To help children build self-confidence and overcome the challenges they may be facing at school or at home, counseling is often seen as the best option. During one-on-one sessions, school counselors can offer emotional support to children, explain why certain issues are troubling them, and teach helpful, positive coping strategies. Children can learn what their triggers are and how feelings can affect their behavior. This makes it easier for them to understand themselves and why they do the things that they do. As a result, they complete their studies and move into adulthood more successfully.
When children attend counseling sessions, the idea is to create an environment where they feel safe and comfortable in speaking about how they feel. A child that trusts their counselor can fully explore their feelings, gain more self-awareness, and develop life skills. These might include self-control, dealing with difficult emotions, and developing resilience. Therapists work in collaboration with a child to establish what problems they are having, find out which emotions are causing these issues, and set goals for when change can happen.
Qualifying as a school counselor
Offering children counseling at school makes the help they need accessible. It is an early form of intervention for kids who need help and can be effective in reducing stress in young people and children. School counselors are professionally trained people who focus on the needs of the children in their care. Graduates from other disciplines who are considering how to become a school counselor can enroll on the Master of Science in Education in School Counseling at St. Bonaventure University. This CACREP-accredited course is ideal for people who are already working in the field and want to earn while they study.
Qualified school counselors provide a safe space in which kids can explore, understand, and cope with the problems they are going through. Counseling can help to boost a child’s confidence and improve their relationships with others. In terms of their schooling, it can have an impact on the young person’s attendance levels, behavior, and academic achievements.
How can parents support children who are receiving counseling?
Parents can help children to prepare for a course of therapy by explaining why people sometimes need to speak with a counselor. Emphasizing that this is an opportunity to speak freely with a professional person who wants the best for them can be very reassuring. Children should understand that they will learn how to express their emotions more healthily, make better decisions, and have more positive relationships with their friends and family.
It’s important for parents to tell their children that the counselor is not there as a punishment but rather as someone to help them understand why they are having problems. Children may be concerned about sharing certain feelings, so parents can explain how the confidentiality policy of the school counselor works.
Supporting the progress made during a school counseling session
Parents can also play a key role when their child is having counseling. They can provide emotional support and encouragement for their child to use any of the techniques the therapist went over. It’s often the case that children have trouble articulating their feelings and what they need. This makes it difficult even for the best parents to help their child without assistance. However, by being a constant presence and offering praise, they give the process every chance of success.
Parents can benefit from being prepared when their child is taking a course of counseling. They may have questions or concerns that can only be answered by the counselor, so it could be helpful to let them sit in for the first session. At home, it’s important to agree to speak openly and honestly to find out what progress a child is making and how they feel about the process.
What does the counseling process involve?
Before children are brought to a counselor, they are usually given a short assessment; frequently the child’s parents will be present as well as the child. Both the parents and the child will be given a chance to speak about what they hope to achieve, and the young person will usually be asked if they want to go ahead with having counseling sessions. Even young people who would benefit from counseling need to give their consent, because attendance is a key part of this process.
Ensuring that children are on-board with the process
Moreover, children will often need to see a counselor during periods that they consider to be their free time, such as in school holidays and after school. This is to ensure a continuity of care and to keep the skills that are learned fresh in the child’s mind. Therefore, the young person must be willing to commit. They may be asked to attend five sessions, but this could extend up to 20 sessions. However, the child’s progress will be monitored regularly and reviewed to ensure that goals are being met and the child is happy with their process
Counseling sessions are usually scheduled for school time, and that means they can take place in a familiar environment such as a quiet room in the school. Depending on the age of a child, the therapist may provide puppets or toys and have creative materials on hand. These can make a child feel comfortable while allowing them to express feelings or ideas through play. This is particularly useful when a child would struggle to articulate their emotions otherwise.
How does counseling make a difference?
By speaking with a counselor, young people have a chance to talk through their thoughts and explore their feelings with someone they are not personally involved with. This can be useful when it comes to sharing fears, worries, or problems which are impacting their confidence and their ability to work hard at school. Parents like to think they are always there for their children, but in some cases, the child will struggle to speak with them honestly about a problem. That’s why many children welcome the chance to talk to a counselor who is not part of their family. This is someone they can trust, who will listen and make them feel safe. Over time, they can start to make sense of the world around them and their negative feelings, and they also gain strategies which help them to cope.
Giving children confidence in themselves
As a result, children gain a better sense of their own self-worth, becoming surer of their capabilities and strengths. Children will explore their feelings during each counseling session independently. However, the therapist will always be on hand to guide them through difficult topics or challenging events, especially those that are clouding their feelings. These conversations bring children to a better understanding of themselves, ensuring they can respond in more positive ways to situations that they find uncomfortable.
Moreover, children who attend counseling sessions gain strategies that can be utilized in every aspect of their lives. For instance, they will understand how to work through stressful periods and manage unpleasant emotions, such as anger, in a positive way. They will also learn to ask for help when they need it rather than trying to conceal their anxiety. It is often the case that children feel overwhelmed by their emotions, and by giving them the tools to solve their own problems, counselors provide them with crucial life skills.
What specific benefits does school counseling provide?
Every school and every parent wants to make sure that the children in their care get the support and help they need. Access to a professional counselor at school can make all the difference to a child’s mental health and academic success. Here’s a closer look at the specific benefits school counseling can offer.
Enhanced communication skills
Many children need to be taught how to express their thoughts calmly and with authority, while remaining respectful. Therefore, to ensure their progress remains on track, counselors teach children the importance of communication. Part of this will involve helping them to identify which emotion they are experiencing at any given point. This allows them to understand their interactions with other people and their feelings about themselves, both when they are at home and when they are at school.
The ability to think logically
Being able to solve problems and think things through is a skill that counselors will nurture in children during therapy. This helps them to think for themselves – not just as children but also as adolescents and mature adults. When something becomes difficult in any stage of life, a person with logical thinking can cope in a way which supports their overall health and wellbeing. During counseling, children learn that there are solutions even for situations which feel overwhelming or frightening. Logical thinking helps children to understand the emotions they are experiencing. As a result, they can experience a wide range of feelings, even some which are quite extreme. However, thanks to what they have learned during counseling, they know these feelings are normal and that they will pass eventually.
Feeling confident in themselves
After a full course of counseling, children are better placed to understand their strengths and to believe that they have an important place in the world. They develop a strong sense of self-worth, they know that sharing their thoughts is a positive thing, and they gain an appreciation for their abilities. Ultimately this process grows their self-esteem and teaches children to value themselves as unique individuals.
Managing stressful situations
At school, in the classroom, on the playground, and in recess, children often must face stressful situations. They might struggle with completing their academic work to a high standard, have difficulty making friends, or experience bullying. Some young people must change schools and adapt to an entirely new schedule. However, not all stress will be harmful to a developing child. Counselors teach problem problem-solving skills so children know they can cope with day-to-day stressors.
They have confidence in their ability to manage change, and they can plan for better results in the future and tell an adult when they need extra help. Children who have a parent on their side, as well as a counselor to support them, when necessary, will face life’s challenges more effectively. Part of this involves being able to take a step back, regulate their emotions, and move on.
Getting their emotions under control
Adults can be more capable of managing how intense their emotions become, how long they last, and what triggers them. This is known as emotional regulation. Children who have a good emotional regulation ability are better placed to manage stress and will do so throughout their lifetime. Although we all experience stress, some people are better able to deal with it. This skill is called resilience. Counselors work on a child’s self-esteem as well as their resilience because the two are connected. When a child is having difficulty at school, their level of self-esteem will often play a part in how they cope with challenges and whether they cope at all.
By bringing their emotions under control and practicing their problem-solving skills in the safety of a counseling session, young people develop resilience. They learn that they can cope with difficult situations, and they are more willing to ask an adult for help when the environment is confusing or when they feel uncertain about what to do. By sharing their problems with a trusted adult like a counselor, children learn that problems can be solved. This confidence means they will engage in healthy forms of risk-taking. They will occasionally move out of their comfort zone, be willing to try new things, be creative, and have new experiences.
Identifying other factors which could be affecting a child
Teachers will always look for ways to support children in the classroom, but therapists can do this in a much more structured way because it is just them and the child for the duration of the session. This enables them to identify other factors which may be impacting a child’s ability to learn or to cope in social situations. Learning differences such as dyslexia can be stressful for undiagnosed children, although they will flourish with additional coaching. The same is true for children who are managing a condition like ADHD or autism. Once these conditions are noted by the counselor, a referral can be arranged so the child can enjoy their time at school and reach their full academic potential.
Planning for a student’s academic and professional future
The work of a school counselor is about more than teaching young people to manage stress and cope independently. Part of building up a young person’s self-esteem and resilience is giving them hope for the future and helping them make concrete plans to achieve their goals. Children who lack confidence may not feel they are bright enough to pursue a university degree or apply for the type of jobs that interest them. Counselors can provide guidance at this difficult time by helping young people to navigate their final years at school and fulfill their career goals.
Counselors can work with teachers and students to create individual study plans that make realistic demands of the student. They will provide career advice, or direct students to another service which would be more useful. When a student in high school has concerns about the future, a counselor will listen to their worries and help them make practical plans. This could take the form of assisting with college forms, finding a reference to support their scholarship application, or explaining how to create a resume.
Why do children need counselors in schools?
The counselors’ offices in US schools are considered safe and confidential places. It’s a setting in which children can speak about uncomfortable, challenging, and confusing experiences and expect to receive help. Counselors strive to teach children healthy coping strategies and boost their self-esteem, so they become resilient enough to manage at school and in the future as mature adults.
The role of a school counselor can also be seen as that of an advocate – a person who listens, seeks out resources, and gives children what they need to advance academically. When a child experiences bullying, neural divergence, or problems at home, sometimes a school counselor is the only trusted adult a child can turn to. As professionals, they are equipped and experienced in offering treatment and organizing a plan of action tailored to the needs of individual children. However, if further treatment is needed, a school counselor has professional medical contacts to turn to. They can refer young people to a specialist who can offer further, more targeted help.
Children and older students may be facing difficult experiences in their communities, homes, and schools. Counselors will provide support and guidance to minimize the impact of these issues on the young person, both in terms of their ability to learn and their interpersonal relationships.