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Talking to Kids About Tragedy

Children don’t think exactly like adults. When discussing this week’s shooting at an Ohio high school, deadly severe storms or other tragedies with children, it’s important to take special care. Carrie Little, program coordinator/educator at Family & Children’s Services, has tips to help parents talk to their children about tragedy.





Need professional help in dealing with trauma in your child’s life? We can help. Click here to learn more about trauma treatment services at Family & Children’s Services.

New Ideas in Health Care Benefit Clients, Entire Community – By Dianne Hughes, Program Director, Case Management and Special Projects

We hear a lot these days about the poor state of health in Oklahoma as compared to the rest of the nation. Perhaps you’ve also heard the news that people diagnosed with a serious mental illness are at a higher risk of premature death. Earlier this month, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration/Health Resources Services Administration Center for Integrated Health Solutions explained that these premature deaths are “largely due to complications from untreated, preventable chronic illnesses like obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, which are aggravated by poverty-driven health choices, like poor nutrition, lack of exercise, and smoking.”

We at Family & Children’s Services are acutely aware of this problem. Many of our clients don’t have a regular medical doctor. They use the emergency room for their health care or, sadly, forgo needed medical attention. Through a partnership with the George Kaiser Family Foundation and Morton Comprehensive Health Services, Family & Children’s Services took a bold step to help improve the health of our clients by opening a medical clinic in October 2011 inside the Sarah & John Graves Center.  

Currently, the clinic operates one day a week and is available for adults receiving mental health services from Family & Children’s Services. Clinic patients may also receive free medication as prescribed by a Morton medical provider. Patients receive treatment for colds and other minor complaints and serious, chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

So, can one day a week really help? By mid-February, 281 clients had been seen during the clinic’s 16 operating days. Over 70 percent of those served said they didn’t have a primary care physician and, instead, used to visit hospital emergency rooms for care. More than 20 percent didn’t seek care when sick. But now, these individuals have a resource for getting treatment and, just as important, managing their wellness.

The direct impact on our clients and their loved ones is evident. However, our community as a whole benefits, too, through less crowded emergency rooms and lower health care costs. 

Mental Illness Impacts 1 in 5 Americans, report shows

A new national report reveals that 45.9 million American adults aged 18 or older, or 20 percent of this age group, experienced mental illness in the past year. The rate of mental illness was more than twice as high among those aged 18 to 25 (29.9 percent) than among those aged 50 and older (14.3 percent). Adult women were also more likely than men to have experienced mental illness in the past year (23 percent versus 16.8 percent).


To read the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s full news release on the study, click here.

Fun & Free Time Together as a Family

Too often, parents find themselves caught in a game of “gimme” with their children – as in, “Gimme this, Mom.” or “Dad, can you gimme a new video game?” However, how much money you spend on your kids matters less than how much time you spend with them.

Tulsa World Blogger Natalie Mikles has some fantasic ideas for spending time together as a family free or on the cheap. We have a few other suggestions:

Have a board game night. Younger children can be paired up with older kids or parents. Reading game cards reinforces language skills, and moving the pawn and handling money helps with mathematics.

Channel Scheherezade, the fabled Persian storyteller. She told a story that lasted 1,001 nights, ending each night’s session on a suspenseful note. Let every member of the family have an opportunity to tell part of the story you create together.

Go dancing without the stars. Turn on some music and cut a rug on your own rug. It’s a great way to get some exercise and is likely to leave everyone giggling.

Stage your own “Chopped” challenge. Set out an array of motley ingredients, start a timer and tell your little chef to create a culinary masterpiece. Plan to be on hand to help younger children with cutting and any cooking required, but let their creativity guide the final product.



Do Your Part — By Carrie Little, Family Life Education Program Coordinator

“He isn’t even trying anymore.”

“She doesn’t care.”


