Dr. Katrina Katen, Psy.D
Meet the Counselor
Hi! My name is Dr. Katrina Katen, and I am so grateful to be part of the HFCS! My professional background includes working as a licensed psychologist and specializing in children and families, learning, development, and behavior. I run a private practice here in town, called Individual Matters, and you can visit my website to learn more about my professional work and background.
My role as HFCS school counselor includes working with individual students Pre-K through 8th grade, as well as serving as a resource and support for families, teachers, and the community as a whole. If you need to contact me or if you would like more information, feel free to reach out to me directly by email or by calling the school office.
Below, you will find all my articles from the weekly newsletter. I hope you find the topics both interesting and relevant to your everyday experiences!
Self-Advocacy in the Classroom is a Journey... Not a Destination!
Last spring, we looked at the importance of self-advocacy and how to support students with developing this skill. As we start the new semester, I thought it would be a great topic to re-visit.
By “self-advocacy,” we refer to a student’s ability to speak up for him/herself to get a need met or problem solved at school (versus promoting personal, personal, or religious ideas or beliefs to others). In terms of school and life success, self-advocacy is inseparable from personal responsibility.
Here are 5 steps to help students build self-advocacy skills in the classroom:
1.Discuss and define what it is. Make self-advocacy a regular part of classroom and home conversation. Adults can share ways they have (or have not) self-advocated in their education, jobs, and everyday lives.
2.Validate, validate, validate. Sympathy and understanding from parents and teachers are key to helping students build courage and skills. Invalidating, critical, or belittling reactions will shut down this process. And let’s be honest, self-advocacy takes courage at any age and in most situations!
3.Make a plan. How can a student ask for help, explanation, or permission? Is there a particularly “safe” teacher with which to begin practicing this skill? If so, communicate with them in advance. Would an email to the teacher be a good (and safer feeling) first step? Rehearse the process at home. Then give it a try.
4.Reinforce and review. How did the self-advocacy experience go? What worked and what didn’t? How did it feel before, during, and after? Compare notes with the teacher. Also, what positive reinforcement can teachers and parents implement to help sustain this behavior in the student? Positive reinforcement is the strongest and most consistent method for behavior change and skill development.
5.Return to step 1. Self-advocacy never stops. Successful individuals are continually evaluating their own strengths and weaknesses and responsibly communicating (not demanding or imposing) their needs to others.
Remember, self-advocacy is a skill. For mastery, it must be learned, practiced, and repeated! Consider this process a journey, not a destination.
Click Here to listen to my podcast about helping your student self-advocate in the classroom!
"When you change your focus, you change your life." -- Unknown
A positive mindset starts by intentionally and purposefully choosing what to focus on. It is not about denying the facts, putting your head in the sand, or faking a Polly Anna attitude. It also is not about saying positive affirmations that your heart does not believe.
Your mindset is simply a result of focused attention. Change your focus, change your mindset. Imagine you are sitting in a dark theater, and a play is about to begin. The curtains open, and a spotlight directs your attention to the center stage where
a performer begins to sing. At that moment, you are focused solely on that individual and the sensory experiences of the music, the voice, the costume, the illumination. You are silent, still, and anticipating something magical. That hyper-focus creates your experience, your emotion, and you
To improve your mindset, you must first take control of your spotlight. You must intentionally dim the other lights,
purposefully choose where your spotlight shines, and actively hold the light in the right direction.
Even small changes in focus can yield big results! Here are 10 simple ways to change your mindset and change your life:
1.Choose a quote that directs your focus to the desired mindset. Then write it on your bathroom mirror, write it on a paper on your bed stand, schedule emails or text messages to be sent to you, set an alarm, or put a sticky note on your computer keyboard.
2.Pick a power song to listen to first thing in the morning or on the way to school/work.
3.Hold your superman/woman power pose for two minutes (this one really works…and if nothing else it gives you something to do when you don’t know what to do).
4.Start your day right with 10 minutes of quiet reflection, relaxing music, or gentle movement.
5.Put a desk calendar of positive intentions on your bed stand or desk.
6.Turn on some music and DANCE!
7.Smile or hold a pencil in your teeth for 4 minutes.
8.Look in the mirror, make eye contact with yourself, and connect with your intention (this one really does work and is the hardest for most people—give it a try!)
