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Rocks, rabbits, LEGOs, and more!

We are almost finished with the sixth week of school! How did that happen? Time flies when you’re having fun in Love Hall. Read on for seven fairly unrelated but fun things to know about our year so far!

1. Fancy decor: My wall tree gets “leafier” by the day! Almost all students’ and teachers’ names are on a leaf. I love to see them when I walk into my room each morning, and I hope that kids and adults feel like they belong in there with me.


Day one — an empty tree


Six weeks into school — check out my tree full of names!

2. Rocks in your shoe: How do you know if your problem is “big enough” that you should seek out your school counselor? Here’s the simple way I explain to students how I can help them with their problems:

“If you had sand in your shoe, could you walk?” I ask the students, holding up a small bag of sand. “Sure,” they reply, “but it would uncomfortable — weird — annoying. I’d want to dump it out!” The grains of sand represent tiny problems or nuisances that kids can take care of by themselves. Through our SEL/Guidance lessons (and everyday teachings by all adults and school and home!), kids can learn problem-solving strategies to deal with sand problems.

Next, I hold up a bag of pebbles. “What about these? Could you walk if you had pebbles in your shoe?” Students’ responses vary, but usually they say, “Yes, you could walk, but it would hurt. You’d be thinking about the pebbles when you take a step.” Pebbles represent the problems that cause pain or feelings of discomfort, and for these, kids can reach out for adult help. I encourage students to go to their teachers as a first point of contact. Are they experiencing friendship drama? Is there a situation at home they need to talk through? Homeroom teachers can help. As their school counselor, I can help, too. A student can write me a note and leave it in the mailbox outside of my door, and soon I’ll find him or her to check in.

Finally, I hold up a bag of rocks the size of small potatoes. “Could you walk if these were in your shoe?” All of the students say, “No way!” I agree. Rock problems are the ones that are so big that functioning normally at school is almost impossible. Teachers and classmates can tell that something’s wrong. Kids should seek adult help immediately. Near the beginning of the school year, a teacher brought a tearful student to my door. The student wanted to participate in morning meeting, but her “rock problem” was weighing so heavily on her heart and mind that she couldn’t think of anything else. We spent 30 minutes together, coloring pictures and talking about her situation.

We all have “sand problems,” “pebble problems,” and “rock problems.” At school, your children are surrounded by adults who guide them toward solving their own problems or step in to provide needed assistance. Don’t forget that this goes for parents, too. Worried about something your child has shared about the day at school? Send me an email or call anytime, and we’ll talk through it.

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Sand problems, pebble problems, and rock problems — we all have them!

3. Pre-First lessons: In Pre-First SEL/Guidance lessons, we’ve focused on good listening skills and the reasons for why we need to be good listeners at school (and home!). Howard B. Wigglebottom is a very silly rabbit who makes poor choices at school by not listening to his teachers and friends. During a stint in time-out, he realizes that it’s up to him to make better choices. He decides to use his eyes and ears to listen, stay safe, respect his classmates and teacher, and allow others to learn. Students enjoyed watching Howard’s animated book online (see this story and many more on and then coloring a paper, making Howard as crazily decorated as possible. They’re learning that Ms. Strother likes for each student’s creation to be different from the next student’s creation!


It’s fun to color outside the lines and make your Howard look different from everyone else’s Howard!

4. Fantastic Five: Do you know the members of the School Counseling Department? I’m thankful to be part of an awesome team. Tray Malloy is the Middle School counselor, and in the Upper School, there are three school counselors to take good care of Westminster’s oldest and wisest Wildcats: Rose Harper, Morgan DiOrio, and Ben Merrill. Our contact information and philosophy statement, mission statement, and belief statement are on my Counseling Department page.

Westminster Counseling department, 9-3-15

The School Counseling Department of The Westminster Schools: Tray Malloy, Kate Strother, Rose Harper, Morgan DiOrio, and Ben Merrill

5. For the birds: The After School Program (ASK!) club of which I am a part is called the Kindness Club. Every Tuesday afternoon is a new adventure. To be kind to our bird population, last week we made a mess pinecone bird feeders to hang outside. From the “to do” list to the final product, it was a packed 60 minutes of stickiness, controlled chaos, and forest exploration. As I explained that they could wait for my assistance, the students surprised me by carefully tying their own pinecones on the branches. It was a humbling lesson for me! Next time, I’ll step back and allow these capable students in Pre-First, First Grade, and Second Grade to lead as I follow.

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Spreading an allergy-friendly mixture of wet ingredients on our pinecones


After rolling the pinecones in birdseed, we were ready to hang them as a treat for our bird friends!

