It’s National School Counseling Week!

Have you thanked a school counselor this week?

The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) has set aside February 2-6 this year as National School Counseling Week. The idea is to create awareness of the services that school counselors provide to your school family.

Here’s how the ASCA website puts it: National School Counseling Week 2015, “Celebrate School Counseling,” will … focus public attention on the unique contribution of professional school counselors within U.S. school systems. National School Counseling Week, sponsored by ASCA, highlights the tremendous impact school counselors can have in helping students achieve school success and plan for a career. National School Counseling Week is always celebrated the first full week in February.

In collaboration with the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), the White House, for the first time ever, honored an outstanding Counselor of the Year. Read about the White House ceremony here.

Naturally, this week we turned to one of our favorite school counselors, Barbara Gruener of Westwood-Bales Elementary School in Friendswood, Texas. Here’s what she had to say about activities at her school:

At Westwood-Bales, we counselors are spearheading a partnership with a high school in a neighboring district to help them reach their goal of collecting 400 pairs new and gently-used jeans for the homeless youth in America.

We’re planning a few treats for the teachers to remind them that we’re available for them as well, and we’ll be sending home this information home to support our caregivers.

In honor of National School Counseling Week, we have put together this list of five social-emotional skills school counselors help students build during the year.

  1. Friendship: Developing friendships is an integral part of your child’s social development. One of the best ways to build friendships is by having fun together. Plan play dates or sleepovers and let them bake cookies together. As your child learns how to develop healthy friendships, it can build self-confidence and compassion that can last his entire life!
  2. Empathy: Empathy is the ability to understand and care about how someone else is feeling. Elevate empathy in your child by asking her how she thinks people are feeling in real-life situations, on television or in books. What would you want if that were you? What would you need? How do you know? Practice switching places, role-play different scenarios,  and watch your child’s empathy stretch and grow.
  3. Sharing: School-age children can be possessive with their belongings and reluctant to share a treasured item, even for a short time. Read books about sharing  such as The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister and It’s My Birthday by Pat Hutchins. Both stories teach that while sharing might seem like you’re giving something up, you can actually gain more in the long run.  Take advantage of every opportunity you have to model the value of sharing in your home. Teachable moments can pave the way for you to talk with your child about the benefits of sharing with friends.
  4. Kindness: From Aesop’s fables we’ve learned that “no act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” How do you encourage kindness at home? Notice the kind things that your child is already doing. Affirm him or her when you see them do something nice by saying, “It was so kind of you to help Jimmy without being asked.” Kind acts spark a  helper’s high in the brain that makes us want to do that again!  And since kindness begets kindness, we advise that you repeat regularly.
  5. Service: Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” What did you and your family do to serve others yesterday? And how will you follow that up today? Like kindness, acts of service don’t have to be great to be grand. Start small. Let your older child help a younger sibling tie her shoes. Ask him to set the table or fold laundry. Give her a broom and teach her to sweep. Small tasks get bigger as children become more responsible, so allow them to do more accordingly. Nurture that servant heart now and you’ll have someone who serves with a smile … for good!

How will you celebrate your school counselor?