By Amanda Morin
Learning and attention issues can be tough on your child’s self-esteem. He may have to work harder to make progress in school. He may struggle socially too. Here’s how you can help improve your child’s self-esteem.
Let your child hear you talk things through to show how you value your own strengths while acknowledging weaknesses. For example, it’s OK to mention your weak working memory: “I can’t remember the things on the grocery list.” But try to pair that statement with something that emphasizes your problem-solving skills: “Next time I’ll use my phone to take a picture of the list in case I forget to bring that piece of paper to the store.”
Knowing there are successful people with learning and attention issues who faced similar struggles can provide inspiration. For example, actor Daniel Radcliffe has said that doing stunt work for the Harry Potter movies helped him overcome some of his struggles with dyspraxia.
Does your child have a nice voice and like to sing? Suggest that he join a choir. Is he naturally athletic? Talk about signing up for a local baseball league. Finding an extracurricular activity that your child enjoys and is good at will help him discover his strengths and keep his academic struggles in perspective.
You can’t avoid addressing things that need to be changed. But you can address them in ways that don’t make your child feel bad about himself. Instead of saying “Why do you always leave your room in such a mess?” you can say “This room is messy. Put down your game and put away your laundry.”
For example, if your child has dyslexia and says “I’m stupid because I can’t read,” you can respond, “Reading is hard for you, but you tell great stories.”
Don’t ignore mistakes. Help your child find the “next time you can” in them. For example, you could say, “Yep, you spilled the juice. Next time you’re pouring the juice, you can hold your glass over the sink.”
Let your child know that effort is as valuable as the end result. Find ways to praise your child for working hard on the projects he does for school as well as for fun. For example, you could say, “Your hard work practicing the piano really shows when you play that song.” Explore more tips on how to give your child the best kind of praise.
Middle school can be a tough time for kids with dyslexia. Your child probably doesn’t want to feel singled out, so it’s important that he build self-advocacy skills to get what he needs. Rehearsing common situations with your child can help him know where to start.
It’s important for middle-schoolers with dyscalculia to learn how to self-advocate and ask for help. But kids this age may be self-conscious about speaking up. They also may not know what to say. Practicing common situations like these with your child can help.
Amanda Morin is a parent advocate, a former teacher and the author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.
Sheldon H. Horowitz, Ed.D., is senior director of learning resources and research at the National Center for Learning Disabilities.
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