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Office of the School Counselor

Here is a resource on separation anxiety for the start of the year:


My personal philosophy is that a great School Counselor should be like water. Flexible and gentle, yet strong. Water also doesn’t care about who it cleans and nourishes; it cleanses everyone and supports all life without judgment.

As a School Counselor, it is my job to support students with academics, careers, and of course, social/emotional insight, concepts, and skills that are valued highly by our society and employers. I do this by meeting individually with students, running specialized groups, and teaching in the classroom. I also enjoy greeting every student in the morning, walking and talking on the Yak Track to support grades 3-5 during recess, and sitting at different tables at lunch to get to know different groups of students. Thank you again for the warm welcome to town, I look forward to continuing to serve this community as I continue my career as a helper, getting a little better every day.

Through my lessons and presence in the school, I hope to role-model Growth Mindset, Mindfulness, and Kaizen among other useful social/emotional skills and mindsets. 

Growth Mindset: The belief that our own talents develop through hard work, good strategies, and input from others (oh no constructive criticism!). We are all constant works in progress and this flexible approach allows people to overcome obstacles, recover when they fail, and an overall belief that they can change and improve through the use of growth mindset. This is in direct opposition to people with "fixed" mindsets who believe that their talents are innate and will often try to bring others down through cheating or deception rather than bringing themselves up to the skill or developmental level that they desire. Employers love this and it leads to greater satisfaction and happiness which is why I'm so passionate about teaching and role modeling this philosophy and behavior. The belief that positive change can happen is a necessary catalyst for meaningful positive change and self-improvement.

Mindfulness: Mindful.org defines mindfulness as: “Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” Using all of our senses to pay attention to the present non-judgmentally causes the noisy part of our brain designed to keep us safe to pick down during moments where the danger we are in is only perceived. A person could be giving an oral presentation and feel the effects of being chased by a bear in their minds and bodies! This involves paying attention to your thoughts in a non-judgmental way as well. In time, people can learn to observe their thoughts and let them pass like a person watching clouds go by, rather than being triggered by an unpleasant thought and making a bad decision because of it. Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere and at any time with benefits that increase over time through practice. Through doing this you make your brain stronger and more balanced; studies have even shown that people who practice mindfulness and meditation have longer lifespans and report being happier than those that don't. Because of this, I build mindfulness practice into almost every lesson that I teach and make sure to start with it at the beginning of the year. 

Kaizen: This one is actually a business philosophy that leads to greater employee satisfaction AND a better company. It boils down to essentially accepting yourself where you are at non-judgmentally (kind of like mindfulness) while also setting new goals and objectives with the intent to continuously improve, even if only a little (kind of like growth mindset). Because constructive criticism is so important for success, this philosophy teaches students to use constructive criticism to their advantage, rather than being defensive or stubborn and continuing behaviors that make their lives more difficult. With student contribution to what happens here, students are more likely to feel valued and that their voice is heard. This believe that they can affect their surroundings for the better will serve them well as adults who can also seek continuous positive change, rather than stagnation which leads to loss of skills, confidence, and happiness. 

"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony" - Mahatma Gandhi

Community Resources

Becky Germain from our school's Office Of Student Wellness made this easy to use resource page that presents a nice visual representation of local resources and supports:


Feel free to email me: jtopliffe@csd.sau7.org or call me 237-4801 x. 109 if you have any further questions or are in need of support or resources; supporting guardians also supports kids which is my job first and foremost!  

15 Ways To Improve Self-Esteem For Students And Parents:

1. Write a kind letter to yourself listing your strengths, accomplishments, and good qualities.

2. Brainstorm a list of ways that you are comfortable saying "no".

3. Don't participate is gossip or cruel conversations.

4. Keep a gratitude journal.

5. Give another person a compliment!

6. Talk to a new person and invite them to hang out with you; loneliness and isolation correlate directly with mental and overall health problems.

7. Make a list of what is going well in your life.

8. Write things you love about yourself on sticky notes and post them where you can see them every day.

9. Choose healthy food options and take care of yourself; diet and exercise have an enormous impact on mental health.

10. Dress in something that makes you feel awesome.

11. Find a hobby that brings you joy and fulfillment (for me it is rhythm games and mixing music!)

12. Find a self-esteem mantra that works for you and repeat it in your head.

13. Practice laughing and smiling; the body and brain are connected. Taking deep breaths to calm the body calms the mind while laughter and smiling relieves stress and makes you happier.

14. Make a self-care plan to help manage stressful situations.

15. Challenge your negative self-talk! We all have those negative thoughts about ourselves and we can make the choice to either listen to them and make it true or to dispute them with the special qualities that every person has. 

Children Learn What They Live

If children live with criticism,
They learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility,
They learn to fight.
If children live with ridicule,
They learn to be shy.
If children live with shame,
They learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement,
They learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance,
They learn to be patient.
If children live with praise,
They learn to appreciate.
If children live with acceptance,
They learn to love.
If children live with approval,
They learn to like themselves.
If children live with honesty,
They learn truthfulness.
If children live with security,
They learn to have faith in themselves and others.
If children live with friendliness,
They learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.

 Ms. Sepp's Counselor Corner: How Can I Help My Child Be Successful in School?


The Desiderata

Found in Old Saint Paul's Church, Baltimore - dated 1692

Go Placidly Amid The Noise & Haste

Remember What Peace There May Be In Silence

As Far As Possible Without Surrender, 

Be On Good Terms With All Persons 

Speak Your Truth Quietly And Clearly;

Listen To Others, Even The Dull And Ignorant,

They Too Have Their Story.

Avoid Loud & Aggressive Persons, They Are Vexations To The Spirit.

If You Compare Yourself With Others; You May Become Vain And Bitter,

For There Will Always Be Greater And Lesser Persons Than Yourself.

Enjoy Your Achievements As Well As Your Plans.

Keep Interested In Your Own Career; However Humble,

It Is A Real Possession In The Changing Fortunes Of Time.

Exercise Caution In Your Business Affairs; For The World Is Full Of Trickery.

But Let This Not Blind You To What Virtue There Is; 

Many Persons Strive For High Ideals; And Everywhere IS Full Of Heroism.

Be Yourself.

Especially Do Not Feign Affection.

Neither Be Cynical About Love;

For In The Face Of All Aridity & Disenchantment, It Is As Perennial As The Grass.

Take Kindly To The Counsel Of The Years,

Gracefully Surrendering The Things Of Youth.

Nurture Strength Of Spirit To Shield You In Sudden Misfortune.

But Do Not Distress Yourself With Dark Imaginings.

Many Fears Are Born Of Fatigue And Loneliness.

Beyond A Wholesome Discipline,

Be Gentle With Yourself.

You Are A Child Of The Universe; No Less Than The Trees And The Stars,

You Have A Right To Be Here

Whether Or Not It Is Clear To You,

The Universe Is Unfolding As It Should.

Whatever Your Labors & Aspirations;

In The Noisy Confusion Of Life,

Keep Peace With Your Soul.

With All Its Sham, Drudgery & Broken Dreams,

It Is Still A Beautiful World.

Be Careful.

Strive To Be Happy.

Awesome TED Talks:

Every Kid Needs A Champion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFnMTHhKdkw

The Power Of Vulnerability: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCvmsMzlF7o

Listening To Shame: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psN1DORYYV0

The Super Mario Effect (Growth Mindset): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vJRopau0g0 

Ways to ask your kids how their day was without saying "So how was school today?"

1. What was the best thing that happened at school today? (What was the worst thing that happened at school today?)

2. Tell me something that made you laugh today.

3. Where is the coolest place at the school?

4. Tell me a weird word you heard today. (or something weird that someone said.)

5. If I called your teacher tonight, what would they tell me about you?

6. How did you help somebody today?

7. How did somebody help you today?

8. Tell me one thing you learned today.

9. When were you happiest today?

10. When were you bored today?

11. Who would you like to play with at recess that you've never played with before?

12. Tell me something good that happened today.

13. What do you think you should do/learn more of at school?

14. What do you think you should do/learn less of in school?

15. Who in your class do you think you could be nicer to?

16. Where do you play the most at recess?

17. Who is the funniest person in your class? What makes them funny?

18. If you got to be the teacher tomorrow, what would you do?

19. What was your favorite part of lunch?

20. Tell me about three different times you used your pencil today at school.

7 Ways to Help Your Child Handle Their "After School Restraint Collapse"


Kids often fall apart after school. Here's why and what to do | YummyMummyClub.ca

Be prepared! Your child might come home after school or daycare and fall apart at your feet. I call this “After School Restraint Collapse.” It’s a thing!

Actually, you might see this in your partner or even yourself. You conduct, orchestrate, produce, think, smile, keep things in your inside brain that you wish you could say out loud, then walk in your front door only to turn into a snarly, crabby person.

Here’s why!

It takes a great deal of energy, mental motivation, emotional containment, and physical restraint to keep ourselves at our best while at work, daycare, or school for other people.

We push ourselves to not be snarly, crabby people where doing so might have seriously negative consequences like losing our jobs, getting sent to the principal’s office, or missing sandbox time. How many times during the day do you wish you could just tell someone off or walk away and cry in the bathroom? But we don’t – we do what we need to in order to “be good” or keep the peace.

After we’ve don’t that all day, we get to the point where we just don’t have the energy to keep this restraint, and it feels like a big bubble that needs to burst.

One of my children used to love going to public school, but pretty much every day was in tears when he got home. He didn’t have a clue why he was in tears, but I knew that he just needed to decompress after keeping it together all day. I steered away from friend playtime or scheduled activities right after school so that he could have time to regroup. This year will be different, as he’ll be attending the new independent school we’re starting. I did keep this dynamic in mind when creating our daily schedule.

I think this dynamic happens in parents, too. I wonder if this is why movies like Bad Mom and Sisters are doing so well! The characters in these films completely lose their restraint and feel better after going wild. I’m sure many of us just want to let go like they did! I also wonder if this is why social media so easily distracts us. After doing things we may not entirely want to do, but have to do, we feel better at laughing at videos of kids spraying themselves in the face with a hose or puppies falling asleep while standing up.

There are seven things we can do, and teach our children to do, to release this restrain bubble that bursts when we get home. You might even try these with your partner.


Greet your child with a smile and a hug instead of, “Do you have any homework?” or “I heard you got in trouble today.” Also don’t ask, “How was your day?” No one really wants to answer this question.


Give your child time to hear his/her thoughts right after pick-up time. If you are driving, put on the radio and stay quiet. If you are walking, say little or just comment on the nice things you notice: “Did you see that cute little yellow bird?” This isn’t the time for big conversations.


Many children do better if they aren’t asked, “Are you hungry?” Assume that many of your children’s tanks are empty when they get home. Fill the physical one by setting out food for them without saying anything. Real food like veggie sticks, cut fruit, cheese, or nuts will give them the boost they need. I also suggest setting out glasses of water, too.


People are actually affected by what is in the space around them – some more so than others. I know mornings can be hectic, but try to leave a fairly tidy house to arrive back home to. I was doing terribly at this before so I decided that each night I needed to do a full “tidy time” (with help from others) so that the house wasn’t a disaster in the morning. I also woke up a bit earlier to put the breakfast/ lunch-making stuff away before leaving for the day.

Arriving home after school or work is not a great time to fire up the vacuum!


Use an age and personality-appropriate way to stay connected with your child when he or she is away from you during the day. I call these connection bridges. I have used things like little post-it notes in the lunch or packing a special treat for my kiddos.


Depending on the personality of your child, provide a way to decompress at the end of the day. Give your child the lead to start talking when he or she is ready. When that time happens, you can inquire about any emotionally intense moments that may have happened during that day.

Also, think about using “play therapy” with your child even if he or she is a teenager! People decompress through play, which helps process the events of the day. Provide time to either do nothing/ rest or play out the day in a physical way. Some younger children like to wrestle, run around, or get in a tickle fight. Older ones might like to go for a bike ride or hammer out their energy on an instrument.

This might sound odd, but being upside down can really help! There’s a reason “inversion poses” are recommended in yoga – this is my favourite decompression method.


“Laughter releases the same tension as tears.” Laura Markham, PhD. Having fun is a great way to release tension from the day.

Does your child fall apart when he or she gets home? Tell me about it over on my Facebook page.

A School Counselor helps students find success in school by:

+ Helping develop positive attitudes among students towards self, family, and community.

+ Counseling with students individually and in groups to understand and appreciate their unique qualities and to 

grow personally and socially.

+ Delivering classroom guidance with a focus on the social and emotional skills that predict happiness, success, 

and fulfillment. 

+ Supporting students in developing an individual plan for academic success.

+ Working collaboratively with students, parents, and teachers, and mental health professionals to identify and 

remove barriers that may impede student achievement.

How and Why do Parents Contact the School Counselor?

Concerns over student achievement

Family health problems (including mental health)

New school orientation

Discussing needs of their child

Early discussion of potential crises

Got a question about anything school related? Even if I don't know either I will find out and get back to you.

How Does a Student See a Counselor?


Parent referral

Administrative referral

Teacher or other staff referral

Referral by a friend(s)