Talking With Your Middle School Student about College: Part One

By Jeannine Harrell, Guile Contreras, Sarah Fleischauer, and Kerry Tousignant

As a parent, you’ve likely heard that it’s never too early to talk to your child about college.  At the same time, your child has years until it’s time to apply. Is there a natural way to begin the discussion about college readiness without it feeling forced?

A few tips to start:

  • Talk to your child about the required education and credentials for various careers
  • Start a dialogue about the benefits of college. Some of the ones that may resonate with middle-school age children are as follows:
    • College students have the chance to explore topics of interest and meet people who are equally passionate about those topics
    • College can provide travel opportunities through study abroad
    • A degree makes an individual more likely to get a job in the future
    • College graduates get paid more than those with only a high school diploma
  • Incorporate the occasional college visit into your family vacations. If your child is a fan of a college team, go see the campus. Even just walking by a university campus prompts your child to think about his or her future plans.

Once you’ve gotten started with these above tips, there are some additional ways you can support your middle school student in getting on the path to college and career readiness in the coming years. These include the following:

  • Peruse this college preparation checklist for parents and children
  • Talk to your child about their interests and skills
  • Assess grades and performance, looking for ways to assist and encourage
  • Have your child take a learning style quiz
  • Begin researching colleges
  • Facilitate conversations between your child and people in their lives who attended college
  • Find ways that your child can get involved in the community

There are many factors involved in the college application process. Believe it or not, this process begins in middle school! Check back here tomorrow for an overview of these factors that are especially relevant to parents of middle school students.

Additional Resources:

Jeannine Harrell, Guile Contreras, Sarah Fleischauer, and Kerry Tousignant are students in the Master’s in School Counseling Program in the UNCG Department of Counseling and Educational Development.


When it comes to talking with elementary-school kids about college and career readiness, technology is your friend!

By Alexandra Davidson-Palmer, Katie Hewitt, and Katie Wagoner

These days technology is front and center in all facets of life. We have added links to some of our favorite resources, but we encourage you to talk to your kids about technology. What do they use it for? Is it a sports game, an arts based app, photography? Do they have a knack for writing? Try and pick up on what those skills are and support them! We are not telling you to glue the tablet to your child’s hand, but let’s be realistic—kids are going to use it, right? Might as well make it educational as much as we can. Ask your child what they are doing, engage with them, and show curiosity!

Useful online resources:

Paws in Jobland is a great website for your child to explore different interests and careers. There are tons of careers to explore and ignite curiosity in the mind of your child!

Learn English Kids has songs, games, flashcards and worksheets that introduce different types of jobs and what they do. Many kids also comment on the discussion boards what they would like to be when they grow up.

Higglytown Heroes is a show that introduces children to a variety of occupations by having the problems the main character’s face in the episodes be fixable by “Higglytown Heroes”. The heroes are adults with different jobs in their community. Many of these episodes can be watched for free on YouTube; there are 200 episodes on this playlist.

Books to read with your children:

What Shoes Will You Wear? by Julia Cook

Clothesline Clues to Jobs People Do by Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook

When I Grow Up by Al Yankovic

Whose Hat is This?: A Look at Hats Workers Wear – Hard, Tall, and Shiny by Sharon Katz Cooper

Career Day by Anne Rockwell

Whose Tools Are These?: A Look at Tools Workers Use – Big, Sharp, and Smooth by Sharon Katz Cooper

Careers: The Graphic Guide to Finding The Perfect Job For You by DK

The Berenstain Bears: Jobs Around Town by Stan and Jan Berenstain

Whose Hands Are These?: A Community Helper Guessing Book by Miranda Paul

Someday by Eileen Spinelli

Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton

Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty

Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty

Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy

The Boy on Fairfield Street: How Ted Geisel Grew Up to Become Dr. Seuss by Kathleen Krull

She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World by Chelsea Clinton

All of the Above by Shelley Pearsall

Alexandra Davidson-Palmer, Katie Hewitt, and Katie Wagoner are students in the Master’s in School Counseling Program in the UNCG Department of Counseling and Educational Development.


It’s never too early to talk about….College and Career Readiness!

By Alexandra Davidson-Palmer, Katie Hewitt, and Katie Wagoner

College and career readiness for elementary school students?! Let’s start off by saying, we know this topic looks a little daunting, especially with your kids still being in elementary school. We get it! We are not suggesting you put down the easy readers and pick up SAT vocabulary flashcards. Not even close. Instead, today we are going to talk a little bit about how you can start planting the seeds in your child’s mind that will eventually grow into thoughts about colleges and careers. Ok, deep breath, let’s do this…

Talk about it

The best thing you can do at this phase of your child’s development is just to talk about it and observe. This is a low pressure time, in terms of talking concretely about college and career readiness. It is, however, a great time to foster a love of learning and cultivate good routines and habits.

  • Understand how kids (yours in particular) learn and regulate emotions. Early childhood is an important time in the development of their social-emotional competence.
  • Look for representation in books, TV shows, dolls, etc. Show your child that children of all genders and ethnicities can achieve anything!
  • Empower your child with diverse experiences. Look for cultural events in your area with kid-friendly activities. Expose them to new cultures and experiences from an early age.
  • Talk to your child while you are out in the community. Ask them what they think about certain jobs [at the doctor’s office, at the mall, at the grocery store]. Ask what they think that individual does for their work, and what your child thinks about that job. Have a conversation!
  • Ask your child what they want to be when they grow up! Ask them what they think that looks like, and what does it take to get there. It is not too early to encourage them to explore careers and dreams they may have for their future!
  • Talk to your child about what they like best about school. What is their favorite thing they are learning about? In these conversations, we can work to foster a love of learning in our children. Encourage them in their strengths!

Now is not the time to drill them on SAT/ACT prep or funnel them down the med school pathway. Now is the time to take the extra few minutes and read with your child. Ask them questions. Observe their strengths.

Ask about guidance at school

Listen for tips and tricks from your school counselors in the school’s announcements and newsletters. In addition, ask your kids what they are working on in their guidance lessons! School counselors love to infuse topics about college and career readiness into our lessons—whether it is talking about how to be a good student, or the education and training required for certain careers.

Final thoughts

We know the topic of college and career readiness can seem daunting for your elementary school aged child, but we hope this post has relieved some of that intimidation for you. At this stage, your child’s dream of what they want to be when they grow up may change daily, and that is okay. Explore those with them, and allow them to dream big! Remember that we are always here as a resource for any questions you have about how to best support your child.

Alexandra Davidson-Palmer, Katie Hewitt, and Katie Wagoner are students in the Master’s in School Counseling Program in the UNCG Department of Counseling and Educational Development.

College Conversations

By Christine Murray, HRI Director

Parents and caregivers work hard to give their children the best start to their lives to set the stage for their future success. One important part of supporting children in looking ahead to a bright future is supporting them in thinking about their future educational and career goals.

As much as parents long to help their children get the best start to their lives, many often struggle when it comes to knowing how to talk with their children about college- and career-related topics. Parents may be concerned about putting too much pressure on their children, or they may not know how to talk about these issues. Other challenges can arise when parents and children have different ideas about the future plans, as well as when financial concerns about how to pay for college arise.

This week, we’re sharing a series to help parents and caregivers prepare to talk with their children about college and career readiness. And even though this topic may seem most relevant to high school students, we will also explore points about how to set the stage as early as elementary and middle school. Stay tuned all week, and consider how you may start to have some college and career conversations with the young people in your life!

Introducing HRI’s 2018 Kindness Champions

Today, HRI is celebrating Random Acts of Kindness Day as part of Healthy Relationships Week, and we are thrilled to announce our 2018 HRI Kindness Champions. We asked community members to nominate people who they know in Guilford County who are superstars at showing kindness, and we think you’ll agree that the people who were selected as Kindness Champions fit the bill!

Read on to learn about these Kindness Champions—listed in alphabetical order—and the many great ways that they help to spread kindness in our community.


Felicia Bratton (Nominated by LouMecia Staton)

Felicia Bratton is the Finance Manager at the Partnership for Children of Guilford County. Her colleague, LouMecia Staton, shared why Felicia is a Kindness Champion in the following way: “Not only does Felicia bring such wonderful expertise and knowledge to the finance field, but she also brings her heart of gold and compassion. Felicia is always thinking of ways to empower and encourage our staff and provides love and support through her community involvement and endeavors. She is the mother to two beautiful daughters and loves them with a sweet and beautiful love. She constantly thinks of the well-being and comfort of others before herself and has demonstrated this as both a colleague and a friend. It is often times that those who are overlooked provide the best kindness in this world.”


Sonya Desai (Nominated by Catherine Johnson)

Sonya Desai is the Client Services Coordinator at the Guilford County Family Justice Center in Greensboro. Sonya is known for her quiet determination to do all she can to help others. Catherine Johnson, who nominated Sonya, had this to say: “I have had the privilege of working with Sonya over the last three years.  Time and time again, she demonstrates compassion for those who are hurting. Her generosity and giving heart is extended to all, including clients seeking services from the FJC, professionals throughout the community, friends, family, and even strangers. Sonya is also a master at building community. She is so well respected and connected that she can bring folks together from all different walks of life for the greater good. For example, she orchestrated a group of nearly 15 to travel to Philadelphia to participate in a race in remembrance of a dear friend and community leader. When I think of good, I think of Sonya, and that is why I think she is the kindest person I know in Guilford County.” Sonya shared this picture with us and said the following: “I chose this photo for a reason as it is a picture of my friends who ran Philadelphia with me in order to honor and remember a friend who left this world too soon. It has become apparent to me that our ability to be kind and seek goodness in the world is influenced by those who surround us.”


Michael Person (Nominated by Yubisela Aranda Sandoval and Amber Robinson)

Michael is the Director of the Weaver House at Urban Ministry. His nominators spoke highly of how he treats others with kindness. Yubisela Sandoval said, “Since I met Michael, I have seen him advocate tirelessly for many individuals no matter their background. He goes above and beyond for every single one of his clients treating them with dignity, respect. Having someone like Michael who is selfless and always looks out for others makes our city of Greensboro a gem.” Amber Robinson added that Michael “is a Kindness Champion because he goes above and beyond to treat the underserved, disenfranchised and disadvantage with dignity and humanity. When everyone else treats them less than, he ensures that he restores their esteem and patiently gives them a voice. He also gives the homeless population that he serves a standard, accountability, as well as the benefit of the doubt when mistakes are made. While working long hours at low pay, he still finds time to help friends move, emergency dog sit, and visit regularly a friend that was recently diagnosed with cancer all while studying for an exam, making home improvements, and writing a book. He’s not perfect, he just strives to be of service and stay in productive motion.”


Anthony and Nancy Woodyard (Nominated by Sarah Pritchard)

Anthony and Nancy Woodyard were nominated as kindness champions by the Family Support Network of Central Carolina. Sarah Pritchard shard the story of their kindness as follows: “We were connected with Nancy and Anthony over ten years ago when their daughter, Tessa, was in the NICU at Women’s Hospital. Unfortunately, Tessa never got to leave the unit – but her story did not die there thanks to her loving parents.

“This amazing couple wanted to honor their daughter’s memory in a way that would touch hundreds of other little lives in our community and so FSNCC’s ‘Adopt-A-Frog’ program was born. The Woodyards knew how much Tessa loved her ‘frog’ that she received while she was in the NICU; Frogs are bean bag positioning aids that provide comfort to little ones in the isolette. Thanks to the Woodyards and our generous donors, now any baby in the NICU at Women’s Hospital can receive a frog. In addition to this gesture, the Woodyards have donated and hosted countless blood drives throughout the community in Tessa’s memory. They continue to be loyal volunteers in many programs and activities at Family Support Network. The Woodyards choose to lead a life full of love and kindness every day, making them both champions in our eyes.”

Valentine’s Eve Celebration of the Family

By Christine Murray, HRI Director

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day! If you have a sweetheart, you may be spending time today planning how you’re going to celebrate them tomorrow. Flowers, chocolate, a special dinner out on the town…all of these can be part of a special Valentine’s Day celebration of romance. With all of the focus tomorrow on romance, our HRI team wants to encourage you today to focus on celebrating the family, and especially the children in your life.

People have differing views of Valentine’s Day. Some view it as an artificial holiday that was manufactured by greeting card companies, while other people view it as an important and meaningful celebration of their relationship with their partner. Even if you aren’t a total fan of Valentine’s Day, we invite you to view a Valentine’s Eve Celebration of the Family as an opportunity to role model an important part of healthy relationships for your children: taking extra steps to help your loved ones feel cared for! Of course, this is an important relationship skill every day, but Valentine’s Day offers you a unique opportunity to model it for your children because they’re likely already seeing and hearing a lot about relationships this week.

The skills and characteristics of relationships that your children see and experience during their early years can have a powerful impact on their relationships later in life. Your relationships with them, your partner, friends, other family members, and others are perhaps the most powerful way that your children will learn about relationships. If they experience unhealthy relationship patterns, they may come to view those patterns as normal. On the other hand, if they observe and experience healthy relationships, they will learn how to build and maintain strong, happy relationships throughout their lives.

Let’s say you aren’t a big proponent of Valentine’s Day…Even if this is the case, role modeling treating others (including your children and your partner) in a special way on Valentine’s Day can help teach them to care for others in the ways that are most meaningful for them. If you’re familiar with the widely popular book, The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, then you know that people vary in the ways they express and receive love that are the most meaningful to them. Even if doing something to celebrate Valentine’s Day isn’t your cup of tea, it may mean a lot to your partner. Sometimes, making your partner feel loved and cared for means doing things that resonate with them, even if they don’t make sense to you!

To help you celebrate your family on Valentine’s Eve today, we’re excited to announce the release HRI’s free, new board game, Together Time! Our HRI team developed this game to offer families an opportunity to connect and learn more about each other through playing the game. Everything you need to play Together Time can be downloaded for free at the following web-site: We hope this will be a fun way to spend time together as you celebrate Valentine’s Eve as a family!

What if board games aren’t your thing, or if you’d like to do the game and something else to celebrate Valentine’s Eve? We’ve got several other ideas to share for how to make today special:

We hope we’ve given you some ideas to make today an extra-special celebration of your family! Even just a few small, simple steps to celebrate today can help your children see the value in celebrating the important people in their lives–on Valentine’s Day and every day!

How Do You Know When You Need Professional Help?

How do you know when you need professional help? People often struggle to know when is the right time to reach out for professional help when they’re experiencing a relationship or family challenge. The truth is, there is no clear cut answer, as every situation is unique. However, some signs that might indicate that it would be a good time to reach out for help are as follows:

  • You’ve tried to manage the problem on your own, but you haven’t been able to make much progress even after trying for a certain period of time (e.g., one month).
  • The problem seems to be getting worse.
  • In addition to the original problem, other secondary problems are beginning to arise related to the original problem, such as additional conflict, financial distress, or mental health symptoms.
  • You and another person have completely different perspectives on an issue and are unable to reach middle ground, and/or it seems you are unable to understand one another.
  • The problem is causing you a lot of distress and/or starting to impact your or another person’s functioning in different areas of life (e.g., school or work).

Even if you’re facing a relationship or family problem that hasn’t reach any of the levels described above, you can still reach out for professional help to guide you through more minor challenges. Professionals are trained to work with people facing all kinds of relationship and family challenges, and they can help you navigate the challenge and more toward building positive solutions to strengthen your relationships.

Keep Searching for the Right Source of Support

You may have to try a few times to find the right source of help, but don’t give up! Sometimes, people reach out for help for relationship and family problems, and if they don’t find the “perfect” source of help on their first try, they give up. For example, someone may seek family counseling, but they don’t connect with the first counselor they see, and then they become discouraged and give up. But, keep in mind that it can take time to find the right professional to help. Family counselors and other professionals who support relationships and families are all unique, so keep searching until you find a source of help that feels right to you.

A Part of Life

If you were sick or injured, you’d likely seek help from a medical doctor. If you had a problem with your house, such as a leaking pipe or a broken door, you’d call the appropriate service professional. If your car’s engine were breaking down, you’d take it to the mechanic. Many people who are perfectly comfortable seeking professional help for other problems are still hesitant to reach out for help for problems in their relationships or families. But, just as physical sickness, home repairs, and car problems are a part of life, so too are relationship challenges! So, seeking help for relationship and family challenges should have not more stigma attached than calling a doctor, plumber, or car shop. Professionals can help people through the challenges they face in all areas of life, and relationships and families should be no different!

Life Transitions

Life transitions can be especially challenging for relationships and families. You may have been doing great in your relationship or family, but then you started going through a major life transition–such as having a child, moving forward to a new level of commitment in your relationship, starting a new career path, or retirement. It’s completely normal to have a hard adjusting to a new phase of life! These are great times to reach out for help, such as counseling or a relationship education program. You can learn new tools and information to help you have a smooth transition to your new life circumstances.