Talk to your child about things he’s done successfully in the past. Show him how the strategies he used then can be applied to what he’s working on now. Help him practice describing what he needs to do and which areas he needs help with to successfully complete the task.
Remember that while it’s tempting to “rescue” your child by doing the task yourself, this will not help build his skills. It will likely lead to more dependence on you.
What you can say
“Jacob, I know this history assignment is frustrating and looks a bit overwhelming. However, so did that English paper you had last week. As I recall, you got a B+ on that assignment. Let’s look at the strategies you used, and see if they can apply to this new history assignment.”
“You got an early start on doing that English paper. You organized and reviewed all your resource materials and notes. Then you went to see your teacher, and you asked for and received some very good feedback from her that helped with your next steps.”
“You wrote an outline, then drafts of your opening statement and conclusion. You completed your first draft with plenty of time to review and update it. I bet those same steps would work for this assignment. If you need my help, just let me know.”
Why this will help
Children with learning and attention issues often expect to fail. They focus on past defeats, not past successes. You can help your child keep not only those successes in mind, but also the strategies that helped make big tasks feel more manageable and predictable.
Reminding your child what he’s already accomplished—and what strategies he used to achieve those successes—can help him feel more confident and less anxious. It can also improve self-esteem. Encouraging him to talk about past successes and explain what worked and why will help him apply those skills to similar tasks in the future.
Coming up with a plan can also ease his frustration and help him get started, which is usually the hardest part. Getting him into the habit of talking about these things will also help him learn how to express his needs more effectively.