Helping Your Child Who Struggles with Reading and Writing

It's a familiar scenario for many parents – your child is struggling in school, and you're not quite sure how to address the issue. The good news is that you can be a supportive and understanding parent by taking a few simple steps to initiate a productive conversation with your child.

1. Create a Comfortable Space

Begin by creating a safe and non-judgmental space where your child feels comfortable sharing their concerns. It's essential to set the stage for an open dialogue by ensuring that they won't face criticism or blame for their struggles. Ask them to choose a time when they feel relaxed, and both of you can talk without interruptions.

2. Ask Open-Ended Questions

Start the conversation with open-ended questions. Instead of asking, "How was school today?" which often elicits a simple "fine" or "good," try, "Can you tell me more about what's been happening at school lately?" or "Is there anything about school that's been bothering you?" These questions encourage your child to share their feelings and thoughts.

3. Be an Active Listener

Listening is key. Allow your child to express their concerns, feelings, and thoughts without interrupting. Pay close attention to their body language and emotional cues. If they don't feel like talking at that moment, respect their choice, but let them know that you're always there to listen.

4. Acknowledge Their Feelings

Validate your child's emotions. Let them know it's okay to feel frustrated, anxious, or even scared about their struggles. Reassure them that you love and support them, regardless of their academic challenges.

5. Normalize Asking for Help

Emphasize that everyone needs help sometimes. Share stories from your own experiences, highlighting times when you sought assistance to overcome obstacles. This reassures your child that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

6. Collaborate on a Plan

Together, discuss a path forward. What strategies can be employed to improve in the problem area? Encourage your child to be an active participant in finding solutions. Offer your support, whether it's additional study time, tutoring, or simply a listening ear.

7. Stay Involved

Once a plan is in place, stay involved in your child's progress. Check in regularly, but avoid becoming an academic helicopter parent. Encourage independence while providing the support they need.

Communication is the cornerstone of helping your struggling child in school and maintaining a positive relationship with them. Remember, everyone faces obstacles, and learning how to overcome them is a valuable life lesson you can teach your child through this experience.

Mme Michelle is an Instructional Resource Teacher in St. John’s, Newfoundland and is passionate about helping students with diverse needs thrive at school and in the real world. She started French For Life in 2012 with the goal of helping French Immersion students get the support they need to become bilingual, despite academic challenges. Interested in learning more about French For Life virtual or in-person tutoring? Contact 

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