By ELLY GRIMM
• Leader & Times
Back-to-school time is upon Liberal and for children especially it can be somewhat stressful not just at the beginning of the year when they’re transitioning from lazy summer to going back to hitting the books but also at points throughout the entire school year.
One of the main stressers students can face throughout the year is social conflicts and other students themselves, according to Sheela Rogers, counselor at West Middle School.
“With middle school, each kid can be almost like one minute they’re best friends and then five minutes later they’re worst enemies,” Rogers said. “A lot of times the students don’t know how to communicate what they’re feeling or how to respond to someone who’s made an inappropriate comment. It’s also a lack of problem-solving skills...it’s something they have to learn and I think that causes problems as far as peer relationships go.”
One of the ways students can help alleviate and possibly avoid school-related stress is to be prepared.
“Like if a test comes up and they feel like prepared for the test they won’t be as stressed out,” Brandi Fowler, an IRC teacher at West Middle School, said. “If they’ve worked on some of those communication skills with those peer-related things when a conflict comes up like that, it won’t cause as much stress because they already feel they’re prepared to deal with it.”
Both Rogers and Fowler emphasized the importance of students being able to manage this stress, saying it’s a lifelong skill they will be able to use in the world.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Rogers said. “If they don’t learn it now, they’ll have a hard time learning how to make good decisions in the future and if you can’t manage your stress things have a tendency to cave in as you become a young adult. You need to learn how to do it well if you want to be successful in anything.”
For those students who feel stressed or perhaps overwhelmed by schoolwork or other things, there are resources students can use to help, including teachers and the school counselors themselves. Rogers said herself and the rest of the staff will never jsut blow off a student’s concerns.
“We need to be careful both as parents and educators to not put those barriers up and minimize what may seem like a trivial issue that’s no big deal. If we communicate in that way, it will put a big barrier up for those kids and they won’t seek out assistance anymore even if it becomes a bigger issue later on,” Rogers said. “It’s important to not put that barrier there and make sure we’re not minimizing the things they do come to us with. It’s a huge thing for a child in any school to come to the counselor to begin with so if they’re coming to you, it’s not minimal to them, it’s something important and we need to recognize it.”
“We need to validate what they’re saying. I think especially middle school-level kids, they are trying to be like high schoolers, trying to be grown up but they still need a certain amount of guidance,” Fowler added. “If they come to us with a problem we’re like ‘oh everyone has that issue, it’s no big deal’ and it’s not validated as something important and I think that could cause more stress for them – if they’re coming to us we need to focus on what they’re saying to us and offer any assistance we can.”
Sometimes all a student needs is someone to rant to as well, according to Rogers. Both Fowler and Rogers strongly advise students to take advantage of the assistance resources available when they need them.
“They may not need a whole lot more than just to come in and talk to someone,” Rogers said. “There may not be an answer to their problem, they may not be able to fix it immediately but at least if you’re there to listen to them it takes that stress off of them and then they can take the steps they need to take for further down the road. Each case is different.”