6. Piecing things together: The members of the Lower School Robotics team, the WiredCats, have been busy building mission models and researching “the fascinating world of trash” in preparation for participating in the FIRST LEGO League Challenge with teams across the state. Interested to know more about what we do? Check out the FIRST LEGO League website.


Fifth Grade WiredCats prepare to carefully — very carefully — follow a few dozen steps to build a mission model

7. Game on: Finally, here’s a great blog post from Art it Out Therapy Center about how parents can use games to help improve social skills and self-management in their children. One of the keys to this: Talking before, during, and after the game. Read and bookmark this page for future reference! (I have quite a few card games and board games in my office to get kids talking when we’re in a small group. They share, we all learn, everyone has fun!) Happy gaming!


Articles to peruse and ponder

Parents, it’s likely you’ve read valuable, informative articles from A year ago, they published “A Parent’s Resource Guide to Social and Emotional Learning,” and earlier this month it was updated with new links. Click here for a comprehensive list of many great links related to these topics:

  • Encouraging Kindness and Empathy
  • Cultivating Perseverance and Resilience
  • Fostering Gratitude
  • Mindfulness, Emotional Intelligence, and Focus
  • Home, School, and Community Partnerships
  • Children’s Social Selves and Technology

What values and qualities should girls look for in a friend to foster healthy relationships? Are they the same qualities boys should look for? Should children refrain from being angry? When should parents intervene in social conflict? This article from Psychology Today addresses these questions and more subtopics surrounding “frenemies” and friendship as a weapon.

And when you have time, check out this article that responds to the question, “What Do I Do When My Daughter Comes Home Upset?”

Happy reading!

Parenting the Love and Logic Way™ — one session down, four to go!

At the conclusion of last Thursday’s Parenting the Love and Logic Way™ class, immediately I couldn’t wait for our next one! During our first session, parents watched DVD clips and read a few pages in the provided workbook. My favorite moments were when parents answered others’ questions and responded to others’ thoughts. One parent shared that getting up 13 minutes earlier in the morning has made a tremendous difference in her family’s ability to get out the door on time (and much more happily!).

It’s not too late to join! Email or call me to tell me you’re coming, and I’ll save a workbook for you. See you Thursday morning at 8:15 in the library!

(One more thing — since I’m the mushy/feelings/counselor-y person, of course I asked parents to anonymously write a word or phrase on a sticky note to describe their feelings about being in a Love and Logic class and put the notes on a poster in the back of the room. Below is a compilation of some of the notes. I loved the enthusiasm!)

Parents' "feeling words" about embarking on our L&L journey together

Parents’ “feeling words” about embarking on our journey together

The loss of friendship

Today I came across the article below by James J. Crist, Ph.D., author of The Survival Guide for Making and Being Friends, and I loved it.

Every single day I talk to kids about friendship — the ups, downs, hurt feelings, exclusions, and more. Friendships come and go, and they end for many different reasons. The loss of a friendship can be painful for a child (or an adult). When your child experiences friendship loss, the author suggests that you: 1) validate your child’s feelings instead of assuring your child that it’ll be ok, 2) ask questions, and 3) offer suggestions only after asking your child if he/she wants to hear them. Click on the link below for more.

Helping Children Cope with the Loss of a Friendship:


Parenting the Love and Logic Way™ course begins Feb. 5

From the Weekly Parent Update:

“Lower School counselor Kate Strother will offer the Parenting the Love and Logic Way™ course (five sessions) on Thursday mornings beginning February 5, 8:15-9:30am. Participants will learn how to avoid unwinnable power struggles, set enforceable limits, help their children learn from mistakes, and stay calm and empathetic even in the toughest situations. This program is designed to give parents practical skills they can use immediately! The curriculum was developed by Jim Fay, Charles Fay, Ph.D., and Foster W. Cline, M.D., of the Love and Logic Institute, Inc., and Kate is an independent facilitator of the program. The sessions will be held February 5, February 12, February 19, February 26, and March 5 in the Smythe Gambrell Library.”

Q. What if I am unable to attend one of the sessions?
Attendance at all five sessions is ideal, but it’s understood that something might come up that will conflict with one or two sessions. (See RSVP link below.)

Q. What materials will be available for my use?
Each participant will receive a workbook and additional printed materials.

Q. What is the format of the sessions?
The course combines DVD clips, presenter delivery, audience discussion, and workbook notes.

Q. Will I be expected to spill my family’s deepest, darkest secrets and personal tales of my child’s meltdowns in the grocery store?
Participants will be expected to have FUN. The atmosphere will be relaxed, honest, encouraging, and safe. If you’d like to share about that time you totally lost it in the produce section at Publix, we’ll make time to hear it! (Prediction: You’ll receive knowing nods of sympathetic agreement from the rest of the room. All parents probably have been there.)

