management group. As a school psychologist, I will try to group students on my counseling case load with a similar theme or topic, or I may group students by age to address more general social skills or behavioral concerns.

School-based counseling is more like being a teacher who is providing specific instruction and practice to improve a skill. School-based counseling can look like many things. It can look like using a specific, researched based program, having students complete a workbook, playing counseling games, art therapy activities, or showing videos on a specific topic.

To read about the 3 Mistakes that School-Based Counselors Can Easily Avoid, click HERE

Of course, if you are seeing a group of students for six weeks or more, it is likely that you will use a combination of tools and activities in order to help your students improve in a specific area. It is also important to keep in mind that kids need novelty, variety, and engagement in order to want to participate and learn.

Here is an example of the activities that I would do if running a Tier-2, Small-Group for Social Skills Counseling for 7-10 weeks.

(Click on any picture to link to learn more about the activity.)

Week 1- Rapport Building Activities

All About Me Activity

Week 2- Social Skills Quiz Activity

Social Skills Quick

Week 3 – Videos on Specific Skill

(Listening, Initiating Play, Manners Turn Taking, etc.)

Here is a video-game lesson activities that you can also do with your students to focus on Social Skills in either a small-group or Tier 1 SEL model:

Week 4- Lessons, Worksheets, or Art Activities related to topic

Week 5- Role Play Social Skills

The Conversation Game

Week 6- More Videos on new Social Skill of Focus

Mrs. Manners Says Counseling Game Video

Week 7- Game related to skill reviewed previous week

The Manners Game

What Does “Therapy” in Schools Look Like?

Therapy in schools is the highest level, also known as Tier 1, support to students with significant social, emotional, or behavioral needs. It is also provided by school counselors, school psychologists, and social workers. It is mostly individual counseling, that is much less instruction, and much more talking. It is usually for students struggling with more severe mental health concerns, such as depression, anxiety, anger control, or trauma.

It looks like engaging the student in conversation about their mental health, teaching a practicing skills individually, such as mindfulness, and making a support plan of people they can go to when feeling anxious or depressed. While more individualized than when in a small group setting, counselors can still use creativity and fun in their activities. Some therapy activities may include play therapy, videos, games, and coloring or painting. Because the therapy is in school, the focus should still generally be focused on the students functioning in the school environment.

When students needs go beyond the school environment to a significant degree, such as self-harm or suicidal attempts at home, it is time to support the student by helping parents seek a higher level of care through an outside agency or provider. School districts should have a relationship with community agencies, a list of community mental health resources, or a referral service for helping parents get therapists outside of school.

While parents are seeking this higher level of care, it will be the counselor’s job to continue to support the student until their outside therapy begins. Usually outside therapists do not want students to also receive mental health support in the school. Too many cooks in the kitchen. But, sometimes they will be fine with the additional support of a professional who can support the student in a crisis.

How to Get Counseling Activities… for FREE!

If you are hoping to find not just inexpensive, but FREE Counseling Activities, then you are in the right place! Subscribe to CounselingFannyPack.com and gain access to the Free Resource Library! In it, you will get new counseling activities that are updated monthly for subscribers! Just Click HERE to sign up for access!

 If you are OK with spending Under $5 on fun counseling activities for your students, please just click the pictures within this post and they will all link you to the product in my Counseling Fanny Pack of Fun store.

Would you like to provide your ENTIRE SCHOOL with Social and Emotional Learning for grades TK through 6th grades for under $300?

The Summit SEL program is a Social and Emotional Learning Curriculum that is grade-specific and designed to provide developmentally appropriate SEL as a Tier 1 support for schools and classrooms. Each grade is divided into five essential topics that address areas of Social and Emotional well-being.

Students will have fun on their “hike” to the top of the summit of SEL Mountain every year as they learn important skills needed for success in school…and beyond!

These skills include:

  1. Social Skills, such as making friends, playing with others, conflict resolution, communicating with others, teamwork and collaboration, and using empathy
  2. School readiness and learning skills, including transitioning in the classroom, listening to the teacher, executive functioning skills, growth mindset, and academic motivation
  3. Emotional Regulation, including skills such as using coping strategies, mindfulness, identifying emotional triggers, and anger management
  4. Behavior regulation
  5. Improving Self-Care and Self-Esteem

How do I enroll my school in the program?

The program is available through a purchase of an annual school membership to the counselingfannypack.com 2023-2024 Summit SEL Membership Program.

With the annual membership, you will have access to all of the curriculum materials, including videos, worksheets, printable games, classroom behavior tools, social story coloring books, and other included activities that are in the Summit SEL program for Tier 1 SEL.

In addition, the membership will give your school-based counselor and/or school psychologist access to 30-40 Tier 2 (small group) counseling materials that are individually for sale in the Counseling Fanny Pack of Fun store on Teachers pay Teachers.

How do I sign up my school?

Currently, this link, gives schools access to the pre-sale of the Membership Program. By signing up your school today, you will receive $50 off the $299 annual price for the 2023-2024 school year. There is no payment until the program becomes available on August 1st, so signing up during the pre-sale does not obligate your school to participate. However, as schools enroll, they will be able to lock-in their annual membership for future years, reducing the costs of access in the long-term. Terms of use of materials will indicate that all materials used within the Summit SEL program without current membership status will be in violation of the copyright of those materials.

If you’d like to Pre-enroll, click HERE!

If you have more questions about the program, please stay tuned to the Counseling Fanny Pack of Fun YouTube Channel to learn more and see some of the included videos and activities within the program.