The following article was taken from the
American School Counselor Association (ASCA) website, www.schoolcounselor.org. Please visit this site for many informative articles for
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 though 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:
• Develop a guidance plan based on a campus needs assessment
• Counsel students individually and/or in groups
• Provide systematic and developmental classroom guidance to all students
• Respond to student needs in crisis situations
• Orient students to new school settings
• Work with absentees, potential dropouts and other at-risk students
• Refer students to special programs and/or services when necessary
• Analyze test results to provide information about abilities, achievement,
interests and needs
• Help with individual school, college, and career plans; coordinate
school-to-work initiatives and with post-secondary institutions
• Coordinate efforts with other school specialists
• Conduct conferences with parents and facilitate parent discussion groups
• Coordinate staff support activities
• Adhere to ethical and legal standards
• Pursue continuous professional growth and development
• Conduct an annual evaluation of the guidance program
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, school encourage parental involvement, and the school counselor
is the primary contact for many parents in connecting 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
• How is my child doing in school?
• What are my child’s strengths and weaknesses?
• Are there any areas of concerns or delayed development?
• What are my child’s goals for this year?
• What are some suggestions for action at home?
• What programs are available to help my child to do better?
• Does my child get along well with adults?
• Does my child get along well with his/her peers?
• What can I do to improve discipline at home?
• Are there ways I can improve communication with my child?
• What can I expect after a change in the family (death, divorce, illness,
financial status, moving)?
• If my child is (running away from home, being disrespectful, having other
problems), what should I do?
• What resources are available at school?
• What resources are available outside of school?
• What do I need to do to prepare my child for college admission?
• What are the best resources for information on financial assistance and
• What do I do? My child is (sad, not sleeping, not eating, overeating, has
temper tantrums, etc.)
• What do I do if I don’t like my child’s friends?
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 and
others. 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.