Sound familiar?  If so, you are not alone.  Many couples go through times when one or both feel that they are the only one “working” on the relationship.  It becomes frustrating to reflect on your relationship and see only those things that you do to make your relationship work.  It can become a habit to focus only on those things that your partner ISN’T doing.  When this habit forms it is likely that other bad habits form in its wake, including bouts of escalation when trying to discuss issues with your partner, or starting sentences that begin with, “You never… ” or “You always… .”

Especially if you have children together, it is important to find ways of relating to one another without damaging your closeness.  One way to begin this process is called “Do Your Part.”  This concept relies greatly on your ability to look closely at your thoughts and actions to bring about change in your relationship.  In other words, in every situation, find a way to do the best you can.  Whether that be choosing not to yell and scream, or choosing to do something nice for your partner even in times of irritation. 

This does not mean you can change your relationship on your own.  It takes two to make a relationship work over time.  However, if both you and your partner begin a daily practice of “Do Your Part,” the need for each to focus on the other’s bad behavior will cease.  This involves trust.  You have to trust that your partner is doing everything he or she can to make your relationship and family life work, and vice versa.  This also involves a lot of respect and kindness, both toward yourself and your partner.

“Do Your Part” can change the tone of your relationship.  You will begin to process events in a different way.  Instead of automatically going toward the one thing your partner did wrong, you will be thinking in “I” statements instead.  Like, “What could I have done to make that conversation better?”  or, “What could I do today to make my relationship stronger?” 


If you would like to learn more about “Do Your Part,” and other concepts and skills to make your relationship strong, Family & Children’s Services offers a free class called Forever. For Real. In this class, couples learn together the skills needed to create a lasting and loving partnership.

Calling All Retailers: Clear Your Racks!

Family & Children’s Services is asking local retailers to clear their racks. The agency’s popular warehouse sale fundraising event is just around the corner – and merchandise is needed!

F&CS will host its ninth annual Abersons & Friends Warehouse Sale on March 28-30, 2012, at its central office, 650 S. Peoria Avenue. Proceeds of the sale will help F&CS provide counseling, treatment and support services to children who’ve been abused, families in crisis and individuals faced with overwhelming problems or mental illness.

Local merchants can support the effort by donating unsold stock – including home décor, housewares; women’s, men’s and children’s clothing; accessories and more – to F&CS. The agency will coordinate pick up from stores. Participating merchants may take a tax deduction for any items they donate, will be listed in promotional materials and – best of all! – will have more room on their racks to display the latest spring merchandise. 

Nearly 35 stores and hundreds of bargain-loving shoppers participated in last year’s Abersons & Friends Warehouse Sale. To get more information or schedule a pick up date, contact Rochelle Dowdell, the F&CS special events coordinator, at 918.560.1115 or

Caring for a Cause: Melissa Siemens Chairs Care Card 2015

Family & Children’s Services volunteer, Melissa Siemens, shares why she is serving as the Care Card 2015 chair.

Read entire Tulsa Kids magazine article here.



Gail Lapidus talks F&CS 90th anniversary with TulsaPeople magazine

CEO Gail Lapidus shares how Family & Children’s Services has strived to care for our community over the past 90 years.

Read the entire TulsaPeople magazine article here.

F&CS drug and mental health court succeeds


Family & Children’s Services drug and mental health court programs have something about which to crow.

Clients from F&CS, one of the treatment providers for Tulsa County’s mental health and drug court programs, made up nearly 100 percent of the summer’s graduating classes for the prison diversion programs for non-violent offenders with significant mental health and drug addiction issues.

“We’ve been fortunate to have great success in the program,” said Amber Dan, senior program director for the agency’s substance abuse division. “Our clients routinely make up the majority of the graduates.”

Participants, after a rigorous determination of their eligibility, complete their treatment, such as counseling, sobriety, medication and other interventions, before their record is expunged of their offenses for which they were charged. The goal is to, rather than sending them to prison, treat the underlying issues from which they suffer, and thus save the justice system time and money while helping them recover.

