Tips for Parents Playing the New Role of School Counselor

As schools move to distance learning for the rest of the 2019-20 school year, parents have become teachers and classroom aids in the blink of an eye. For families practicing social distancing across the U.S., it’s important to consider parents are also serving in the role as school counselors supporting their newly distance-learning students.

As a school counselor myself, I understand how much students depend on educators to help in times of crisis and uncertainty – from a shoulder to cry on to someone to listen when things are blue. If you’re now serving as a parent/teacher/counselor, here are some tips to help navigate this important new role:

Breathe – Family yoga anyone? Remember to take a moment to breathe. We teach our students this skill when solving a hard math problem, reacting to adversity on the playing field or responding to the multitude of daily social interactions that can cause stress. While we’re distance learning, working from home and stuck inside together – it’s more important than ever to stop, breathe and then react.

Stay connected – We’re missing our coworkers and our kids are missing their teachers and classmates. To reduce feelings of isolation, you can use technology to help them keep up important relationships with friends, teachers and coaches. Or go old school and write letters or create colorful cards to send virtually (take a photo and text or email it to them).

Talk about it – Often school counselors provide an important outlet for students to share their thoughts and feelings with a trusted adult. Set aside time daily to ‘talk it out’ on whatever topic your kid picks. Share your own feelings and let them know you’re feeling scared and sad as well.

Celebrate it – Many students are missing important milestones, including graduation. Don’t let these events go by unnoticed. Celebrate them together and add friends and family virtually – get creative! It’s important to take time to honor achievements and celebrate the big and small things that bring us joy.

Focus on wellness – Schools provide an important way for kids to engage in activities that keep us healthy – from nap time to recess and sports to music class. Don’t forget how essential enrichment activities are for developing minds and bodies. From keeping a good sleep schedule to throwing nightly dance parties, it’s more important than ever to take time for healthy activities.

Disconnect from it – We’ve all seen an increase in screen time but try to get those distance-learners to put down their devices and step away from the screen to give their brains a break and their eyes a rest. Disconnect together with family game nights or by reading a book aloud.

Keep a schedule – School also helps students keep to a daily schedule. Create a schedule together, give plenty of time for activity breaks and don’t be afraid to update it as you go along. A schedule gives a sense of security, teaches patience and helps you conquer each day together.

Here are some activities you can do together to share your feelings of stress and uncertainty.

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Brie Overton is a licensed professional counselor specializing in bereavement and supporting children and families navigating grief who serves as a school counselor in St. Louis, MO and as the Clinical Director of Experience Camps for Grieving Children.