Whitmore Bolles School Social Worker

Dearborn Public Schools

Virtual Social Work

Hello! I have created a Google Classroom (Code: tmmwtln ) and you can find additional information for social work services.

Stay Well,

Ms. Johnston

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Indoor Games for the Family

“River Crossing”

This game is very similar to “The floor is lava,” but with a challenging twist!

First, the players should collect items that could be used as stepping stones (pieces of cardboard or fabric, styrofoam plates, etc).  The smaller the stepping stones are, the more challenging it will be!  Use one less stepping stone than the number of members playing; so, if you have 4 people playing, use 3 items.  Everyone then agrees on a starting point and a destination.  The players move the stepping stones to create a path, so each player can reach the destination.  After each item is placed on the floor, at least one player has to be touching the stepping stone at all times.  If a stepping stone is placed on the floor and no one is touching it, the stone must be removed from the game.  Each family or group playing can make up their own silly rules for consequences when a player steps off of the stepping stone onto the “lava” floor (player has to be blindfolded, they can only use one hand, etc.).

This game is a great for building teamwork, practicing communication and group problem solving skills, and having some fun indoors!


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Developing Coping Strategies

As young children are learning to communicate their thoughts and feelings, they can become overwhelmed by emotions such as anger, sadness, and disappointment. It can be challenging for children to resolve big emotions, and this challenge may be displayed through their behaviors and physical symptoms. Supporting your child’s emerging coping strategies will increase their ability to use those strategies independently to regulate their emotions.  

For example, Jason has a spelling test tomorrow that he is anxious about and he is unable to fall asleep. He is also complaining of a stomachache, and he is becoming increasingly upset. His father suggests practicing a deep breathing exercise together. He asks Jason to lie on his back so he is comfortable and place one hand on his stomach. If Jason breathes deeply enough, he should be able to feel his hand rise and fall with each breath. Next, Jason’s father asks him to breathe in slowly through his nose for 4 seconds. Then breathe slowly out through his mouth for 6 seconds. They repeat this exercise for 2 minutes, and his father asks Jason how he is feeling.

Your child may already know what helps them relax when they are having a bad day, and you can start by making a list of their preferred strategies. If they are struggling to identify strategies, ask what activities make them feel good, calm, or happy. Practicing the strategies while your child is calm is key to them being able to use the strategies when they are upset. When you observe your child becoming upset, you can be their inner voice by identifying their feelings and suggesting a preferred coping strategy. Once they have calmed down, recognize their use of the strategy to regulate their feelings. 

These anger management skill cards can add to your child’s growing set of coping strategies!


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Connecting Our Thoughts, Feelings, and Actions

School-age children are developing the skills to think critically about their actions and make more rational and healthy decisions. Adults can support children’s skill development by encouraging them to connect what they were thinking and feeling when a problem behavior occurred. This teaches children to reflect on how their thoughts and feelings influence their behavior either positively or negatively. It can also demonstrate how their thoughts might be incorrect and cause unwanted negative feelings. These are called thinking errors. 

For example, Emma struggles with multiplication. She thinks her peers judge her when she gets a question wrong in class, and she feels embarrassed and ashamed. Emma begins to find ways to avoid math class by going to the bathroom or getting a drink of water. She continues to fall behind due to the time she spends outside of class, and her fear and avoidance intensify until she begins having daily stomach aches that reinforce her desire to leave the classroom.

The following thought, feeling, behavior triangle is a helpful exercise that adults can do with children. Keep in mind that the best time to use this exercise is outside of the event when your child is calm and regulated. Encourage your child to reflect on potential thinking errors by asking them what they could have thought, felt, and did differently and how those differences would have changed the outcome of events. As your child increasingly reflects on their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, they will develop self-regulation skills and will be better able to adapt to their environments.