During the mental health court graduation in July, 5 of 6 graduates were F&CS clients, Dan said. Meanwhile, all six of July’s drug court graduates were F&CS clients. Also, F&CS had seven graduates during its female diversion graduation, in which women accused of similar offenses get diverted from prison if they complete a treatment program and work with their case managers, therapists and probation officers.

“That number has increased from previous graduations, too,” Dan said.

shutterstock_306044615Drug courts work by requiring participants to adhere to strict behavior guidelines and random drug testing, The National Association of Drug Court Professionals states. Mental health courts, which the Council of State Governments Justice Center reports first appeared in the 1990s, work much the same way.

If a mental health issue is found to be the reason why someone is committing crimes, then treatment will be more effective than prison, where there frequently is no treatment other than drug therapy. Mental health court programs require them to get the therapy they need, in addition to other necessities.

Because participants have to be charged with felonies to participate, their graduation frees up space and years in the prison system. F&CS’ participants routinely face long prison sentences, Dan said.

Dan said therapists or case managers with the program meet with participants to determine whether they struggle primarily with mental health issues or substance abuse and addiction. Depending on the result of that investigation, they’re sent to either drug or mental health court, including a co-occurring docket for people who rate highly for both.

“When participants come to us for services, they have variety of needs, including intensive case management,” Dan said. “We link them with the med clinic and have them meet with a psychiatrist … Our goal is to have them connected to as many services as possible within the first week of joining the program.”

Most patients, by the time they finish, will be in the program for about two years, Dan said. With mental health court, they can stay in the program as long as needed. It all depends on their needs and progress made.

As of August, F&CS had 64 people were in mental health court and 28 were in drug court.

“The ultimate goal is not to be punitive … The program’s goal is to look at what barriers our participants are struggling with, and support them in those areas. If we are able to do that, then we have not only improved someone quality of life, but we have also taken one less offender out of the justice system.”

F&CS thanks all who joined us for Day of Caring 2015


Family & Children's Services Day of Caring 2015

Click below for a link to our Facebook photo gallery for Day of Caring 2015.

Posted by Family & Children’s Services Wednesday, September 16, 2015

TULSA, Okla. — Family & Children’s Services thanks each of the 70 volunteers who pitched in for Day of Caring on Friday.

The day started around 8:30 a.m. with volunteers from AstraZeneca, Tulsa Community College, PennWell Corp. and LeadersLife Worksite Benefits assembling at F&CS central office, 650 S. Peoria Ave., for snacks, a send-off and assignments for the day.

“It was incredible having the volunteers here, watching them work hard and pitch in for us and United Way on Day of Caring,” said F&CS CEO Gail Lapidus. “Their work helps us a great deal and was also just a fun break from the everyday goings-on around our offices. We thank them from the bottom of our hearts for their contribution on Day of Caring.”

See here for photos from the day.

The volunteers were treated to a showing of how much their contribution means to F&CS through talks by F&CS leaders and one of the participants of its alternative to incarceration program, Women in Recovery. Then, the volunteers fanned out to five F&CS locations, where they helped organize papers, clean out office refrigerators, wash vehicles, clean offices and prepare packets for F&CS clients, among other needed tasks.

The volunteers were part of legions of them that fanned out across Tulsa on Friday in what TAUW President and CEO Mark Graham called one of the nation’s largest single days of service.

On its website, TAUW reports Friday was its largest Day of Caring yet, boasting of 5,582 volunteers, 447 projects completed, 142 participating companies and 94 nonprofit organizations.

“We were proud to make history with this year’s Day of Caring – the more than 5,500 volunteers working 450 projects across the area,” said Mark Graham, president and CEO of the Tulsa Area United Way.
Family & Children’s Services, the state’s largest behavioral health nonprofit and server of about 100,000 people eachyear, is one of 60 United Way partner agencies in the Tulsa area.

F&CS looks forward to continuing to work with United Way and its volunteers improve Tulsans’ lives for years to come, Lapidus said.

