All of us, parents and children and professionals alike, are trying to cope with the demands of the springtime academic marathon. Standardized testing, end of year evaluations, research projects, final exams, and other “hoops to jump through” show up one after another—and never seem to be done! At least the Boston Marathon only takes a few hours!
As our children struggle to meet all these demands, parents have an essential supporting role. No, not the one where you help them organize, research, review, and study—this is important, but there is “one thing more that you must do”, as Ms Rumphius tells us in the famous children’s book.
You must help your children keep a balance in their lives, for their physical and emotional health, as well as your own. This is one of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective Special Needs Families, which I discuss in my book for parents.
It is important to nurture a balanced life for your children—and yourself. It is just as important to keep reminding yourself and your child of his strengths and gifts and positive personal traits as it is to address the areas of need. Every child needs to know, deep down inside, that he or she is worthy and does some things well. They need to know there are people who love and value them for who they are. Which you do, of course. It just never hurts to say it, to remind you and your child of his strengths.
The visual to keep in mind is a margarita glass. Why? It reminds you that life has to include some fun.
Most kids are very aware of the things they have trouble with. They may not think very often of the things they are good at. When I evaluate a child, I always ask them (and their parents) what they do well. I look for the “islands of competence”—dance, hockey or another sport, even something like a sweet nature or a cooperative attitude. These areas of their life are as important as the areas that need to be worked on.
Your child may have significant problems with learning, behavior, development, or social skills. I’m not suggesting you ignore those, but one of the most important roles you will play, as they move through childhood, will be to remind them—and yourself—of their special strengths and areas of competence. These must be nurtured, just as the other areas need to be improved. Without these strengths, your child won’t make it through.
Every week, try to make sure your child has a chance to enjoy his or her areas of strength. Schedule it in. Know that it is important. Life can’t be all hard work and slogging through the mud. A margarita or two helps us all to keep going!
Happy spring, and please share your comments or questions.