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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.

Black Friday Sale Alert!

As my friends and family know, I love a good sale. Black Friday used to be one of my favorite days of the year back when I could go to malls (and hopefully one day will be again).

In honor of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, I’m offering sales on my book and my telehealth games! Details below.

I Don’t Want To Be Bad, Kindle Edition
I Don’t Want To Be Bad has a five-star rating on Amazon!

The Kindle edition of my book will be on sale Friday through Monday this week. Usually priced at $7.99, I am discounting it to $4.99. Parents, therapists, and anyone who works with kids and wants to help them make better choices should check it out!

Teachers Pay Teachers: Telehealth Games
The automated logo they created for me says “up to 25%” but the sale is 20% off.

As I finished reviewing free resources that I’ve been using for telehealth, I started creating games that I wanted to use but could not find online. I’ve been using PlayingCards.IO‘s custom room option to design different board games and making them available for a small fee on Teachers Pay Teachers.

For Black Friday, I’m offering everything in my store at 20% off. So far, I’ve created versions of Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, Trouble, Sorry, and Guess Who. You can bundle the first three and save even more.

Is there a board game you loved using in-person but haven’t been able to do over telehealth? Tell me about it and I will see if I can make it happen! I’m in the process of creating Clue and Oregon Trail, to be unveiled soon.

And, as always, Vera The Cat is available for free. This cooperative game is a variation on Max and allows you and your client(s) to practice using teamwork to reach a common goal.

Happy shopping!

Self-Care in Lockdown: A Checklist

This is something I shared on my Facebook page months ago, but I thought it deserved a re-share since many states have gone back into lockdown. I wrote it with kids in mind, but the concepts apply to adults too.

When you never leave the house, the days can blur together. It’s tempting to park on the couch and not move for 14 hours, but this can grate on both your physical and mental health. Use this list to ensure you’re hitting all your basic needs every day!

Stay-at-home checklist for kids

Please don’t get down on yourself if you don’t hit every category every day! This is simply a guideline to help you get through this difficult time.

Bubble Breathing 2: When The Bubbles Pop

Back in August, I shared a therapy activity that teaches kids to visualize blowing their negative feelings into bubbles. This is a great way to introduce therapeutic breathing techniques and one that I’ve used myself when I’m trying to fall asleep after a stressful day.

(Because it’s still impossible to be angry while you’re saying “bubbles”) Photo by Chevanon Photography on Pexels.com

Recently, a client gave me some feedback: they said they blow the feeling into a bubble, but then the bubble pops, and the feeling splatters back all over them! That doesn’t help bring the feeling down.

I did some googling and found out that there are recipes for “unbreakable” bubbles. These bubbles aren’t technically indestructible, but they hold their shape much longer than regular bubbles.

If a child is having trouble with their bubbles popping, or they’re not able to visualize images in their mind, you can make the unbreakable bubbles together (some day in the future when we can meet with kids in person again). Follow the instructions in my Bubble Breathing post above, but blow real, unpoppable bubbles! Of course, the bubbles will still pop eventually, so you can add that the bad feeling gets dissolved once it’s inside of the bubble.

Take Bubble Breathing to the next level by making real, unbreakable bubbles!

Coming Soon: Custom Board Games

With my PESI presentation coming up, I decided to write up all of my interventions for telehealth and kids. I wanted to make these resources available for free, since I know many therapists are struggling to engage kids and make progress on treatment plans during the era of telemental health.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

As I was putting together my list of resources, I found that PlayingCards.IO has an option to create custom rooms, which basically allows you to turn any board game into a telehealth activity if you’re willing to take the time to personalize the space. I have to say, I’m obsessed. Literally any game a child asks for, I can create with enough time and energy!

Some therapists have created board games that can be played over Google drive if the therapist grants remote control access to the child, and this can work really well, but I’ve found that some kids get overwhelmed with this format, and those using Chrome Books don’t have the option for remote control. Of course, this can become a communication skills intervention, having the child direct me where and how to move their pieces, but this isn’t always the best solution. With these custom rooms, the child follows the link and controls the pieces from their screen.

Thanks to the awesome people at Teachers Pay Teachers, I can make these games available for download! Because of the time it takes to put these games together, I will be offering them for a small fee, but I want to make this as accessible as possible. Stay tuned to see what I come up with!

Is there a specific game you’d like to use in telehealth but can’t right now? Let me know, and I’ll see if I can create it.

Giftedness: Anxiety With Better Branding

Today I would like to share a personal story. When I was a kid, I loved to read. I mean, I loved to read. I brought books out to recess, I stayed up late with a flashlight under my covers, I watched almost no television. I think it was the fifth grade when my school started Accelerated Reading, and about halfway through the year, I got bored with the list because it was all too easy for me and stopped reading AR books. At the end of the year, I was in second place in the entire school for AR points. And I had stopped participating five months before everyone else.

It probably sounds like I’m bragging (and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little proud of that story), but my ridiculously high reading level had its downfalls. For one, when I decided that I wanted to read “love stories,” I got way more sex education than I bargained for when I found my way into the “romance” section at my local library.

Photo by Wendy van Zyl on Pexels.com

Giftedness can refer to intellectual ability, academic ability, or skill in another area. It sounds great, right? Who doesn’t like to be good at things? When children are intellectually gifted, the problem arises due to uneven development. They learn to understand things on a cognitive level that they aren’t emotionally ready to deal with. I’ve seen this happen when six-year-olds have existential crises after realizing that they are going to die some day. Not to mention, many gifted kids struggle in adulthood because their identity develops around the fact that they are talented “for their age,” and when age is no longer a factor, they have no idea who they are.

