Talking with your child

6 Tips for Talking to Your Child About Learning and Attention Issues

By Geri Coleman Tucker

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Kids with learning and attention issues often pick up on ways they differ from their peers. And struggling with schoolwork can be a blow to self-esteem. Here’s how to talk with your child about learning and attention issues.

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Mother guiding and encouraging her young son cooking in the kitchen
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Challenges for All

Let your child know that we all have strengths and weaknesses, and give specific examples. This can make it easier for him to embrace his learning differences. Talk about how he learns differently, but try to keep the focus on strategies rather than on the challenges themselves. This can help empower your child to overcome or work around weaknesses.

Parent talking to children in a coffee shop
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No Labels Necessary

Early on, focus on finding ways to talk comfortably about your child’s learning challenges and behaviors. Diagnoses, clinical terms or more detailed discussion may come later, when more appropriate.

Father taking a break from washing to car to have a conversation with his son
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Once Is Not Enough

One conversation is just the beginning. Children’s level of understanding changes over time. Opening a dialogue with your child about learning challenges lays a foundation for trust, problem solving and self-acceptance.

Father sitting outside on a park bench listening to his daughter talk
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The Ears Have It

Take the time to listen—really listen. Heed the proverb: “Listen twice as much as you speak.” Focusing on what your child says and does may lead to deeper, richer discussions about obstacles and solutions.

Close-up of a mother praising her daughter
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Perspective, Please

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the challenges your child is facing. Don’t forget to build on your child’s strengths and successes. Praise your child’s strengths, but use specific examples whenever possible, and don’t overdo it. Even young children can spot insincerity.

Mother showing young son an article in the newspaper
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Star Search

CEOs, celebrities and professional athletes often talk about how they’ve handled their learning differences. Their stories may help your child feel less stigmatized and even boost his self-esteem.

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About the Author

Portrait of Geri Tucker

Geri Coleman Tucker is a freelance writer and editor and a former deputy managing editor for USA Today.

Reviewed by

Portrait of Jenn Osen Foss

Jenn Osen-Foss, M.A.T., is an instructional coach, supporting teachers in using differentiated instruction, interventions and co-planning.

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