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Advice from a school counselor

Advice from a school counselor

One school counselor shares her advice for parents of teenagers

Did you know that school counselors are certified/licensed educators with a minimum of a master’s degree in school counseling? This makes them uniquely qualified to address the varying needs of students as they navigate throughout their school years.

School counselors can also be a valuable resource for parents as they see first-hand what issues teenagers are facing today.

Cindy Burreson, director of counseling at Lutheran High School North, shared her advice for parents with Safe and Sober.

Burreson believes that encouraging teens to make safe choices starts at home.

“The impact the home has is great. The impact of the home is far greater than the impact of the school. The more we can work together, the better the result for the student,” said Burreson.  

As a parent, it is important to remember that you have a greater influence on your teen than you may think. Being involved both at home and in your child’s school can be beneficial to helping your teen avoid experimenting with drugs and alcohol.

If you think your teen is experimenting with drugs or alcohol, Burreson explains a few signs to look out for.

“I think those warning signs that a parent can look for if their child is drinking can be a little hard to tell if a student is just experimenting. But, I think certainly if they are spending time away from home, if they have absences that are not accounted for, a drop in grades. Perhaps, hanging out with different friends, different peers, making excuses for choices or behavior,” Burreson said.

Cindy also explains things parents can do to help their teen make safe choices.

“I think that parents need to set some pretty firm guidelines of expectations. Students actually prefer that. But, then be willing to talk about it. The student knows there are consequences if they do something. But also, that there is going to be a willingness for some leeway if a student needs some help,” said Burreson.

It is important to be willing to talk to your teen not only about your expectations, but also the dangers of underage drinking and drunk driving. Safe and Sober provides talking points for that conversation here.

Burreson also gives tips for ways you can help your teen out of situations they may be uncomfortable with.

“I’ve suggested to parents that I’ve seen use a code word. So, if you are in a situation that there is drinking or if there is something going on that you are uncomfortable with you call me and if you use a certain word than I’m going to come get you no questions asked. I’m going to make it seem like I need you home for something. Provide students an out of the situation where they are uncomfortable, otherwise sometimes, for peer pressure, they feel like they have to stay there,” Burreson said.

Burreson says that the drinking culture has evolved over time, not changed.

“I think what’s different is that we know more about it now. So it might be cool to put it on snapchat or social media and there is alcohol in a picture, whereas before we wouldn’t do that,” Burreson explained.

But Burreson also believes that awareness of these issues has improved.

“Organizations are better and schools are better at surveying how many drinks have you had so I think there is a greater awareness,” Burreson said.

Burreson gives her final piece of advice for parents.

“I think for parents raising a teen today the number one piece of advice is time. So, time with your teenager. Time that is not on technology or with the tv going. But, a family meal every evening or every few evenings as the schedule allows, fun activities, outings. Just spending time with your son or daughter makes a huge difference in what they are willing to share with you and what they are willing to talk about,” Burreson explained.

Whitney Mann
whitney@missourisafeandsober.com
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