I received an email from my daughter’s new High School counselor. She is new to the school and she wanted to introduce herself to the parents and was requesting that parents fill out a brief online survey. She said “This year a decision was made to improve how our student’s emotional needs are met.” Then I opened the survey and it was asking if the school needed to address issues of cutting, depression, eating disorders, divorce, anxiety, and other severe emotional issues. I have to say my first reaction was for the school to focus on academics and leave these issues to the parents. The entire bent of the email was the terrible time teenagers are facing and that it required us to hire someone with extensive experience with “at risk” teens to deal with our high school.
My reaction: Let’s not address these issues to the entire student body because I don’t want to give kids that do not have these issues any ideas.
It feels like at times we focus more attention on labeling our kids growing pains and creating pathology in them rather than holding up a Christ-like leadership example for them to grow into. These opinions sanctioned the way for my 16 year old (who is in her first psychology class I might add) to explain to me the real situation. Here were the main points:
- “First of all, everyone in high school already knows about all of these things i.e. cutting, depression, etc. Hearing it from the school is not going to give anyone ideas. If it isn’t an issue, the kids will just ignore it like half the other stuff the school talks about.”
- “There ARE an abundance of kids who are right here in our school who do struggle with these things and they don’t have parents at home who notice or are around to find out.”
- “Kids are not going to go and ask to talk to the school counselor on their own. They just don’t think that way.”
- “Mom, your kids may not need this but others do and I know people I go to school with right now who have received help because a teacher brought issues to the attention of the counselor.”
After talking to my daughter, I deleted the email I was going to send to the school. I guess it is easy to forget that today there are more kids with significant challenges and that may truly be “at risk” even in our local schools. Families are breaking up at every economic level. And, in most cases, kids don’t have both parents, much less grandparents, and aunts and uncles involved in their lives.
I wish we did not need to have the schools take such an active role in the emotional stability of our children. If you have kids, I hope this opens your eyes as it did mine. We need to be engaged in our children’s lives, we need to provide them with a stable environment, and they need to know they can talk to us. But, just as important, we need to be the other adult who cares about our nieces and nephews, our kid’s friends, and the children in our church community. I appreciate that my children’s school wants to help, but I think it is difficult for the school to achieve excellence in academics, provide a Christian leadership example and now take an active role in our children’s emotional stability. [Note: that I did not state “emotional development”, rather “emotional stability”. School is a natural part of our kid’s “emotional development”. The email I received from this private Christian school was a need to take a more active role in the student’s emotional stability. The issues of drug use, self injury, and parental discord (to name a couple) are not developmental issues.
As my daughter pointed out, I as one voice cannot change the needs of an entire student body of children; however, I want to challenge my community. God has given us stewardship over these kids. Maybe together we can make an impact in our community!