Guest Post: Getting Ready for Kindergarten: Setting Up Children for Success

By Dr. Goldie Millar and Dr. Lisa A. Berger, coauthors of F Is for Feelings


Dr. Goldie Millar

As the lazy days of summer give way to the more routine-driven days of early autumn, parents and children inevitably think about getting ready to go back to school. This awakens feelings in all of us.

Children attending school for the first time can have a wide range of feelings about what is to come, from happiness and excitement to nervousness and fear—and everything in between. Young children display and sometimes talk about having mixed feelings as they anticipate the start of school. They may be interested in attending but also feel scared or concerned about the separation from their parents or caregivers. They may feel uncertain of what to expect from the teacher, the classroom environment, and the other children. Your child may say she doesn’t want to go to school at all and show no interest in the transition to kindergarten. At other times the same child may express interest and excitement.


Dr. Lisa Berger

Setting up children for success means providing a supportive emotional space that includes the time and the freedom for them to talk about or show all of what they are feeling. Young children, particularly at the kindergarten age, may not yet be able to use words to describe what they are feeling or have the capacity to sort out the multiple feelings they are likely experiencing. As parents, professionals, and caring adults, there are things we can do to help.

Begin the conversation about school early. Providing lots of time allows children to explore and move through all the different emotions they are experiencing. Each feeling is legitimate and does not negate other emotions the child may have. Children can be both excited and terrified. The more time kids have to talk about and express their feelings, the more emotionally prepared they will be.

Young children often have difficulty articulating what they are feeling, expressing it instead in various forms of behavior. We as parents and caring adults can make tentative suggestions about what a child might be feeling in relation to beginning kindergarten. In this way, we are helping them develop a feelings vocabulary and expand their understanding of what feelings are happening for them. We can also offer context by sharing that everyone has feelings about starting kindergarten and that it is common to feel both comfortable and uncomfortable emotions. This normalizes the emotional experience and offers a sense of reassurance and validation.

Engaging with children in lots of different ways about the beginning of school is important. For example, you can engage by talking, drawing, playing, acting, modeling feeling words, and reading stories centered on the kindergarten experience. kindergarten-teacher-with-boy-copy-c-sdenness_dreamstime_com.jpg Young children in particular have limited use of feeling words and can really benefit from the opportunity to explore their experiences in diverse ways. As we support children in exploring and expressing their emotions, we help them move toward the new experience.

Actively listening for all the feelings our children are experiencing can provide useful information and ideas about how we might help them get ready for school. For example, if we find out that a big part of our child’s nervousness about school centers around the unknown of who their teacher will be or what the classroom will be like, we can plan a visit to the school in the week before classes begin. If we learn that the child is scared about the upcoming separation from parents, we can proactively address the concern by talking about it, validating their feelings, and arranging that they take a special stuffed animal in their backpack, or even a picture of a parent to look at when needed at school. The possibilities are endless! The more we know about and understand all of our kids’ emotional experiences, the more we will be able to help them develop coping strategies to deal with both the comfortable and uncomfortable emotions.

The transition to kindergarten is one of many new experiences children will face as they make their way in the world. Encouraging them to use and practice their feeling words can be the first step to setting them up for success in all the experiences to come. Let the learning begin!

Have you helped a child adjust to kindergarten? What strategies did you find useful with your child?

Goldie Millar, Ph.D., is a clinical and school psychologist. Since earning her Ph.D. in counseling psychology from the University of Toronto in 2003, she has worked with children in hospital, forensic, community, and educational settings. F is for Feelings She has a deep interest in children’s mental health, emotional regulation, and evidence-based intervention strategies. Goldie lives in Ontario with her husband and their two young daughters.

Lisa Berger, Ph.D., is a clinical, counseling, and rehabilitation psychologist who works with adolescents and adults in a private practice. In 2003, Dr. Berger received her Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Toronto. She has practiced in hospitals, post-secondary institutions, and community-based settings. Lisa’s professional interests include emotional health and wellness, psychological trauma, and emotion-based therapy. She lives in Ontario with her husband and two daughters.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

Books to read with your child to help get ready for kindergarten:

F Is for Feelings by Goldie Millar and Lisa A. Berger
Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come by Nancy Carlson
The Night Before Kindergarten by Natasha Wing and Julie Durrel
Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate and Ashley Wolff
The Berenstain Bears Go to School by Stan and Jan Berenstain
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
Brand-New Pencils, Brand-New Books by Diane deGroat

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Posted in Early Childhood, Parenting | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Guest Post: Report from the International OCD Conference

By Alison Dotson, author of Being Me with OCD

Ali Dotson, FSP authorTwo weeks ago, July 17–20, I fulfilled a dream I’ve had for several years now: I attended the 21st Annual OCD Conference, held by the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF). This year it was in Los Angeles (ooh la la!), but last year it was in Atlanta and next year it will be in Boston. As much fun as it was to travel, it’d be great if the conference ended up here in Minneapolis one year, too!

