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7 Shocking Things Your Teen’s School Counselor Won’t Tell You

Young mom with her daugher at psychologist consultation

Young mom with her daugher at psychologist consultation

Don’t parents have a right to know what’s going on with their own children?

So what’s all this stuff about confidentiality? Why do Counselors sometimes behave as if parents don’t have that right? It’s enough to piss anyone off, right?

Umm… not so fast.

Do you want me to sugar-coat it?  Or do you want it “in plain English and bad manners?”

OK I thought you’d say that. Parents everywhere love their kids. Truth be known, I have yet to meet a Counselor without the skills to get teenagers they work with to tell loving, positive, reasonable and responsible parents their own problems.

See where I’m going with this?

By law, Counselors cannot divulge information given to them in confidence by their clients to anyone under normal circumstances.

There’s something you may not be aware of.  Counselors still almost always find legal ways to tell parents what’s going on with their kids. All that is needed is permission from the teenager.  That’s fairly easy to get from a kid who trusts the parent enough to talk to them about their private stories.

But you see, school counselors swore an oath to protect their clients.  Go back up to those parent characteristics I just listed.  Which one do you think is a huge problem more often than not?

Right again. It’s a crying shame, but  with emotions near the surface, some parents are next to impossible to reason with.

This is a VERY controversial issue, but the one thing I know is that parents really DO love their kids.  So give me a crack at helping you get a clear perspective on it.

  1. You have no idea you’re the only one who thinks your teen can talk to you about everything

    Even if you put everything the experts teach into practice, most kids still have stuff they don’t want to talk to their parents about. Know what?  That’s actually normal… even if you have a great relationship and you’re the world’s most reasonable parent.  However, if you’re one of those unreasonable parents, have poor listening skills, or use harsh punishment methods like beatings and frequent cursing, item #2 may apply to you.

  2. In School, your teens are totally different people from who they are at home

    This is a red flag for Social workers and Counselors. It indicates that at best, harsh, hurtful words are frequently used in place of discipline methods that actually work. Too often, it’s worse.  There may be significant child abuse happening in the home.

    It goes against conventional wisdom, but as I’ve pointed out frequently in TLP, harsh punishment doesn’t teach anything. It doesn’t get rid of bad behavior. It often just pushes it underground where the parent cannot see it.

    Or in school, where only the teachers and other kids get to see it.

    In a moment of anger, a parent tells a child, “I brought you into this world, and I can take you out.”  That same parent would put his or her life on the line for that same child, mind you.  But especially if the teen has severe behavior problems, the Counselor needs to think thrice before giving that parent the bad news.

    To be honest with you, any of these seven things could be a serious sign that your parenting skills may be in the need for serious overhaul.

  3. He’s in Big Trouble at School

    Schools actively seek out parental involvement. They know from scientific research that this provides a far more healthy educational environment. Under ordinary circumstances then, the school is only too eager to inform a parent that something is wrong. So what do you think is going on when the Counselor agonizes over whether or not to inform a parent about his own child?

    It’s hard to make an unreasonable parent see that there may be better ways of handling the teen.  Never mind the fact that whatever she has in place obviously isn’t working.  She doesn’t understand the psychology behind it.  In fact, it’s often the case that child’s misbehavior is a RESULT of the way she has been reacting to it.  She really loves her teenager, and is only doing what she learned growing up.  She thinks her reaction will fix the problem eventually.  She doesn’t see that her child’s misbehavior is training HER to react the way she does!

    Parenting is a touchy subject. Despite my experience in schools Counseling children, I have to admit that as a parent, it wasn’t always easy to see things from the school’s point of view. All I can ask is that as parent, you constantly check your own level of awareness. Make judgement about yourself often about how objective you are when it comes to methods best suited for each teen.

  4. She’s Got A Boyfriend

    Not only that. They see each other on a regular basis, and are sexually active. Some Counselors can give you horror stories about what happens to teens when their parents found out.   With what a school Counselor knows, is it that hard to figure why they would hold the teen’s confidence in certain cases?

  5. She’s Pregnant

    You’d think this one is an easy for the teen to share.  I mean, she’s going to be showing soon anyway, right? But you’d be surprised how many parents never get to find out their teen is pregnant until she’s showing.   So what in the world does she put it off for?  The answer is, being thrown out, beaten, or given the most extreme riot act at home.    She’s in big trouble and she knows it.  What she really needs at this time is support. If she’s 100% sure she’s going to get the rug pulled from under her feet instead, she’ll want to keep it a secret for as long as possible. The Counselor sometimes eventually get her to tell an unreasonable parent, but its a really hard thing to do.

  6. He Uses Marijuana

    Here’s another one that is usually a nobrainer. Especially if your teen is a heavy user, he’s going to need all the help he can get to stay off the stuff. Parents are usually the best partners in this process. And despite changing opinions, marijuana is still illegal. That’s double reason for informing parents right away. So what’s the problem then? What earthly reason can a Counselor have for not bringing the parents on board?

    Same thing.  What the Counselor has to decide sometimes is whether or not the parent will make things worse. Recovery from drug use is usually tricky. It’s a process of getting the student to the point where he can be in normal settings and resist the temptation to use. If there is reason to believe that a parent will sabotage the process with decisions which pushes the student to use more instead of less, the Counselor has to a tough call to make.

