Understanding the School Counselor-Parent Connection

(2008)

School counselors work with teachers, administrators, and parents to help students with schoolwork and their social/emotional development.

All students can learn. A student who is troubled, however, cannot learn as easily. School counselors can help. Divorce, substance abuse, child abuse, poverty, violence, and suicidal thoughts are among the social stressors placing numerous students at risk of educational failure and dropping out of school. Early intervention is essential and parents and guardians play a vital role. A guidance program that provides direct services and is directed by a professionally trained school counselor is a critical component of a school's prevention efforts in the 21st century.

As a parent, your past experiences with a school counselor may be vastly different than what your child will have. Today school counselors are certified, specially trained mental health professionals who focus on prevention and wellness through a counseling program that meets the needs of all students, not just a few. The counseling program addresses three areas: academic, career, and personal/social. School counselors advocate, mediate, coordinate, consult, lead and collaborate with teachers, administrators and parents to help students be successful. Professional school counselors also help children to understand themselves.

But just what do school counselors do? Today's school counselors:

All of these activities and duties can make a real difference in students lives, improving their self-understanding and self-confidence, motivation, decision-making, goal-setting, planning and problem solving, interpersonal relationships, communication skills, respect for others, and more.

Contacting the School Counselor

Parents contact a school counselor to help their children with a variety of issues, such as academic achievement; new school registration, orientation and transition; test interpretation; special needs; student crisis situations; family transitions; and higher education issues.

When contacting a school counselor, parents often have many obstacles to overcome, such as culture, language, their own bad experiences in school, a lack of understanding, or feeling intimidated. Some parents may feel if they speak up and disagree with educators, their child will have a harder time at school. Work schedules can also be barriers to meeting with your child's school counselor. However, schools encourage parental involvement, and the school counselor is the primary contact for many parents to connect with the school.

By focusing on parents' concerns and respecting why these concerns matter to you, school counselors offer options, including better ways to communicate with your child. Both parents and counselors share information, an important part of establishing a helping relationship. School counselors are excellent resources; however, they do not provide therapy or long-term counseling. Referrals to outside agencies may be initiated at school. School counselors are also advocates for children and provide information on parents' rights, such as the right to request information.

Following are some questions you might want to ask your child's school counselor:

Studies have shown that children have greater academic achievement when their parents are involved in their education. Motivation, positive attitudes about self, and sense of control over their environment improve with parental involvement in the schools. Children from minority and low-income families benefit the most from parental involvement.

You, the parent, are the most important resource for the school counselor. Your involvement is critical in helping your child to be successful. Ask the school counselor how you can be more involved in what is happening with your child's education.

Brenda Melton, M.Ed., LPC, is a school counselor at Navarro Academy, an alternative school in San Antonio, Texas, and a former board president of the American School Counselor Association. She can be reached at bmelton@saisd.net.

Visit the American School Counselor Association website.

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