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How to respond to students who 'overshare'?

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by Haijun Haijun (Member) Member

708 Profile Views; 43 Posts

This isn't exactly nursing related but I'm sure you school nurses deal with this type of thing often and will be able to give some great advice, so I hope it's allowed. If not, mods feel free to remove.

I've recently started substitute teaching at local middle schools and high schools. On several occasions I've had students who (by 'adult' standards) 'overshare' personal, family tragedy stuff with me (& by default, any other student within ear shot). For example, they'll say stuff like, "I had to move to this school mid-semester because my mom had to flee an abusive relationship and move three states away to here,' or 'We had to call 911 again last night for my mom's fake asthma attack.' I can tell they are just waiting for an opening to pour out their hearts and share every sad, sordid detail with me (and everyone nearby). However, I'm not really equipped to deal with it and I don't want to turn the classroom into their personal therapy session, so I usually just say something like 'I'm glad everything is ok now' (after confirming that everything is, in fact ok for now) and redirect the conversation back to academics.

Am I handling this right? Should I pull them aside & ask if they'd like to speak to a counselor? Should I leave a note about it for their regular teacher? To be clear, no student has told me anything that would fall under mandated reporting, just general family instability (past and/or present). The staff and faculty at the school I sub at most is very good & involved with our students, so I doubt I'd be telling them anything new about a student. I just feel like I always handle these situations a bit awkwardly & leave the student kinda hanging.

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OldDude specializes in Pediatrics.

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As a sub I think you're right on track. Seems like you know when it sounds like immediate intervention is advisable. Leaving a note for the teacher would be OK.

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kidzcare has 5 years experience.

3,346 Posts; 19,664 Profile Views

It sounds like you are handling it fine. We've all been there.

Assuming it does not fall under mandated reporting and student is not in emotional distress (cue the social worker) I use general reassurances without asking probing questions. IE: student tells me that they have to move the upcoming weekend because mom and her boyfriend are splitting...for the 5th time. I will say something along the lines of "Oh, that sounds very difficult"

Depending on the situation, I may also ask if stress may be causing the symptoms they presented with. Headaches and stomaches will be very common in stressed out youngsters.

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276 Posts; 7,823 Profile Views

I agree, you are handling these situations well. Bless you for being a sub teacher. It is rough duty and woefully underpaid.

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Farawyn has 25 years experience and specializes in A little bit of everything..

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I disagree. What you heard can possibly fall under mandated reporting. If you are a sub for one day, fine. Make sure you VERBALLY report of to someone. (Psych, SW, head of guidance) Then document to CYA.

If you are a long term sub, you must escalate the child to Psych, or report.

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Eleven011 has 20+ years experience and specializes in Home Health,Dialysis, MDS, School Nurse.

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If I every hear anything like you mentioned, I usually visit with the counselor just to be safe. Chances are she knows the situation already, and the student was just venting to you. But you never know!

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276 Posts; 7,823 Profile Views

Good points Far and Dakota. You really never know for sure.

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pixierose is a BSN, RN and specializes in Neuro-ICU, psych.

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If I every hear anything like you mentioned, I usually visit with the counselor just to be safe. Chances are she knows the situation already, and the student was just venting to you. But you never know!

ITA with this. Most likely the counselor knows about the situation already. However, it's better to let them know rather than have something (somebody) fall through the cracks.

Very early in my teaching career, I taught a self-contained classroom of middle schoolers with special needs. I was out for a few days; during that time, a sub came in. Also during that time, a student's volatile home situation escalated. We as a team were aware of the students' situation; however, the student came in one morning and vented to the sub about an episode that happened the night before between her parents, a "new" event. Thankfully the sub let the counselor know immediately (as DCF was involved, any change in home life was critical to know). I think you're handling it quite well; I would just stop by the counselors office to let them know.

As an aside, *thank you* for being a sub -- that is a job I could never do, but a job that I fully appreciate!

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2 Followers; 5 Articles; 4,091 Posts; 34,909 Profile Views

i agree that it's important to address these concerns. Now, as a sub you may not feel like you have the background with the student to feel equipped to handle it, that's ok. I make it clear if i am talking to a student especially about anything that may fall outside my wheelhouse that i may need to call in someone else that has more experience. It's all in the way you frame it. It's rare that i've had a child shut down after telling them that i'm calling in guidance or a principal to assist with a situation. In fact i'm not sure that's ever happened.

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43 Posts; 708 Profile Views

Thanks for all your feedback everyone. I stopped by the counselor's office today and let them know about a couple concerning students. For one, they were already fully aware. For the other, though, it was somewhat new - though apparently just a different version of the same story. Even still, this student seems pretty troubled so I feel much better knowing that other full-time staff know.

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