    What do those decisions look like? Let me give you a couple examples. Let’s say a parent has a history of spreading negative information about their teen to 20 other friends and family members. That can be a serious setback for the teen. Personally, I would hold off on involving that parent until he’s strong enough… especially if the information is telling me I can get him to make fast progress first.

    Another example is where cooperation around a treatment plan is likely to become a problem. And it’s hard to know that for sure. It’s usually a judgement call. Most treatment plans have a period built in for the student to continue to socialize as normal. For marijuana, that phase tends to come sooner rather than later. Yet a parent might be in favor of wanting to confine the student at home under rigid conditions indefinitely. Such tactics are likely to chip away at inner fortitude rather than enhance it.

    Informing or not informing parents then becomes this loose-loose-loose proposition.  The Counselor informs and stops recovery in its tracks. The student is unlikely to have given consent, and then spreads the word that the Counselor can’t be trusted with confidential information. Informing therefore erodes that Counselor’s chances of helping other students. Sadly enough, there is no positive outcome for the parent either. Nobody wins. Counselors need to feel that parents are fully on board too.

  7. She’s trying to  abort

    Youth and care workers hate this one with a passion. Most teenage abortions are illegal in many places. Legally speaking, the Counselor simply HAS TO to inform parents. But informing parents is sometimes placing the teen in harm’ s way. In dealing with an extremely violent or unreasonable parent, whatever choice the Counselor makes, she is seriously breaching her code of ethics. Talk about rocks and hard places!

In all these situations, teens need guidance. Sometimes they also need a strong dose of discipline. Other times they need loving care and support from calm parents who understand that the situation itself is already a huge punishment.

I mean, where are we going if we still think a pregnant teen needs to be disciplined? The time for that was long gone!

If your child is not yet a teenager, NOW is the time for that special kind of guidance and discipline… the kind I advocate here on TLP.

The old cliche goes that “if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what  you’ve always gotten.”

If your child is already a teen, its not too late. Modern parenting techniques really do work.  I should know.  I was one of those that made the switch, and I was born and raised the old-fashioned way from Afro-Caribbean stock!  If I could do it, anyone can.

Today I have scores of parents who try to bring me gifts and can’t stop thanking me for helping them to see the light.  It gets me a little emotional sometimes. It reminds me of how close I was to letting the past hamper my own children’s future.  I tell them just help me spread the good news.

Go strengthen that bond. Tighten that relationship. Have more fun with and enjoy the uniqueness of your little person.  Life is too short.  Before you know it, they’ll be all grown and gone.

If you liked this article, we offer an entire course for parents to master the skills for motivating success in school, across a wide range of experiences students are having. See if you can get in, or join the waiting list for the next launch.

  • http://www.rishona.net Shona

    Excellent post! I was born when my mother was only 15 (and she had only turned 15 a few months before). I don’t know all of the details, but I know for sure that 4 things happened 1)My Grandparents found out pretty late 2)My Grandmother was supportive and eventually ended up raising me totally 3)My Grandfather went through the roof, threatening to put my mother out, put my father in jail, and abort me and 4)I was eventually born!

    I think it would help to be frank and not sugarcoat the implications of an unplanned pregnancy to teenage girls. My Grandmother made sure to talk to me early on about sex, and the complications of raising a baby (I guess my mother’s experience was a lesson in this). My mother was very lucky in that she had relatively young parents (in their 40s) who were willing to put off true retirement for another 20 years and raise me. But this should not be expected. Children cause you to put your own needs to the back burner and your child’s to the forefront. This is extremely discouraging when you are in no position to even provide for yourself.

    • https://plus.google.com/117238496202203401612/posts?hl=en Rodney Davis

      Shona your own life experience speaks for itself. PTT advocates that the best modern parenting skills is based on old-school parenting values. People like your grandmother bear witness to this fact. Research shows that someone like you could have very easily ended up being part of dismal statistics. I hope that the lesson everyone takes from your testimony is that the only reason you didn’t, was because your grandfather had to go along with your grandmother’s wisdom. I’d bet anything nobody’s more proud of you now than he is. Your comment was heart-warming!

  • http://www.rishona.net Shona

    Thank you Rodney! Yes, I am very close to both of my grandparents today; we have a wonderful relationship. Happy New Year to you & your family!

  • Renee

    Excellent post! Both from Shona and Rodney. In California there are continued efforts to pass legislation called “parental notification”. such legislation is aimed at making sure that a pregnant teen’s parents are informed by the doctor. The potential danger for many teens was well stated by you Rodney. I have campaigned heavily against such legislation and am grateful that you have brought this discussion to the table.

    • https://plus.google.com/117238496202203401612/posts?hl=en Rodney Davis

      Thank you Renee. One would think that the state would have some confidence that a professional caregiver would have very good reasons for being so conflicted. It really is a tough decision in some cases. To be honest, passing such a law makes very little difference because it is in conflict with laws that hold mental health workers responsible for the well-being of their clients. I suspect that the legislation was a knee-jerk reaction to a politically explosive situation, and congress took the easy way out. That’s what happens when short-sighted people try to find quick-fixes for complicated problems.

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