At a glance
Bullying isn’t the only reason your child might need emotional support at school.
Helping your child ask for support is a multi-step process.
Asking for help can be hard for kids, but it helps build self-advocacy skills.
It’s not always easy for kids to reach out for emotional support at school. They may not know who to reach out to or what to say. Helping kids learn how to ask for help can be an important step in helping them learn skills. How you do that and how involved you get depends on your child’s age and skills.
Identifying emotional trouble spots
It may not always be easy to identify what your child needs emotional support for. Some kids have these trouble spots:
- Comparing themselves to other kids and feeling that they’re not measuring up.
- Needing further explanation in the classroom and worrying about how the teacher will react to being asked for help again.
- Feeling that they’re not dressing, talking, or acting like the other kids.
- Feeling left out of friendships. For example, kids may not be included in conversations at the lunch table or may not be chosen as a project partner.
- Being bullied.
Keep in mind that younger children may not be as able to express what’s troubling them. And sometimes issues you think are problems turn out to be nothing. But there may be other issues your child doesn’t talk about or that you don’t anticipate.
Helping your child get emotional support at school
Helping kids get emotional support at school is a multi-step process. Before you encourage a reluctant child to reach out, set the stage for success. Here’s how:
Touch base with the school. Whether through a formal accommodation in an IEP or 504 plan or an informal conversation, make sure the school is prepared for your child to reach out. Identify a few point people who know your child and are willing to offer support. You may also want to talk to them about reaching out if they notice that your child is having trouble and is not asking for help.
Talk with your child. Kids may be reluctant to reach out. They also may not know how. Speak with kids about who they feel comfortable with and in what situations. If your child needs support with teacher issues, who is available? Is there an adult your child likes and trusts?
Anticipate roadblocks. Sometimes, kids don’t get what they need when they reach out. Make sure kids know you’re available to brainstorm more solutions if the advice they get isn’t helpful or the person they reach out to doesn’t take their concerns seriously.
Debrief and monitor progress. Teaching kids how to reach out is only helpful if it works. Check in with kids to see how their efforts are going and whether things are getting better.
Continued emotional support
Understanding your child’s social challenges can help you understand what kind of support is needed. Social groups or a peer mentor (supervised and trained by an adult) might be good options. Building a support network is an important step in improving self-esteem and self-advocacy skills.
Working with the school to make support available can help make your child’s efforts successful.
Social groups and peer mentors can also provide emotional support.
Check in frequently with kids to see if they have the support they need.
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About the author
About the author
Amanda Morin is the author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education” and the former director of thought leadership at Understood. As an expert and writer, she helped build Understood from its earliest days.
Jenn Osen-Foss, MAT is an instructional coach, supporting teachers in using differentiated instruction, interventions, and co-planning.