This is a good time of year to take a few quiet moments and reflect on your parenting of your child with learning difficulties. What are your feelings about your child’s struggles? How do your feelings impact your parenting style? Are you able to hold your child accountable for breaking rules? Do you attribute poor behavior to his learning challenge and dismiss it? The other extreme is pretending that the learning challenge does not exist, such as expecting your daughter to entertain herself for an extended length of time at a family gathering, without bringing something for her to do or rehearsing what is going to happen there. Or getting angry because you go to the grocery store with your son, and he adds $20 to the bill with extra treats (impulse control is not his strength).

It’s important to set realistic goals; not only for the lofty goals we may have – my daughter will attend an Ivy League college, or my son will get a soccer scholarship. Sometimes a realistic goal is a simple one – my son and I are going to get through the grocery store without a major fight over what he is putting in the shopping cart. Have a plan to make that happen. You could give the boy a budget such as $4.00 to pick something that he wants. You could assign a purchase, such as choice of breakfast cereal.

Another realistic goal might be making it through a large family gathering without a huge tantrum. How are you going to do that? Choose a length of time that you are going to stay, 60 minutes for example, and let your daughter know the schedule. Prepare activities that your daughter enjoys and maybe a snack that will go in her bag. During the time at grandma’s, check in with her, maybe giving her a “thumbs up” and a smile. Make your exit at the end of the allotted amount of time, even if things are going well.    

This time of year can be especially difficult for you as a parent with a child who struggles in school. It is not just because the children are home for an extended period of time. Gatherings of family and friends can be tough on your morale! Discussion turns to the wonderful accomplishments of other people’s children. You might feel sad as you listen to these conversations. Maybe your daughter is not on the championship volleyball team – as a matter of fact, she does not get much time on the court at all. But your daughter does understand perseverance, supporting her team, and the importance of trying new things (with your help). How about the way your son makes other people feel important because he is such a good listener, and by the way, is a great salesman for the Scout fundraiser? But he can’t spell worth a darn and his reading pace is slow.

Maybe your children will never get a high score in Reading on a standardized test. Think of the personal qualities that will serve them in their future. Neither spelling nor reading speed determines your child’s integrity or their ability to make friends.

Blogger Mary Ann Mulcahey, PhD, shares her expertise in assessment and diagnosis of learning disabilities and ADHD, and the social/emotional adjustment to those issues. If you have questions, please contact Mary Ann at mmulcahey@springer-ld.org.

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