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How to help your child when school is getting them down

It is so upsetting to see your child unhappy isn't it? 

As a parent there is a temptation to want anything upsetting to disappear instantly for our children. Sometimes we tell our children to pull themselves together and try to minimise what's wrong. Sometimes we overemphasis can issue, dive in too fast and try to fix the problem heavy handedly. 

Whilst these reactions are completely understandable, pausing is really useful at this point. We need to take some time to really try and understand what is going on before we take action or give advice. 

Asking the right questions can go a long way to understanding what it is that is getting our child down. Quizzing them directly is not always effective and can make them defensive and stressed. Creating a space and place to have a good chat is much more useful. 

You could take your child for tea, out for a drive, a walk - having time together with no distractions or restricted time limits will give them the opportunity to open up to you. Open questions such as 'Why don't you tell me about school today?' will allow them to lead the conversation rather than you directing it towards friendships or school work. 

Being honest about what you are noticing can often help too, you could say, 'you seem sad or you seem to be worrying a lot'. Such observations may prompt your child to open up and will convey your concern. Rather than rushing into problem solving approach try really listening. 

Some children will tell you readily what's wrong and some may take a while or not tell you at all. If the latter is the case asking the teacher to observe them at school and voicing their concerns will be your next step. 

Once you know what it is about school that is getting your child down it is time to look with them at possible solutions.

If friendships are getting your child down options could be you: 

  • Practice role playing friendship scenarios
  • Have new children back for playdates

If school work is getting your child down options could be: 

  • Doing some extra practice at home
  • Talking to the teacher

Having your child work out some options with you will mean they see the possibility of these options and are more willing to try them out. Be creative and devise a varied list of options so your child can try out a few. By helping your child find solutions you are giving them a sense of their own resourcefulness and this will stand them in good stead in the future. 

Children, even young children, need to know if things are getting them down in life positive change is always possible and that they can often create this. 

If the options you come up with are limited and cannot solve the issue of why school is getting your child down you may need to work with school to solve the problem. This would preferably be with your child's involvement. 

Looking at problems and possible solutions with your child will show them you are firmly by their side and this is important for your relationship as they get older. 

Good luck problem solving!