Meet My Cat

I wrote this post for kids who have had something bad or scary happen to them.

This is Vera. She has lived with me for about three years now.

Vera likes to “borrow” my fidget spinners.

As all my clients know, I love animals and absolutely adore my cats. Those who are currently receiving services as I work from home have gotten to meet them on camera.

A little back story on Vera: we aren’t sure exactly how old she is because she was brought into the rescue as a stray. We don’t know where she was born or whether she lived with other humans before us, but we do know some things about her based on her behavior.

This is from the day after Vera moved in with me. She is much bigger and fluffier now!

We know that Vera gets easily startled by loud noises, and she runs away and hides from strange people. We know she hates the stepladder (I like to say it’s because she never met her biological ladder). We know she had short hair when they found her, but after getting enough to eat for several months, her coat grew long and soft.

We might not know exactly what Vera’s life was like before we met her, but we know that she probably felt scared a lot of the time, and she had to always be on the lookout for danger. We know that she still looks out for danger a lot of the time, no matter how safe she is at our house.

The doctor is in

Vera has a hard time letting go of the fear and worry that helped her survive when she lived outside. This happens to a lot of people, too: when something bad or scary happens, it’s hard not to be on the lookout for something bad or scary in the future.

Vera might never completely stop feeling scared when the microwave beeps or when I get the ladder out to reach something up high. But she will always know that we love her, and we will always keep her safe.

A very safe and happy cat

How Strong are My Feelings?

When we work with children, it is vital that we remember that their brains are different than our adult brains. The frontal lobe, or the part of the brain in charge of talking, logic, and impulse control, continues developing well into our 20s and possibly our 30s, depending on which study you read. Have you ever wondered why college students Act Like That? It’s because the part of their brain in charge of making good choices isn’t fully online yet.

Children have not learned the skill of communicating their feelings with words, both because they haven’t been alive long enough to practice, and because that part of their brain isn’t there yet. It’s up to us to give them the tools to tell us what they need.

Since it can be hard even for adults to find words for our feelings, I’ve found it helpful to give kids visual aids. One of the first things I give a lot of the families at my clinical practice is a feelings thermometer that teaches kids how to notice how strong their feelings are on a scale from 1-10. A lot of templates for this activity exist online, but here is one that I put together:

This worksheet helps kids with two skills: noticing feelings inside their bodies and sharing that information in a way that the adults taking care of them can understand. Often, a child will not identify that they feel angry until they are FURIOUS, and it’s hard to come down without an outburst. The feelings thermometer helps them start to notice when their anger is at a 3 instead of an 8.

They also practice communicating and asking for help from adults so the adults can understand and then provide that help. When the parent hears, “I’m feeling scared at a 5/10,” they can use that information when deciding the best way to help the child cope.

If you’re not sure where to start in giving kids the tools to express their feelings appropriately, the feelings thermometer is a good first step.

Trauma-Informed Teaching in an Online Classroom

This one-hour course will help you understand how to implement trauma-informed teaching in an online setting. It is available for purchase for $20.

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I encourage you to share your modified lesson plans in the comments! Share your ideas and help each other build your toolbox.

Please let me know what other courses or topics you would like to see.

May You Live in Interesting Times

Gloriosa by Jitney58 is licensed through CC-BY-2.0

There is conflicting information about the origins of this expression, but it is generally agreed to be a curse. We are watching history be made as each day goes by, and frankly, I wish I lived during a more boring chapter of future history books. At the same time, though, it is through the difficult times that we grow.

As a psychologist, I’m used to walking with people through the difficult times. I usually can’t offer a quick or simple fix, but I can be there with tools, hope, and connection.

My goal in creating this site is to offer resources to a wide audience during these trying times. I want to reach those who share my drive to help children and provide them with the tools to do this effectively: teachers, social workers, counselors, and fellow psychologists. If there are specific resources that you would like to see, please let me know, and if I have the appropriate skills and knowledge, I will do my best to make it happen.

Thank you for joining me during these interesting times. Follow my site to stay up-to-date with resources.