About Family & Children’s Services
For 90 years, Family & Children’s Services has been the place to turn for help with problems that seem overwhelming and too difficult to handle alone. The agency restores children’s well-being, heals victims of abuse, strengthens individuals and families, and provides hope and recovery for adults suffering from mental illness and addictions. Today, its life-changing services help one in six Tulsans.

Family & Children’s Services is a partner agency of the Tulsa Area United Way. F&CS is also a member of the following national organizations: Mental Health Corporations of America and the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare. F&CS is certified with distinction as a community mental health center by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. F&CS is also certified with distinction as a Community Mental Health Center by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Additionally, F&CS is certified by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services as an Outpatient Alcohol and Drug Treatment Program and certified with distinction as a Gambling Treatment Program.

F&CS welcomes Child Protection Coalition new executive director

Family & Children’s Services welcomes the Tulsa County Child Protection Coalition’s new executive director, Kristine Bridges.

Bridges, profiled in this Sept. 15 story in the Tulsa Business & Legal News, recently left her position as associate dean of professional development at the University of Tulsa College of Law to lead the 26-member coalition.

Family & Children’s Services is one of the group’s organizing agencies, which also includes the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, Domestic Violence Intervention Services, the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office, Youth Services of Tulsa and the Tulsa Police Department.

The coalition works to improve the county’s child protection system through collaboration, advocacy, training and promotion of the use of best practices among service providers, its website states.

Outrage misplaced in famed lion’s death, F&CS therapists say


The recent death of a lion in Africa at the hands of a Minnesota dentist brought an outpouring of grief, anger and calls for greater efforts to fight trophy hunting.

That furor over Cecil the Lion’s death in July resulted in a traditional and social media firestorm. It even prompted public statements from celebrities expressing outrage over the hunt that led to the death, eventually culminating in the dentist, Dr. Walter Palmer, temporarily closing his office in August.

The hullabaloo got Sherri Hunter, a clinical supervisor with Family & Children’s Services Child Abuse and Trauma Services program in Tulsa, thinking. And then she got mad.

“We have kids who are being sexually abused, who are being murdered, who are being beaten every single day in this country, and you don’t see people as outraged as you did with that lion,” Hunter said.

In fact, there is a general lack of awareness of child abuse that needs to change, said Allison Korvick, a therapist assigned to Hunter’s team.

Nationally, 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused, reports the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. The rates are believed to be higher in Oklahoma, a state which, not coincidentally, ranks among the nation’s worst for child poverty, education achievement, nutrition, health care and other areas.

“I just don’t think we’re doing enough with prevention, generally, as a field, as educators, as a society,” Korvick said. “It’s just one of those things at which we go, ‘Yucky, uncomfortable, don’t like it, don’t want to talk about it.’”

F&CS provides parent group classes for child sexual abuse victims’ parents (if they didn’t commit the abuse, Hunter explained), in addition to therapy and treatment for the victims. The classes are almost always full.

“We have new clients who come in every single day,” Hunter said.

The class covers topics every parent should know, Korvick said. The problem is, by the time most of the families get to Family & Children’s Services class and therapists, the abuse has already taken place.

Regardless of when the parents seek help, Hunter and Korvick said the classes are critical for parents. Research has shown recently that child abuse victims are more likely to develop mental illnesses, substance habits or other behavioral and emotional issues later in life, in addition to becoming incarcerated. Therapy and parenting can make the difference.

Typically, the children’s families get in to the class as the result of being ordered to do so – either by a court or by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, Hunter said.

A typical case, Hunter said, is a child has accused his or her mother’s boyfriend of molestation (at least 8 of 10 abuse victims know their abusers, Hunter said). DHS will get involved, and mom sometimes gets charged with failure to protect from harm, which is a felony.

The family is then put on a service plan, Hunter said, one which directs mom to attend the parent education group. Sometimes, the kids end up getting removed from the home.

“We see parents who’ve lost their kids and are working on getting them back,” Hunter said. “We also see parents who’ve been able to keep the child in the home because they maybe did take the right steps, but they still take this class to just get more information.”

