By Aakanksha Tangri, Founder of Re:Set
Given that the past year has seen a rise in young people’s mental health challenges, it is becoming increasingly important that children are equipped with the coping tools and support systems they need to work through their emotions. One such important stakeholder that forms their support system is a child’s school counsellor. Often parents and students don’t take advantage of having a school counsellor when the need arises to navigate through difficult times. The stigma around mental health can prevent them from reaching out for support. However, it is important adults instil the understanding that there is no harm in asking for help.
Here, Aakanksha Tangri, Founder of Re:Set shares tips on how to make sure your child is getting the best use out of their school counsellor.
It seems simple, but the first step is to ensure your child knows what a school counsellor does and who they are. Look at setting up an introductory meeting between the counsellor and your child, one perhaps even you can attend, to break the ice and work on developing a rapport and trust. It’s not easy for anyone, let alone a child, to open up to someone, which is why it’s even more important that there is a relationship between the two so that when the child does need an adult to speak to, they know who they can turn to.
While you’ve introduced your child to their counsellor, you should also set up a time to speak to the counsellor where you can let them know if there’s anything in particular they should keep an eye out for, such as if your child needs that extra push to socialise or is anxious. The counsellor can also liaise with the child’s teachers to let them know and work together to ensure the student is on the right track, look for any changes in behaviour and that all the necessary support is given to the child.
It’s not easy for anyone, let alone a child, to open up to someone
Normalise Seeking Help
School counsellors we’ve talked to through our reporting at Re:Set have often said the biggest challenge they face is the stigma that comes with seeing a school counsellor. Introspect and see whether you’re carrying any biases towards support for one’s well-being and how you can unlearn it. If you incorporate conversations around mental health at home and encourage your child to reach out for support, you’ll find it’ll have a tremendous impact on your child’s ability to name and process their emotions and to let you know when they need to speak to someone. You shouldn’t wait until something is terribly wrong to get your child some help. Regular check-ins between the child and their counsellor will help build a solid foundation for their well-being and equip them with various coping strategies. As children get older, they face a myriad of challenges such as social media comparisons and peer pressure, and the stigma often is more intense as well — the younger they start with getting support, the better it is.
As children get older, they face a myriad of challenges
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
Many schools also work with external mental health clinics to provide additional resources for the child or have existing relationships to refer children when needed. Make sure you have a conversation with the school administration or counsellor to know what measures they have in place if your child does need to seek external support. This will also allow you to know what resources are at your child’s disposal. If your child does have a mental health professional they already work with, then you can look at initiating a conversation between them and the school counsellor so that everyone is on the same page and can develop a clear strategy to work through a child’s challenges.