By Pamela Harris, HRI Guest Blogger
I totally get it. You as a parent or caregiver have a TON on your plate. Not only are you expected to make sure your child wakes up on time, eats a nutritional diet filled with more than just candy bars and chips, and help him with homework (wait—when did 4th grade math start looking like calculus?), but now I’m asking you to add one more item on your never-ending “To Do” list. You already understand the importance of meeting your kid’s teachers and the school principal, and now I’m throwing the school counselor into the mix. Right at this moment, you’re probably asking yourself: Doesn’t the school counselor just fix my child’s class schedule?
Okay, maybe you’re a LITTLE right. But school counselors certainly offer more than just course selection. Your child’s school counselor can provide services in the following three areas:
- Academic: Does your child not have the best study habits? Struggling with test anxiety? There’s a school counselor for that! School counselors have tips and strategies for time management, test taking skills, and a variety of study techniques that can cut down on some of that homework time—and thus, freeing up your evenings!
- College & Career: Yes, even if your child is in kindergarten, it’s never too early to think ahead. School counselors have many career resources—whether your child wants to find part-time work, community service possibilities, or even guidance on how to apply for two- or four-year post-secondary institutions. This road map can begin as early as elementary school—with activities such as Career Day to expose your child to different vocational possibilities.
- Social/Emotional: Getting through school is not without a few hiccups—and the school counselor can help your child overcome common social issues like: peer pressure, stress, anxiety, and the emotional roller coaster of friendships. In the school counseling office, your child has a safe space to process these issues—and to develop coping strategies.
Hopefully, you’ve been sold on the awesomeness that is your child’s school counselor. Now the question remains: how can you connect with the school counselor? Here are a few ideas:
- Schedule a meeting BEFORE the start of the school year. This is especially important for children that are anxious about school. School counselors are usually available about a week prior to the beginning of the school year. This is the perfect time for you and your child to not only tour the school with the school counselor, but also learn about all of the programs/services that your school counselor will be offering for the school year.
- Sit in on academic and career planning sessions. Let’s be honest. YOU are the expert of your child. School counselors are often required to meet with students to sketch out their class schedules, and discuss how these classes may influence their goals after graduation. As a parent, you are welcomed to attend these planning sessions—it’s a great way for everyone (you, your child, and the school) to be on the same page about how to best meet your child’s needs.
- Is your child dealing with a transition? Let the school counselor know! If your child is going through a stressful event, more than likely this will spill over onto their academic performance. Your school counselor can serve as a liaison between you and the school. School counselors can share as little or as much of your child’s back story to school personnel to ensure that school can be a facilitative environment for your child’s success.
- Pick up the phone. Or check your email. Or send the school counselor a tweet! School counselors completely understand that there are times when you cannot physically get to the school—but you can still stay connected through phone calls, email updates, and other forms of social media in which your school counselor may be involved. That beginning of the school year meeting is the PERFECT time to learn the modes of communicating with your child’s counselor.
Keep in mind that I’m merely scratching the surface. In order to truly understand how the school counselor can best help you and your child—pay them a visit! And maybe, just maybe, they can take a little off your plate.
Dr. Pamela Harris is an Assistant Professor in the UNCG Department of Counseling and Educational Development, where she trains future school counselors. To learn more about Dr. Harris, please visit http://soe.uncg.edu/directory/faculty-and-staff/bio-pamelaharris/.