‘Where to Start if You’re Worried About Your Kid at School’ originally ran in August, 2019.
August signals an abrupt end to summer and includes the excitement for a new school year. Buying new outfits, supplies, and posing for those first-day pictures are a must! Behind the fresh new sneakers and bright smiles for photos are some parents who are worried about their kids in school.
It is a reality that every kid has their own set of strengths and weaknesses. Kids come from all different backgrounds and with differing abilities, and I would bet at some point in each student’s education, they will need some sort of intervention, accommodation, or support to help them through. When the weaknesses start to worry you, be sure to start with your student’s school counselor.
I think school counselors have the best job in a school. We’re not responsible for assigning grades or discipline. We do our best to make sure that kids, at any age, are happy and healthy. Professionally, we’re trained to help triage many situations that might come up with your kid. Often, these are related to academic concerns, but more often, we are helping students manage their social skills, emotions, and interpersonal relationships at school and at home. What we know about kids is that if their basic needs aren’t being met – it is not possible for them to learn and grow.
Here are a few tips for accessing your school counselor:
Make contact with your school counselor before you need them.
I think we do a good job, as parents, of meeting our classroom teachers, but feel free to contact your child’s counselor in person or via email to introduce yourself and give them a head’s up about any initial concerns or issues you may have about your child in a previous grade or school. Share any major life changes at home that may have happened over the summer in the event your kid shows up at school with some emotions or behaviors that you haven’t seen at home.
Have a conversation with your child about what a school counselor does
Let your kid know that their counselor is there for them to make sure they’re having a good day and can provide some support when the days aren’t going so well. Let them know that going to the counseling office is not like going to the principal’s office – they are not “in trouble” if they need to talk about what is going on, or check in with an adult that is not related to their academics.
Try not to take the suggestions from the counselor as criticism.
If a counselor makes a suggestion for a change in your normal family routine, discipline beliefs, or referral to a professional – don’t take it personally. It is a suggestion and is not a critique or attack on the way you choose to raise your children. As parents, we are biased towards knowing what’s best for our own kids, and believe it or not – we are usually always right. But when problems arise – humble yourself, it may be time to think outside the box and consider a new perspective.
Trust your gut.
If at any time during the school year you have a nagging feeling that something is just “off” with your child, trust your instincts. You know your child best. Start with your student’s counselor to share your concerns. You may not know exactly what it is – but starting with your school counselor and problem-solving can help settle you and give you any necessary suggestions, resources, or tools that may help your kid through a rough patch.
From the American School Counselor Association:
• individual student academic planning and goal setting
•school counseling classroom lessons based on student success standards
• short-term counseling to students
• referrals for long-term support
• collaboration with families/teachers/ administrators/community for student success
• advocacy for students at individual education plan meetings and other student-focused meetings
• data analysis to identify student issues, needs, and challenges