“She hates riding the school bus,” my friend Josie told me a few weeks ago over coffee. “But I feel like she needs to learn how to handle it or I’m going to be driving her to school for the next 12 years.” Josie sighed. “What do you think?” I immediately thought about my own experience as a kindergartener. “I hated it too,” I told my friend. “I had to sit three kids across and when one big kid in my seat flexed his bicep at me, I was scared. So, I begged my mom to drive me. And she did. I was so relieved.” I paused, thinking. “Do you know what’s bugging Alice about the bus?”
I checked in with Josie a week or so later and she said Alice was doing well, still riding the bus. “She didn’t like sitting in the back, so I had a chat with the driver and now she sits up front,” Josie said, giving me a smile. “Everything’s fine now!” Knowing when to step in and stop a child’s struggle can take some guesswork, a gut feeling, and some faith. Here are 5 times it’s OK to step in when you have a child struggling.
1. When She Feels Unsafe
Whether or not my mom thought I was in danger on the school bus, I thought I was and that was enough for her. That boy meant to intimidate me! She drove me to school every morning for the rest of the school year—and it meant the world to me! My mom believed me when I told her I felt unsafe. If it’s in your ability to step in and help, do whatever you can. And obviously, if the danger is real, make sure to talk to whoever’s in charge to assure your child’s safety is taken seriously.
2. When Struggling Benefits No One
There are several positive quotes about struggle and often these statements are true. But sometimes, struggling over something does no one any good. For example, if a child isn’t developmentally ready to do something, there is no sense in making him try. And try. And try. It’ll backfire. So, whether it’s school-related or something else, take a look at whether the struggle is appropriate at this stage in your child’s life. And if it’s not benefitting him, or anyone else, step in.
3. After She’s Struggled and the Situation Hasn’t Improved
We want our kids to develop grit. But what if you have a child struggling and nothing changes? At some point, we owe it to our kids to step in. My friend’s son had a hard time with baseball. Brendan just couldn’t hit. He tried. He really did. But eventually, his parents steered him toward swimming, a sport that didn’t involve hand-eye coordination. We all need to be able to see our children as who they are and help when the struggle doesn’t improve.
4. When Struggling Hurts His Learning
For a while, I had a child struggling in math class. After having a conversation with his teacher, we decided to move his seat up front. We also found a tutor to work with him after school. These accommodations worked for him. He improved quickly and his confidence shot up too. If you have a child struggling, get to the root of the problem, talk with those in charge, and help him get through it.
5. If the Struggle Spills Over Into Other Areas
Lucy struggled with making friends. It got to the point that she didn’t want to go to school. Her grades dropped and she lost interest in choir, an activity she loved. Her parents tried many potential solutions, but nothing seemed to work. Finally, they found something that did: karate in the next town over. With time, Lucy made two new friends who provided the support she needed. Sometimes, kids aren’t able to resolve struggles on their own and they need us to go the distance with them.
Sometimes, kids aren’t able to resolve struggles on their own and they need us to go the distance with them.
When have you had a child struggling and how did you help?
ASK YOUR CHILD…
What comes easily for you? What is hard for you?