I often hear parents saying ‘I just want my child to be happy’. Lovely sentiment. Of course that is our wish for our children. We want it with all our heart and soul.
But many of our special children are far from happy.
Many of our special children have had a tough time so far.
School life is tricky where he has to try extra hard to behave. Constantly being challenged, told off and called out in front of the class. The consequence is that he’s seen as naughty and gets left out and socially isolated. No play dates, no birthday parties.
At home you may have expectations that he’ll get on with his siblings, co-operate with chores and be polite and a fabulous member of the family. The reality is rudeness, constant battles, rows and arguments. Home life is a war zone.
And our special children end up feeling useless, sad and lonely.
And the consequence…..
Our children will have poor emotional health and low resilience. He will be unable to cope with life’s problems. Most importantly, he may suffer from mental health problems in adulthood which will cause difficulties in work, relationships and all round well-being. A horrifying statistic that the biggest killer of men under the age of 45 is suicide. We must do something to help our little boys become happy, well-adjusted young men.
So what can you do about it? How can you help your child feel amazing about himself rather than worthless?
Praise, praise, praise
The more you tell your child how incredible he is, the more he’ll start to believe it. Praise for doing little things like picking up the toys, getting dressed quickly. Don’t go over the top. A smile and a hug is often is enough.
There are so many times in a little person’s life that he has no choice. Adults make the decisions. So where appropriate, let him decide some things. What cereal to eat. What route to drive home. What he’d like to wear. He will feel empowered and valued.
Find reasons to make him feel valued. Listen to his opinions and ideas. They’ll be good. Show him that you are taking him seriously and that you are really paying attention to what he has to say. This will make him feel special and important.
Create opportunities for success
Find things he’s good at. Promote his natural talents and encourage his participation in groups and clubs. He may meet like-minded children who share his passion. Don’t put pressure on him to take unnecessary exams, grades or tests. Let him just have fun and enjoy the experience. If he’s great at telling jokes and juggling, have a weekly show. If he can make magnificent lego models take photographs and make them into a book that you proudly show off. Let him know that you think he has amazing skills.
Some of our special children find a lot of comfort in screens. If he is enjoys computer games, let him have screen time every day. Don’t take it away as a punishment. It may be a brilliant way to relax, feel confident and skillful. He may be ‘talking’ to other players which may be the only socialising he gets to do. Agree together how long he should be on a screen but please don’t stop him in the middle of a level or a game. Would you like someone to turn off the TV in the middle of ‘Love Actually’? You get my point.
Our children spend so much of their time at school that this has to be an environment where he feels valued. So it is vital that you work as a team with his school. You know him best. So don’t be afraid to let his teacher know what works well for him. He may need his work to be presented in small steps, or to use visual resources or recording devices. He may need a laptop or ear defenders. His sensory needs may need to be addressed and he may need regular hydration and movement breaks. It really must be stressed the importance of building up his self-esteem and being in trouble every day will knock his confidence and damage his emotional well-being.
Spend time together
Whenever you can, stop doing the things on your To Do List and spend some time with your child. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or expensive. Just playing, reading, building, cooking, singing. Anything that makes you both smile. As well as being a lovely experience for you both, it gives your child a perfect opportunity to let you know if he has anything on his mind.
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