ERIC Identifier: ED260368
Publication Date: 1984-00-00
Author: Frenza, Mary
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Counseling and Personnel Services Ann Arbor MI.
Selected Issues in Elementary Guidance. Highlights: An
ERIC/CAPS Fact Sheet.
Many of the problems which interfere with the elementary educational
experience arise from difficulties outside the school. Some are the result of
such changes in the traditional family structure and function as increased
numbers of working mothers with school-age children, higher divorce/separation
rates, increased numbers of single-parent families, and increased geographic
Other problems may stem more specifically from ineffective parent-child
relationships. Whatever the source, the elementary school counselor is in a
unique position to help students, school personnel, families, and the community
to work toward overcoming these difficulties.
School phobia is defined as absence from school because of emotional
disturbance in the child. Family relationships are clearly involved, and the
phobic reaction often stems from separation anxiety, based on exaggerated
Diagnostic criteria for school phobia include: morbid fear of school; somatic
complaints such as nausea, headaches, drowsiness; disruptive school behavior;
and prolonged absence, where the child stays at home with the parents' knowledge
and, to some extent, cooperation.
INTERVENTIONS FOR SCHOOL PHOBIA
The behavioral approach is the most practical way for the school counselor to
be involved in treating school phobia. The behavior intervention plan formulated
for practicing mental health specialists by Blagg (1981) incorporates the
l. A detailed clarification of the problems, involving elimination of
possible medical causes and identification and investigation of precipitating
and maintaining factors
2. Desensitization of child and parent worries
3. Elimination of maintaining factors through contingency management (parent
education is important in this phase)
4. Return to full-time attendance even if it must be forced
5. Follow-up to monitor subsequent absences
Nearly 6 million children, aged 5-13, are involved each year in moving. For
many, moving is not a new experience; research indicates that families who have
moved several times are more likely to move again than families who have never
Although the effects of geographic relocation are not clear, moving requires
new students to face several difficulties: problems of integration because of
delayed records; peer rejection until they win acceptance through a system they
must first discover; adjustment to an unknown building, principal, and teacher;
and adjustment to a different curriculum. On the positive side, there is
evidence that young children benefit from moving by gaining self-reliance and
INTERVENTIONS FOR TRANSIENT CHILDREN
How effectively young children cope with moving can be influenced by the
assistance they receive. Counselors can work to develop a systematic program for
dealing with new students. The following steps have been found to be successful:
l. A planned, prompt transfer of records, within and between school
districts, to ensure continuity in the educational process
2. An orientation program for all new students and their families
3. Guided discussion in the classroom or in group counseling sessions, to
help students acquire understanding and empathy for the difficulties new
students encounter. Student-generated ideas for helping, growing out of such
discussions, are more likely to be carried out
Latchkey children are those left in self-care or in the care of a sibling
under 14 years of age for a significant portion of most days, usually 2-3 hours
(sometimes longer). While the exact number is uncertain, a conservative estimate
suggests that at least 25% (possibly 6 million) of school-age children with
working parents are in self-care regularly.
Interviews with latchkey children, parents of latchkey children, and former
latchkey children from all socioeconomic groups reveal a common set of concerns
and experiences. The children express unusually high levels of fear (of assault,
noises, the dark, storms), loneliness, and boredom. These feelings are related
to the safety restrictions imposed by parents (for example, going straight home
from school, staying inside, having no friends over). Parents expressed feelings
of guilt and concern for their children's safety.
INTERVENTIONS FOR LATCHKEY CHILDREN
School counselors can help latchkey children, without being seen as
judgmental of the parents or interfering in family arrangements. When possible,
the counselor should identify students in self-care. Group and individual
counseling can help them express and deal with their fears.
Survival skills training, including steps for dealing with emergencies, can
be incorporated into the curriculum for children and offered as parent education
programs. Numerous publications are available on this subject, some specifically
for latchkey families. Basic child care/development instruction can be given to
help older siblings left in charge.
On a broader scale, counselors can actively seek to bring about community and
system changes that will alleviate the problems of latchkey children. Examples
of exising programs include after-school care programs (not just more school),
check-in programs, and after-school call-in lines to provide help in problem
solving, emergency assistance, or simply listening and responding.
THE SINGLE-PARENT FAMILY
It has been estimated that by 1990, one-half of all children will spend at
least some time in a single-parent family. Research on children's adjustment to
changes in family structure has shown the following to be influential: age at
the time of change, quality of the relationship with one or both parents, the
reasons a child attributes to one parent's absence, and the attitude of others
toward the changed family structure.
For elementary school children, research has identified several possible
changes in personality, behavior, and academic performance: feelings of
helplessness, fear of abandonment, and loneliness; increased attention-seeking
behavior, aggressiveness, and rebellion; increased restlessness, daydreaming,
and difficulties in concentration; and decreased cognitive functioning as
measured by IQ, achievement and scholastic tests.
INTERVENTIONS FOR SINGLE-PARENT FAMILIES
A review of current literature yields suggestions for ways in which
counselors can help children, parents, and school systems deal with the problems
facing single parent families:
--Implement group and peer counseling sessions in the school setting for
children of single-parent families; ensure that children do not feel stigmatized
or singled out for their participation
--Initiate inservice training for teachers and other school personnel to
provide information on changing family patterns and to help eliminate bias and
stereotypes toward single-parent families
--Provide counseling groups for parents and children
--Update school records to include information about the non-custodial parent
and whether or not he/she should obtain report cards, school notices, and other
--Promote school functions that do not require the presence of a parent of a
specified sex, or attendance during the parents' working day.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Blagg, N. R. "A Behavioral Approach to School Refusal." BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION
IN EDUCATION, PERSPECTIVES, 5. University of Exeter: School of Education, 1981.
Hale, L. C. DIVORCE AND SINGLE-PARENT FAMILY COUNSELING. SEARCHLIGHT PLUS
26+. Ann Arbor, MI: ERIC Clearinghouse on Counseling and Personnel Services,
1983. ED 165 083.
Klungness, L., and L. Long. "The Diagnosis and Behavioral Treatment of School
Phobia." TECHNIQUES: A JOURNAL OF REMEDIAL EDUCATION AND COUNSELING 1
Long, T. J., and L. Long. LATCHKEY CHILDREN. Urbana, IL: ERIC Clearinghouse
on Elementary and Early Childhood Education, 1984. ED 226 836.
Riley, B. EDUCATION AND THE CHILDREN OF ONE-PARENT FAMILIES: A BACKGROUND
PAPER. Winnipeg: Manitoba Department of Education, Planning and Research Branch,
1981. ED 222 838.
Smardo, F. A. "Geographic Mobility: How Do We Help Children Cope?" CHILDHOOD
EDUCATION 51 (1981):40-45.