The very first OCD Conference was held in a small hotel in Bloomington, Minnesota, and only about fifty people attended. This year there were 1,345 attendees! The conference has grown in leaps and bounds and become a truly international experience.

Kids-Parade at 2014 OCD conf by Roberto Farren

The Kids’ Parade at the conference was joyful. Photo courtesy of Roberto Farren.

The energy there was palpable. I was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) about eight years ago and have been managing it well, and I was thrilled to be among so many people who understood what I’ve gone through. I can’t imagine how overwhelming that would have felt when I’d just been diagnosed, or when I hadn’t yet met anyone else with OCD. To spend four days in an environment where every person you run across has at least some understanding of OCD felt unreal—and safe, comfortable, and welcoming.

Just one week before the conference began I read excerpts from my book, Being Me with OCD, to a support group in Stillwater, Minnesota. A mother in the audience said her nine-year-old daughter, who has OCD, didn’t know any other kids with the disorder. Fast-forward to the following weekend, where I saw her daughter running through the conference hotel with a group of girls, heading to their next adventure with such excitement she barely noticed me when I waved and said hi.

My goal was to soak up as much information, and as many emotions, as I could while I was there—but I also had to prepare for my own workshop, which I co-facilitated with Chrissie Hodges, a woman I first met when she interviewed me on her program, the Stigma of Mental Illness Radio Show. I had to wait until Sunday morning, but it was so worth it. We told a group of teenagers (and many parents) about our own experiences with OCD, sharing details we once thought were too taboo and shameful to discuss. I was so impressed with the teenagers in the group, who shared tips with each other about how to “come out” with OCD to peers and how to handle the backlash that sometimes comes along with that. One boy had been bullied, and he told another boy that he only needs one good friend he can trust, and that relationship will help him start to open up about his symptoms and feelings.

OCDintheMediaPanel 2014 conference by Roberto Farren

Panels and workshops were filled with attendees. Photo courtesy of Roberto Farren.

I had such a great time connecting with fellow OCD sufferers, advocates, family members, and psychiatrists that I didn’t want the conference to end. And it was definitely a bit of a letdown to come back to the real world where some people don’t “get” OCD, but I’m even more pumped than usual to keep spreading the word and raising awareness.

It would be hard to pin down the one highlight of the weekend, but I’d have to say it was running into author Lee Baer in the hotel lobby before his presentation on intrusive violent and sexual thoughts. Dr. Baer wrote The Imp of the Mind: Exploring the Silent Epidemic of Obsessive Bad Thoughts, a book that very nearly saved my life shortly after I’d been diagnosed with OCD. I had thought I was the only one ever to have the obsessions I’d been struggling with, and reading this book quickly proved me wrong. To meet the man behind it—wow. I had to hold myself back from gushing about how grateful I was!

The July 2015 conference in Boston can’t come soon enough. If you’re a teacher, counselor, or parent who wants to learn more about OCD from people who’ve lived with it and professionals who’ve treated it, I highly recommend that you register. See you there!

BeingMeWithOCDAlison Dotson is the author of Being Me with OCD: How I Learned to Obsess Less and Live My Life. She was diagnosed with OCD at age 26, after suffering from “taboo” obsessions for more than a decade. Today, she still has occasional bad thoughts, but she now knows how to deal with them in healthy ways. Alison is the president of OCD Twin Cities, an affiliate of the International OCD Foundation. You can read more about Alison on her blog at

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

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Posted in Social & Emotional Learning | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Cash in on Learning: Preparing for Different Learners

Richard Cash EdD, FSP AuthorEven though there is about a month left in our summer vacation, it’s not too soon to start preparing for the coming school year. Unless you loop (the practice of having students more than one year), you probably won’t know much about your incoming students. However, it is possible to consider the general characteristics of learners and begin preparing for your students’ various differences.