9.Start your day by list 10 things you are grateful for, appreciate, prefer, and love. Challenge yourself to write 10 different things every day for 30 days. Write it down, say it into your phone, send yourself an email, send yourself a text…
10.Change your words. Talk only about what you want, what you hope happens, what you GET to do, what you love, and what you think is going right or well for you. If you find yourself getting off track, stop, reflect, and speak only on what you want in the spotlight.
The Power of Hellos and Goodbyes
"Welcome to the present moment. Here...now. The only moment there ever is."
- Eckhart Tolle.
Every day when I return home from work, my two adorable dogs, Gus and Opal, jump around madly, wag their tails, and spin in circles until I pick them up and love on them. Then, when it is time to leave again in the morning, they walk me to the door a wag their tails goodbye.
Have you ever sat at the airport and watched family members excitedly greet their loved ones after a long trip or tearfully say goodbye as they head off to the gate? Do you remember the first time you dropped your child off at preschool, and then later that day when you picked them up? At drop off, maybe the hug lingered a bit longer, there were some tears, and their little hand waved in the window until they could no longer see your car driving away. Then at pick up, they ran to you bursting with excitement saying, “Mommy, mommy, mommy!” and you held out your arms ready to be reunited after 3 long hours apart!
As I reflect on such moments, I am reminded of the power “hellos” and “goodbyes.” What if everywhere we went, greetings traded such genuine affection and love. And then, when it was time to part, hugs lasted a little longer and there was one more, “I love you.”
Life is busy. Wake up, eat breakfast, grab your bag, zip off to school, make it just in time…finish your day, head home, eat, go to practice, eat again, bathe, homework, bedtime, sleep…then it all starts again. It can be hard to connect and be present when life moves fast, when there are long to-do lists, early start times, and hard deadlines. However, no matter how busy the day, how crazy the schedule, or how stressful the week was… when the ‘hellos’ and ‘goodbyes’ are solid, everything that happens in between can be managed.
This week’s challenge: Be intentional with your ‘hellos’ and ‘goodbyes.” Greet your spouse like you used to when you first started dating. Say goodbye like they are leaving for a long trip. Drop off and pick up your child like you did on that first day of preschool…yes even your middle schooler! Maybe don’t run at them with your arms open and tears in your eyes…but be intentional. Be present. Be in the moment…even it it is just for a moment.
A topic that regularly comes up in discussions about kids and behavior is how to set and hold
healthy boundaries and limits. Every relationship involves boundaries, and we would probably all
agree that the healthier the boundaries, the healthier the relationship.
Here are 5 easy-to-follow ideas to keep in mind for establishing healthy boundaries:
1.Setting a boundary is about changing your own behavior – not the other person’s. Too often we set a limit with the hope of changing others. This never works. You can only change your own actions and behaviors.
2.Boundaries are set with consistent action – not words. Usually, once you use pleas or warnings, the boundary line has already been violated.
3.A negative reaction to a boundary indicates the boundary was needed. Have you ever seen a toddler up the ante with a tantrum in the middle of Target by screaming louder and kicking harder? Chances are a smaller tantrum worked in the past. Now the parent has set a limit, and the tantrum has gotten bigger. This is a good sign. A bigger tantrum means the boundary was needed…and is working!
4.Boundaries teach others how to treat us by showing what we are willing to tolerate. A lack of clear and healthy boundaries invites a lack of respect. It is much easier to loosen a boundary than to tighten one later. All relationships have boundaries whether or not you are intentional in establishing them.
5.Boundaries establish who owns the problem and defines where one person’s responsibility ends and another’s begins. They help to avoid “rescuing” or robbing children of learning opportunities. In other words, healthy and consistent boundaries promote healthy ownership of one’s life, behavior, and choices. Boundaries create a safe space for children to learn, to create, and grow with confidence.
to listen to my podcast about the art of healthy boundary setting!
Setting SMART Goals
Setting and achieving a goal can be a powerful and life changing experience for people of all ages! A study in 2015 by Psychologist Gail Matthews showed that when people wrote down their goals, they were 33 percent more successful!
One of the best ways to write out a goal is using the SMART Goals method. Any goal is more likely to be achieved if the goal itself first passes the SMART test:
Specific and Small: To pass the SMART test, the goal must be specific and small in scope. A goal that is too big, general, or too far out in the future can cause overwhelm and stress/anxiety. The key is to chunk bigger goals into smaller more specific ones.
