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Communicating with Families About School Counseling

School counseling can be a little bit misunderstood, right? People think we’re therapists, people think we’re brainwashers, people think we read newspapers and drink coffee all day. It’s frustrating! And when we’re already ridiculously busy, it can be hard to allot extra time to advocacy activities. Good news: there are some quick and simple ways you can communicate with parents about your school counseling program and services. As a bonus, lots of these ways also help to reinforce your amazing work!

“I met with the counselor today” Note

Do you need to tell caregivers every single time you meet with their child? Absolutely not. Are there some times it would be helpful to loop them in? Totally. I have these post-counseling notes that can be really helpful for the following situations:

  • The kiddo is going to go home and tell their parent they saw the counselor, but they won’t necessarily convey the situation fully/accurately and you know the parent is going to have questions
  • You really think the parent needs to know what’s going or what problem their child is having, and the note is a non-threatening way for the child to share it with them
counselor parent note

Click here to grab the free post-counseling note. (It will look a little wonky in Dropbox – download it before you edit and print!)

Group Counseling Notes

In my district, we don’t have to get caregiver consent for group counseling because it’s considered part of the educational programming available to all students (vs. something special or separate). That said, most of us send home a quick informational note to give parents a heads up that their child is going to be in a group. If you’re looking for some verbiage for this, below is a picture of a note I might send home for a shyness/confidence group:

What I also do, and highly recommend, is sharing information with caregivers throughout the group. I don’t mean repeating what students have said or anything personal! I mean telling them about ideas and skills covered in sessions, especially whenever there’s a way they can reinforce it at home.

Some years, this looks like printing and copying notes to hand students to take home as they leave your office. In other years, this looks like emailing parents (bcc!) after some or all sessions. Last year, I spent the first few minutes of the day reading and responding to emails. I also drafted emails during this time for each group session scheduled for that day.

Here’s a look at what one of the notes from my friendship adventures group looks like:

group counseling parent note

And here’s a look at a note from my worry/anger group:

group counseling parent note

SEL Lesson Notes

In one of my “I am going to be the best school counselor in the world” overachieving years, I tried to send a note home after every single class lesson to share what we did and learned about. It was not a sustainable practice for me, and I didn’t get any feedback (positive or negative) from parents.

Instead of doing that again, I decided to send home letters before or after just a handful of key lessons. For example:

  • Before (or after) lessons related to identity, diversity, or social justice (to help prevent misunderstandings of what was included!)
  • Before lessons on personal safety/sexual abuse disclosure (Note: Some counselors and districts do this AFTER the lesson to prevent abusers from pre-emptively telling the child not to disclose. I did it before because it allowed caregivers a chance to let me know if their child had experienced abuse before and may need to sit in another classroom during the lesson)
  • After lessons on types of conflict (so we’re all on the same page about the word “bullying”)
  • After lessons on coping strategies (so they can remind their kiddos of them when they get upset at home)
social justice lesson parent note
Letter is from my Social Justice unit

Newsletters

After having very few caregivers seem to actually read the counseling newsletters my co-counselor and I sent home, we stopped putting in all that time and effort. We switched to putting little blurbs into the teacher or grade level’s newsletters and that was much better!

For some schools though, sending home a counseling newsletter is a wonderful idea. I know I learn best and am better able to put ideas into practice when I have an actual example to see, so I give a big thank you to @livestoneburner and @schwariel for each sharing one of their newsletters for me to include in this post. Note: They send newsletters digitally! Which is 100% I think the best way to go.

School or School Counseling Social Media Page

And last but certainly not least, you can share out quickly (and at your discretion vs. being tied to weekly or monthly) on a social media page. You could go all in and create a social media page just for the school counseling program, or you could just post from your school’s page from time to time.

There are of course lots of other incredible ideas for sharing about your school counseling program with parents – SEL night, coffee with the counselor, etc. I know that these larger-scale events can be harder to implement, though, so I hope these quickie strategies were helpful for you!

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Hello, I’m Sara!

With 10 years of experience in
elementary school counseling,
I get to serve in a different way now
– by helping fellow counselors and
educators!

I value quality over quantity,
effective practices and resources,
and meeting the unique needs of all
our diverse learners.