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Counselor Corner

Mental health is our emotional, psychological and social well-being. Parents play an integral part of fostering a child's ability to work through adverse experiences they may face now and later in life. You provide this framework by building a close relationship with your child by providing structure and boundaries, fostering independence/autonomy, encouraging healthy social connections, teaching healthy habits, and modeling positive behaviors. 

However, there may be times when you, as a parent, feel like there are not enough resources available when navigating mental health challenges as a family. It is natural to go through difficult periods when your child may not feel like themselves…when they question their worth…when they feel as if their purpose is not clear. When these times arise, we hope you find this page helpful! 

This page is ever changing and is not meant to be used as a way to diagnose or not seek out treatment. It is an additional source of information that you can use in your toolbox as a guardian or caregiver. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Everyone, including children and teens, worries or feels nervous from time to time. Anxiety is a completely normal human reaction to stressful situations and it helps ensure our safety during dangerous situations. For some people; however, anxiety can be crippling and impacting their standard of living because the fears and worries start to become harder to work through. When anxiety persists or gets worse, here are some tips and resources that can help. 

While you do not want your child to experience any distress it is important to not avoid things that are causing anxiety (school, homework, sports, friends, etc.). Avoidance feeds into anxiety and actually makes it worse in the long run. Instead, gradually work on distress tolerance by helping your child explore those fears and ways they can cope when the anxiety starts to become overwhelming. Your goal, and theirs, is not to eliminate anxiety but work on managing it. One of the mantra's I teach clients is “This is tough, yet so are you”. Finding mantra's for them to recite when they are expressing distressing emotions such as anxiety helps them remain grounded and in the present. Lastly, it is always important to check in with yourself to see where your emotions are before attempting to assist your child with managing theirs. 

Some questions you may ask your child to have a better understanding of what is going on when they are distressed: 

When do you notice feelings of stress are most likely to develop? 
What goes through your head when you become overwhelmed? 
How does the negative voice inside of you speak to you about these situations?
What feelings or emotions tend to crop up in these moments? 

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Additional Articles on Anxiety

How To Help Teens Navigate Stress and Boost Resilience
Anxiety in Children
Back to School Anxiety
Beyond Worry-How Psychologist Help with Anxiety
How To Help A Child Struggling With Anxiety
What to Do (and Not Do) When Children Are Anxious

Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Not all children who are bullying or are bullying others will ask for help. In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include:

An Imbalance of Power: Kids who bully use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity—to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.

Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.

There are three types of bullying: Verbal, Social, and Physical

Articles on Bullying

What Can Parents Do About Bullying?
How Teachers, Parents, and Kids Can Take Action to Prevent Bullying

 

Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets. Cyberbullying can occur through SMS, Text, and apps, or online in social media, forums, or gaming where people can view, participate in, or share content. Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation.

Both bullying and cyberbullying can have a negative impact on children and students because kids are trying to find their place in the world and when they have this occurring social isolation can become detrimental. Be sure to talk with your child about the difference between joking and bullying. Sometimes kids do not know they are engaging in bullying behavior so it is important to remind them of what bullying is and reminding them that teasing/joking at another person's expense is never okay. 

Articles for families on Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying: What is it and how to stop it
How to Prevent Cyberbullying

Like adults, children will experience moods that are up and down, especially when they grow and develop. However, depression is different. When you start to notice the low moods lasting for an extended period of time this may be a sign your child is struggling with depression. When you start to notice your child's mental health is interfering with their everyday functioning such as school, sports, or friendships, it may be time to seek help. Sometimes depression and anxiety can go hand in hand with one another. There are certain medical conditions that could also be contributing to these symptoms as well. It is important when you notice them to bring them up to your child healthcare provider. 

Some signs your child may be experiencing depression: 

Behavioral changes, at school and/or at home
Changes in eating and sleeping habits
Increased feelings of sadness or feelings of helplessness/hopelessness
Loss of interest in things/lacking motivation
Low energy levels/feeling fatigued
Drastic mood changes

Articles on Depression in Adolescents

4 Coping Skills to Help Children with Depression
Dealing with Teen Depression
Depression in Children
How to Spot Depression in Young Children
Nurtured by Nature

As the school year starts up again there may be some anxiety and worries surrounding tragic events involving school shootings that happened at the end of last year and your child not wanting to return to school. After a tragic event, we all wonder what we and others could have done to prevent this from happening. Children are no different than adults in this aspect and they will have questions surrounding these types of topics. I encourage families and caregivers to have open conversations with their children to help alleviate any worries or anxieties around questions they can not answer for themselves. It also allows them to find ways to cope and know they do not have to be alone with their feelings. Below you will find resources to help you answer the questions that may come up. Remember, there are going to be a mixture of emotions not only for your child but also for you when discussing these topics so give each other grace. 
 

