Dear Parent whose child is struggling in school – Part 3.
When your child is struggling in school it can be hard to see the wood for the trees, yet sometimes taking a few steps back to pause, reflect and tap into your expertise can be immensely valuable.
If you’ve missed part 1 and 2 I’d encourage you to go back and take a look. We’ve looked at addressing triggers and we’ve asked many questions to gain understanding. We’ve used our wealth of expertise to explore what’s happening and now onto step 3.
The next step is often challenging, not least because it’s often something we want, but it involves others with whom we may not feel naturally aligned. It can be vulnerable and often pretty complicated, especially when we feel others don’t fully understand or “get it”.
So step 3 is building a team around you
The biggest potential source of support when school is tough, is the school themselves. Note the word “potential” – even if you do everything below there are no guarantees, but ultimately this is about giving your child the best possible chance of things working well.
It’s easy to end up in a “them and us” scenario with the school or other caregivers which doesn’t help anyone. When something is difficult for our child it can be a raw and vulnerable place to be. If you’re feeling insecure and haven’t done part one (addressing what it triggers in you) then you’re probably going to be pretty prickly. It’s understandable BUT it also means you’re attention is diverted from the real issue – helping your child. Throw into the mix a school who don’t handle things well and….. BOOM!
The school and other caregivers should also want your child to succeed and thrive– you have a common goal. Even if their motivation is more mixed by other pressures. Let’s face it though, even if their motive is purely to do the best by your child and see them thrive they would still lose in any “who cares the most about your child” competition because you’ll win that one hands down every time!
You may not agree on everything, but they may be able to offer a different, but useful perspective. They see your child in a completely different context to you which may give them insights in some areas and leave them blind in others – our children are usually at their most raw at home so they may have no idea of the degree of meltdowns or sleeplessness you are enduring or how hard you work to get your child through the classroom door in the morning.
Sharing your insights and experiences with a common goal can be invaluable. I’ve seen it done brilliantly to the child’s benefit and, sadly I’ve sat in meetings where the goal got lost in miscommunication and defensiveness (from all sides).
It’s also easy to get sidetracked by secondary issues eg whether a child is wearing the correct socks when the main goal is to get them through the door of school! You don’t have to like them and you don’t need them to approve of you – just to be able to work together to help your child towards the important goals.
If you can be really clear on what you’re working towards together and how you can do this then your child is far more likely to experience a reliable and managed response from their main caregivers throughout the day which should mean they are better placed to feel safe and supported.
It’s exhausting and challenging when your child is struggling at school and the better the team around you the better chance of a positive way forward.
Who else do you need on your team who can work with you and how can you bring them on board?
What stops you reaching out and asking for help?
Who in your circle would be willing to help if they were asked?
What expertise and input is missing at the moment?
We wouldn’t think twice about calling a plumber if we had a leaking pipe, yet asking for help with family life can be so emotionally loaded. It’s crazy when the reality is that EVERY family experiences challenges.
One risk I see when a child is struggling is the adults looking for “the answer” – one simple quick fix which will solve everything. Maybe there is one, but quite often there isn't - maybe school will always be a bumpy experience because the education system isn't best suited to them.
But when you have a team working together you my be able to identify a whole heap of small solutions and contributions which will help or you may be able to grow the team around you with different skills and expertise who may be able to help.
If you can take these steps to curiously explore what’s going on for you, to understand as much as possible what’s happening for your child and access support, resources and build a team around you then there’s a good chance you’ll be well placed to help your child through some of the challenges of school.
And, if like some parents, you reach a point where an alternative route through education becomes the best way through then you can make changes with confidence knowing you have explored all options.
There are many more steps I could add to this so maybe one day this blog will contain steps 4, 5 and 6. For now this triolgy has some pretty meaty steps to get you started.
The journey through school can be immensely challenging – in the working world we have so much more choice as to how we channel our energies and what kind of workplace we go to – large or small, practical or more office based, times and locations.
As a child the education system has much less capacity for choice and various hoops schools have to jump through which means many children and young people have a journey through education which isn’t a great fit for them.
However, there are many valuable skills to be gained from dealing with challenging situations so an imperfect fit can bring benefits too – our challenge as parents is working out the balance of whether the benefits and the costs outweigh one another and that can feel like a pretty big responsibility at times.
So be kind to yourself and if you would benefit from talking this through further you can book a free 30 minute initial chat by e-mailing me at email@example.com
May you find confidence, hope and positive ways forward through the challenges life in school brings.