Awesome Stress Busting Tip # 1 RELAX! I know that sounds much easier than it really can be however if you are stressed your family will be too. Take a ‘time out’, have a coffee and stop beating up on yourself. No-one is perfect and no-one can be. It is important to recognise when you are becoming frustrated or stressed and therefore CHANGE whatever activity you are doing. A frustrated mind just can’t cope – it will go into overwhelm.
Awesome Stress Busting Tip # 2 There are some things you can do to make homework sessions easier. Sit on your child’s left hand side. When you talk to you child, talk to their left ear. Read what they have to do to them then ask them to tell you what they need to do. Encourage your child to have a go even if they don’t think they can do it. Tell them that attempting the work is the most important thing; being right or correct isn’t. Take pressure off your child. Praise their attempt. Don’t have them sit at a task for more than 5 minutes. After 5 minutes have your child move around, get a drink or talk to you about something unrelated for a couple of minutes. This strategy keeps their mind fresh and they won’t begin to fidget or get bored. Importantly though do not allow them to get distracted for too long or they won’t come back to do their homework!
Awesome Stress Busting Tip #3 Allow your child some “down time” after school and before homework. Encourage them to play outside, have a healthy snack or talk to you about things that interest them (not anything to do with school). If you can, have some questions prepared for them that centre around the topics of their interests – be interested in their interests! All of these different after school activities will help your child de-stress and calm their mind. It also reassures them that they are interesting, confident young individuals and their opinion matters. It also reassures them that you love them just the way they are.
Awesome Stress Busting Tip #4 If you are encountering resistance to homework and / or tutoring, ask your child what they are feeling. Encourage them to share what is going on in their mind. Your child needs to know they can trust you with their inner most thoughts and that they won’t be ridiculed or belittled by you. Sometimes it is useful to share what you are feeling and why – importantly though what you are feeling MUST be positive towards your child not negative. If you open up to your child often they will reciprocate. Often what is bothering them isn’t what you would expect. Sometimes it can be something that we do as parents that is the problem. Try not to take this as criticism. It can hurt when our child tells us something we do causes them pain. Listen empathetically then show your child that you are doing your best to change this behaviour. This is your best opportunity to learn to do things better for yourself and your family.
Awesome Stress Busting Tip #5 Often a dyslexic child’s bedroom is a disaster zone. Their belongings are EVERYWHERE – usually all on the floor. This can be extremely frustrating for parents. One simple strategy to help control the clutter is to have colour coded boxes for your childs belongings. The aim isn’t to have everything neatly put away or folded. The aim is to sort belongings by type. This way the clutter and disporagnisation is contained within a box! Put a photo or a drawing of the types of things that are meant to be in each box on all four sides of the box. This way your child can see clearly what is meant to be in each box. Next draw up a chart with coloured squares on it – each square represents a box. As your child put their things away they tick the square. This way they can see what box to fill next and they gain a sense of achievement as they tick off all the squares. Be aware however that a certain amount of clutter is inevitable especially in the beginning. Dyslexic children are easily distracted from the task in hand. Limit the amount of boxes to four or five in the beginning. If the task seems too big and overwhelming your child won’t do it.
Awesome Stress Busting Tip #6 Place a photo board with regular tasks that your child is expected to perform in a prominent place in your home. Have a photo/drawing of the task (eg brush teeth) and space for your child to tick once the task is complete. Have the tasks listed in order of priority. Remember – your child is actually completing three tasks for each task you list – looking at the board, doing the task and ticking it off. They will need guidance in the beginning until they are familiar with the system. Reward your child with praise for using the system. Start with two or three of the most important tasks and add to them once your child is performing them without prompts and guidance.
Stress Busting Tip #7 – helping your child to successfully complete a series of tasks. When giving your child a list or sequence of tasks to perform (such as eat breakfast, get your things for school, where are your shoes?) remember that your child will most likely only remember the last thing you told them to do. They will be so focused on trying to remember what you just said, that they will forget the earlier items. In the beginning, it is better (and less frustrating for all involved) to give one task at a time, with your child coming back to you once the task is complete. Remember to praise your child BEFORE giving them the next task – this encourages them to do the task well, in order to be praised again rather than yelled at.
