Remember the old movie Groundhog Day, where Bill Murray ends up repeating the same day over and over, with the exact same frustrating result?
That’s pretty much what it feels like when your son or daughter is struggling to learn something new.
Which is why I want to give you some practical things that you can do whenever your child needs a little extra help.
De-stress the situation.
This is sometimes hard, but always so important.
Especially if your child is struggling with something really big, like learning to reading, remembering basic math facts, or writing a good essay (or even just a good sentence).
One of the most important things you can do is make sure they know their acceptance isn’t based on their success or their failure.
Tell them and show them that you love them just for who they are, not for what they can or cannot do.
Make sure you use their primary love language, whether it be a little gift with an “I love you just because you’re you” tag or some quality time together doing something they love.
It may appropriate to share your own struggles. Just don’t let them use that as an excuse to give up.
“I’ll just never be good at that because my mom wasn’t” should not become their default phrase.
You can also share stories about others who overcame the same challenge, like Albert Einstein and Kiera Knightly did with dyslexia, or a family member or friend who conquered a learning challenge.
Help them realize that they are not alone in climbing this mountain, and that they can make it successfully to the top with your help.
Wrap an arm around them and sing, “Just put your tiny hand in mine, there ain’t no hill or mountain we can’t climb…”
I got you babe.
And once you have de-stressed the situation, try this next step to help your child overcome their learning struggle.
Find the root of the problem.
You can’t fix the problem until you have figured out the root of the issue. Otherwise you may end up trying all sorts of crazy things that could cause more harm.
Remember when Phil decided to steal the groundhog and ends up driving off the cliff and into a fiery crash?
Nobody wants that kind of ending!
Take some time to look back at the first time or times that your child began to get frustrated with the concept or started missing those questions.
Often the root issue can be pretty simple to fix: it might just take a different explanation about a math concept or a new way to learn specific phonics sounds.
I’ve seen this many times with my tutoring students: once I help them understand that one key concept or skill…
They can switch over from circling around on the learning struggle not-so-merry-go-round to soaring away on the rocket of scholastic success.
You will probably need to ask a lot of questions to find out exactly what part of the process or concept that the child does not understand.
“What is the hardest part about —?”
“When does — get confusing?”
Encourage them to ask questions about what they don’t understand and make sure they know that they are safe to ask you any questions no matter how silly it may seem.
You can also ask them to explain to you how they think they should solve the problem, read that word or answer that difficult question.
After getting to the root of the problem, you can try this next struggle-reducing step.
Allow a do-over.
Do-overs were pretty much the entire plot of Groundhog Day, and even though some of the repeat days were a little more crazy than the others, there was a certain freedom in knowing that no matter what had happened earlier, there would be another chance to try something different.
“I’ve Got You Babe…”
And sometimes, this is exactly what your child needs to know as well.
Because our kids are just like us, and sometimes we are just stuck in a rut, and having a bad day…
or week…or year.
But just knowing that we can reset things with a do-over can be exactly the incentive we need to try again with a new attitude.
So, whenever possible, allow your kids a do-over.
It might involve cooperation with their teacher to allow them to redo an assignment…
Or even getting some extra help to learn those concepts from mom, dad, or an outside source like a private tutor.
But whenever possible, have them yell, “Do-over!” and give themselves a fresh new start.
Which brings us to the next way to help your child break free from their struggle.
Change it up!
One easy way to help your child with their do-over is to change things up a little.
Maybe it is the physical location of where they do their school work, like on a comfy couch or under the table in a fort tent.
You can also change up the time that they do their most difficult subject, possibly doing it first or trying it after some cool-off time on a rough day.
Honestly, I think one of the very best ways to change things up is to use games!
Games do so many positive things, including allowing players to take more risks and feel less pressure to get things perfect.
After all, it’s only a game.
I use games as often as possible with my private tutoring students, and it is often the “game-changer” for them in overcoming their learning struggles.
ThinkFun has some great math learning games, including my all-time favorite Math Dice games.
Cait, another homeschooling mom, has a great list of Language Arts games over at her site as well.
So, once you have de-stressed the situation, figured out the root of the problem, allowed a do-over, and changed it up a little, here’s just one more way that you can help your struggling learner.
Ask for help.
You need to know that you are not alone.
No matter how much you may feel like your kid is the ‘only one’ struggling, that is not true. There are always other moms with a child who is struggling with the same thing, or often something even worse.
Surround yourself with a support group of people who care about you and your child.
Whether you ask a good friend out for coffee and advice or look to those you trust in the online community, do the same thing you are encouraging your child to do: ask questions. Look for others who have children who are a little older and may have some ideas to try or just some encouraging words.
Just make sure that the people you are listening to have your and your child’s best interests at heart.
And if you have any further questions about this, please contact me!
I have spent the last 25 years helping students from Kindergarten through high school overcome all kinds of learning struggles through my individualized tutoring, and I would love to share any insight and encouragement with you about your situation.
Comment below with any additional ideas for helping your struggling learner or contact me with specific questions about your child.
Here’s to helping each of our struggling learners move forward into success!