Dear Parent whose child is struggling in school
How do you begin to put into words how tough it can be at times?
At the point where many parents are breathing a sigh of relief as their children are settling back into the routine of school, for you, the stress levels have just escalated.
And the whole family are feeling the ripple effects as school stress seeps into home and makes everyday life so much more complex and tumultuous.
And you’re working your socks off to support your child, but it’s exhausting and lonely and you’re tired of the “why don’t you just…?” and feeling like other’s are judging your actions whilst also trying to find the energy to keep pouring into your child in, what feels, never ending.
When school is in the mix there is much which is out of our control and we just have to deal with the fallout. There’s much I could write about challenges within the education system and what should be changed but there’s a more immediate question:
What CAN you do to help your child and family right now?
In a flawed system in which many young people struggle to thrive how can you help your child to have the best chance of making it through positively, even if they feel like a round peg in a square hole?
I won’t pretend there’s a simple quick fix BUT after years of working with and raising children who don’t fit the mould and for whom school is challenging, as well as supporting their parents I know there are many steps we can take to help.
You’re not on your own. So grab a coffee, your thinking cap and a bit of time in a quiet(ish) space and read on:
Step 1: Address what it triggers in you
Trust me – this may seem off piste, but it’s a vital first step. When our children hurt, we hurt. Our children struggling is an emotional experience and it will trigger some big feelings in us.
The anxiety, self doubt, stress and angst which comes with a child who is struggling can feel like an overwhelming wave and it’s important to take time firstly to acknowledge this. From there we can find healthy ways to manage this.
Unchecked it can run riot, destroy your confidence, sap your patience and family connection as well as damaging your relationships with potential sources of support.
What’s going on beneath the surface - what we’re thinking and feeling - has a massive influence on our behaviours, our energy levels, our interactions with others and all we do.
Firstly step back and explore. Work on the assumption you are doing the best you can with what you have right now and put your inner critic on mute.
What’s your internal dialogue doing? Are you doubting your decisions, wondering why other people don’t have this problem, feeling overwhelmed and like it’s out of your control? Questioning if it’s something you’ve done wrong? Perhaps it’s reminding you of your own school experiences?
Pause and just observe what you’re saying to yourself. How kind and helpful is it?
How many “I shoulds” do you notice? Take out the judgement because the odds are it won’t help.
Secondly notice what are your biggest fears in all of this? If you can be brave enough to stare them in the face you can begin to sift out the extremes and get to more concrete concern you can assess and address. Maybe your child won’t go into school right now or they are finding a particular element of school really hard and it is a big deal.
Does this mean their whole life is in tatters, they’ll become a drug addict and everything will be ruined for ever? We tend to project forward to worst case scenarios in order to protect our offspring. The risk with this is we end up escalating the stress of an already difficult situation. What are you dealing with right now? Focus on the issue in hand, what is happening for your child and what they need right now. Deal with the problems of 10 years time when you get there!
Thirdly, perhaps it’s time to notice what your gut is telling you and what is stopping you trusting your gut? You are an expert on your child. You may not have all the answers, but you have a lot of useful information and expertise which can be really valuable. How much do you feel others are judging you? How much does concern about being perceived as being “fussy” preventing you from accessing your wisdom and expertise?
When you’re tuned in to what’s going on for you then you put yourself in the best position to be the calm, solid support for your child. And that’s why this first step is so important!
That’s probably enough to get you started for now. I’ll post part 2 tomorrow. In the meantime allow yourself to curiously explore and please, please be kind to yourself – this journey can be immense.
If this resonates and you know you could do with talking this through further then you can book a free 30 minute initial chat by e-mailing me at email@example.com