Darla Noble with Tim Roettgen, High School Guidance Counselor, Camdenton High School
If you have a teenager in your house who attends public school, chances are you’ve either come into contact with or received a letter from the guidance counselor in their school. And if you are like many parents, you a) smile politely and move on to whomever you came to the school to see, or b) file any letters received from him/her in the infamous ‘File 13’.
Hope fully, however, after reading what Tim Roettgen has to say, you’ll sit up and take more notice of the counselors in your teens’ school; communicating with them and recognizing them for who they are someone who cares about your child’s education and future.
Tim Roettgen is one of thousands of high school counselors who devote their career to holding the hands of countless teens as they navigate the world of SATs, ACTs college entrance essays, applications and scholarship red tape. This is no small feat, to say the least. But it doesn’t stop there. These individuals are the ones who listen patiently while students vent about frustrations in the classroom, with friends or at home. They are actively involved in disciplinary measures taken in the school and in dealing with those students who are struggling with drug and alcohol abuse, pregnancy, homelessness and more. They are committed to ‘being there’ for your teenager.
Tim and counselors just like him all over the nation know your kids. They know what their issues are, what scares and stresses them out and what they want for the future. And since most parents lament that they can’t get a handle on what’s going on inside those teenage minds, we at Parentingteens.com decided to get the ‘low down’ from someone who knows and share it with you. When asked what he thought the most serious issues teens face today are, Tim (as well as his colleagues) didn’t hesitate to say the issues weighing most heavily on the minds of teens are lack of support (moral and emotional), substance abuse, social issues and depression/anxiety resulting from these things.
These are all very adult issues-meaning teens are facing the same things adults face, but lack the ability (in most cases) to alter their surroundings or circumstances to alleviate the problems. They can’t and don’t usually have the maturity level to check themselves into rehab, realize the need for and ask for help with depression and anxiety or voice their fears about their future. This is especially true if their home life is a major factor in the problem(s)! That’s where people like Tim come in…
“We do everything we can to support our students and get them the help they need in dealing with whatever problems they come to us with. We actively work with students who enter substance abuse programs to keep their classes going. By providing academic assistance and the ability to keep up, these students have something to focus on instead of all that is wrong in life. It gives them a purpose and makes them feel there is still some normalcy to their life.”
“We also work closely with other staff members – school nurses and the administrative staff – to get students the help they need and deserve.”
When asked about parental involvement, Tim said most parents are receptive to what he and his colleagues have to say when they have need to contact them. “Most parents care, I hope,” Tim says. But as far as taking the initiative, parents do not seek out the school counselor. They just don’t see the need. And other parents, well, there will always be those parents who are more concerned with their own problems than those of their children. Sad, but true. Having a qualified and caring counselor to go to has been a lifesaver for countless teens. If not for counselors, teens who can’t or won’t go to their parents with their problems would likely seek out advice from their peers. Peers still play a huge role in a teen’s outlook on their problems, but by the time a young person reaches the age of 16, they have figured out that when it comes to the ‘big things’, their friends don’t know anymore about it than they do. They want someone older and wiser to tell them what they need to do. They may not act like it or show it, but they do. Tim agrees. He says there’s no shortage of students coming into his office needing to be heard and really listened to.
“I love it when a student who has come into my office, stressed and anxious about any number of things, leaves feeling and looking relaxed, resolved and satisfied with the solutions we’ve come up with.”
Among the biggest issues facing a high school students is their future – what they are going to do with their life once high school is over. As a parent, I have to admit I was always a bit on the defensive when it came to the school’s push on making decisions regarding careers so early on. Selecting classes in your freshman year of high school that are going to be most beneficial college and their chosen career paths (which they are also encouraged to choose at this time) just didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. And as expected, this is something Tim and the other counselors I spoke to didn’t agree on. When asked if he saw this as a problem, he said,
“Upfront and honest with students. I tell them that choosing a career path early on is wise-it gives them focus and goals to achieve. And everyone needs goals. But I also stress to them that changing that career path is okay. I’ve read statistics that show a high percentage of people change careers or jobs seven times in their lives. I share this with them to show them that changing their minds isn’t a sign of instability. It’s just life.”
Another issue teens are facing is the ‘college or not’ question. This is also something most teens don’t feel comfortable in sharing with their parents. They feel like (and have often been made to feel like) in their parent’s eyes, there is no option. It’s college or bust. In the past several decades, it really didn’t seem to be a question. You either went to college or got a factory (or similar blue collar) job and got on with life. The end. But with the economy being what it is and the fact that a staggering number of college graduates are unable to find gainful employment in their chosen field (but still have to pay back student loans), the question of whether or not to go to college is being asked more and more.
“I would never discourage a student from going to college, but at the same time, it’s true that college is not for everyone. I think we all have different strengths and talents. And if those strengths and interests can be better developed in technical school or other training, then that’s the route they need to take. We provide our students with resources for researching possible career choices their outlook, the education and training needed, projected salaries and such.”
Taking a practical and caring view, Tim tells students, “It takes all kinds of people to make the world go round and we need people in all sorts of jobs. Everyone who contributes is important. I tell students that when it comes to choosing their career, it should be largely based on what they are good at and what they enjoy doing.”
Life isn’t easy. You know that. You also know that teens today have quite a bit more on their plates to deal with than we did at their age. But now you know that you’re not in this alone. You have the help of your student’s guidance counselor the person who willingly and purposefully seeks your student out to encourage, challenge and yes, guide. And if that isn’t reason enough for having a decent level of communication and a huge amount of respect for the Time Roettgen in your life, I don’t know what is.
ABOUT TIM: Tim Roettgen is a high school guidance counselor at Camdenton High School in Camdenton, Missouri. Tim is a loving husband and father with a heart for helping students realize their potential and for setting them on the path that will lead them to their life’s goals and dream.