Raising confident children - with dyslexia
Children with dyslexia and special educational needs often face challenges in their daily life, including stress, anxiety, and low self-esteem. They tend to experience a lot of difficulty at school and sometimes even express they feel anxious in class, especially when they need to read aloud in front of their peers.
We have a dedicated blog to help parents understand the effect of Dyslexia on the emotional well-being of children. Here are 3 practical exercises to boost their self-esteem and progressively rebuild their confidence.
Why do we talk about self-esteem?
With most of the children we work with, and from talking with their parents, we know that dyslexia has a direct impact on children’s self-perception.
Children with learning differences feel like they are constantly underperforming at school in relation to their peers. They are very aware of their difficulties and how it looks. This, in turn, progressively starts impacting their confidence in their abilities and, more broadly, their self-esteem. And self-esteem is something that can be challenging to build back up.
What can you about it?
On a “cognitive” level, it’s important that your child understands that their dyslexia is not related to their intelligence. They have to be able to separate the skills they are assessed on from what they are actually able to do. School can be unforgiving from that perspective: children are primarily graded on their ability to learn reading and spelling at the start of primary school. It is a system in which dyslexic children have few opportunities to shine. It’s important that dyslexic children understand this is just one part of the picture and is not indicative of their abilities as an individual.
On an “emotional” level, children with special educational need a little extra help overcoming the psychological burden that comes from underperforming at school. Did you know that children who are “poor readers” are more at risk of developing emotional troubles like depression, anxiety, fear of school, and social exclusion? This shows how important it is to work on instilling confidence and building up self-esteem for children who struggle with reading.
So where to start?
3 exercises to boost their self-esteem
#1. Celebrate the small wins.
#2. Help them set goals.
#3. Practice gratitude.
Another method for boosting self-esteem is practicing gratitude. It’s a very simple but impactful practice and is especially useful when your child is exposed to a lot of negative emotions that might reduce their sense of self-worth. The focus of practicing gratitude is to divert focus away from negative thoughts by encouraging them to reflect on positive experiences. It’s as simple as asking your child questions like:
- What are you thankful for today?
- What is one thing that made you smile today?
- What made you happy today?
- What is something that you are proud of?
Gratitude is not about ignoring negative emotions, and it is still crucial that children are able to express any fear, anger, or frustration that they experience so that these emotions can be acknowledged and processed together. However, once negative emotions have been addressed, practicing gratitude can help to shift their attention to more positive experiences and memories, building healthy and positive thought patterns.
It can take a lot of effort, especially when your child feels overwhelmed. Just like mindfulness, practicing gratitude is a skill and a habit that needs to be trained. In fact, since these practices go hand-in-hand, it is also helpful to do them together.
- Recognise negative self-talk: by practicing mindfulness, you become more aware of the thoughts and beliefs you have about yourself. Guiding your child through this can help you identify any negative self-talk or self-perception issues that may be on your child’s mind, and that they don’t usually express. By acknowledging these negative thoughts, you can start to challenge them and replace them with more positive and realistic ones.
- Focus on their strengths: mindfulness can help your child focus on their strengths and accomplishments, rather than dwell on their weaknesses or failures. By regularly reflecting on their positive qualities, you can help them build a more positive self-image and increase their self-confidence. This is not just about complimenting them, but helping them come to these conclusions or realisations themselves.
- Build resilience: you can help your child develop resilience and cope with difficult emotions and situations. This takes practice, but you can help your child slow down when they get frustrated, and observe their feelings or situations without judgment. This can help them bounce back from setbacks and distance themselves from perceived failures. As an adult, we know that we learn through failures. Children, however, have to be taught that failing does not make them a failure.
Building confidence together
Many studies have shown how parental involvement has a positive effect on academic achievement.
Increased engagement and a positive attitude to a child’s academic performance help to increase their self-perception of cognitive competence, or in other words, the belief that they have the necessary skills to be successful with academic tasks like reading and writing.
But academic achievement is not the only factor of success. Building up confidence and self-esteem is a very significant part of a child’s development, and parental involvement is definitely a large part of that.
Spending time reading and doing homework together can help them feel worthwhile by communicating acceptance, acknowledgment, and admiration, all of which boost their self-esteem and confidence. Of course, the balance between getting involved and letting them figure things out on their own can be just as important for their self-realisation. It can nevertheless be beneficial to acknowledge their worries about dyslexia and reading difficulties by showing them that you are in it together.
What do you think?
Let us know if this article was helpful!
Do you have any more tips and suggestions for improving your dyslexic child’s self-esteem and confidence? Share them with other parents in the comments!