How To Help Improve Your Child's Confidence In School

Helping Your Children Cope with Stressful Situations in School

Smiling woman assisting son with homework
How can you increase your child's confidence at school and lessen the stress?. Hero Images/Getty Images

How can you help your child become more confident in school and prepare him for the stressful situations which inevitably arise?

School Can Be Intimidating and Scary to Kids

As an adult, most things in life are not too scary. Certainly, we get nervous from time to time, but it is easy to forget how the world looks to a child. Of course, some children have more self-confidence than others, but for children who are insecure and also those with learning disabilities, the school can appear to be a pretty scary place, regardless of the child's age.

Even routine educational activities can be a source of stress to children. For example, the pressures of exams and even occasional pop quizzes can put a lot of pressure on children, and while they are an important part of education, it is important to help your child approach such trials with confidence. Helping your children to build their own confidence and self esteem now will help them develop important coping skills that will help them throughout their lives.

Determine Your Child's Problem Areas in School

Try to take a note of which subjects your child likes and dislikes. Some subjects will be obvious favorites, and that is always a good sign that your child may cope well in those courses. However, the subjects that your child does not like are most likely to be the ones in which his or her confidence will need greater support.

Anytime your children seem to be avoiding certain subjects, or even faking illness on the days that they have those subjects, you should consider whether it is because of a confidence issue.

Reluctance to go to school in a child with a disability may also indicate that his or her academic needs are not being met or perhaps accommodations and specially designed instruction are not being provided appropriately.

Give Your Child Confidence by Commenting on Specifics

Almost every parent likes to shower their children with praise, but it can sometimes be helpful to be a little bit more specific.

Children expect their parents to tell them that they are beautiful, clever, and wonderful. A great way to help your child build confidence, however, is to comment specifically on things at which your child excels. Most children struggle with some things and have a natural ability with others. Unfortunately, gifted children often don't realize how talented they really are. Anytime you notice that your child is good at something, let him or her know with specific, genuine praise.

The nice things about noting specifics is that it will not only help your child recognize his talents, but can help him build confidence even when he seems to lack talent. For example, if your child is particularly challenged by a specific subject or task, but is coping well, you may wish to comment on his ability to stick with a hard task or remain calm even when stressed. In fact, one of the most supportive things you can do as a parent is to praise not just the school work your child excels at, but her attitude and emotional outlook as she works on those tasks.

Listening to Your Child

Children like it when you pay attention to them—just like adults do. When your child is telling you something that happened, do your best to give him your full attention and actively listen.

Active listening is different than passively listening.

Children are very astute at recognizing when you are truly listening and when you are just hearing them talk. Make eye contact with your child, ask questions that demonstrate your interest, and make sure your body language conveys that your are listening as well.

Try to respond constructively and avoid being dismissive and making vague, general responses like "that's nice dear." If you don't actively listen, your child will get the message that whatever he is saying is not important enough to receive your full attention. If you catch yourself not listening—if you realize that you've been listening but haven't really heard what your child has to say—ask your child to repeat himself and apologize for being distracted.

As you look for ideas on praising your child, take a moment to practice your own listening skills. (We all want to teach our children good manners and etiquette, such as being active listeners, but sometimes forget that our own behavior is their greatest teacher.)

Take the Fear Out of Parent Conferences

Parents can, often sub-consciously, put a lot of pressure on their children, and when parent conferences roll around it can be a scary time. When you come back from a parent conference, avoid the temptation to tell your children what they're doing wrong and instead focus on the positives.

Telling your children about their weaknesses isn't necessarily constructive. Instead, consider a discussion with their teachers about how you could help your child improve upon those weaknesses. Create a plan and act on it. Make sure, however, that you don't make these discussions imply that your child both has a weakness, and lacks the maturity to be involved in the discussions.

If you wish to support your child in any problem areas, address these problems as something you and your child plan to tackle together. In this way your child, instead of feeling the odd one out, will feel you have his back and are a team with him as he addresses his weaknesses.

Helping Outside of Outside of School

Extra-curricular activities are rarely a bad thing, so give your child every encouragement (without pressuring him) to try new things. Clubs and groups are a great opportunity for your children to practice socializing with new friends and, away from the pressures of school, this can really help with insecurities and help build confidence. If your child excels in any of these areas, make sure that you don't take the limelight away. For example, make sure that the positive attention is directed at your child, rather than you for suggesting he take part in a particular activity.

Being Open Towards Your Child

This is a simple tip, but one to live by. Always be nurturing and loving, but also speak to your child about his education. Let him know that if he has any problems at school he can talk to you. It seems obvious, but to a child, it might not be, so just knowing that you're there can often make scary things a little less scary. As noted earlier, make sure your child realizes that you are in his court and are a part of his team when facing difficulties. The world is much less scary to a child who feels he is not alone.

Sources:

Kliegman, Robert M., Bonita Stanton, St Geme III Joseph W., Nina Felice. Schor, Richard E. Behrman, and Waldo E. Nelson. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th Edition. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier, 2015. Print.

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