School counsellors are experienced teachers who have a degree in psychology and post-graduate qualifications in school counselling. They can work with students of all ages and their families, throughout their school years.
For information in community languages see school counselling service.
The school counsellor can also assist students who may be feeling extremely sad or anxious. Contact us if you would like to make an appointment.
It is important to seek help early if you notice any major change in your child's behaviour.
The following information may assist with your child's return to school after COVID-19 isolation.
Children and young people have experienced a lot of sudden change over the past few months. As a result, some children may experience difficulty returning back to normality. Sometimes when we are feeling nervous or anxious, our common reaction is to avoid the trigger or situation that causes anxious feelings. In the short term this may temporarily reduce our anxious feelings but in the long term it actually increases it.
Avoidance is not a good strategy because it limits our opportunity to test out our beliefs and limits opportunities for us to realise we can cope with challenging situations.
Because of the COVID-19 isolation and lock down some students may have been avoiding situations (sometimes unknowingly) that might typically make them feel anxious (like presentations at school, interacting with friends, public transport). Going back to school, might cause increased feelings of anxiousness if they are thinking worried thoughts like “What if I catch it?” “This is going to be too hard” “I can’t do this.”
Our anxiety is reduced by facing the situations that scare or worry us. The more we do something scary, the easier it gets. The first day back might be difficult for your child but as they face the situation and realise that their worried thought is not as likely as they thought (and that they can actually cope with the situation) their anxiety reduces.
Below are some of the feelings your child may be experiencing.
- Excited or happy: Some students feel ready for their return to school and may be excited to see their friends and teachers again.
- Nervous or anxious: Due to being away from their peers and routine structure, some students may be feeling a level of uncertainty about their place amongst their peers and how school will look on their return. There may also be feelings of nervousness and/or anxiousness about keeping up with schoolwork.
- Frustrated or annoyed: Some students may have enjoyed learning in the home environment and do not want to return to school.
It is important to remember all of these feelings are normal and that we all react in different ways
Although these feelings are completely normal, your child may have a hard time understanding and expressing their feelings.
As a result, you may notice some changes in their behaviour:
- Changes to sleeping or eating habits, such as struggling to fall asleep;
- Becoming quieter or more withdrawn;
- Wanting to be around you more or unwillingness to separate from you;
- Becoming fidgety and restless;
- Seeming irritable and acting out, possibly refusing to attend school;
- Physical complaints such as an upset stomach or headaches;
- Excessively asking questions or seeking reassurance.
These are normal reactions to stress.
The way a child responds to a situation depends partly on the way their parents/carers respond and partly on other factors such as temperament, thinking styles etc.
Below are some strategies you can do to optimise your child’s response to stressors
- Listen: It is important to listen, acknowledge and normalise your child’s experience. Provide opportunities for them to express their concerns. Try not to dismiss their feelings or rush to reassure them, but instead, listen first.
- Avoid excessive reassurance: Try not to use statements such as ‘Don’t worry’ or ‘You will be okay’, but consider asking questions such as ‘What do you think you can say to yourself to help you worry less?’ and try to help them to think realistically.
- Focus on courage: Another way to shape your child’s response is to focus your attention on the times they are able to be courageous or deal with their worry. Find some previous examples of this.
- Be a calm role model: One of the most useful things we can do to help reduce our children’s worry is to be calm ourselves. Our children take cues from us.
- Tolerate your child's distress: The hardest part about being a parent/carer is seeing your child suffer or experience distress. Try to see this as an opportunity to support your child to develop coping strategies. As parents/carers, we often try to solve or get rid of problems for our children to reduce their distress. In the long run, this is not always helpful as it doesn't give your child an opportunity to develop ways of coping.
Maintaining Connection Whilst Setting Boundaries
Both you and your child may find it difficult to adjust back to regular daily routines and household rules. It is important to maintain connection with your child whilst setting boundaries and limits.
- Communicate comfort and connection through nonverbal communication. Be relaxed in your facial expression and body, look at them directly when they are speaking to you and if needed offer them comfort, reassurance or a gentle hug.
- Validate and Relate. Consider what your child might be feeling, and how they are experiencing things from their point of view.
- “It is hard to get up early in the morning after you have enjoyed weeks of sleeping in.”
- “You have been doing a great job completing your work online. It must be frustrating not being able to do all your work on your laptop now.”
- Reason and Set Limits. Support your child to consider the bigger picture and help them problem solve. Communicate that wishes and feelings are acceptable, but some behaviours are not. It is important to remain calm, clear and assertive.
- “It’s hard to go back to school after such a big break. But everyone now has to go back to school. Let’s talk figure out together how to make this easier”.
- “I can see you are frustrated but it is not ok to yell or treat others disrespectfully”
Going back to your family’s normal school morning routine will be a powerful way to help them return to school successfully.
The School Counselling Service continues to be operational and referral processes remain the same. If you wish to refer your child to the service, parents can speak to their Year Advisor or contact the front office. Students are also able to self-refer directly to the School Psychologist/School Counsellor. Below are some useful contacts and additional supports.
In the event of an emergency, call 000
- NSW Mental Health Access Line – 1800 011 511
- Attend your local GP for support and potentially to facilitate a referral to a psychologist or mental health provider
- eheadspace - https://headspace.org.au/eheadspace/, online access to a mental health clinician via telephone or webchat. It can be encouraged that students create an account with eheadspace, so that if they have to use this when distressed this is not a barrier for use. Parents can speak with a clinician for help supporting a young person.
- Kids Helpline – www.kidshelpline.com.au 1800 55 1800. Counselling service for children and young people, parents/carers 24 hours 7 days per week
- My Compass https://www.mycompass.org.au/ This is a resource created by Black Dog which creates personalised support for mental health. This is focused on providing psychoeducation and skill development. This website can be used by staff and students.
- Mood Gym https://moodgym.com.au/ An online resource that can help support and manage symptoms of mental health challenges.
- Reachout https://au.reachout.com/ Tools and resources for stress management and mental health support strategies.
- CalmHarm https://au.reachout.com/tools-and-apps/calm-harm support develop strategies to deescalate when feeling distressed. It can be encouraged for students to download, or for use in classroom or advisory group. This can be used for staff and students. Use can be encouraged when not distressed, to establish the use and learning of a helpful coping strategy. Can also be used after an incident, in the hope to long term replace or at least challenge, maladaptive strategies.
Parents and Carers
- ReachOut https://parents.au.reachout.com/. Parents provides resources, tools and practical tips for parents to better understand and support their child’s mental health and wellbeing. Additionally Reachout provides coaching support for parents.
- Parent Line http://www.parentline.org.au/, 1300 1300 52 A resource to support parents to manage concerns with supporting their young person
- Kids Helpline https://kidshelpline.com.au/parents 1800 55 1800. Counselling support for parents to support managing concerns they are noticing with their young person.
This document has been adapted from the school psychologists/counsellors at Kirrawee High School.