How can you help your child if you are not sure where he needs help?
Children tell us about what’s going on in their lives in a variety of ways. They do in fact at times actually tell us directly, but more often children will use less obvious means of communication. Their general behavior and demeanor are of course telling, as are mood swings, body language and appetite. Parents will quickly recognize when a youngster is trying to non-verbally say something. We need to be conscious of the fact that our children may be trying to communicate with us, even when they cannot express themselves in day to day language.
Parents need to be aware and look for ways to chat about what children are feeling. School looms large in the life of any child and its influence grows as children get older. So getting a child to talk about school experiences will only bring parent and child closer together and the child will feel he has an ally in his school struggles.
Engagement in our children’s lives does not mean that we need to let them push our buttons and be manipulated into becoming their agents in any adverse issue they face. Too often when a parent hears or perceives a problem he will spring into action. “I’m going down to the see the principal and I’ll straighten this out once and for all.” Most of the time it’s not a good idea. Our children need our advice so that they will be able to handle their own affairs properly; they don’t need us to handle their problem for them.
Being positively involved in our children’s lives means knowing what they are experiencing at school and what issues they face; it means listening and being there for them; it means offering encouragement and helping them develop a sense of self-confidence. It certainly means setting limits and assigning appropriate consequences for non-compliance. It may mean giving advice when asked and being a shoulder to cry on. It does not mean fighting their battles nor acting in their stead. Like training wheels on a bike, the child needs to know they are there so he won’t fall but the less they are used the better the ride.