Measurable: To pass the SMART test, there can be no ambiguity about what it means to achieve that goal. For example, a goal to “be happy” or “be more outgoing” is not measurable. A SMART goal is either achieved or not. The action that drives the goal either happened or it didn’t.
Attainable and Achievable: To pass the SMART test, the goal must be reasonable and within the
power/control of the student. For example, being selected to an NBA basketball team in 8th grade is not 1) achievable or 2) within total control of the student. In contrast, practicing basketball for 30 minutes every day is reasonable and within the control of the student.
Relevant: To pass the SMART test the goal must be relevant (or important) to the individual and connected to other life goals, interests, and objectives. If the goal is not relevant, then the motivation and purpose will be lost.
Timeframe with Start and End Date: To pass the SMART test, the goal must have a clean start and end date. Open or floating deadlines can spell disaster for any goal, project, or intention.
Summer is a great time for students to set and achieve goals
that are meaningful to them! So give it a try! Once your child sets and achieves the goal, don’t forget the most important part…the celebration!
to listen to my podcast on setting SMART goals.
An enjoyable, low stress morning always beings the night before.
My dad used always say: “Proper Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.” While I found this quote of his annoying when I was a teenager (cue eye roll), as a parent and a professional, I must admit he was right!
One tip we have probably all heard is to help your child create a checklist for both the evening and the morning. You can spice up this approach by creating a visual map for the morning routine. Each stop along the path has 2-3 tasks that need to be completed. The map should follow the layout of your house, and tasks should be grouped by where they happen (bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, front door, etc.) At the end, X marks the spot…where a little treasure or chocolate goes a long way! Once you and your child create the maps together, you can put them in a plastic sleeve and attach a dry erase marker so your child can mark off the items along the way. There are no limits to creativity with this!
Here are a few reasons that a map can work better than a checklist:
- Better for right brain visual spatial kids who think in images (as opposed to words).
- Puts the tasks in a meaningful order that follows a logical and visual sequence.
- Clumps tasks by room/location to guarantee nothing gets forgotten (bypasses working memory pitfalls).
- Supports success by tapping into motor memory and a predictable rhythm.
- Cues off of visual prompts and experiential learning.
- And best of all...it is fun and playful, and children of all ages learn best through play!
The Power of Words
“Words have a magical power. They can bring either the greatest happiness or deepest despair; they can transfer knowledge from teacher to student; words enable the orator to sway his audience and dictate its decisions. Words are capable of arousing the strongest emotions and prompting all men's actions.” --Sigmund Freud
Put simply, words are powerful and magical. Words (especially from parents, teachers, and loved ones) have the power to nurture the mind or pollute it!
Being intentional with what we say and how we say it can promote confidence, happiness, and connection. Here are five ways to nurture a child’s mind with words. These are simple…but not necessarily easy!
1.Script: Complement the child on doing what you want them to do even before they do it.
2.Notice: Catch them getting it right and tell them about it! For example, “I love that you packed your bag the night before.” “That was a very nice way to ask.”
3.Stack the Deck: Praise at a ratio of 10:1. Whether big or small, praise is powerful!
4.Rewrite the Story: Change the narrative and the words to reflect what you want. A child says, “I have to go back into school, I forgot my planner.” New narrative: “Nice job remembering your planner.”
5.Speak the Alternative: Tell them what you want, not what you don’t want. Replace “Stop running” with “Walk next to me.” Replace “Stop talking” with “Please listen.”
Give these a try. Pick one or two strategies and implement them consistently for one week. Hopefully, you will experience the magical power of words for not only nurturing your child’s mind but yours as well!
Keeping the Joy of Reading Alive
- Connect books to life.If your reader likes Harry Potter, consider learning magic with him. If he likes Diary of a Wimpy Kid, help him create a journal. If he likes Hunger Games, go to an archery range. If he likes mystery, create a dinner mystery at home. If his book has been made into a movie, ballet, or play, go see it. If he likes outdoor adventure books, go hiking or camping. Bringing a book to life through real-world activities is not just fun, it also helps your reader connect with story and characters on a deeper level.
- Create a “book culture.”Take your reader to book signings. Go to local author events. Research an author, his/her background and interests – maybe write a letter and ask the author questions (authors really do enjoy these). Schedule trips to the bookstore on Saturday mornings, during which you each get breakfast and coffee/hot chocolate and read or peruse books for an hour.
- Go to a university library.Take your reader to the archives where the “old” books are kept. Imagine how much time and effort someone put into writing each one. See who can find the oldest (or weirdest) book. Look at the pictures. Smell the books. Look for ghosts. Then let your reader observe all the “cool” college kids reading at the library.
- Create a Reading Challenge…for the entire family. Set a page count to be reached by the end of a certain time. Identify individual goals that are appropriate for each family member. Choose a fun reward to enjoy when the family reaches its goal (maybe a family rafting trip). Create a log so that reading progress can be tracked throughout the summer – review this at dinner time.
- Encourage your reader to create his/her own stories. These don’t have to be entirely original (you might notice they are based loosely on a book currently being read). Story-making unlocks imagination, nurtures appreciation of the creative process, and encourages outside-the-box thinking.
- Listen to books on tape. Take a minute to count up all the time you spend in the car together – on the way to and from school, the grocery, baseball practice, on trips, etc. Ask your reader to pick out a book on tape/CD from the library, and keep this in the car stereo. Every time you go somewhere, you can listen to another chapter. This offers a much better alternative to radio “noise,” helps your child transition to new activities, and provides a much needed escape from the reality of school and the dramatic lives of young adults.
- Let them read what they want. If your reader is drawn only to Calvin and Hobbes, that’s fine. If he likes sports magazines, no problem. The goal is to encourage him to read, not to dictate what he reads. Kids are far more likely to read when they can pick what interests them. Besides, an astute parent knows that what a child chooses to read offers key information about his natural passions, interests, and gifts… Pay attention to these selections, as they can provide invaluable direction when it comes time to help him select a college major or career years from now.
- Read what he/she is reading… and read together. If your reader enjoys Harry Potter, read Harry Potter. If he/she likes history, read history. And better yet, read a chapter or two aloud every night together. This activity shows love, respect, and interest in your reader.
- Let him/her see you reading. If you want your child to read, model reading. Turn off the television and unplug the internet. Make a cup of cocoa and a snack, put on some classical music if you’d like, and read. Or pack a picnic, go to the park, and pick out a nice shade tree.
How Was School Today?
“Every good conversation starts with good listening.”
Ever ask your student, ”How was school?” and all you get is “I dunno” or “fine”? It has been my experience that both parents and kids/teens crave a more meaningful discussion but are not always sure how to make it happen.
Here are 5 ways to connect with your student of any age:
1.Change the Way You Ask: Rather than asking, “How was your day?” try phrases like “I wonder if…” or “Tell me about…” or “What was something funny that happened today?” or “When did you laugh?” or “What was hard about today?” You can also get more specific, such as “Who did you sit by at lunch?” “What was for lunch?” Or “What was the topic in history class?
2.Model How to Connect: Share details about your day first. Describe a situation at work and how you responded. Share a funny story about your boss. Share a proud moment or achievement. Describe something you learned. Share what you had for lunch and who you sat next to.
3.Create an Open and Receptive Atmosphere. Turn off the radio. Put the phone away. Talk less. Listen more. Embrace moments of silence. Genuinely pay attention to the response your student gives. Follow up on a previous bit of information to show you really care and do remember.
4.Fine Tune Your Active and Reflective Listening Skills: Don’t problem-solve. Don’t rescue. Don’t teach. Just listen. If you’re unsure how to respond, just try reflecting back what your student shared. For example: “That sounds frustrating.” Or “Seems like you put in a lot of effort.” Or “You sound sad.”
5.Routinely Use a Theme: When they climb in the car, during dinner, or at bedtime, consistently use the same theme to open up a discussion. One theme I use with clients is “Petals and Thorns.” A petal is something positive while a thorn is a disappointment, struggle, or challenge. You could also use successes and challenges, hits or misses, Thumbs up/Thumbs down, or any other variation of this theme. Consistently using the same conversation starter can help prompt topics and may get your student thinking about it even before you ask!
Encouraging Kids to Ask Questions
Young children ask hundreds of questions every day. Research suggests that by adolescence, the number of questions per day drops to about three. There are lots of ideas about why this decline occurs, including both reasons of nature (i.e., natural development) and nurture (learned behavior and life experiences). Nonetheless, it happens… Kids stop asking questions as they grow older.
In this post, we continue with the topic of self-advocacy by exploring several ways to encourage kids of all ages to keep asking questions: