Yuriy Tlukhovskyi is a new school psychologist. He has experience in doing training projects for children and teenagers, working with children with special development needs in the Kyiv delphinarium and providing psychological help for adults.
What are your main tasks at school?
My main task is to make sure that the environment at school is healthy, that students and staff feel comfortable and secure. The four key areas of my work are diagnostics and testing, professional orientation and psychological counseling.
What is a healthy and unhealthy environment?
Unhealthy environment has its signs. For example any kind of violence – verbal, physical or emotional. Or if a class is stuck in the middle of an open conflict and is unable to resolve it. Too many outsiders in a group is also a sign of unhealthy environment. Having outsiders is normal, but the attitude towards them can be unhealthy, if they are oppressed and become containers of all the negative emotions. Ways of communication are also very important – how students communicate with each other. In a healthy environment everyone should be able to speak out and be heard.
Please tell more about the psychological counseling.
Psychological counseling is helping children to cope with challenging situations in their lives. In this aspect I am doing personal consultations. They can be arranged upon requests from teachers and with consultations with parents.
Children can have challenges. If you take a child who is 6 and who lives in a bilingual family for example, his mother is Russian, his father in English, he spent half of his life in one country, the other half in a different country – he might have trouble understanding who he is, he might be lacking a base for personal identity development. It does not of course mean that all children in bilingual families have similar problems, but it happens. And teachers must understand this or any other peculiarity of different children and build their work based on this knowledge.
At the personal consultations I’d like to use the so called send therapy. This is individual work that enables us to investigate a child’s fear, trauma or complex. Children are not always able to tell about what bothers them, but they can communicate it through a drawing or throught play in send.
Do children understand when they need to talk to you?
When we are hungry, we go and get something to eat. When we have a toothache, we go to a dentist. The same here. If you feel that something is bothering you and you don’t know what to do about it, you need to talk to a specialist who can help you.
At the age of 12-13 years children develop their inner self-reflection and emotional intellect, they know what they want and how they feel. And so they can come to the school psychologist on their own. With younger children of course it is up to parents to decide if the need psychological assistance. You can have parents who see that something is wrong with their child, they try so speak about it but the child would not open up. And it does not mean that something is wrong with the parents. Children often are afraid to lose their parents’ love, they tend to think ‘if I tell mom and dad about that problem, they will stop loving me’. And that is why it is can be easier for them to talk to a psychologist.
What questions can you help answer?
A person can be worried if he or she is depressed. A child can be unable to control his or her anger. Parents might want to know if the level of their child’s intellectual, cognitive or emotional development is age appropriate. Or what do you do if a child is often being hurt – how do you cope with violence, how do learn reacting to it and protecting yourself from it effectively. Teenagers might have difficulties coping with their first love relations. Basically we are talking about any question you have that no one can answer.
However it is important to remember that a psychologist is not an almighty wizard who knows everything. Psychologists are people who can serve as ideal mirrors. And if you can not find an answer to your question anywhere, most probably it is a question to yourself. And my task as a psychologist is to build our conversation in a way that would help you understand that, ask yourself this question and find the answer from yourself. My task is to help children answer their own questions.
Professional orientation is for Year 13 students?
Yes. But if a child wishes to learn earlier what he or she is inclined to we can do it earlier upon request. Even parents of children of 6-7 years of age can come and I will test their child. Results of such testings can help parents understand their children better and not demand what they don’t wish to do and what is not in their nature. Children are unique personalities and they deserve to have the right to grow and develop following their own nature. So if parents understand what their child is inclined to humanities, they should not expect and demand big results in exact sciences.
What did you mean when you mentioned diagnostics?
It is about testing children’s readiness to move from preschool to primary school, from primary to secondary school. It is about the level of intellectual development, memory and other cognitive functions. The results of such diagnostics can be very useful for the teachers, who will understand that this child is just like this and there is no point in demanding him or her to be different.
Parents also need to understand that their child is not a marathon runner who must cover the distance and be the first to cross the finish line. If children do not learn to be children now, they will never learn it and they will never become happy. Because happiness and spontaneous joy are inherent to children. Not to confuse with infantility, which is about irresponsibility. That is why it is important that children learn to be children. And when you think about learning – watch your children, talk to them, ask what they want. Children have different development pace. Some develop faster, others do it slower. And it is absolutely normal. Just like different fruits ripe on different time, some in June, like sweet cherry, some in late August, like fig. But it doesn’t mean that sweet cherry is better than fig.
What is the best way to have a meeting with you?
Any parent, teacher or student can have a meeting with me at any time during working hours. It would probably be best to sign up and agree on date and time through reception.