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Monday Ideas for School Counselors

Weekly articles for school counselors with ideas on how to resolve typical school situations with students, teachers and parents using the solution focused approach.

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Got Upset Students? Don’t Reassure Them... Listen for “Hints of Hope”

January 16, 20235 min read

The high school student didn’t make the team.

The middle school student isn’t part of the right group of friends.

The elementary school student feels left out at recess.

Disappointment is tough. Sometimes, when they come to talk to us, we see only the problems that they face and forget to have faith in the fact that they can be resilient.

And, here’s the thing. If we rescue, promise them it will be okay or say we understand, then we release them from an opportunity to figure things out and cope. 

It’s really hard.  

But, that’s where the solution focused approach can really rescue YOU! Especially when you listen for Hints of Hope.

Case Example

An upset sophomore student comes to your office because after two years of trying to make the baseball team, he doesn’t make it again. He is heartbroken. His older brother made the team as a freshman and his family was quite proud. You check and learn that this student does okay in academics and has been in the school band since freshman year.

School Counselor: HI, tell me what we need to talk about today.

Student: My teacher sent me. He said I looked like I needed to talk to somebody. All I wanted was to be on the baseball team. My brother did it and my parents were proud of him. He was popular too, and I wanted that. I am just not good enough.

School Counselor: This sounds really hard for you. What are your best hopes in talking to me today? I care about you.

Student: I just need to get through this. It’s always hard when things don’t work out. I’m tired of it.

HINT of HOPE: There is an exception here: “It’s always hard when things don’t work out” suggests that this student has dealt with disappointment before. Yet, it sounds like he kept on! He did try again, to get on the team.

School Counselor: So, you said “it’s always hard.” Tell me how you have dealt with other situations when things “didn’t work out.” 

Student: Well, I am bummed for a while. My parents are cool. They do tell me it’s okay. But, I feel like I disappoint them. I don’t know what I do. I guess I just need to get through it.

School Counselor: So, if we were to talk about something today here that would help you get through it what would it be?

Student: I just wish I knew how to do something where my parents were not disappointed in me. I mean, they say they are not, but it bothers me.

School Counselor: So, what would you want them to do instead of being disappointed?

Student: Be proud of me. I mean, I think they are, but you know..

School Counselor: Tell me times recently or over the past few years when you knew they were proud of you.

Student: (sits up). When I made the band. They were very happy. Then, I got first chair in trombone and that was a big deal. (smiling). I really like band.

School Counselor: When else have you noticed them being proud of you?

Student: (Takes a few minutes) Ah, when I did okay on the PSAT last year. It wasn’t a really high score but they thought it was great.

School Counselor: When else have you noticed them being proud of you?

Student: I think they are proud of the fact that even when stuff like this happens, I get through it. They always say I give it my best and not to let it get me too down. So, I get through somehow.

School Counselor: Oh my. How do you do that?

Student: I don’t know. I really don’t know today, for sure.

School Counselor: Take me back to a time in the past when you were disappointed that something did not work out and you got through it.

Student: (Thinks for a few minutes.) Well, in my freshman year, I tried out for the debate team and didn’t make it. Actually, I had never done debate. I just had friends who did and wanted to be part of it.  

School Counselor: So, if I watched you then, what might I have noticed about you as you “got through it.”  

Student: I was bummed again, but I figured I would just look for something else that I could fit into. That was band. It turned out really great.

School Counselor: Okay, so you looked for something else. How did that help you get through it?

Student: I guess I thought about it less and just pushed through and looked for something else. 

School Counselor: Okay. So, I wrote down some things that you said you have done before and what stands out to me that I am really curious about, is how looking for something else to try out for helped you. I mean, you definitely found band. Wow. 

Here’s a copy. Look over this for a day or so and I will check in with you on Friday to see what’s going better for you. Okay?

Student: Okay.

This conversation ended up in a way that might have helped the student to realize that:

  1. He had gotten through upsets before.

  2. He had made his parents proud before.

  3. His way of getting through upsets was to look for something else to do.

  4. He was never completely pulled down - he always got up. 

  5. He never gave up. 

How the story ended: The student stayed in band and also pursued a special orchestra in the high school. He was so good at it that he won a trophy at the UIL (University Interscholastic League) his senior year. His parents and his brother, were quite proud.

As you talk to students this week, who seem down because things did not go their way, consider this conversation and “sit on your hands” so you don’t try to fix things. Believe that they can fix things themselves. And, when they do, you will have helped them more than you ever realized.

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Dr Linda Metcalf

Linda Metcalf is the best-selling author of Counseling Toward Solutions and 10 other books. Linda is a former middle school teacher, all-level certified school counselor, licensed professional counselor supervisor, and licensed marriage and family therapist in the State of Texas. She is a Professor at Texas Wesleyan University.

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