In my last blog I wrote about 5 things to consider when looking at elementary school counselling (http://www.ccpa-accp.ca/blog/?p=4194). This time I would like to look at what I consider 5 main issues that children deal with in elementary school. These issues (in no particular order) would be Bullying, Anxiety, Disruptive Behaviour, Friendships and Family problems. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but I have found them to be fairly predominant in all schools I have worked in.
We all know that bullying is a huge issue in public education and the early elementary years is often where it starts. We all know the reasons why kids bully but what we have to do is work with the child to help them understand positive and negative behaviours and how they affect others. Telling a child they are being a bully makes no sense as they often don’t see themselves in that manner. Instead, work on positive behaviours and showing respect.
Anxiety, whether diagnosed or not, has become one of the biggest issues in school today, leading to low self-esteem, depression and sometimes school refusal. If we can work with student early on and help to develop positive coping techniques for students and parents we may be able to help decrease the likelihood of anxiety becoming overwhelming for students, staff and parents. Allowing students to stay home or have parents pick them up can cause serious and negative effects such as avoidance and school refusal.
Disruptive behaviours in the classroom setting are another problem faced by teachers and they will often come to counsellors for assistance in dealing with these behaviours. Such issues may be anger outbursts, attention seeking behaviours, trouble focusing, and inappropriate language. Sometimes staff wants you to solve the problem so the student can come back and get the work done, but that rarely happens. We often discover underlying reasons for the issues and need to work on those areas of concern first. Disruptive behavior can take a very long time to change and the student must first be ready to make those changes.
Young children who have not had plenty of opportunity to interact with peer groups before entering school, often find themselves struggling to make friends. Some are shy and others may be aggressive or inappropriate in their behaviours. These students may get referred to the counsellor for assistance in learning how to make and keep friends. Social skills are a necessary part of friendship and sometimes need to be taught in school.
Divorce, separation, neglect, abuse, grief, financial problems and family chaos can occur in any family at any time. When students have difficult childhoods, they may turn to activities that could be harmful to themselves and or others. It is important for students to understand that counsellors are there to help them get through the hard times. That help may involve referrals to mental health, reports to DCS, police, local community assistance programs, etc.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA