I realized that some things have really sunk in during my ten years of being a high school counselor. I’ve learned things about teenagers, as well as parents, myself, and my own kids. I want to share the ones that are standing out to me and learn more as I do so. Here they are:
1) There’s a reason why kids do things. There’s a reason why people do things. There’s a reason why we do things. When you are dealing with behavior of anyone that is concerning or bothering you, ask the person or yourself why. Many times people don’t know, but many times they do. The why needs to not be a judgmental why, just a why. And more will come out if there is no judgment.
2) Sometimes people just want to be heard even if you can’t change something. There can be catharsis in relaying something. So let them talk. Let them explain. Let them tell you.
3) Communicating to people tells them that they are important and valued. Not communicating makes people mad and grumpy. This goes for anyone and everyone. As a counselor, be sure to communicate to your fellow counselors and to the assistants in your office what is going on or if something has changed. You don’t want to hear your colleagues saying “No one told me!” or “I didn’t know we were doing it that way!” after the fact. It just isn’t good.
4) When giving bad news, explain what happened thoroughly. Don’t cut to the conclusion. This is especially true when there is a discipline issue at school and you have to tell a parent what happened and what the consequence is. Never forget that everything in life is a process and people need time to process. Just the telling of something helps people process.
5) People need choices and they need time to make decisions. Even if the choices aren’t things they would necessarily pick, they will feel better with options. When students and/or parents need to make a decision about something and they have a number of options, let them think things over. Often a decision made in the moment will be changed the next day and people feel a lifting of stress when you give them time. This is often true with choice of classes. Lay out the options, even write them down and send the student or parent off with the list.
6) Relationships are everything. Approaching your own student in the hall who is doing something goes very differently than approaching someone else’s student and I generally don’t unless it is imperative. A student who you know and knows you will hear what you are saying and trust you. They will talk to you and confide in you, consult with you, and come to you.
7) It seems like just about everything we do is driven by either love or fear. Think about it. Love feels a lot better. Be driven by love.
8) It’s all about love. Listening to someone is love. Giving someone time is love. Realizing that there is a reason why people do things is love. Communicating to someone is love. Relationships should be about love not fear. Respect is love.
I remember my dad coming over to my house one day when my son and his friend were sitting on the sidewalk playing. As my dad got out of his car and saw the boys he stopped to meet 10 year old Nathan. I can still see my six foot three inch dad bending down (way down) to introduce himself and gently shake Nathan’s hand. It was a snapshot of respect and value.
Each human being on this planet is of tremendous worth and value no matter their age or position or status.
Counselors tell kids everyday that they love them in their interactions and investment in their lives.