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Counseling for kids

Some little kids have big adult problems, and helping them solve those problems is one of several areas where counselor Mindy Nelson excels.

Nelson has been a councilor at Jeremy Ranch Elementary School for 13 years, and has a Master’s degree in social work.

Nelson loves working with elementary students and believes she can reach children at these younger ages.

"At an elementary level it is very preventative," Nelson said. "Our philosophy is to give kids good information and skills to live the happiest and most productive lives."

Much of her time is spent in classrooms discussing problem solving, good decision making, avoiding drugs and conflict resolution.

Nelson’s goal is to know all of the 575 Jeremy Ranch students. Currently, she and another counselor work at the school, but likely with district budget cuts, next year she will go it alone at the school.

It is not only students who need help. Sometimes Nelson works with parents, teaching them parenting skills. Sometimes she works with a child and the child’s parents.

When working one-on one with a child, Nelson said the key is being concrete in talking with a child. She uses a lot of literature-based stories, where she discusses a pertinent story with a child, and explores how the person in the story could have handled a situation differently.

Some of her work addresses English as a second Language students, and intervening to make sure they get the support, guidance and skills to do well in the classroom.

She finds it works best in most instances to stick with real-life experiences. For example, she said she may bring a bully together with the victim, and have an open discussion with both of them, trying to help them develop better skills.

Nelson makes a distinction with kids about tattling verses reporting, where tattling is a deliberate attempt to get another child in trouble and reporting is an intervention to stop inappropriate behavior.

She said occasionally there are instances of child abuse, which counselors are required by law to report to authorities. "We’re in a society where unfortunately you see it all," she said. Generally, she said most concerns turn out to be misunderstandings.

Nelson begins working with kindergartners about drug avoidance, not specifically addressing drugs, but instead, she discusses making good choices on what they put in their bodies, and not to eat anything that although might look like candy, that could be a pill.

Nelson is concerned that with counselors taking on additional students next year, she will not be able to visit classes as often and get to know students as well, to where they feel safe coming to her with problems. She thinks some parents don’t see the need for counselors in schools, because they had no counselors as they attended school.

"It is such a stressful, complicated world, kids get pushed into adult situations," Nelson said. "There is also the stress to succeed. Anything we can do to help them is important. The services we can provide are invaluable."


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