Archive of ‘Children’ category

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like School Time

As the new school year approaches, parents everywhere are excited for their child to begin their first day. Children prepare with fresh haircuts, ‘first day of school’ outfits, and school supplies, yet underneath all their  preparation, they may be struggling with anxiety and apprehension with the thought of beginning school, especially tweens and adolescents moving into middle school or high school. As a child therapist, if I had to name a primary reason for anxiety increasing as school approaches, it would be uncertainty. Uncertainty of what’s going to be expected of them, uncertainty of what the structure is like, uncertainty of  “who’s lunch table am I going to sit at?”  and “how am I going to find my classes?”– all changes that are new and unfamiliar. With the first day of school quickly approaching, it is a great opportunity to check-in with your child and support them with regulating their thoughts and emotions. One effective strategy that builds connection and a sense of control within their new transition can be goal setting for their upcoming school year. 

How does creating goals with my child reduce their anxiety? 

Working with your child to set specific, realistic goals decreases anxiety because it provides a roadmap or structure for them to work in, increasing feelings of control as they enter a new situation. As you model for them how to think with intention beyond the present moment, it is a bonding opportunity as you listen to your child’s stress and beliefs about themselves. Connecting your expectations with their expectations, clarifies what the family values as success versus what they think must be accomplished. For example, there may be some relief when a child hears, “Getting straight A’s in all your AP classes is really challenging. What do you feel that you can accomplish? How can I support you with that?”” By creating a target that is reachable, it decreases your child’s irrational thoughts about how the next grade level is too challenging or that they are not “good enough” because they now feel capable and more motivated to meet expectations. As author Amanda Morin states, “When your child begins to decide what they want to accomplish, they’re more likely to be motivated to complete things for their own satisfaction and learning, rather than for the satisfaction of others or for tangible rewards”. 

How do you begin the goal setting process with your child?

When creating goals with clients and their families, I often start the conversation with defining the word goal. How can a child create a goal or be engaged in conversation if they do not actually know what a goal is? Amanda Morin states, “..a goal is something that a person wants to achieve. A goal is realized after a person puts a plan of action in motion that makes their intention a reality.” Using this as a base, we discuss different goals that engage my client’s interests, for example, a goal that my client has for his basketball season. Then, we discuss ideas on how to accomplish the goal. After some simple examples, I introduce the concept of a SMART goal. 

What is a SMART goal? 

At times, parents have approached me with thoughts that their child doesn’t have realistic goals or that they are not motivated to do school work or help around the house. Goal setting can be a powerful strategy, but your child needs to feel connected toward their goal and that it has a purpose. In addition, they need guidance on how to develop goals so the strategy is supportive. SMART is an acronym that contains five key elements to effectively create and succeed at a goal.

A SMART goal is..

  • Specific: The goal is clear and has an end so you know when you have reached it.
  • Measurable: You can track progress on your goal.
  • Achievable: Your goal is challenging, but you are capable of meeting it.
  • Relevant: Your goal is interesting to you or is a skill you want to learn.
  • Time-bound: You have a deadline to complete the goal by.

How do I begin? 

There are many online worksheets and activities to support you and your child with creating SMART goals. 

After learning about my clients’ overwhelming thoughts and emotions about their upcoming school year, I created my own SMART goal activity for us to use during our session. As they created goals related to their personal life, relationships with their peers, and their academics, we formulated them into the sentence starters below:

My goal is to ________________________ (specific) by ___________________(timeframe)

I will accomplish this goal by ___________________ (things/steps you can do to achieve this goal). 

Accomplishing this goal will _______________________ (result/benefit/why is this goal important to you?) . 

Of course, we saved time for them to add some creative touches. Children left their session feeling more relaxed with positive thoughts about their school year, and had plans to put them in a place where they look often, like a school agenda. In addition, every client was happy to share their goals with their parents. It was a great planning tool and I feel confident that it can create some powerful conversations with your child. 


“5 Tips for Setting Smart Goals as a Family.” Waterford.Org, 24 Aug. 2022,,which%20they%20should%20help%20define

Leonard, Kimberlee. “The Ultimate Guide to S.M.A.R.T. Goals.” Forbes, 11 May 2022,

Morin, Amanda. “How to Set Goals for Your Child This School Year.” Verywell Family, 23 June 2022,

Paulus, Daniel J, et al. “Mental Health Literacy for Anxiety Disorders: How Perceptions of Symptom Severity Might Relate to Recognition of Psychological Distress.” Journal of Public Mental Health, 2015,

The Power of Curiosity

Curiosity can be a powerful perspective when addressing difficult experiences that invites both self compassion and compassion for others. 

Curiosity With Yourself

I have included fellow clinicians’ blog posts that address the power of increasing emotional awareness and decreasing judgment of emotions. Within this process, being curious with yourself, your thoughts, and your emotions can reduce the critical voice and self-judgment that can emerge in stressful experiences.

A few examples to try:

  • I wonder if I can slow this down to better understand.
  • What emotions am I experiencing in this moment?
  • How is my body feeling?
  • I wonder what it would be like to sit with this feeling just a bit longer.
  • What would it be like to name/share this feeling/experience?

Curiosity With Others

Though I will refer to connecting and communicating with children, preteens, and teens, this curiosity approach can apply to interacting with anyone at any age, a partner, adult family member, or close friends. Curiosity can provide a felt sense of safety and compassion for others. Including curiosity statements or questions throughout conversation conveys a striving to understand rather than assume, to connect rather than criticize or correct, and ultimately that you are listening so they feel heard. 

In Context of Development

Utilizing curiosity with children, preteens, and teens encourages mutual respect and a sense of empowerment for them to share their feelings and experience. A curious perspective from caregivers and adults can help children develop self-reflection and creative problem solving. Have you experienced a child or teen struggling with anger, fear, or sadness and wanted to provide the perfect advice or give them the solution? It is possible to relieve this pressure or urgency to solve the problem for them by reflecting and validating their feelings, meeting them with curiosity to create solutions together, and hear their ideas of what could be helpful. Have you experienced a child or teen struggling with challenging behavior and wanted to correct them, tell them what they did/are doing wrong, and what they should do instead? Again, curiosity for their experience and feelings allows them to feel seen and understood, regulates and integrates their experience, and reduces the power struggle that can emerge. 

In Practice

Below are a few examples of reflecting someone’s feelings and offering curiosity statements or questions, compiled from resources listed at the end of the article:

  • “I wonder if you feel (insert feeling here)…”
  • Tell me more about that.
  • What happened?
  • I wonder how that makes you feel. How do you feel about it?
  • I wonder what ideas you have?
  • I wonder what could be helpful. What can I do to support you?
  • Is there anything else that you want to say about that?
  • What suggestions or ideas do you have?
  • Is there any other information you can give me to help me understand?
  • What do you need to figure it out?
  • Is there anything else that is bothering you? 

References & Resources

A List of Indoor Activities In and Around Austin (Because It’s A Million Degrees Outside!)

Y’all, if you haven’t noticed it is hot outside and, unfortunately, not the just-wear shorts-and- a-tank-top kind of hot ! Temperatures these past couple of weeks have hit over 102 degrees and that’s not including the heat index and humidity, making the outdoors feel even hotter. Wowza! 

For me growing up, summers have always been associated with outdoor activities, whether that’s pool and pizza parties or grilling in the backyard. During this time of year, I am used to feeling energized. However, this sweltering Texas heat has me unmotivated to go outside and play. So to encourage everyone, including myself, to enjoy the present and not feel like we have to be trapped inside our homes with the lovely air conditioning, I complied a list. This list includes fun and no-sun activities in and around Austin that we can all enjoy by ourselves or in a group ! Have a good time and stay cool out there! 

Hill Country Indoor Sports and Fitness

WHAT: 6 indoor courts for playing pickle ball, food and drinks available

WHERE: 13875 Bee Cave Pkwy, Austin, TX

Austin Bouldering Project

WHAT: A bouldering gym that also offers yoga and fitness classes, saunas, and cafe 


  • 4477 S Lamar Blvd #600, Austin, TX
  • 979 Springdale Rd #150, Austin, TX

Blazer Tag

WHAT: Walk-in laser tag arena for ages 7+ 

WHERE: 1701 W Ben White Blvd, Austin, TX 

Archery Country

WHAT: Indoor archery range that also sells bows, hats, and shirts 

WHERE: 8121 Research Blvd, Austin, TX 

Urban Axes

WHAT: Indoor ax throwing range for groups or walk-ins

WHERE: 812 Airport Blvd, Austin, TX 

Chaparral Ice

WHAT: Family-owned ice rink offering public skate times, figure skating & hockey lessons & party packages 

WHERE: 2525 W Anderson Ln. #400, Austin, TX 


WHAT: Interactive children’s museum for children and their families 

WHERE: 1830 Simond Ave, Austin, TX 

Ceramic Lodge

WHAT: Arts center offering make-your-own pottery, fused glass & candle projects, plus classes & camps

WHERE: 18 Chisholm Trail Rd, Round Rock, TX 

Alamo Drafthouse

WHAT: Austin based movie theatre with good food, good beer, and good film all at the same place 


  • 14028 N US Highway 183 Bldg F, Austin, TX
  • 1911 Aldrich Street, Suite 120, Austin TX 
  • 5701 W. Slaughter Lane Bldg. F, Austin TX 
  • 1120 S Lamar Blvd., Austin TX 
  • 2700 West Anderson Lane, Suite #701, Austin TX 

Violet Crown

WHAT: Locally owned cinema 

WHERE: 434 W 2nd St, Austin, TX 

Blanton Museum of Art

WHAT: Located on UT campus, this art museum offers both temporary exhibitions and permanent collection galleries 

WHERE: 200 E Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Austin, TX 78712

Austin Aquarium

WHAT: For profit aquarium 

WHERE: 13530 US-183 Hwy #101, Austin, TX 


WHAT: Indoor waterpark and resort 

WHERE: 3001 Kalahari Blvd, Round Rock, TX


WHAT: Family friendly arcade with over 150 games, drinks and food available, adults only after 8 PM

WHERE: 600 E Riverside Dr, Austin, TX


WHAT: High-tech indoor attraction boasting vertical-wind-tunnel-powered skydiving simulation. 

WHERE: 13265 US-183 Hwy Suite A, Austin, TX

Mount Playmore

WHAT: Children’s indoor fun center with an arcade, kiddie rides, toddler area, drinks and food available  

WHERE: 13609 N Interstate Hwy 35, Austin, TX

Epic Fun

WHAT: Family-friendly attraction featuring bumper cars, laser tag & other games, plus an eatery 

WHERE: 7101 W, State Hwy 71 Suite D, Austin, TX

Urban Air

WHAT: Large-scale indoor trampoline center hosting open jump, fitness classes, dodgeball & parties.


  • 4500 S Pleasant Valley Rd Bldg. 1 Suite #106, Austin, TX 
  • 13201 Ranch Rd 620, Austin, TX

Need more fun? Check out for awesome stuff to do in Austin ! 

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