School and sports. These are two places where our society predominantly focuses on a child’s success. But what if your child is one of those kids that struggle in these arenas? Both my sons were bright and active, but ADHD, sensory challenges, writing disabilities and their inability in general to tolerate a classroom environment or participate in team sports hampered them not only academically and socially, but also emotionally. How do you help a child overcome a sense of failure or lowered self-esteem when he or she compares him or herself to the rest of the pack?
- Consider alternative educational environments if it’s feasible and possible. Despite everyone’s best efforts, sometimes public school does not work for a particular child. Sometimes the school system can provide a placement in an alternative setting such as a vocational/technical school, or you can look into charter schools, private school, homeschooling, and now there are virtual online opportunities for kids that I wish I had access to when the boys were younger. Think creatively. Both of my sons did not graduate from public school, but both easily passed the GED exam (they call it their Good-Enough-Diploma) and the younger one has since gone on to earn his Associates Degree at a community college with a mix of virtual and classroom-based courses.
- Take a look into individual sports or activities. We tried team sports. Most of our one baseball season was spent watching my kiddo dig up worms in the outfield and while not paying any attention to what was going on. We attempted soccer and basketball. My guys found their place in the skateboarding world and loved learning new tricks and checking out skateboard parks in the local area. So I became I skateboard mom. I’ve had children in my groups that love karate, golf and even fencing.
- Help your child find his or her “awesome.” It could be theater, playing an instrument, sewing, cooking, art, taking care of animals, gardening, woodworking, or a host of other things. Let your child lead the way, and if he or she seems lost or uninterested, keep trying different things until you discover what it is that makes your child shine.
A feeling of success somewhere and at something is crucial for kids who struggle. We spend a lot of time focusing on supporting areas of weakness to help a child make it through his or her school day, but we should spend all that time and even more focusing on strengths and his or her “awesome.”