Does Your Kid Need a Counsellor?
In every child who is born, under no matter what circumstances, and of no matter what parents, the potentiality of the human race is born...
Does Your Kid Need a Counsellor?
Parenting Style and Mental Health
In every child who is born, under no matter what circumstances, and of no matter what parents, the potentiality of the human race is born again…
- James Agree
The concept of child developing through a series of stages requiring differential treatment by his caretakers, a notion that some historians of Western childhood consider “modern” has always been a part of Indian folk consciousness. It is expressed through proverbs like “Treat a son as king for first five years, like a slave for the next ten and like a friend thereafter”. The contribution of Ayurveda to the Indian image of childhood lies in its formal recognition of different periods of childhood and its assignment of “appropriate ages to each period”.
Children should have a special place in any society for they are the society’s future. An important concern is that too many children today will not reach their full potential because of innumerable factors ranging from inadequate living conditions, lack of opportunities to extreme exposure to too many things at very early age and inept identification as well as appropriate treatment for medical, psychological or behavioral urgencies.
DEFINING FEATURES OF COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGY
Three roles have been central to the field of counseling psychology: the remedial, preventive and the developmental. The remedial role entails working with individuals or groups to assist them in remedying problems of one kind or another. The preventive role is one in which the counseling psychologist seeks to anticipate, circumvent and if possible, forestall difficulties that may arise in the future. The third role of counseling psychologist is referred to as the educative and the developmental role, the purpose of which is to help individuals to plan, obtain and derive maximum benefits from the kind of experiences which will enable them to discover and develop their potentialities. In the developmental role, the focus is on the enhancement under which the emphasis is on to teach skills or enhance attitudes that facilitate dealing with inevitable, everyday problems and maximize satisfaction and effectiveness.
Why counseling at Primary/Elementary level?
Elementary school years set the tone for developing the knowledge, attitudes and skill necessary for children to become healthy, competent and confident learners. Through a comprehensive developmental school counseling program, we work as a team with the school staff, parents and the community to create a caring climate and atmosphere. By providing education, prevention, early identification and intervention, efforts are made to help all children achieve academic success.
DYNAMICS OF A COUNSELOR-STUDENT RELATIONSHIP
A positive relationship between a student and counselor may be one of the most important but occasionally overlooked variables for predicting the student’s response to an intervention. Researchers have found that establishing a helping alliance and having good interpersonal relationship are more important than professional training in achieving positive treatment outcomes.
Counseling takes place in the context of a helping relationship in which the counselor and the student work together to resolve a problem, change behavior or foster personal growth and awareness. Although students may have a number of helping relationships with friends or family, the counseling relationship is different in a number of ways:
The counseling relationship is reciprocal. The counselor’s job is to focus on the student's concerns and offer their support and encouragement and it is the student's time to focus on themselves. but the process f counseling is such that despite the established roles of both the parties, one who seeks help and the one who provides, clear –cut pronunciation of the beneficiary is something that cannot be commented upon, reason being the expansive enlightenment gained throughout the journey at both ends.
The counseling relationship is confidential. Whereas with friends or family, you might hope that they will respect your privacy, a counselor is ethically and legally bound by confidentiality. Unless the student is an immediate danger to themselves or others, their conversations with a counselor will be private.
There are times when a student may have a very specific question or concern that can be resolved quickly in one or two sessions. Sometimes, this is not the case and it may take a longer time to build a trusting relationship with the counselor and to resolve the problem. The student and the counselor can talk over what the goals for counseling are and how long it will take to achieve these goals
The Counseling relationship is empathic in nature
To have empathy means to feel another's feelings (pain, sorrow, joy and other emotions). Empathy is the cornerstone of ability to love, and therefore empathy is at the core of good and stable therapeutic relationship. Considering it in the context of children, we should not forget that they are unique individuals in themselves with a plethora of emotions, expectations, dreams along with a bundle of fears, worries, restrictions which they keep closely guarded inside a world which they carry with themselves everywhere. This is the world which is not visible to us nor are they aware of it. But to establish a close and trustworthy relationship with the students, it is imperative that the counselor is able to tap into the unsaid things, those little changes in expressions, body language, the subtle substitutions of predominant emotions and conflicts with some other actions or emotions by doing which the child might put a brave front infront of others but at the core might expect someone out there to understand his agony, his fears, his wishes.
