Dear Parent whose child is struggling in school – Part 2.
On this immense journey it can be hard to see the wood for the trees, but today I want to encourage you to take a step back and access the wisdom and expertise you have on your child (probably more than you give yourself credit for) which will help you find the best path forward.
Step 1 was all about addressing what’s going on for you so that you’re best placed to support your child, but this doesn’t address the question of how specifically can you help your child when you have so little control over the school day.
As a parent you may not be able to manage what happens in school, but you are an important influence and means of communication for your child and this is such a vital role tool!
So this next step is really harnessing that.
Step 2: Gain specific understanding and work from there.
Sometimes it can be hard to know where to start – is the whole of school the problem? Should you send them somewhere else or home school? Do they need a therapist? The list goes on.
We’re looking for the solution before we’ve even fully understood the problem and we’re trying to address the symptoms rather than getting to the cause – because we desperately want to make things better for our child.
If you can get to the heart of what’s happening you’ve got a better chance of helping solve what’s really going on and finding the route forward which is best suited to your child’s needs. Often we rush to solve when what we need to do is listen and curiously explore.
You have a wealth of experience on your child. Your child may also be able to give you some clues!
MAKE UNDERSTANDING YOUR GOAL
Sometimes the simplest way to do this is to grab a pen and paper and start with what you DO know. Once you begin to capture that you may notice small, but significant gems which shed light on what’s really happening.
Here’s some questions to help you think it through. You don’t have to answer all of them – pick the ones which help you!
What does the experience of school look like and feel like for your child? If they were writing it in their own words what would they say?
You know they don’t want to go to school but what DO they want and what would that give them? Eg if they want to be at home all day - what does home give them eg feeling safe, a calmer environment, no difficult social situations eg clarity
What aspect is the problem – be as specific as you can eg transitions, playtimes, a particular subject, homework
What do they need to know/see/hear – what message do they need from you?
How do they want things to be eg if you went into school and it was great what might be happening?
What patterns do you notice? What does your gut tell you?
What do other adults and caregivers see?
What are the expectations upon your child and how do these align with your child’s personality and abilities?
This is a massive one. If your child finds large groups of people overwhelming and the sensory input of lots going on a challenge then being in a large school which constant change and noise may feel like a constant stretch. If your child is very active and struggles with sitting still are the expectations of all the academic subjects taking their toll. It’s not about wrapping our children in cotton wool, but if we understand their challenges and acknowledge they exist we can show empathy and seek to directly equip our children to deal with these. We will also be better placed to recognise when a stretch becomes too much and the adults are simply asking too much of them.
One of the most valuable sources of information is your child. They may not instantly be able to give you the full picture, but sometimes exploring little by little can give valuable information.
Using “ I wonder…” statements with your child can be a great way to explore “I wonder if this feels worse in maths lessons?” “I wonder if break times are a bit tough.” There’s plenty of room for them to correct your misconceptions as you’re not presenting them with closed options.
Take out the judgement and the need to fix . Assume the best of your child and allow yourself and your child to curiously explore. Exploring doesn’t mean when they say they wish for you to be in the classroom with them you’ll do it, but it does give you the opportunity to explore what they’d like about that and how they believe it would help them. Sometimes what we think we want is just a way of trying to meet a need which we may not even have fully identified.
When we know what our child is looking for then we are better placed to explore how we might meet their needs eg a child struggling with separation may find transition objects or rituals helpful
Once you’ve explored you may not have “the answer” but that process of stepping back and gaining fuller understanding may well offer some “lightbulb” moments or fresh thoughts to help move things forward.
So have a curious explore and tomorrow I’ll introduce you to step 3.
Trust your knowledge and expertise and see what you can discover when you take a step back. Sometimes it’s the little things which can make a significant difference.
Take care - this can be an emotional journey and remember you don’t have to do it on your own.
If you could do with a helping hand to do your curious explore then you can book a free 30 minute initial chat by e-mailing me at email@example.com