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 your child learn how to ask for help can be an important step in helping him learn self-advocacy 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 possible trouble spots include:
- Comparing himself to other kids and feeling that he’s 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 he’s not dressing, talking or acting like the other kids.
- Feeling left out of friendships. For example, he may not be included in conversations at the lunch table or he 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 your child get emotional support at school is 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 support him. You may also want to talk to them about reaching out if they notice he’s having trouble and not asking for help.
Talk with your child. Your child may not only be reluctant to reach out, but he may also not know how. Speak with him about who he feels comfortable with and in what situations. If he needs support with teacher issues, who can he talk to? Is there an adult he likes and trusts?
Anticipate roadblocks. It’s possible your child may not get what he needs when he reaches out. Make sure he knows you’re available to brainstorm more solutions if the advice he gets isn’t helpful or the person he reaches out to doesn’t take his concerns seriously.
Debrief and monitor progress. Teaching your child how to reach out is only helpful if it works. Check in with your child to see how his efforts are going and whether things are getting better.
Continued Emotional Support
Understanding your child’s social challenges can help you understand the kind of support he needs. 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.