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School counselors offer advice on education in the age of COVID

Posted at 9:53 AM, Dec 27, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has created some stressful situations for families in the past year and a half.

With the omicron variant spreading quickly across the country, two of the nation's top guidance counselors have some advice for parents and students alike.

Olivia Carter and Alma Lopez were recognized as the top counselors by the American School Counselor Association in 2021 and 2022. The group recognized them for the practices they brought into schools that worked to understand the trauma with which some students are still dealing.

"(The pandemic) affected students, certainly. We know that there's been a ton of loss through all of this, and a lot of grief with our students, but I think the people who are having a harder time our staff members and our educators," said Carter, who was recently named the 2021 school counselor of the year.

"You just still need to be the parent that you were before the pandemic," said Lopez, a middle school counselor in Livingston, California. "You need to be aware; you need to be involved."

Many of the practices Lopez and Carter put into place focus on improving social and emotional well-being, which has become more important since the arrival of COVID-19.

Counselors are running grief support groups and meeting with students one-on-one. They also ensure staff members are in a good place with wellness and mental health events.

That kind of support can also come in handy for parents.

"With our kids, when we're in the moment, kids get dis-regulated, and the best thing we can do for them in those moments is sit with them and be an empathetic listener and say, 'Hey, I'm here for you, I know you're struggling,'" Carter said. "Your own mental health is just as important, because that's going to impact your child's mental health."

"Making sure that as a parent remember that you're the key stakeholder in your kids growing up and that you are the expert on your kid, and if something's not feeling right, then reach out to your community," Lopez said.