Counselling is not about giving advice with 'Shoulds' and 'Musts', but rather a communication between the client and the therapist/counsellor bringing out the best qualities in the client to enable him/hers lead a stress-free life. In that case, everyone needs counselling and of course, ‘everyone’ includes school children too. You might wonder if children are stressed to an extent that they need to be referred to a counsellor. Even though counselling is an emerging concept in today’s time, there are a few things to look at.
One, parents may not recognize that their child is suffering from a mental disorder. This happens because of lack of awareness about disorders or mental issues like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), autism, dyslexia, depression, anxiety disorders etc. Also, the concept of counselling is still at an emerging stage, one cannot forget the ‘stigma’ associated with counselling or mental illness in general.
Two, the child having a mental problem may be mocked by his peers, classmates or even by relatives. These people do not understand whether the individual is either born with the disorder or certain environmental and/or situational factors has led to this condition. For instance, when a student was being referred to the counsellor in school his classmates made fun of him. Such things can affect the child psychologically, knowingly or unknowingly.
A professor shared why she feels pity for today’s generation. She said that children are so engrossed with social media- Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, Snapchat that they hardly get even two hours for revising the topics covered. Moreover, these children are burdened with getting good marks to meet expectations on them. Now that every 13 to 16-year-old teenager has a smartphone and all these applications are easily accessible, distractions due to notifications and messages received leads to less concentration on studying. Also, the social comparison can disturb a child's productivity to a great extent. “He is touring Switzerland and look at me, sitting on my couch scrolling my feed.” Sounds familiar?
Added to this, is the expectations from parents to ace the Board Exams and make it into a reputed college. These stressors, many a time lead the children wrongly towards drugs, alcohol or smoking which can be harmful in the long run; both physically and psychologically. We have heard enough stories on the suicides that follow exam results.
Beyond the academic worries, teenagers face a series of changes that they find hard to cope with. Dealing with puberty, handling new relationships, the importance of peers, change in preferences, rebellion to parents, facing an identity crisis, etc. can mess with the psychological well-being of the adolescent. When he/she seeks help and support away from parents, counsellors have a huge role to play.
Are these not enough reasons why we the need counsellors in schools?
What do these Counsellors do?
1. Counsellors are present so that children can freely discuss matters which they would not able to discuss with their parents and they can ensure a strict confidentiality of information. For instance, many students may feel hesitant towards discussing their relationship issues with their parents or they may feel hesitant towards discussing their anxiety due to exams with their parents otherwise it may happen that the parents get tensed about their child's future. In such situations counsellors guide them so as to ward off those feelings and replace them with positive thoughts.
2. The guidance provided by counsellor helps in the shaping the personality of the child. They shape the behaviour of the child in such a way that they maintain peace amongst their classmates, peers, parents, teachers and everyone surrounding him/her. There are cases in which the child does not behave appropriately with anyone or throws temper tantrums. A counsellor may acts as a saviour here. He/she can ascertain the cause of the defiant behaviour by talking to the child and his/her parents towards understanding the nature of the problem.
3. Issues like drug abuse, alcohol or emotional abuse can be discussed openly with them. Proper guidance and counselling can help the child get out of it and effective recovery from the condition. As they are allowed to recognise their problems and think about it.
4. Counsellors are brought in for discussion of issues like sex education, bullying, stress management etc. through seminars, workshops and individual counselling. For instance, in the case of stress management, they educate the children about various conditions that lead to stress and various ways to overcome them. This helps them be aware of and monitor their own behaviour.
5. Counsellors help students having special needs to mingle with their classmates. They also provide referrals and recommendations to the parents about the mental concerns of their child. They may suggest them through different methods of parenting or if the child needs to be referred to someone like an occupational therapist, speech therapist etc.
6. Counsellors also serve the function of providing vocational guidance to students about the career options for the child according to his/her aptitude and interests. This can be done through conduction of various aptitude, intelligence or personality tests. At the end of it, they will be able to elaborate on the child's ability and interest and guide him or her for choosing a career that would best suit the child.
Students need to be given awareness about the availability of the counsellors in their institutions and how they can resolve the above mentioned mental conflicts with their help. Even parents should be encouraged by the institution to use the services of counselling not just for students but for how they can take care of their child’s psychological needs. Everyone needs to remain stress-free so as to enjoy this roller-coaster ride called Life.