Strategies for Teachers and Counselors

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Research suggests that a positive school environment built upon caring relationships among students, teachers, administrators, and parents, can impact not only academic performance, but also positively influence the emotions and behavior of students. Teachers and guidance counselors can have a powerful effect on students. If they understand what’s going on in a child’s home life, they can be better equipped to support him or her in the classroom.

The classroom can add stability when a child’s home life feels unstable.

The stable routines of the classroom can add predictability when home and family life feels unstable and unpredictable. Teachers and school guidance counselors can offer support to youth by employing various techniques in the classroom and in the school environment.

You can pass these suggestions along to school personnel when you reach out in your role as a Family Program staff member. At the elementary level, teachers can implement the following suggestions and strategies with students:

  • Engage in play activities
  • Paint or draw pictures (some children find it easier to express their feelings through art)
  • Write in a journal
  • Read and discuss stories about children in conflict and children as problem-solvers
  • Make a memory book reflecting positive thoughts and actions
  • Take part in individual or group counseling when problems arise

At the middle and high school levels, teachers can implement these strategies with their students:

  • Keep a journal
  • Paint or draw
  • Write poetry or stories
  • Relax with deep breathing exercises
  • Learn problem-solving strategies
  • Participate in support groups
  • Exercise or play sports
  • Listen to music
  • Take part in individual or group counseling when problems arise
Click to open interactivity These activities can support younger students in the classroom.

These activities can support younger students in the classroom.

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Teachers should stay focused on the students and the learning environment.

No matter what a student is experiencing at home, teachers should stay focused on the students and the learning environment. Maintaining classroom routines can help provide a student with much-needed structure. Teachers should try to stick to consistent schedules but find appropriate times to provide support and let students know that they are not alone.

Additionally, teachers should remain objective and not express their personal feelings regarding a student’s situation. They should not, for example, express their personal political feelings about war to a child who has a deployed parent. Teachers should respond calmly and in a caring manner, and always reinforce a student’s safety and security.

Teachers will need to be patient with students. In severe or acute situations, students may need to temporarily reduce their workload or operate under extended timelines. To help students move through a traumatic or stressful situation, teachers can reassure students that feelings of frustration, anger, or sadness are normal. Teachers can expect some angry outbursts, but should remind students to act appropriately—and refer them to a guidance counselor if necessary.

Guidance counselors can be powerful allies to help students manage stress.

School guidance counselors are experienced professionals who often know the appropriate way to handle and manage a student’s stress. They can help students build coping skills. Counselors can also work with students to teach stress-relieving and relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises or drawing/journaling. Importantly, guidance counselors can also make referrals to out-of-school counselors and family therapists, if and when needed.