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While childhood is meant to be a happy time, there are many children for whom it is a time of emotional difficulty. This lesson looks into some challenges that are common to elementary-aged children.

Counseling Elementary Students

I have to say that as a counselor, I often wish that certain adult clients had therapy when they were children. Many of them came from difficult family environments and continue to exhibit symptoms from that time.Things like low self-esteem, an inability to communicate or a misconception of a healthy marriage actually started for many people when they were five, seven and nine years of age.

This is why elementary school counselors have a special opportunity. They can observe and reach children at a time when many of their issues are just beginning and at a time when genuine support and guidance can end up making all the difference.While kids often feel they are the only ones suffering with a particular situation, they are never alone. There is a vast number who are going through the same kinds of struggles and need the same kinds of intervention for a healthier future. These issues include but are not limited to parental abuse, bullying, poor social skills, rejection, learning disabilities and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

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Common Issues

We are now going to meet a group of elementary students who are each struggling with one of these issues.

Meet Judy, Matt, Janet, Elaine, Brian and Rachel. We are going to take a look into each one of their lives.Parental AbuseJudy is six years old and living in a home where her father yells at her mother frequently. He gets angry easily and will occasionally hit her mother in front of Judy.

Sometimes, if she tries to play with him, Judy’s father will tell her that she is annoying and push her away.Judy is suffering from parental abuse. Parental abuse occurs when parents deliberately inflict harm on their children. There are two types of abuse that Judy’s father uses: physical abuse, or the use of physical violence, and emotional or mental abuse, where he inflicts emotional pain through attacking her with words and when he hurts her mother in front of her.

Her mother is also depressed, spending a lot of time sleeping in her bedroom and is unavailable for her daughter. As a result, Judy is also experiencing another type of abuse called neglect, or the absence of parental care. Judy needs help to voice her feelings and learn ways to feel better.

BullyingMatt’s parents have been wondering why he seems so reluctant to go to school. The truth is that 8-year-old Matt has been bullied for the past several months by another boy who shoves him, calls him names and laughs at him. The only times this boy leaves him alone is when Matt gives him his snack for the day.

This bullying, or repeated aggression and intimidation of a peer, has caused Matt to feel anxious, unable to concentrate at school and very insecure. He needs greater confidence and the tools to deal with the situation.Poor Social SkillsJanet is a 9-year-old girl who has been given everything she wants by her parents. She is so accustomed to getting anything she asks for that if they try to say no, she becomes angry and tearful. Consequently, she is pretty bossy with her peers. If she has a friend over, she tells her to bring her cookies from the kitchen or to play a certain character in a pretend play skit.

Janet has poor social skills, which means she interacts with her peers in unhealthy ways. She needs to learn how to consider other people’s feelings and be polite and friendly or she will have a tough time keeping friends.Rejection4th-grader Elaine just started at a new school. She’s finding it hard to adjust and misses her friends from her last school.

Yesterday, she sat at a table of girls, and they told her the seat she sat in was already taken. Today she went over to a group of students who were playing a board game, and they stared at her before getting up and leaving. Elaine is feeling the hurt of being rejected, or turned down by others. She needs support, guidance and increased self-esteem.Learning DisabilitiesBrian is ten years old and is creative, intelligent and great at interacting with peers. The thing is he seems to have trouble getting good grades. When he listens to his teacher explain how to do a math problem, he can sometimes get confused, even when the other students seem to understand it.

When he is reading aloud in class, he might jumble up words or find it hard to concentrate on only one line of text. When he gets home, he forgets some of the instructions for his homework and just does what he remembers was assigned.Brian needs extra academic help because he has a learning disability. Learning disabilities are mental hindrances to academic learning.

Like many students with disabilities, Brian needs an understanding teacher and to be given basic tools that he can use to aid his learning.Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder8-year-old Rachel was always a hyper child. Her parents believed she would grow out of it, but it seems as if she continues to have trouble sitting still and focusing on one task at a time. Her parents suspect that Rachel may have ADHD, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

This means she has difficulty concentrating, controlling behavior or remaining calm.It means that when Rachel is in class, she may suddenly feel the urge to get out of her seat and run around a moment. She may kick the chair in front of her, even when she was told not to.

When the teacher asks her a question, she may not have an answer because her mind has been drifting off during that lesson. Rachel needs a teacher who can communicate with her counselor and make class adjustments, like limited distractions and praising good behavior.

Lesson Summary

Let’s review. Many adults had their first exposure to difficult emotional issues while they were elementary age. Parental abuse includes physical abuse, emotional or mental abuse, neglect and sexual abuse.

Bullying speaks of one child treating another with repeated aggression and intimidation.Poor social skills means a child has unhealthy ways of interacting with peers. Rejection is when a child feels turned down by others. Learning disabilities include mental hindrances to academic learning, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder means that a child has trouble concentrating and sitting still.

Learning Outcomes

When this lesson is over, you should be able to:

  • Explain the connection between many adult issues and childhood difficulties
  • Identify and define several major emotional issues of elementary children
  • Recognize and describe the help that is available
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