My Awesome Stress Busting Tip #8 is not hard to do, but it will have enormous benefits for your dyslexic child. Praise your child and praise them often. Notice them doing little things that make life easier – getting their lunch box out of their bag after school, helping their siblings if they have them, putting something away rather than leaving it lying around, or simply being nice. If you praise them when they aren’t expecting it, it shows them that you care. Most children with dyslexia have low self-esteem. By noticing and praising small everyday achievements, you are helping their self-esteem rise, as they realise that they are decent, worthwhile people. Most of these children are expecting criticism all the time – they get it at school (aren’t you finished yet??) and often they receive it at home. As parents we criticise without realising it (why can’t you keep your room tidy like your brothers/sisters???). We need to be consciously looking for the good things our child does, and praising them for it. The more we see and praise for, the better they will feel about themselves, and slowly but surely their self-esteem will grow.
Your Stress Busting Tip #9 If you are becoming frustrated, stop, and consider the situation from your child’s point of view. Did we explain ourselves clearly? Did we give too many instructions? Is our child tired/overwhelmed/sad? Often this is easier to do away from your child. Go outside. Go into your bedroom and close the door. Take a deep breath and let it out as a sigh. IT IS NORMAL AND OK TO FEEL FRUSTRATED. It will often seem as though your child is an alien. Once you have considered why you have become frustrated and how your child was responding, ask yourself what you could do differently. Go back to your child (who may still be sullen, frustrated and angry), apologise for your frustration, give them a hug and do something else together. It is important to show your child how you deal with frustration. Children model their behaviour on their parents’ behaviour.
Your Awesome Stress Busting Tip #10 Take time out from your regular routine of homework/study, after school programs, etc, and do something fun with your child. Have a themed picnic (Barbie, Star Wars – whatever your child is interested in) or visit somewhere that is special to you and your child. It is important that your child’s life isn’t filled with work only – they are kids, and kids need to be kids having fun. Often the dyslexic child misses out on fun activities because they take longer to complete tasks and need more homework time than their siblings and friends. Allow regular time-outs that are purely for fun, and are not based on them achieving anything – they are “just because”. Every child needs to have fun on a regular basis – for that matter so does every adult. Don’t allow your child’s life to descend into a grey place of drudgery and never ending work. Do your best to keep the joy and fun in your child’s childhood – they only get one!
My Awesome Stress Busting tip #11 is – Teach your child to laugh at their mistakes. All too often our children focus on what went wrong – not what is going right! They often place enormous significance on what they did wrong, and classify themselves as “failures”. The best way I have found to overcome this is to point out to my son when I’ve made a mistake, say “oops, did it wrong” then fix it with the minimum of fuss. It is important to show them that making mistakes is a normal part of life – everyone does it – and that it really isn’t that big of a deal. Mistakes can be fixed. Sometimes this is easier than others, but in the end all mistakes can be rectified. Do not make a big production of the mistake (for example – “I’m an idiot!”, “I’m a failure!”, “I’m so stupid!”). Neither you nor your child is a “failure” or “stupid” because you made a mistake! You are perfectly normal – an ordinary human being doing their best, which is all any one of us can do – myself included.
My awesome stress busting tip #12 is a few suggestions for making learning fun and different. Remember, your child learns by moving. Instead of doing regular homework, have your child act it out. Play Charades – you guess the word or sound they are acting out. Have your child bend their bodies into the shapes made by different letters. Use alphabet letters to make words and sentences your child gets to eat. No matter what you choose to do – keep it short, no more than 5 minutes.
Your Stress Busting Tip #13 This tip is short and simple. If you have access to some nice grass, get your child to run around barefoot. It is truly amazing how quickly a grumpy, frustrated child relaxes when encouraged to do this simple activity. In a few minutes you can resume homework/tutoring/life.
Your Stress Busting Tip # 14 Make time each week to do something one-on-one with your child. Something special you only share with them. It doesn’t need to be expensive – even having them help you cook dinner once a week can be special time just with them. My son and I enjoy snuggling on a bean bag – I read him a story or make one up just for him.