I have found it helpful to break down learners into four general characteristics. This typology is not based in any specific research; rather, it’s based on my experiences with people and what I know about how we learn.Four Learners compiled from from Dreamstime_com Michaeljung, Reobok, more Every person is a composite of all four types, though many favor one or two types when learning or interacting with the world. Some will be able to shift from one type to another when necessary to complete a task. When students struggle in your classroom, consider the following possible reasons:

  • They don’t work well in the way information was delivered.
  • They find it hard to shift from one type to the other when the experience requires it.
  • They clash with the teacher’s preferred method of instruction.
  • They can’t recognize what type of learner they are or need to be.
  • When in groups, they are mismatched with other types.

Here are the four types.

Type I: Paper Clip
A paper clip learner is one who likes order, sequence, and timelines. These learners prefer to know what is coming and precisely what’s expected of them. They like neat surroundings that are organized and efficient. paper clipThey may be uncomfortable with random conversations, inaccurate information, sudden schedule changes, and too much flexibility. Paper clips enjoy keeping time, creating and checking off the “to do list,” and maintaining order. These are your “get it done” type learners. The slinky can be a paper clip’s nemesis.

Type II: Teddy Bear
Teddy BearA teddy bear is your emotional learner. These learners recognize and pay attention to their own and other’s feelings and behaviors. They like to make others feel comfortable, are interested in the other person’s affect, and have a deep need for an affirmative environment. Teddy bears are also considered contextual learners—they learn in context (meaning through the wholeness of an experience). This type of learner may find it difficult to debate, watch others struggle, see the factual side of highly charged events (such as the Holocaust or acts of aggression), or be critical. Teddy bears prefer to set group tone and mood, encourage others, or participate in service learning projects. These are your “positive”-type learners—always seeing the best in others. The magnifying glass can be a teddy bear’s opposite.

Type III: Magnifying Glass
A magnifying glass is very much like a detective. These learners like to look closely at issues and often find more problems this way. Magnifying glasses are critical and sometimes emotionless in their pursuits (hence the difficulty with teddy bears). They can be argumentative—your “Yes, but . . .” students.magnifying glass Very much like paper clips, magnifying glasses like a logical order to information. They may find it difficult to use empathy in the decision-making process, or listen with their heart when trying to understand differing points of view. These learners love the debate, finding problems, critically analyzing tough issues, and forming individual opinions. They are your “straightforward” thinkers. They may find it difficult to work with and deal with teddy bears.

Type IV: Slinky
slinky common licenseThe slinky is your creative, abstract, random student. These learners know where they want to go, but they may take multiple pathways to get there. They enjoy “coloring outside the lines,” coming up with new ideas and ways to do things, and doing projects their own way. These are true “out of the box” thinkers and doers. Slinkys have a difficult time with too much structure and order and get restless when their creative muscle is not flexed. This is why the paper clip can annoy the slinky.

Another way to think about the four types is based on how our brain is organized. The left hemisphere of our brain is considered the logical-sequential side (the paper clip and magnifying glass types), whereas the right hemisphere is considered the abstract-contextual side (the teddy bears and slinkys). When these two sides work in harmony, we are more likely to accomplish complex tasks efficiently and with greater success.

It’s always a good idea to assist students in identifying their areas of strength and limitations. This includes the way they prefer to learn. Ask your students to identify the one or two types of learning they prefer, as well as the one or two types where they struggle. Then encourage them to work through their limitations and understand those who are strong in those areas. I always found it helpful to assign students to partner up with an oppositional type of learner so they could support each other when it came time to do tasks that required specific types of strengths.

As you plan for your upcoming school year, keep in mind these four types and what will make their school year more enjoyable.

Paper clips need:

  • Posted schedules
  • Notification when schedules change
  • Timelines and due dates
  • Linear instruction that follows an outline
  • An organized classroom environment

Teddy bears need:

  • Connectivity with others
  • Contextualized experiences or service learning projects
  • Study topics that have emotional connections
    Flexible grouping
  • Inclusion of the arts in the classroom

Magnifying glasses need:

  • Time to investigate complex issues
  • Opportunities to debate and discuss ideas
  • Chances to problem-find and -solve
  • Experiences that require making decisions
  • Logical order to units of study

Slinkys need:

  • Open-ended questions and activities
  • Chances to think, act, and be outside the box
  • Time to express themselves
  • Ample opportunities to move
  • Space, opportunities, and materials to be creative

How do you use learning styles or personality types to prepare for teaching?