The hourlong class meets for 12 weeks, 11 of which are education and processing. The final class meeting is a final exam of sorts, a review of the past 11 weeks and parents’ chance to show what they learned.

The bulk of the course’s material is learning how to communicate with kids about uncomfortable topics, such as how to talk to kids about protecting themselves, sexual predators and the things such people might do to “groom” kids for victimization, Korvick said.

Therapists also teach the parents to use actual terms for body parts instead of metaphors. Korvick said that always shocks when she says during class they should use words like “penis” and “vagina.” That helps children understand their body, as well as identify what area of the body they should protect.

“That’s something with which we often struggle with parents, but it’s something they need start to understand the importance of,” Hunter said.

The more parents have calm, matter-of-fact conversations about these issues, the more aware children will be and the less the topic will frighten them. Sexual abuse usually takes place in secrecy, and talking about it brings it out in the open, making it something that can be discussed and prevented.

Hunter uses the analogy of teaching children what to do when there’s a fire. Her parents worked with her on a plan of what to do when there was one.

“I was never concerned or scared or had trauma, thinking my house was going to burn down,” Hunter said. “I just knew what to do if something did happen.”

Regardless, greater conversation on the topic could help shift the daily media outrage machine away from the Cecil the Lions of the world toward a silent epidemic victimizing children at rates that go beyond what’s common knowledge.

The class (see info here) is open to any parent interested in attending. F&CS also offers 15 Family Life Education classes to help with a variety of issues, from relationships counseling to parenting. For more information, go to, or call 918-587-9471.


Matt Elliott
Social and traditional media producer
Family & Children’s Services
650 S. Peoria Ave.

F&CS closed on Labor Day

All F&CS offices, with the exception of the CrisisCare Center, are closed Monday in observance of Labor Day.

The locations will re-open Tuesday.

Call 918-587-9471 for more information or in case of emergency.

F&CS expands school-based counselor program

DSC_3809 cropped

Faith Crittenden, an F&CS school-based counselor and supervisor, speaks to a group of Union Public Schools counselors Wednesday about working with child victims of trauma. F&CS provides school-based counselors to 35 Tulsa area schools, two of which were added this fall semester, which began this week.

TULSA, Okla. — As Tulsa-area parents take their kids back to school this week, Family & Children’s Services is expanding its much-needed school-based counselor program, adding two schools to its now 35-school operation.

The new schools, Broken Arrow’s Oliver Middle School and Tulsa’s McLain Seventh Grade Academy, respectively, join others in the Tulsa, Jenks, Broken Arrow and Union school districts this fall semester. F&CS also has counselors at 13 Head Start programs in the area.

The counselors, provided at no cost to taxpayers or school districts since 1999, help children with everything from academic-related anxiety to more serious issues, such as depression, trauma and suicide.

Whitney Downie, chief program officer with F&CS’ Child and Family Services division, said F&CS is growing the program because demand has grown. The number of kids in the U.S. being treated for mental, emotional and behavioral health issues has grown by 50 percent over the last 20 years, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine reported in May, and the Tulsa area hasn’t been immune to the trend, either, Downie said.

“I think our kids live in more difficult situations today than they used to,” Downie said.

Further complicating that is increasing poverty: 1 in 4 Tulsa children are in poverty, a state which is known to harm their mental health. Downie said when she started at F&CS 16 years ago, Tulsa Public Schools had about 44,000 students within about 65-70 percent of the federal poverty line. F&CS provided counselors for just one school. Today, that’s closer to about 40,000 students at 80 percent.

To help families, teachers and school administrators, F&CS counselors assist students with everything from anxiety issues to bipolar disorder and depression while listening to their troubles, providing coping mechanisms, and working with their family and teachers to ensure their success. F&CS’ status as a community behavioral health center means the children also have access to psychiatric services, among other amenities, without the need for insurance.

A day in the life of an F&CS school-based counselor

DSC_3824 croppedFaith Crittenden is an F&CS counselor who helps supervise the program. Crittenden sees kids at Jenks schools and Wolf Creek Elementary in Broken Arrow, too.

She always arrives 15 to 20 minutes before students. It makes for an early morning, but it’s the best way to be a part of her kids’ routine, especially at schools where students and staff greet the kids as they enter. It’s also a good time to connect with teachers or meet with students’ parents before the school and work day starts.

“You see kids back to back throughout the school day,” Crittenden said. “You’re even eating lunch with the kids. Because some schools prefer you to pull kids at certain times, you just have to get creative in how you’re going to structure your schedule.”

What she sees the most is child victims of trauma, something that has illustrated for her in stark terms that trauma “doesn’t discriminate.”

“We know one in four girls is sexually abused, and one in seven boys,” Crittenden said. “So if you take that stat alone, and you have a classroom of 25, then you’re talking about multiple children in your classroom dealing in sexual abuse.”

Treating trauma takes no small amount of empathy, in addition to training. Crittenden must avoid taking things at face value.

“You really have to take it kind of kid by kid. If they’re used to shootings happening in their neighborhood, they consider that normal. That’s not something I encounter every day, so I would consider that traumatic. That’s their everyday life. Often, what we have to do instead is teach these kids that school is a safe place and help them realize some of those behaviors they come in with they don’t need here in school.”

Regardless of the trauma’s source, if a student is suffering from it, it usually isn’t obvious, she said. It’ll manifest in ways that might confuse a therapist or a teacher.

Traumatized students often appear to be distracted in class, disengaged, fidgety and withdrawn. To most teachers, that student understandably appears to have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

But “you may have a kid whose parents beat each other up the night before. That kid then comes to school, and is expected to attend to what three plus three is. But they’re looking out the window and fidgeting. They get pegged as ADHD. But what’s happening is that kid is thinking about and ruminating on what happened the night before, wondering, ‘What am I going to walk into today when I get home from school?’”

After learning kids’ backstories, she’ll take what she knows (keeping secret any details that must be private) to their teachers.

“I’ll sit down with them and talk about strategies, tips or tricks to manage problematic behavior,” said Crittenden, who has a similar conversation with children’s parents or guardians.

“That way, we’re all on the same page and talking about things the same way with this kid, because we know hearing this same intervention over and over and over will really help integrate it into their daily coping practices.”

Teachers are expected to do much beyond teaching, she said. School-based clinicians like Crittenden help them manage kids whom they’re struggling to reach, while also not excusing from a discipline standpoint “everything the student does.

“It’s just a way we can look at approaching the child differently than other kids whose story is different.”

About Family & Children’s Services

For 90 years, Family & Children’s Services has been the place to turn for help with problems that seem overwhelming and too difficult to handle alone. The agency restores children’s well-being, heals victims of abuse, strengthens individuals and families, and provides hope and recovery for adults suffering from mental illness and addictions. Today, its life-changing services help one in six Tulsans.

Family & Children’s Services is a partner agency of the Tulsa Area United Way. F&CS is also a member of the following national organizations: Mental Health Corporations of America and the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare. F&CS is certified with distinction as a community mental health center by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. F&CS is also certified with distinction as a Community Mental Health Center by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Additionally, F&CS is certified by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services as an Outpatient Alcohol and Drug Treatment Program and certified with distinction as a Gambling Treatment Program.






Matt Elliott
Social and traditional media producerFamily & Children’s Services

The first day of school is over. Now what?

The first day of school is in the books for your little guy or girl.


You’ve prepared them for the day. You dropped them off. Despite much apprehension, no doubt, new friends have been made and new teachers discovered. Now, they’re home.

You ask how school was. You get only answers like “fine,” or “good,” or “OK.” Nothing more. Nothing less.

What do you do to get your kids to have a conversation with you about school? Here are some tips.

1. Take the reporter approach. Ask questions that can’t be answered by simple yes or no. An example of an open-ended question could be something like “tell me about your day.”

The idea is the same as a reporter’s – get your source (in this case, your child) to talk at length. Close-ended questions lend themselves easily to one-word answers. Open-ended questions encourage people to volunteer more information, and they also show more interest on your part in the person with whom you’re speaking.

2. Take note of how they feel and act at home. Are they withdrawn and tight-lipped when they get home? Or do they seem lighthearted and jovial? Note any change in behavior from before school started.

A child who comes home from school quiet and withdrawn may be upset about something. Use open-ended questions like we discussed above to help.

Read between the lines with the words they use. Do they use words conveying negative emotions and images, or do they use positive words? That can tell you a lot about their experience, how they’re feeling, or what they think about school.

3. Ask them what they like about school. We all know it’s easy to focus on the negatives. Asking your child about school in a fashion that gets them to focus on the positives can make them more likely to succeed in school.

4. Did they make any new friends? Asking this can be a great way to not only learn about your children’s friendships with others, but also about how they relate to peers.

Are they being bullied? Are they having trouble fitting in? What things did you endure when you were a kid that were a similar?

Knowing how Mom or Dad responded might help them feel less alone at a time when such emotions could be common – starting a new school, meeting new people, et cetera.

Adjusting to school can be hard on kids. Asking questions to get them to open up not only reminds them that they’re not alone, but they can also strengthen the bond between parent and child.


Matt Elliott
Social and Traditional Media Producer
Family & Children’s Services918-560-1141

5 tips to help parents get kids adjusted to school

Happy friends

Parents across the area are headed back to school today with their children.

They’ve got enough on their minds as parents – being sure their kids have the clothes they need, that they’ve had their vaccinations, that they’ve got their school supplies and had their eyes checked, et cetera.

But what about preparing kids mentally for the start of the school year?

Faith Crittenden is a licensed social worker who helps oversee Family & Children’s Services school-based counselor program.

Although classes at Tulsa-area schools started Wednesday and Thursday, Crittenden said it’s not too late for parents to follow a couple of quick tips to get their children ready for the year.

These will all add up to helping children reduce their anxiety or stress level during class – when they need to be paying attention – something that can be even more beneficial for children who have mental, emotional or behavioral health issues.

Read on for the tips. For more, see these from the National Association of School Psychologists.


1. Get children in gear for school by helping them transition from a summer to a school mentality. They’ve been going all summer without having to follow a teacher’s rules and directions.

“It’s hard for them to turn their brain on after unstructured, doing-what-you-want time, to now going back and listening to a teacher tell you what to do all day,” Crittenden said.

Do this by initiating conversations with children about school starting, discussing who their teachers are. Ask if their friends have had them, and what do they say about those teachers?

2. Get children to look up their teachers on the school’s website.

Often, each classroom will have its own website through the school’s site. Usually, teachers will have a biography on their class home pages that tells students who they are.

Knowing a bit about teachers’ stories helps make them seem more approachable and familiar to students during that critical first week of school.

3. Take children to “Back to School Night.” Usually a few weeks after school starts, it can be a great way for kids to meet teachers outside of a formal classroom setting. It can also help with learning their school’s layout, something that’s especially helpful for children who may be changing classrooms during the day for the first time.

4. If children have emotional or behavioral health issues, parents should set up a meeting with teachers and principals to discuss their children and what has worked in the past. Parents will especially want to do this with any new teachers. Not only will this help their children, it will also help teachers work with students in the classroom to ensure they receive an optimum classroom experience.

“That way, when those kids walk in, those teachers feel armed with things to do and have a plan so that when something does arise, it’s not just willy nilly things that we’re pulling out of the air. We’ve actually got a plan that we’ve talked about and that we’re going to implement and do.”

5. Finally, parents should get to know their school’s counselor, especially if their children have struggled or are struggling with emotional or behavioral health issues. Additionally, it is also helpful to go by the school’s office and asking who the school’s mental health provider is, Crittenden said.

That counselor can refer help directly or refer you to other services offered.


Matt Elliott
Social and Traditional Media Producer
Family & Children’s Services918-560-1141