To be able to bring justice to this aspect of relationship building, it is important that the counselor has a good understanding of one’s own emotions too and is open to introspect whenever required. Because during innumerable interactions with students, the counselor gets opportunities to not only help the students at large, but a deeper understanding of the emotional world of children is also something which enlightens a counselor’s perspectives and attitudes towards the intricacies the relationships and life comprise of.
Responsibilities to Students
Professional school counselors have a primary obligation to the students, who are to be treated with dignity and respect as unique individuals. They are concerned with the educational, academic, career, personal and social needs and encourage the maximum development of every student. They respect students’ values, beliefs and cultural background and do not impose their personal values on students or their families.
Counseling in its widest connotation existed in one form or the other from time immemorial. In India, elders especially parents and teachers thought that imparting counseling in the form of advice and guidance was one of their fundamental and seared duty. Ancient epics of India are replete with depictions of counseling and in most of these ancient transactions it is not difficult to see the scientific practice and ethics of modern counseling techniques. The most widely acknowledged counseling situation in the epics is that of the dialogue between Shri Krishna and Arjuna in the battle of kurukshetra. Whether this dialogue had all the characteristics of modern counseling may yet have to be answered by the researchers but experts of this field from across the globe are of the opinion that the culture of India with the above heritage is potentially oriented to the modern techniques of counseling.(Shridhar, 2001)
The services of school counselors help students resolve emotional, social, or behavioral problems and help them develop a clearer focus or sense of direction. Therefore effective counseling programs and efficient counselors are important to the school climate and are a crucial element in improving student achievement. Review of literature cites innumerable instances which highlight the importance of counselors in a school setting and also how mutually satisfying and strong relationship between a counselor and students can prove to be extremely helpful.
Research has shown that student’s ratings of the student-counselor relationship are the most consistent predictor of student improvement. If the student/ client doesn’t believe that you can help them change their behavior or help them deal with their conflicts and lack the ability to understand them, they will be unlikely to overcome their resistance to treatment. Strong therapeutic relationships are predictors of positive outcomes in all treatment programs studied thus far. Moreover the relationship between client/student is more important than the type of therapy or intervention being applied.
Another study reported that group counseling provided by school counselors significantly decreased participants' aggressive and hostile behaviors. School counselors were effective in reducing victimization by assisting victimized children, reducing bullying behaviors, and modifying the school climate and structure. (Hanish, & Guerra, 2000). A study on the effects of counseling on classroom performance found that the underachieving students who received counseling improved significantly on the Self-Rating Scale of Classroom Behavior and in mathematics and language grades. (Gerler, & Anderson, 1985).
Children face unique and diverse challenges, both personally and developmentally, that have an impact on academic achievement. Recognizing the importance of “growing up gracefully”, we all should try to ensure with maximum of our expertise and resources that children get all the required guidance and encouragement to maximize their potential, besides providing them with an emotionally and intellectually secure environment.
Children should have a special place in any society for they are the society's future. It is the Elementary school years primarily which set the tone for developing the knowledge, attitudes and skill necessary for children to become healthy, competent and confident learners. By providing education, prevention, early identification and intervention, efforts are made to help all children achieve success in academic, personal and social areas. A positive relationship between a student and counselor is one of the most important indicator of a positive outcome and it is more important than the type of therapy or intervention being applied. Therefore besides technical expertise, ability to build strong, empathic and mutually trusting bond between the counselor and the student in a traditional way, it is also important that the counselor remains open to employing alternative, creative methods to enhance the quality of therapeutic alliance making the experience rich for both.
Try out a personal therapy session with Astha with one of the following
Parents have different styles or ways in which they prepare their kids. Nobody is born with the training of being a parent. Parents learn it on the job. So did I. Here I am listing the various styles of parenting I adopted and how they turned out. Am sure there is learning in this that other parents can pick from.
When I found out I was pregnant, I was excited and overwhelmed. I picked up almost the books I could that talked about pregnancy. After my son was born, I continued reading on parenting. I focused on teaching him self-care and discipline. However, slowly my focus drifted and my priorities changed. I kind of got sidetracked. Yet, I was observing that my son’s behavior was changing, he was getting more hooked to electronics and T.V, his grades were falling down, and he was not following the rules.
During the same time, I visited my relative’s place for a family gathering, she had two teenagers. When we entered the house, the host greeted us. The children were sitting in the corner watching their phones. I greeted them but they overlooked and didn’t respond. The whole evening, we were around, the children were by themselves in their respective rooms. I felt sorry that the children were neither involved in the family gathering nor did they seem to be happy.
This made me rethink and I sensed I was sailing in the same boat. I recalibrated my priorities and that is when I started looking around parenting styles and their effects on children’s mental health. After understanding each parenting style, I discovered I was being a permissive and uninvolved parent.
As a permissive parent, I was nurturing and loving towards my kid. My kid’s freedom mattered to me more than him becoming responsible. I wished I could have both - freedom and responsibility, but generally one tends to come at the cost of the other. I as a parent enforced rules yet there hardly were any consequences when the rules were not followed. Permissive parents generally bribe or dangle carrots of toys, gifts and incentives and expect the kids to behave as per their expectations. This is different from positive reinforcement, where positive behavior is rewarded and negative ignored. In positive reinforcement, parents reward children with toys and gifts when they do a good job, not bribe them to behave. In retrospect, I feel I could have been a better positive reinforcer than a permissive parent.
Uninvolved parenting, as the name says, parents don’t respond to their child’s needs or desires beyond providing them basic needs like: food, shelter, and clothing. It's like I don’t know so I don’t care. Parents provide little guidance, discipline, and nurturing to their children. Oftentimes, kids are left to raise themselves and make their own decisions. This helps the kid grow in self-confidence and tends to become an independent adult. Yet, what the kid misses on is coachability and ability to listen and course-correct. Also, you are leaving the kid open to all kinds of potentially unfiltered influences, such as Internet and mobile addiction.
In the Authoritarian parenting style, children are expected to follow strict rules established by their parents. Failure to follow these rules usually results in punishment. Authoritarian parents don't explain the reason why children should have rules and boundaries. If children ask, why should we follow the rules? the parents will reply, "Because I said so." This parenting style leads to children who are obedient and proficient, but they may rank lower in happiness, social competence, and self-esteem.
It is important to know that kids follow what you do and not what you say. If you don’t give reasons for rules, they themselves would not open up to you and may try to follow your style. Authority always comes with responsibility. So if you demand authority you must act responsibly. Here kids may be dealing with mental wellbeing issues such as unwanted stress, or anxiety, and yet they may be too scared to open up to you as there could be consequences running in their mind.
In this style, parents are responsive to their children and they are willing to listen to their questions and answer them patiently. However, parents do expect a lot from their children. In addition, they provide warmth, feedback, and adequate support for the child's needs. Nevertheless, if the child fails to meet the expectations, parents nurture and forgive the child rather than punishing. Authoritative parent’s children are considered to be happy, capable, and successful. It is full of positive reinforcements, intangible rewards and availability. Children crave for attention and approval of their heroes: their parents.
In my parenting journey I finally evolved to the authoritative style as I sensed it would work for me and is appropriate. This definitely required me changing myself first. I set reasonable rules in the house and expected my son to respect those rules. However, if he failed to do so, I patiently and repeatedly explained to him why he needs to stick to the rules and if he still doesn’t obey, he faces consequences like: cutting down his playtime or no playtime for weeks. Furthermore, from time to time I set goals for him.
Sometimes he failed to meet them and got disappointed. However, I always asked him one question, are you happy? He says, “No”. Then, I would ask him, why? Often he would say, “I should have put in more effort for better results.” My effort was directed to help him process and realize why he couldn’t meet the goal. This was a very different approach from how previously he would try to not make me upset instead. Our vocabulary now was about goal and effort instead of blame and upset. Later, as the situation demanded, I adjusted my parenting style. For instance, at times even now, I become too authoritative with my son. Here my partner would take a Permissive approach to balance it out.
As parents it’s hard to be balanced, understanding, and nurturing on a day-to-day basis. Occasionally, we lose our equilibrium. Building resilience is critical. However, once we find the parenting style that works for us and our kids it makes our parenting so very enjoyable. Raising kids is a big responsibility and it is important we keep it enjoyable.
Self-care is self-reliance. As a parent, I have tried to instill the same in my kids. They say a journey starts with the first step. And that you must take that first step. Here is how I instilled self-care habits in my kids. I believe self-care habits should start from parents and from home. If parents follow these habits, children will acquire them and will develop adaptability in learning self-care.
