Every child needs excellent teachers in their corner. But a solid educational team can’t be limited to the classroom—the support system has to be more varied than textbooks and lesson plans. Enter: school counselors. They provide academic guidance, yes, but also personal, social, and emotional support. In today’s day and age, where stress levels are higher than ever, these invaluable professionals are essential. We spoke with school counselors from all over the country about what they wish parents understood better—these are their top pieces of advice.
1. It’s okay to let your children fail.
Though it’s natural to want to protect your kids from missteps at all costs, it’s fine to let them fail a little—especially in elementary and middle school, when their grades don’t go on a permanent record.
“This is the time to let kids figure out time management and study skills,” says Christine MacInnis, a school counselor at Orchard Hills School in Irvine, California. “They can also learn how to advocate for themselves in the classroom before it becomes all too real in high school.”
2. Never request one teacher over another.
Unless your child had a particularly bad experience with a teacher, MacInnis says that parents should not request a specific teacher for their child. “Don’t rely on the parent gossip chain regarding information about teachers,” she notes. “The one teacher your best friend’s son disliked could very well be your child’s favorite.”
3. One decision won’t dictate where your child goes to college.
Society’s obsession with getting into “good “colleges has clearly gotten out of hand. (Look no further than the recent “Operation Varsity Blues” college admissions scandal.) But, as MacInnis explains, one decision won’t make or break your child’s chances of getting into a great university, especially when they’re young.
“I hear even kindergarten parents worry about future high school scheduling. Stop the madness!” she says. “There is a college for every child if you look beyond the boundaries of the six named universities, like Harvard or Yale. So please stop worrying.”
4. Make sure your child feels heard and validated.
Whether they’re excited about the upcoming science project or school play, or have anxiety surrounding tests, soccer tryouts, or being invited to the fall dance, it’s important that children are given the space to talk about the things they’re most passionate about.
“Children sometimes feel that they have to keep their fears to themselves, but as parents, let them know that having fears is a normal part of life,” says Ronica Arnold Branson, PhD, the coordinator of the School Counseling Program at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi. “It’s healthier to express their emotions and not to keep them bottled up.”
5. Soak it all in.
Your kids aren’t going to be at home with you forever, so appreciate the time you have with them at every age. “Relax and enjoy your child at all their fun stages,” MacInnis says. “It all goes so fast.”
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