As a provider of therapy and school counseling services, it’s apparent to me that parents often have no idea how to optimize public school options to make sure kids who are going through a difficult time are well supported in their academic environment. School counselors (who are not therapists), for the most part, have huge numbers of kids that they are overseeing, with ratios sometimes as high as 1 to 400. Some are academic advisors only; some are personal and social counselors; and others have dual functions. Understanding your school’s resources and using them are very much worth a parent’s time in an effort to help their child.
Kids spend almost 30 hours of their week in the school setting, so it can make a significant difference to your child if you let teachers and the school counselor be aware of issues such as low self esteem, depression, learning disorders, anxiety, fears of bullying or any ongoing bulling that you know about. Similarly, it’s in your child’s best interest that teachers and counselors be informed about family changes such as separation, divorce, death, illness, remarriage, and blended families. While, as parents, we may sometimes feel we want to keep certain events in our lives private from school, the benefit to your child when school personnel are informed far outweighs the drawbacks. In addition to teachers being more kind, sensitive to and patient with your child’s behavioral changes, counselors can often form a special bond with your child and check in with him/her one or more times a week. If your child needs more formal support, 504 Plans or Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) may be called for to put in place and will require involvement of the school psychologist.
The best way to communicate with your school’s personnel is by telephone with a follow up e-mail referring to your conversation and your request for assistance. Documenting your requests and the school’s agreed interventions or measures of support is recommended. It will be up to you to be your child’s best advocate and make sure what the school agreed to is followed through on. For children who need extensive accommodations as part of Individualized Education Plans, if affordable, parents may wish to hire an education advocate to guide them through the IEP process and optimize services.
During difficult and changing times, school can become a major stressor for your child. When parents and schools work together, the school environment can be one that offers children greatly needed support and predictability to navigate those difficult times.