Growing up, I saw my parents follow self-care habits like: waking up early and performing prayers, going for a walk, and eating healthy. This instilled self-care practice in me. Back in 1980s, we never knew that this was called self-care, it was just part of our parent’s lifestyle and routine.
However, me being a working professional and with my hectic schedule, I felt it’s not feasible for me to follow and teach self-care habits to my son. Yet, I realized if I can, it will make my life and my son’s life effortless. Honestly, introducing self-care to my son was not an easy task. Nevertheless, I followed what my parents did. Firstly, I focused and followed my self-care habits like: doing meditation, exercising every day, and eating healthy/nutritious food. When my son saw me executing these practices, it made it effortless for me to educate him with these habits and he got accustomed to it pretty fast.
I started off my son with self-care habits like: brushing his teeth, eating his breakfast, and cleaning up toys after playtime. These habits may sound simple but it will help children practice their motor skills and they will gain confidence and will develop self-esteem when they try new things and succeed. In addition, as part of self-care skills, we have to let children think, process, let them make decisions, and be independent. So, from an early age, I made my son make his own decisions like: picking his clothes, it can be that simple!
As he grew older, I introduced him to new self-care practices such as: downtime, which means doing nothing for 5 to 10 min. Sometimes, doing nothing is the best self-care practice. This helps children in cognitive thinking and helps them express their wants and needs. Later on, I encouraged him to write a journal every day and include 5 things that he is thankful for, this will help children develop and feel gratitude. His other self-care habits included making his bed, cleaning up his room, involving in house chores, waking up himself, and making his meal.
As weekdays are hectic for most of us, over the weekends, parents should make it a habit of having family time and fun time with children. In our family time, we all sit and talk about how the week was going? How we all did? Did we miss anything? And, can we make it any better next week? Fun time for me is playing an outdoor game or cuddling with my son on the couch and reading a book with him. Family time and fun time not only work as self-care practices, but they will also help us bond with our children.
From my personal experience, I believe self-care starts with parents working on their self-care habits and then educating children. Children perceive a lot from their parents and learn from them. Until parents follow self-care habits, they cannot educate their children. Parents need to take out time for themselves, the app helped me find ways and keeping up with my self-care practices. Every time I feel demotivated, I recall the in-flight announcement 'Put YOUR oxygen mask on before doing so for others (kids, elderly, co-passengers)'.
I have struggled with the fidgetiness of my son. A moment he is here and the next one he is gone. You try and explain something, and yet I found him to wandering in some other world. I found presence based meditative and self-care routines to my rescue. In one of Aumhum self-care sessions I got introduced to this thing called feeling my feet. It was an exercise where you scan your body bottom up, feeling all the sensations. It is some form of grounding. You can do this at your home as well. It is about taking your focus on each body part, starting from toe & fingers all the way to the tip of the head. A repeat of this practice for a week brought immense benefits to my son's awareness level. I often had the thought that I am over-engineering the child? But the results where my son was more in every moment, took away all my self-doubts.
A lot of Indian stories are based on the the principle of Karma, a kind of cause and effect. It was easy for me to find stories that instilled the point that every action has a reaction. Our actions have to be conscious actions, and that not taking an action is not an option. For this, I had to take the route of using food as an example. Food-choices develop early and it is easy for kids to build a list of what they do not like to eat. One of my favorite ways to instill appreciation for food is through cause and effect. Wasting food on plate, is kind of a disrespect for the effort farmers, Mother Earth and nature have put together to help us feed ourselves. This has multiplicative effect. The entire cycle of producing food and consuming it changes the way how much we pay for food and how many people out there are not able to afford the same. I often go overboard defining this, but there are numerous stories on this, close to my heart that I have used to inculcate mindfulness on what we eat and how we eat.
We lost our dog and the kids were distraught. Yet, in a few months we were back to moving on. My kids needed to learn this, especially the 6 year old. It has always been tough for him to let go toys even if he wasn't using them in the first place. We've had numerous sad sleepovers where gifting the neighbor kid anything became a crying issue for my kid. So, it was important for us to help him understand that things don't remain the same all the time. They change. What we value today may not be so valuable to us tomorrow. We change and so does the value we put to things.
Teaching self-care to my son created a strong foundation for him in becoming inependent and I am confident that with these self-care skills, he will grow into adulthood that will keep him mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy.