Back to School: How to Make New Friends

As kids try and get adjusted to the new school year, many children will experience difficulties making and maintaining new friendships. Making friendships is critical to helping kids improve their communication and sharing skills. Some children who are impulsive and hyperactive sometimes engage in behaviors that sabotage their ability to make new friends. Also, for children and adolescents who are shy and introverted, it can be very overwhelming to initiate conversations with peers.


From a child’s perspective, making friends is just as important as performing well academically. If you notice that your child is struggling socially and/or being bullied, here are some steps you can take to help. Remember, as a parent it is not practical for you to make friendships on behalf of your child. It is possible to help your child make friendships without enabling them. Giving your child opportunities to grow socially can help them feel more self-motivated to make friends. You can help them build the skills needed to make healthy friendships. Try to:

  1. Practice Greetings. This is a basic step to starting a new friendship. You can role play with your child different conversation starts that he or she can use with a potential new friend. Also, be mindful of non-verbal communication such as eye contact and body language. For example, if your child is looking at their feet when they are talking to a potential new friend, the other child could interpret this as your child being uninterested.
  2. Attend a Social Skills Group: Your child has the opportunity to be in a small group setting where he or she can interact with other children who are experiencing similar challenges; it help your child feel less alone. Making friendships can be hard and your child is definitely not the only one going through this! Here at Fresh Start for The Mind, we offer social skills groups for children. Please email Chelsea Moodie, M.S., APC, NCC for more information about how to sign up
  3. Be Mindful of Other Kids:  Being mindful about the needs of peers can be helpful in making new friendships. For example, if you notice that a classmate is in need of a pencil, you can lend the classmate a pencil. Your child can even be mindful by saving their friend a seat at the lunch table. There are endless ways of being kind and mindful to classmates!

While making friendships can be an anxiety-provoking situation, with the right skills your child can be on their way to making healthy friendships. Also, remember that a crucial component to healthy friendships is trust. You can always ask your child what qualities they like about their friends, as well as any necessary adjustments they believe they need to make in their friendship circle.

Chelsea Moodie, M.S., APC, NCC


The Power of Recommendations

Fresh Start has just celebrated its 4th year as an independent private practice! We’re honored to have served so many in the community and are now starting to see many “repeat” clients who are requesting updated evaluations. From my perspective, I’ve seen two types of “repeaters”: Those who accepted the initial results and followed my recommendations OR Those who didn’t.  I get it, in some cases, your only intention is to obtain a diagnosis simply as a means to an end. Perhaps your child needed a diagnosis for school accommodations, maybe you needed a diagnosis just so that your medical doctor would prescribe medication, or maybe you or your child needed to “prove” there was no diagnosis to another family member or other professional. In any case, you still received well-thought out recommendations to not just “accommodate” the problem (or diagnosis), but to actually help improve symptoms.

Just recently, I met with parents, who had their child evaluated by me and my team in 2013. They were so excited to see me and tell me all about their now-teenage daughter. They related that they followed “every recommendation” and even provided specific examples. Some recommendations they were still adhering to til this day!! Their daughter had been taken off some medication, significantly improved her grades at school, and required an updated evaluation for her IEP. These parents also wanted an updated report themselves, just so they could see the prior diagnoses removed. I too, was ecstatic to see the results!!  This was a very different girl than I evaluated in 2013.  Thankfully, we have numerous stories like these.

On the other hand, I’ve met some parents who’ve come back quite distraught because their child is struggling just the same or even worse. When I ask what all has been done in the last two or three years, some parents say they participated in a couple of counseling sessions or provided the report to the school, often with no other attempts at intervention.  For many of these parents, there very well might be little time in the schedule or limited funds in the budget to adhere to some of my recommendations, but two things are for sure: 1) I provide a multitude of options with schedule and budget in mind, and 2) I encourage parents to meet with me periodically to discuss other treatment interventions in the event the ones I offer are not feasible.

Being a psychologist is definitely my calling in life. I appreciate every client that walks through the doors of Fresh Start and vow to give my best effort to help with the platform I’ve been given. It is now up to you to take these well thought-out and heart-felt recommendations and apply them in your or your child’s life. It could make all the difference down the road. Trust me!

-Dr. Jones


What to look for in a new school?!

What do you look for in a school? As I parent, and an Educational Consultant, I think about this as much as you do. When my kids were in school, I kept a notebook of things my children liked and did not like about their school experience. I watched their anxiety level, and their stress levels, and I wrote it all done. That’s how I discovered my daughter had severe test anxiety. In understanding this I was able to work with her teachers and ease that anxiety during assessments. For my son, it was socialization, learning proper responses and being able to read facial queues and body language.

From all of that, I go back to my question of what do you look for in a school? For me it was the following:
● Dedication of Staff – I will take a dedicated staff member over a certified teacher with a Master’s Degree any day; and in the past I have been lucky enough to have both. A dedicated staff member will go above and beyond to find a method of teaching that works for your child. A dedicated staff member will answer your 101 emails and put you at ease. A dedicated staff member has the same goals as you do. My biggest sense of pride when I owned and ran Hayden’s Way is that we had a dedicated staff. Those women added, searched, and gave more than any other teachers I knew. They were creative, intuitive, knowledgeable, and above all dedicated. They were dedicated to the school, the students, and the parents.
● Curriculum – I want a mixture of curriculum that guides the students through their learning, and I want a variety of choices, because not every curriculum works for every child. A school needs to be able to give your child options, and I don’t care if it’s written by the Mennonites, who by the way have the best grammar book out there, or the Director of the DOE herself. I just want it clear, concise and thorough, and I want it to work for my child.
● Socialization – Let’s be honest – we all want our kids to have friends, go to parties, and have a social life. The one thing we had at Hayden’s Way was a code of conduct. This code of conduct gave ownership to the students and created empathy and responsibility. We helped our students understand that we are all different, and to respect those differences in one another. Socialization is another reason that field trips are so important. Field trips offer an educational and fun social outing for students. It creates opportunities to impart to them proper social skills. I know as parents we all try and teach this social understanding to our children, but sometimes we can start to sound like the teacher in a Charlie Brown cartoon. It’s good to have outside reinforcements to explain how their actions affect others, and to teach them how to approach a new friend. So look for a school that has a good set of ethics code and will work with you and your child to heighten their social ability.

Get in the habit of journaling what did and did not work for your child this year. Take notes on their anxiety and stresses, and work with your teachers and administrators to setup an environment to succeed for your child.

And if you need help finding the right school for your child contact me. It’s what I do!

Lei Rhyne, M.Ed.



Should my child be re-evaluated?

Should my child be re-evaluated?  All psychological examinations are not created equal.  Inexpensive and brief evaluations are tempting, but can be harmful to your child.  Psychological diagnoses such as ADHD, depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar, OCD, oppositional defiance disorder, and schizophrenia require the careful, state-of-the art, consideration of a psychological team of professionals.  At Fresh Start, we evaluate children every day who have received the wrong diagnosis and, therefore, are prescribed the wrong medication.  They are taking chemicals into their bodies that are making their symptoms worse!  So, yes, if your child’s medication is not helping them, they should receive a thorough psychological (and often, academic) evaluation.

Working with teenagers is my passion.  I frequently evaluate teenagers whose parents did the right thing when their children were little, voicing their parental concerns to pediatricians, teachers, and even psychologists.  After a brief examination, they were informed that their child was fine (or lacked motivation, needed more discipline, etc.).  Years later, (often with the increased demands of early middle school), the child’s difficulties became overwhelming.  When brought in for a comprehensive evaluation, they were given carefully selected psychological assessments based on their unique difficulties.  Input from teachers, parents, caregivers, speech therapists, etc. were taken into account, and they were finally given a working diagnosis to be shared with their school for accommodations.  Of course, not all children have diagnosable issues, but those children were still given specific, tailored recommendations.

It’s never too late to get a Fresh Start.


Potty Training Your Child: Easy or Difficult?

For many parents, helping their child become potty trained is a learning experience that is both challenging and fun. Of course, accidents happen, but parents are able to share the joy with their child as he or she successfully uses the restroom and cheers “I did it!” However, many parents are experiencing the exact opposite.

Does your child have frequent accidents at home or at school? Do you find that both you and your child are getting frustrated with potty training? Elimination disorders occur in children who have problems going to the bathroom (e.g., defecating and urinating). Your child may have a problem if this behavior occurs repeatedly for longer than three months, especially if the child is over the age of 5. Children who have elimination difficulties often show symptoms of anxiety and depression due to the embarrassment of accidents, and isolation from friends (e.g., not feeling comfortable having sleepovers because of bedwetting).

The good news is that you are not alone in your experience and help is available! I have had the honor of helping frustrated parents help their children successfully become potty trained. While every child is unique and requires a tailored potty training program to fit his or her needs, there are a few basic tips I use as a rule of thumb:

• Patience, patience, patience! You probably already know that patience is important to have, yet it is one of the first things that parents forget when things get messy. Encourage your child to help you clean up (e.g., ask them to take their soiled garments to the laundry room etc.)
• Read books together about potty training- One of my favorites is “Diapers Are Not Forever” by Elizabeth Verdick.
• Don’t go overboard with rewards- Stickers and occasional candy are fun and affordable rewards. You don’t have to promise you child a trip to Disney World for successfully using the potty!

Whether you child is 2 or 7 years old, by using patience and a structured regimen, your child can be well on his or her way to conquering potty training! Contact me today to come up with a tailored plan specifically for your child!

-Chelsea Moodie, M.S., APC, NCC