Your Stress Busting Tip # 15 Play short games with your child. A simple game like eye spy can lighten the mood and bring laughter into your child’s life. Praise often! I can’t say it enough. (Well done! Clever answer! That one was tricky!)
Your Stress Busting Tip # 16 This is not a tip really, more of a reminder. Praise, praise and praise some more! In the beginning your child will be like a thirsty sponge. After a while their self-esteem isn’t so fragile, and they won’t be so needy. While they are needy – resist the temptation to push them away. Continue to look for things to praise.
Your Stress Busting Tip # 17 It is easy to forget to actually say – I love you. Tell your child often. “I love you – you are perfect just the way you are” means the world to a child – especially coming from a parent after a perceived setback.
Your Stress Busting Tip # 18 Remember – there is more to your child than their academic ability!
Your Stress Busting Tip # 19 Here is your tip for this week. Please think carefully about what it says. Your child is incredibly smart. When you believe it – your child believes it. And if you don’t believe it about your child – who else will?
Your Stress Busting Tip # 20 This is a truly awesome tip. Create a list of 10 Things I Love About You. Write a list of 10 things you love about your child. Have them write a list of 10 things they like about themselves. Refer to the list often and add to it regularly!
Your Stress Busting Tip #21 My awesome stress busting tip for this week is aimed at helping you and your child put school work into perspective. Try to de-emphasise school work. You don’t want your child thinking that school work is all you care about. Yes it is important. Yes they need to do well. But when your child thinks that your love is conditional on their performance at school, it does terrible things to their self-esteem. They (and you) need to see themselves as separate from their efforts at school, and worthwhile regardless of how well they are doing at school. The amazing thing is – once they realise that you love them regardless of whether or not they are doing well at school and that you believe they are smart and worthwhile, they do better at school.
Your Stress Busting Tip #22 Never, ever be ashamed of your child. They are who they are – wonderful, amazing beings.
Your Stress Busting Tip #23 – What is more important? A child who is happy or a child that is desperately trying to please you? If your child is happy, then your home life can be less stressful. A stressed child is an unhappy child. Nothing is more important than helping your child to be happy with who they are. Please remember – not everyone is going to shine in a classroom situation – it doesn’t mean they are any less smart – it just means they have unique talents that will flourish elsewhere.
My Awesome Stress Busting Tip #24 is Have Set Routines. Having set routines helps your child to know what is expected of them. If you have routines for the morning and routines for the evening that are followed regularly, your child will come to know what is expected of them, and you won’t be constantly chasing them to get their chores done.
Your Stress Busting Tip #25 is really important. Remind your child how much they have achieved already. Even in the midst of a “bad” patch, there are things to praise. Your child will be frustrated if they don’t seem to be progressing the way their peers are. Help them to see the things they have achieved, and remind them that they are different from a month ago. It helps your child to understand that we all grow at different rates if you can point out some things that their friends aren’t great at – but they are, and vice versa.
Stress Busting Tip #26 sounds so simple, but it is really important. Make eye contact with your child often – especially when they are talking to you. This shows them that you are paying attention to what they have to say, and that you think what they say is important. Most attention seeking behaviour comes from your child believing that you aren’t paying attention to them.
I hope my Tip #27 will help you get to know your child better. Make a time to have an intimate conversation with your child about things that interest them. If you set a time and a date that is regular, your child will know that they are important to you. Don’t use this time to focus on what could be improved. Use it as time to get to know your child better – what their frustrations are, where their interests lie, what is important to them. How many times has a parent heard this question – Why do I have to learn THAT? Stress Busting Tip #28 is one possible way to deal with this question.
Does you child enjoy one subject more than the others? If so, it is possible to insert this topic into their other homework. By relating the subjects they don’t like to the subject they do like, you can help them to see the relevance of the work. Sometimes maths may be the favourite, other times it may be science or history or sport. All use reading and writing, maths and interesting facts. By pointing out how one subject is related to another, and the need for learning the one less liked so that they can be better in the one they do like, sometimes you can lessen the resistance to doing homework.