Whenever I work with a gifted child and the parents express guilt (“Why are we complaining that our kid is smart?”) I tell them that giftedness is basically mental illness with good branding.

Every quality can be a strength or a deficit depending on the context and how extreme it is. We live in a world where any significant deviation from average can make it hard to fit in. If we started recognizing the anxiety that goes with giftedness, these kids could grow into healthier, more well-adjusted adults who recognize their value outside of their really high reading level.

Would You Rather?

Like a lot of games that get used for therapy, Would You Rather is probably familiar to most people. We might have tried to think of the grossest or scariest options to give our friends.

A simple question, like “Coffee or tea?” can break the ice and get this activity going. Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Whether with an individual or a group, Would You Rather can get clients talking and delve into important topics. It can be good to start off with questions that are not directly related to therapy, as these seem less threatening. Questions like, “Would you rather have cake or pie?” or “Would you rather get a pet cat or a pet dog?” can get kids talking. You can also give silly choices, like, “Would you rather talk like a chipmunk or a robot?” to lighten the mood.

I like to take turns and have kids ask me questions too, since this can build relationship. Sometimes they have trouble thinking of choices, so I will pull up a website like this one, this one, or this one to get the ideas going.

After the client(s) feel comfortable, I can throw in some harder questions, like, “Would you rather be constantly surrounded by people or alone all the time?” or, “Would you rather know every fact in the world or always feel happy?” Questions often spark discussion about why they made a particular choice.

If you play Would You Rather in in-person sessions, online is basically the same except you can screen share question lists. It’s so simple and builds connection effortlessly.

Scavenger Hunt

Photo by Frans Van Heerden on Pexels.com

A lot of therapists really leaned into this activity early on when we started doing telehealth with kids. Scavenger hunts basically consist of having the child find specific items in their homes that respond to prompts. This is a super simple activity that can be done in groups with a show-and-tell component or with an individual, and it lets you learn more about the child’s home environment.

If you do a search for scavenger hunts that can be done indoors or telehealth scavenger hunt activities, so many great ideas come up! I’ve used one from the Central New York Behavioral Health Care Collaborative with prompts to find items that stimulate each of the five senses, or this one from Whole Child Counseling that has prompts related to different feelings and memories.

Of course, you can always create your own list of prompts. Other prompts I’ve used include:

  1. What’s something from the last time you traveled?
  2. What’s something that was a gift from someone you care about?
  3. What’s something that you would like to collect?
  4. What’s something that you would want to share with someone who is having a hard time?
  5. What’s something that makes you want to laugh?
  6. What’s something that reminds you of your best friend?

The possibilities are endless, and every item the child brings into the session creates opportunities for conversation and building skills.

Matching/Memory

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

People of my generation probably all played Memory with a deck of playing cards at some point, since we didn’t always have the internet to entertain us (wow, do I feel old!). But it’s not just a way to pass time before tablets were invented – Matching can be a way to help kids develop working memory, trial and error skills, and patience.

Once again, PlayingCards.IO delivers with a game called Match Up. They have it set for up to six players, but you could add more to the room if you are doing a group. As with all of their games, the coding allows a non-directive approach with flexible rules. You just create the unique link, send it to your client, and you’re ready to go. You can shuffle the cards at any time by clicking “New Game,” and this activity lifts right from your office and into your computer!

Guess Who

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Guess Who was a great therapy game in in-person sessions. It builds communication skills, problem solving, and focus. Fortunately, I recently discovered an online version that you can play with clients over Zoom.

When you get to the site, select “Multiplayer” and “Create room.” Then give yourself a nickname and your room a password, and give your client the link to the game. They select “Multiplayer” and “Join room.” They will select the room with your name and input the password. This ensures that no one else joins your game, and as long as you stay connected on Zoom, your session is still HIPAA-compliant.

This isn’t my usual pro and con list because some of the differences between online Guess Who and in person Guess Who can be pros or cons depending on your orientation. First, you get to choose which character instead of getting one randomly assigned – this can turn into a child taking half of their session to decide, or it can help with decision-making skills.

Second, there are questions provided to choose from, so you can’t come up with your own. This makes the game less creative but also prevents ambiguous questions (I once had a client ask if my character was squinting).

Third, the game crosses off wrong answers for you, so this might cause the client to be less engaged in the game, but it also prevents them from accidentally crossing off the wrong character, which is frustrating.

Finally, you can’t give the wrong answer to a question, which again prevents misunderstandings that can be frustrating, but again, it makes the game less directly engaging.

Guess Who is can be played online, but the feel of the game is very different from in-person sessions.

Google Earth

I remember discovering Google Earth in high school (I just dated myself, oops!). The first place I went was my home address because I am not as creative as I’d like to believe.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Since the seemingly endless pandemic began, one common theme in a lot of my sessions is grief about canceled trips. At first, I tried putting up virtual backgrounds from that location, but then I remembered how detailed the images on Google Earth are.

This works for so many different prompts – “Where was your vacation going to be?” “Where would you go if you could go anywhere right now?” “What’s your favorite spot in the world?” I share my screen, input the address, and the camera zooms in from space to take us there.

It’s like a real life visualization, which can come in handy with clients who can’t picture images in their minds. It can be a mindfulness or self-regulation exercise, or it can get some great conversation going about memories or goals.

I never would have had a client go on Google Earth during an in-person session, so this is a great example of how telehealth has opened me up to new activities that have been really therapeutic for my clients.