A struggle so many kids are having is how to “make it” in school. The level of expectation continues to rise. The pressure to write more, sit longer, perform higher…all affects kids in different ways. At the same time, especially for the younger kiddos, there is less recess, less time to play inside and less socializing. Therefore there is less time spent developing skills like how to handle conflicts with peers, how to choose a game when there are different skill levels or needs, how to handle not feeling like they fit in with peers, how to ask questions when they feel stuck or what to do when they feel pressured to be a certain way.
It is heartbreaking to listen to stories of kids struggling so intensely at school. There are kids fighting going to bed at night because they don’t want to wake up and go to school. They dread another day in the classroom because they don’t understand their teacher but also don’t want to ask questions. They don’t want to sit because their bodies crave movement. They already see themselves failing at another task because their confidence is low. They don’t think their teacher cares about them. (And I know teachers care! Reality is many are so stressed, kids are merely picking up on the energy of overwhelm.) Parents are heartbroken. Scared. Feeling absolutely stuck. Hopeless.
Having been a teacher for 12 years, I can tell you teachers care and work a ton. Are there exceptions…probably. But I believe majority of teachers are doing the best they can to accomplish all that is on their plate. The system is designed to increase kids’ performance so they are prepared for college and to be successful in a world where technology raises the bar more quickly than ever before.
The disconnect for many kids though lies in not feeling seen, heard or understood. Their bodies are literally screaming at them. I have little boys who don’t know how to make peace with the movement their bodies need and how to be successful sitting in writing class for 45 minutes. In 2nd grade! They want to build. Create. Read about history, technology and sports. And when they don’t feel they have a voice or don’t understand the purpose of tasks, they feel stuck. Some act out. Others shut down. Still others begin to feel hopeless and wonder what the point is in even going to school another day. So they may show up, but choose to read or tune out the adults around them.
These are the kids I work with to help them understand the inner dialogue they have every moment. Although much is out of their control – they have to go to school – they get to choose how they show up. How they respond. How they speak up for themselves. How they handle the feelings they have. Many of these kids, by age 8 or 9, already feel so different, angry or unsuccessful, that their confidence is bruised and battered. I help these kiddos understand who they are, aside from how they perform in school or sports. I help them develop skills and strategies to create the story they want (an empowered story) vs. the current one many are creating (a victim story).
Most importantly, I help these kids feel heard, seen, valued and accepted. I help them feel safe to be who they are. Some kiddos bounce a ball the entire time we talk, some lay on the floor, one of my clients is learning to juggle while he shares his frustrations with me. We act out situations or use stuffed animals to think about different reactions or possibilities.
I feel so deeply for the kids who struggle in the classroom every day. I hear, see and feel their pain and their parent’s pain. I am determined to help kids know it can be different. And although I can’t be in every classroom with every kiddo, patting them on the back and reassuring them they’ll be ok, I can definitely help build their confidence, empower them to see what is in their control, teach them about their brain and expand their mindset. But most importantly I can let them experience what it feels like to be seen, heard and valued for the unique person they are. In feeling that, it is much easier to go out in the world, know what it is they want to be experiencing, feel empowered to create that story and believe it is possible!