Here are six things to keep in mind as you teach your child with LD how to navigate the ups and downs of his or her own emotional terrain.
Get your own house in order.
If you’re anxious about your child’s learning disability, if you’re fearful about his or her future, if you find yourself tearing your hair out every time you turn around, then you may need to first take a look at your own coping strategies. How do you handle stress? What messages are you sending yourself about your parenting skills? What kind of support system do you have in place?
If you learn to relax and better address your own emotional challenges, you’ll be doing yourself and your whole family a big favor. Remember the flight attendant’s advice: Put the oxygen mask on yourself before you put it on your child. Doing so helps you to breathe, to accept your child’s differences, and to build on his or her strengths. Yes, it’s true a child with LD may never be a great reader, but many successful people—from Greg Louganis to Whoopi Goldberg to Richard Branson—have had LD and they’ve done just fine—in fact, better than fine.
Use and teach a vocabulary of emotions.
You want your child to know what it means to have empathy for others or to demonstrate gratitude or to savor nature’s beauty. In addition to modeling behaviors like these, name and praise these positive behaviors when you see them in your child. This will help cultivate a sense of emotional awareness and sensitivity.
Likewise, kids need to also know how to name negative emotions. Ask what stress feels like for them, where they notice it in their bodies, and what they think might have caused it. This isn’t always an easy exercise, particularly for a child with language-processing issues, says Chris Schnieders, PhD, director of teacher training at the Frostig School. It takes some work to figure this all out, and that’s where a parent’s gentle questioning and calm explanations can make a difference.