Parents of kids who learn and think differently can be hard on themselves. But positive thinking can often keep you motivated — and it might bring you and your child closer. Plus, when you think positively it sets a good example for your child.
Here are strategies you can try.
1. List out the positives.
It’s easy to focus on the negative. “I should have taken more time to talk with the math teacher.” But you can steer your thinking in a more positive direction. “I set up a meeting with the math teacher. That will be a big help.”
It can really help to keep a list in a notebook. Write down things like “Called to make an appointment with the counselor” or “Spent extra time on homework.” Start a running list of activities you and your child both enjoy, like watching silly movies or reading comic books together. Remind yourself to keep adding new items to your lists.
2. Reward yourself.
Rewards are a great way to cheer on your successes. For example, what if you’re dreading a meeting with your child’s teacher? Once you've tackled the meeting, reward yourself by picking up your favorite takeout instead of cooking. If a test you’ve helped your child study for results in a better grade, celebrate by downloading a new book or game on your e-reader.
3. Take time to think about the good stuff.
Struggling in school is just one aspect of your child. Think about all of your child’s talents and interests. Think about the unique qualities that you love about your child. Does your child do well in a certain sport? Is your child thoughtful toward friends and family, offering to help around the house or in the classroom? This shift in your thinking can keep you from focusing too much on “what’s wrong,” so you can spend more time thinking about “what’s going well.”
Whatever you do, take a few minutes each day — maybe before going to sleep or first thing in the morning — and reflect on these positives. You’ll start to appreciate the progress you and your child are making.
4. Remind yourself of the upside of hard work.
It’s true that kids who struggle in school face challenges. But hard work can help make you and your child stronger people. Look for the “silver lining,” or the positive side, of dealing with obstacles. For example, a child who has to speak up to teachers about difficulties is usually more equipped to self-advocate. In the future, when dealing with a difficult boss or a friend, your child will already have tools to handle things.
5. Remember: You’re not alone.
Parenting a child who learns and thinks differently can feel lonely. But there are many other parents like you who are feeling the same way. Try sharing what you learn with other families by checking out a local support group, posting on Facebook, or using Understood’s Wunder community app. Your child may even want to become a mentor to a peer with similar struggles. Your story — and your child’s journey — can be helpful for families who are new to dealing with this. Bonus: Sharing your experience can be rewarding for you, too.
One final thought: During tough moments, it might feel hard to accept and love your child for who they are — especially if you didn’t feel loved or accepted when you were growing up. Patterns are hard to break. But you can tackle this one by thinking of a time in your life when someone loved you no matter what. Maybe it was a grandparent you enjoyed visiting, or a teacher who always made time for you. Think about how that person made you feel. Remember that love and support. This can help you offer the same thing to yourself and to your child.
About the author
About the author
The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.
Bob Cunningham, EdM has been part of Understood since its founding. He’s also been the chief administrator for several independent schools and a school leader in general and special education.