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Fostering a Growth Mindset

Our students learn at different speeds and in different ways.  Because of that, sometimes its easy for a child to get discouraged when they see their peers developing certain skills faster than they are.  Students may feel more inclined to give up on learning a skill when they have learned to believe that our intelligence and talents are predisposed — either we were born to be skilled in certain areas, or we weren’t.

Having a growth mindset means believing that with work, practice, and perseverance you can improve in any skill.  Research has shown that when kids believe there is a chance for improvement, they are more likely to grow and develop in skills they find challenging.

Some ways you can help your child develop a growth mindset:

  1. Pay attention and praise your kids for their hard work as well as their ability to rise to a challenge, be persistent, and learn from their mistakes
  2. Be a growth mindset role model: When possible, show your kids that you work hard and persevere at tasks that are challenging for you
  3. Balance giving praise with discussing ways in which your kids can continue to grow and improve
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Helping Your Child Identify Their Emotions

Very young children tend to express their emotions through behaviors such as pushing, hitting, or kicking because they do not have the words to communicate how they are feeling. School-age children are rapidly developing their language skills but often revert back to what they know when a conflict arises – physical aggression. Encouraging your child to verbally express how they are feeling both promotes language development and self-regulation. Children learn that they can use their words to solve problems and that feedback from family and friends is helpful. Below you can find activities to use at home to talk to your child about emotions.

  1. Get a sense of how many feeling words your child knows by asking them to name as many as they can in 30 seconds. Write down what they know and ask them to recall a situation in which they felt each emotion. Add two new feeling words to their vocabulary and explain a situation in which you felt both.

  2. Help your child learn to identify facial expressions and body language by playing charades. Write a variety of feeling words on slips of paper and place them in a bowl. One player draws a slip of paper at a time and acts out the feeling word that is written until the other player(s) guesses the feeling correctly. Then reverse roles and play again. The player with the most successful guesses wins.

  3. Ask your child how they manage their different feelings. For instance, what do they do when they are mad? Or sad? Or nervous? Is it a helpful or harmful response? Provide an example of a time you were mad, or sad, or nervous and how you calmed yourself down.

  4. It can be helpful for children to understand how their bodies react to different emotions. Ask your child to choose a color to represent each of the feelings they know. Maybe they choose blue for sad, red for mad, and yellow for nervous. Whatever they choose, ask them to explain. Then ask them to color where they feel each emotion in their body. You can use this worksheet as a guide.

  5. Watch Inside Out, the story of an 11-year-old girl who moves across the country with her family and struggles with adjusting to a new school. The movie explores the many emotions she experiences and how she copes with the changes. The DVD is available at Dearborn Public Library.

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How to Cope with Back-to-School Anxiety

The start of a new school year can create anxiety for children of all ages. Your child’s anxiety may manifest itself in a number of ways, including delaying her bedtime routine, avoiding goodbyes in the morning, or physical responses like stomachaches. Here are a few suggestions to ease your child’s transition into the school year.  

  1. Ask your child how she feels about returning to school and what is making her feel that way. Is she nervous about making friends? Scared that she will get lost? Or mad that she has to leave her toys and games at home? Talk through these feelings to develop a better understanding of what is on your child’s mind.  
  2. Let your child know that it is normal to be nervous about school and that her peers are likely nervous as well. Ask her what it feels like to be nervous. Does she get butterflies in her stomach? Do her hands shake? Does her heart begin to beat faster? Share how you feel when you’re nervous and discuss what scenario last made you nervous. Explain what you did to manage your anxiety.
  3. Create a morning routine to say your goodbyes. Take time at home to talk through what your commute to school will look like. For instance, “We’ll leave home at 8:15am and walk to school together. When we get to the fence we’ll give each other a hug for five seconds and a kiss. Then you’ll enter the school building by yourself. I’ll stay by the fence to wave goodbye. After I wave goodbye I’ll turn around and walk home.”
  4. Role play at home so your child can get a better feel for the routine. Practice coping mechanisms like taking five deep breaths before saying goodbye or hugging while counting to ten. Find what works best for your child.
  5. Reinforce your child’s brave behavior with praise and remind her that, with practice, saying goodbye and going to class will get easier.

If your child continues to struggle with school-based anxiety, talk to her teacher or the school social worker. We can help develop a plan to better fit your child’s needs.

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Thank you Blessings volunteers!


A huge shoutout to our final Blessings in a Backpack crew this school year. Thank you volunteers for spending the afternoon packing bags for students in need of some extra food and goodies for the weekend. Your time and dedication throughout the school year is greatly appreciated. Thank you for being a blessing by helping bless others!

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Summer Self Care Tips

The summer months are coming up and it is a great opportunity to practice self care.  Along with the temperature, tensions can begin to rise which will be costly to your valuable summer experience.  Here are some tips to help you practice self care this summer:

  1. Get a mindfulness app.  Many people like the app Headspace, I personally use the app Calm.  These apps are great because they have mindfulness reminders to keep you grounded throughout the day, guided meditations, encouraging words, calming soundscapes, etc.  These apps are a great way to incorporate more mindfulness in your day.
  2. Get moving!  Exercise is wonderful for your brain as it increases your levels of serotonin, or what I like to call the happy chemicals.  You don’t have to have a gym membership nor do you have to do a really sweaty exercise to benefit from exercise. Taking the time to go for a walk, bike ride, stretching, dancing, etc. will do great wonders for your mind and your body.  Doing any of these exercises in the sunshine is also an amazing way to get a healthy dose of vitamin D.
  3. Ask for help.  Allow yourself to reach out and seek help if you need it.  Oftentimes we fear being a burden on others and it means that we carry heavy loads all by ourselves.  Maybe we fear being disappointed if others don’t come through for us or don’t want to help. Although these are valid and troublesome worries it can be really relieving for our stress levels if we push ourselves to let go of these fears and allow others to help us.  
  4. Makes sure to plan something fun for yourself each week (AT LEAST).  I personally have a very difficult time having fun or relaxing if I have work to do or work I should do.  This can be very paralyzing because our bodies and minds need rest. Taking time to watch a funny show, hang out with a friend, go bowling, sing karaoke, or anything that makes you laugh is also really good for your brain and mood level.  We want to make sure we are cultivating happiness and joy as much as we are working hard and accomplishing goals.

These are just a couple ways to look after yourself and improve your self care habits.  Try to make some of them happen this summer! You’ll be grateful you did 🙂



Grace Jackson

School Social Work Intern

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Habit 6: Family Fun Synergy

Habit # 6: Synergize: Together is Better!

Nothing speaks louder for synergize than quality family time together.
I hope that Spring Break gave you and your family time to make new memories and enjoy each other’s company. Its not always rainbows and butterflies when it comes to family time with all the stress and deadlines of jobs and school. However, the time you carve out of your schedule to be with your family creates memories that last beyond the hectic moments.
In the spirit of habit time, I encourage you and your family to take on a family activity, practicing teamwork through togetherness. Here are a few ideas:

1) Play a board game together
2) Have team clean family “pick-up” party with a family reward to follow
3) Go on an ABC scavenger hunt and find items that begin with every letter of the alphabet. Maybe make teams and fuel some healthy competition.
4) Make a collage out of old magazines: Pick a theme, a color, or the letters in your name
5) Prepare a meal together, make a dessert, research new food from different countries
6) Complete a craft
7) Create a “Kabob” themed meal or snack using fruit, veggies, or mini sandwiches (as seen in the photo above)
8) Create a fort either inside or outside of the house

After your fun family activity create a Family Synergy Reflection.

1) What synergy activity did your family choose?
2) How did you synergize and work together?
3) What was the best part?
4) Would you do it again? Why?
5) What other family synergy activities would you like to try?


Created by Ally DeMaagd, Social Work Intern

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