Q. Will I be expected to follow this program word for word?
Absolutely not. A lot of information will be presented, and participants will be encouraged to choose the parts of the program that they’d like to try with their family.

Q. Do I need to read the book Parenting with Love and Logic before attending?

Q. What should I do if I have a question you haven’t answered here?
Call or email Kate anytime! (404-609-6158,


RSVP here

Town Hall on executive functioning

Dawson-Smart-but-Scattered-BookYesterday morning, Dr. Carol Matheson presented information about executive functioning in the Town Hall meeting. Then she and Nancy Lamb answered thoughtful questions from the audience and talked about the current GOAL groups in Fourth and Fifth Grades focused on this topic. Mrs. Lamb also shared that even the games played during morning meeting in Pre-First help children practice skills in executive functioning areas such as emotion control, self-control, working memory, planning, and problem solving.

Dr. Matheson recommended that parents read Smart But Scattered to learn more about how to help children succeed in everyday tasks — remembering to write homework in the agenda, packing a snack the night before school, finding things quickly in the house, etc. In fact, more than 15 parents in attendance showed interested in having a book club talk on the book! If you’re interested in participating in that get-together, email Becky McKnight. (More information about the book on the authors’ website.)

Town Hall exec functioning, Nancy and Carol 1-20-15

P.S. Check out Nancy Lamb’s blog post from today to find a link you can click on to download Dr. Matheson’s PowerPoint presentation.


Common Sense Media: Parent Concerns

If Common Sense Media isn’t one of your go-to websites, make it one of your go-to websites starting today. Is Minecraft ok for Pre-First kids? Should your child be 13 years old to have an Instagram account? Should your child see Selma? Is “everyone’s” favorite new book series truly appropriate for your child’s age level? If The Maze Runner film is rated PG-13, is The Maze Runner action game for iPhone really ok for nine-year-olds? What was that new TV show your child’s friend mentioned? Find answers to all of these questions on Common Sense Media!

Also check out the new Parent Concerns section for articles and advice about screen time, internet safety, learning differences, social media, and much more:

Upcoming parenting speaker at Atlanta Jewish Academy

See the flyer attached and below for information about a great opportunity on the evening of Sunday, December 14. Psychologist and bestselling author, Michael Thompson, Ph.D., will speak to parents at the Atlanta Jewish Academy. RSVP today for this free event!

Event flyer here: Michael Thompson flyer, 12-14-14 event

Dr. Thompson’s website:

Atlanta Jewish Academy:
5200 Northland Drive Atlanta, GA 30342

Michael Thompson flyer, 12-14-14 event copy

Link to ‘About That Child’

I like a lot of what the author wrote in the blog post linked below. Parents, there might be “That Child” in your child’s classroom, and your child’s teachers and I know about him. Please don’t ask your child, “What did so-and-so do today to get into trouble? What did so-and-so do to you? Did so-and-so get a ‘Take 5’?” Please don’t interview your child about other children. Your well-meaning child knows what he thinks he remembers from the school day, but he doesn’t know the whole story. Far from it.

Please don’t ask school personnel about other children. We can’t tell you the sadness happening in the home of “That Child” or how the parents are desperately trying every possible strategy to help with an issue or what the family has been through or the help “That Child” is receiving from multiple resources. If it’s appropriate to mention another child’s name, we will say the child’s name. But in general, we will not tell you information about other families — just like we won’t share information about your family with others. We protect your child and you, too.

Also, students know that when they visit my office to talk, what they say is confidential. That goes for you as well. After we talk, I’ll tell teachers what they need to know but nothing that betrays your confidence. Use me. Call me. Email me. Tell me what you’re worried about, even if it’s something you’re not sure you should be worried about. And if you don’t want the teachers to know that you’ve contacted me, they will not know.

Finally, don’t think that everyone else is doing it better than you. Stop comparing your parenting to someone else’s parenting. No one has it all together. No one. People who seem like they have it all together are faking it just as much as the rest of us. You’re doing the absolute best you can, and sometimes it feels like everything’s falling apart. Give yourself a break, give your kids a break, give your family a break, give the teachers a break, give everyone a break. Maybe someone will give you a break when you need it, too.


Art It Out

On Tuesday, I visited a wonderful therapy center called Art It Out. The therapists there provide individual and group therapy services to children and teens. I have referred families there for a few years and communicated with one of the therapists, but before their open house this week I had never visited the office. I wanted to stay in their colorful, happy rooms all afternoon! Check them out at

If you’d be willing to share the name of outside counseling center that has been helpful to your family or someone you know, please email me! I look forward to learning about the many places in our community available to help anyone and everyone through tough times.