On reviewing Counsellor’s Corner this year (something only I would do), I see themes definitely worth summarising!
What are parents/carers dealing with? Your children are going through massive change in a few short years. Your efforts to attend to their emotional health will have a significant impact on their life satisfaction, as even economists recognise. (April).
We noted the epic questions that are typical of adolescence: Who am I? Does this behaviour or choice fit with me, or is it not-me? What do I want my life to be? What is my purpose? Is there meaning to life? If we as adults realise these questions are in play we can validate and help explore them, model by example, and offer guidance. Otherwise young people may seek the transcendent in harmful ways, or come to believe they are totally responsible for their success (ego-inflation) or failure (despair, self-harm, suicide). (June).
Notice your child’s behaviour, as they won’t tell you some things in nicely constructed sentences. “Mum, I’m a bully and I need help” – unlikely. We discussed the signs of a child who’s a bully, such as verbal or physical aggression to deal with conflict; talking about "getting even" with others; hanging around with other children who appear aggressive; having a hard time expressing feelings and understanding others' feelings; unable to play cooperative games (arrogant winner, sore loser); fighting often with brothers and sisters. (March).
You can also help by noticing your child’s mood. We saw research showing that two-thirds of depressed kids said their parents/carers knew little or nothing about their feelings. School performance in all subjects was markedly poorer for those with a mental disorder, as rated by parents/carers. (August).
When there is a problem where your child needs your help we discussed some steps such as these:
Ask them what they need from you; e.g. whether they just want you to listen or to offer advice. (Making time to talk).
Do not try to solve all their problems for them. (Being involved but encouraging autonomy!).
Help them break down potential challenges into smaller steps that are manageable. (Modelling how to solve a problem).
Encourage your teenager to consider the effects of their actions on other people. (Thinking of consequences).
Encourage your teenager by reminding them of times in the past when they have dealt well with problems. (Showing you believe in them).
Praise your teenager when they deal well with problems. (Showing affection). (March).
We looked at research showing that academic success can be supported by parents/carers emphasising effort rather than ability, praising success rather than criticising failure, and maintaining positive relationships within and between school and home. (February).
We also discussed behaviour which children witness that can put their mental health and long-term life chances at risk, such as seeing parents/carers in frequent, intense and poorly resolved inter-parental conflicts. (November).
So, no easy job then! But noticing early and responding effectively will do them the world of good.
On the school website there is advice on sources of information and support (Current families > Counselling).