Thank you for writing to www.education.com with your request for information on how to best counsel at risk high school students. As you mention, teens with emotional needs and substance abuse issues are sometimes slow to trust which really complicates your impact as a counselor.
The Boys Town organization is commited to saving children and healing families. In our residential program, we work with youth who have come from abusive backgrounds and have been using substances to cope. They have yet to develop the social skills that will allow them to find success. We find that through the teaching of social skills, we are able to establish strong relationships with teens while setting firm limits.
Our intitial teaching focuses on the skills of accepting authority such as following directions, accepting decisions, accepting no answers and accepting feedback. In addition, we teach teens various easy problem solving methods. Through our focus on basic social skills we help youth to achieve quick success which lays the foundation for additional skill acquisition.
Youth that succeed with accepting authority are better able to focus on the development of appropriate, healthy coping strategies, improving relationships, and setting goals. We believe that by offering this teaching we build strong relationships with teens. Youth very quickly learn a recipe for success and in fact can experience that success in the classroom, in school hallways, in their homes and their communities. With success comes greater trust.
Keep your expectations consistent by teaching skills constently and by offering rationales that make sense as to how the behavior will be of benefit to them. Teens feel safe with social skills teaching; in addition, our research shows that our systems really work.
If you would like more information on our programs, please don't hesitate to visit our website or look through some of the materials we offer through our press department.
Thank you again for your question.
It must be difficult to get emotionally neglected teenagers to open up to you. It is great that you are trying to reach out to them. Gaining trust is a gradual process that takes time. Some of your students may eventually open up to you, and others may never do so. Either way, it is important that you stay patient. As an educator it is your duty to provide them a high quality learning experience and a safe classroom environment.
Depending on the subject you teach, you can incorporate topics that may springboard class discussions about issues they care about. Having your students participate and share their opinion openly in class is a great start to building a sharing, safe classroom environment. While you cannot fix their home situations, you can help them think more deeply and critically in the classroom. The knowledge, skills, and values you teach in the classroom will hopefully empower them.
As a fellow teacher, I respect how you want to help your students by learning about them and having them share with you. If you want your students to open up to you, you need to first open up to them. Share stories from your life about times you have overcome hardship. By opening up to them, they may feel more comfortable coming to you.
Many times, in these situations, it is best to refer students to social workers and other support personnel at the school. Working together with other school staff will provide your students more support; by communicating with these staff you will also gain another perspective for helping them.