DifferentiationForGiftedLearners from FSPRichard M. Cash, Ed.D., has given hundreds of workshops, presentations, and staff development sessions throughout the United States and internationally. The research-based strategies and techniques he offers are proven to increase student achievement. His greatest passion is helping teachers recognize the various talents all children possess and create engaging learning experiences to encourage those talents to flourish. His most recent book is Differentiation for Gifted Learners, coauthored with Diane Heacox, Ed.D. He is also author of Advancing Differentiation: Thinking and Learning for the 21st Century.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

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Enter to win the Free Spirit Our Emotions and Behavior Series

This month we’re giving away the complete set of Our Emotions and Behavior books! The series uses cheerful, brightly illustrated stories to help kids understand how their emotions and actions are related—and how they can learn to manage both.


How to Enter: Leave a comment below telling us why you’d like to win the Our Emotions and Behavior series.

For additional entries, leave a separate comment below for each of the following tasks that you complete:

Each comment counts as a separate entry. Entries must be received by midnight, August 1, 2014.

The winner will be contacted via email on or about August 4, 2014, and will need to respond within 72 hours to claim his or her prize or another winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way affiliated, administered, or endorsed by Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Winners must be U.S. residents, 18 years of age or older.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

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Counselor’s Corner: Puberty Resources for Tweens and Teens

Puberty can be an awkward time not only for adolescents but also for the adults who care about them. It can sometimes be uncomfortable to step in and help adolescents take care of their changing bodies. The good news is you do not have to do it alone. Many books and resources can aid you in supporting your child or students through this time. Here are some books and resources I recommend for both girls and boys.


The Care and Keeping of You 2American Girl, creators of the popular American Girl dolls, publishes many popular books for tween and teen girls, including The Care and Keeping of You series. These books have information on anything you can think of, from bad breath to periods. The Care and Keeping of You 1 by Valerie Schaefer is for younger girls, while The Care and Keeping of You 2 by Cara Natterson is for older girls. The American Girl website has games related to each book here and here. Check out this interview with the doctor who wrote the second book about how parents can help their daughters through puberty.

My Body Myself for GirlsMy Body, My Self for Girls by Lynda Madaras and Area Madaras is chock-full of information about everything girls need to know about their changing bodies. Quizzes, journal pages, and activities throughout the book make it interactive. Search for the book on the Amazon or Google Books websites to see sample pages and a table of contents.

HelloFLo logoHelloFlo was created by CEO Naama Bloom to help girls and women everywhere get access to personal care information and products. HelloFlo sells period starter kits featuring products from Always, a maxi pad company, which are essentially first-period care packages. The site also has videos, a blog, a store for girls and women, and a place to ask questions of a doctor. One of the Q&A posts is titled “When’s the best time to talk to my child about puberty?


My Body Myself for boysMy Body, My Self for Boys by Lynda Madaras and Area Madaras is loaded with information about everything boys need to know about their changing bodies. As with the partner book for girls, the book engages readers with interactive quizzes, journal pages, and activities. Search for this title on the Amazon or Google Books websites to see sample pages and a table of contents.

The Boys Body BookThe Boy’s Body Book: Everything You Need to Know for Growing Up You by Kelli Dunham, R.N., goes beyond just puberty and covers topics such as friendship, divorce, cyber safety, and more. View sample pages and a table of contents on Amazon.

Puberty & Hygiene
Check out these resources that are not gender-specific.

PBS kids Go Its My LifeThe PBS Kids—It’s My Life website/video series covers a number of topics related to preteens and teens. The Puberty: A Whole Lotta Changin’ Goin’ On section has information for both boys and girls as well as some general information about zits, body odor, brain development, and more.

Kids Health About PubertyKidsHealth: All About Puberty is another great Web resource for general information about puberty, along with an option to hear whole articles read aloud. More in-depth information for boys and girls is hyperlinked in a single “More on This Topic” sidebar, so subjects like shaving and menstruation are listed together, giving readers a chance to learn more about the opposite sex.

No.B.O.!-RGB-webNo B.O.! The Head-to-Toe Book of Hygiene for Preteens by Marguerite Crump (eBook) is recommended for upper elementary and middle school students, parents, and educators. It is a comprehensive guide for the many body changes that tweens and teens experience. This book is very kid-friendly and has fun facts and illustrations related to the topics.

In addition to these resources, I recommend reaching out to school or health professionals if you are seeking additional information. You can also contact your child’s school to learn in which grades they will discuss puberty and changing body-related health material. By knowing ahead of time when puberty and other topics are discussed, you can prepare yourself for conversations with your child.

What puberty resources do you recommend to parents or educators?

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

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Posted in Counselor's Corner, Parenting | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment