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Meet Janine Halloran of Encourage Play & Coping Skills for Kids

Today we’d like to introduce you to Janine Halloran.

Janine, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Even when I was in elementary school, I knew that I wanted to work with children when I grew up. My first jobs involved kids – I worked as a camp counselor and a neighborhood babysitter. For a long time, I thought I was going to be a teacher just like my mom, who taught Kindergarten and 1st grade.

There were a couple of things that made me change my focus from being a teacher to a counselor. First, I realized that I preferred working in small groups or one on one with kids. Second, when I was a teenager, I had a great therapist who helped me immensely, and, because of that positive experience, I decided I wanted to have an impact on young people like she had an impact on me.

I studied psychology as an undergraduate and went straight on to get a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology from Boston College. I started working with teens struggling with mental health issues while I was in graduate school, and I learned invaluable lessons from that first after college job experience. Once I completed my Master’s Degree, I started working in different school settings as a counselor, and I truly enjoyed the work I was doing.

Ten years ago, I started my own family, and once my children were born, I knew I needed a different kind of schedule. While I wanted to continue to work with clients, I also wanted to be around for my family. I transitioned from working full time in schools and began my own business so I could have a more flexible schedule. Right now, I balance seeing my clients, running my businesses and being a mom.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Starting my own business was not something I had imagined doing several years ago, but my husband encouraged me to do so. While I had lots of ideas to share about being a counselor and working with children, I didn’t know the first thing about setting up a website or blogging, so that was a gigantic learning curve. I’ve learned along the way, and now I have a much better handle on that type of stuff, but there’s always room for improvement.

I’ve also gotten better about dealing with failure. There have been a few projects I’ve tried that haven’t been successful. I used to beat myself up when things didn’t go as planned. I’d feel discouraged and want to give up. As time has gone on, I’ve come to realize I’ve learned so much more from the failures, and the things I figured out from the failures made the successes possible, and so much sweeter.

Balance has always been a struggle for me, and it’s something I work on every day. I have a type A kind of personality, and so I like to put my all into everything, and then it’s quite easy to get burnt out. I’ve recently started making sure I focus on self-care, taking time to workout and scheduling in a day off every week to do something for myself. I also try to work efficiently when my children are at school during the day, so I can focus on them when they get home or on the weekends.

Encourage Play & Coping Skills for Kids – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I’m currently running two businesses right now – Encourage Play and Coping Skills for Kids. I started to Encourage Play first in 2013. The goal of Encourage Play is to teach children social skills through play. I’ve been sharing ideas for teachers, counselors, and parents on that blog for years and I’ve started making play-based curriculums to target specific social skills for counselors. I recently finished a book of playful social skills activities that are due to be published by the end of 2018, and I’m working on a book of playdate ideas.

Coping Skills for Kids grew from the popularity I saw with one post on Encourage Play, all about teaching children strategies to calm down. People loved that post and asked for more ideas like that. I started Coping Skills for Kids in 2015 to have an entire site focused on that. It has resources to help teach kids healthy ways to cope with stress, anxiety, and anger. I wrote a book for kids called the Coping Skills for Kids Workbook, which has been picked up by a publisher and will be available in late April 2018. I’ve also started making visuals to help kids, like Deep Breathing Posters and the Coping Cue Cards Discovery Deck.

I think my resources and products resonate with people because I’ve created things not only through the lens of a professional but also as a mom. My goal is to make useful, fun and visually appealing products for kids. It makes me so happy when someone says that my products helped their student, or that their child learned new strategies or was able to start a new friendship because of my work.

As a counselor, I think it’s important that we talk about the mental and emotional health of our children and teens. I admire the work that the National Alliance on Mental Illness does to support families and children who have mental health struggles, so Coping Skills for Kids regularly donate 5% of our profits to that organization. Encourage Play supports other agencies in promoting play by donating toys to places like the Children’s Museum of Easton, the Children’s Museum in Denver and the Lekotek Center in Illinois.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
To me, success is staying balanced while achieving my goals. It means taking small steps every day towards the big goals I have for my business. But it also means being able to take care of myself, spend time with the people I care about and having a little fun, too. If things are going well in my business, but I feel overwhelmed and stressed all the time, that’s not what I would consider being successful. My family and my health are essential parts of my life too. My goal is to keep myself and my family a priority while continuing to grow my business.


  • Coping Cue Cards Discovery Deck $20
  • Deep Breathing Posters $16-$40
  • Coping Skills for Kids Workbook $24.99
  • Playful Listening Small Group Lesson Plan $8

Contact Info:

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