Resources for Families
Back to School Anxiety: What to Watch For and How to Support Kids
Talking to Children About Violence
Helping Children with Tragic Events in the News
What to say to kids when the news is scary
Talking to children about terrorist attacks and community shootings in the news
 

It is important to remember when it comes to cellphone and social media use the adolescents brain is not fully developed, more specifically, the frontal lobe that controls decision making and regulates impulse control. Because of this, they are more vulnerable to falling into mindless scrolling without even realizing it. Studies have shown that cellphone and social media can become addictive for not only adults but also children so it is important that boundaries are put in place as soon as a child receives permission to have a smartphone and/or social media accounts. If it has not been done yet and they have had the phone for a while, no worries, one can be implemented still! Below you will find helpful articles that you can talk with your child about so they become aware of the pros and cons of social media and smartphones so they can be educated consumers and life long learners. Having a cellphone or social media is not a “bad thing”; however, they have a responsibility to utilize them in moderation. 

Resources for families: 
Why Limiting Your Child's Cellphone Use is Good for Their Health
Smartphones, social media use and mental health
How to Break Up With Your Phone
Tether Yourself: A letter to your child when they are feeling disconnected and alone (While this is a blog post the letter that is written can be used as a talking point for when your child is feeling disconnected and alone)
Wait until 8th: Waiting Until 8th Grade to Give Smartphones to your Child

How to set limits on phone use: 

Start by having a conversation on consequences when boundaries have been breached and what that looks like for your family (always follow through each time because consistency is key) Your word is bond. That means if you have taken their phone away, it does not go back to them until the timeframe you set up is done. 

Set a time limit (preferably less than 3 hours a day)

Have areas in the home where phones can and can not be used (no phones are allowed at the dinner table or in the bedrooms, especially during sleeping hours)

No phones should be used during school hours (there are settings on most smartphones that you can put on the phone to limit this, as well as during homework time)

Have open communication with your child. Trust is based on experience, so begin by building open lines of communication that is not filled with judgement and or shame. This will help ensure when your child finds themselves in an uncomfortable situation on their phone or social media they come to you to help them solve it instead of hiding it. Remind your child that no matter what others tell them, that you can help them find a solution even if it feels like there is none and that it will not make you love them any less. 

Short answer is “Yes” you should talk to your child about suicide, just like you talk to them about cancer. The myth of talking about it makes people have suicidal thoughts has been debunked time and time again. It is important to have these conversations with your child so if they experience any suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self harm that they know you are a person who can get them the help they need. While it can be alarming to hear that your child has been having thoughts of wanting to die, it is important to regulate your emotions during the conversation. I know this can be a difficult conversation; however, sometimes it takes parents asking their child directly for them to understand they can open up to you about their thoughts they may feel shame over. 

Some questions or statements that may be helpful for you: 

How are you doing? I have noticed you have been a little more irritable, crying more, and haven't been sleeping well. I have been hearing from other parents their children have been talking about hurting themselves. Are you having any thoughts about hurting yourself or about suicide? 

Do you think about suicide or do you just think life would be better off without you?

Have you started to do anything such as gathering materials or researching on how you would go through with this plan?

Do you feel that you can stay safe or do you believe I need to reach out to a mental health professional so we can talk about this further?

You can always talk to me about anything. We will get through it together. You do not have to do it alone. 

If at any time you feel your child or a loved one is having suicidal thoughts please reach out for help: You can call or text 988 or any of the other local crisis numbers that are listed on this webpage on the right column. 

 

Resources for families:
How to Talk to Your Child About Suicide
Talking to Your Kids About Depression and Suicide
Teens and Suicide: What parents should know
Talking to Kids About the Suicide of Someone Close to Them
A Kids Book About Suicide (This is a good book for a caregiver to read with a child if there has been a death by suicide in the family) 


 

Therapist Recommendation

Finding the right therapist can be hard, especially now. You can search for a therapist in your area through Psychology Today in order to find the right fit for you. If you would like recommendations for a therapist, I do have a list of clinicians whom I have referred people to in the past. You can email me for this list of individuals at any time. 

We value a nurturing environment
that fosters compassion,
curiosity, collaboration, integrity,
individuality, and inclusivity. ‘Connect’ is the third pillar of our strategic plan. With this pillar, we recognized the need for our community to have a school counselor to assist with the growth and development of students during their time at school. 

Book Recommendations

Get In Contact with Mrs. Bremer

Office Hours: 

  • Monday 8:30 AM- 1:00 PM
  • Friday 10:30 AM- 3:30 PM

The quickest way to get a hold of me would be through email. You can also call. If I do not answer, please leave a voicemail. If you leave a voicemail on my cellphone, please be as generic as possible for confidentiality reasons. 

  • tbremer@topekacollegiate.org
  • 785-228-0490 ext. 2110
  • 620-767-3085 (cell)
  • Office is located in RM 119 (between Mrs. Berryman and Mrs. Rippel's classroom)