Back-to-school can be a stressful time of year for both children and parents. Adding learning differences to the equation can increase levels of stress and may lead to anxiety. Reducing stress overall definitely helps the entire family be happier.
Children with dyslexia need additional emotional support to get through a school day, and to give them the strength to fight their battles in the academic world. Below are some tips for relieving the stress of going back to school for students with dyslexia. Also included are things to watch out for to keep children healthy physically and emotionally.
- Set routines for the school day. This will lessen the pain and frustration of the hectic mornings and dreaded evenings with homework. Preparing school backpacks the night before or doing homework right after dinner as part of the daily routine will reduce tantrums at the end of a busy day. Let children help set the schedules and routines so they can own the process.
- Hold a meeting with the teacher. Explain the student’s strengths and weaknesses. Confirm accommodations the student will receive. Depending on the level of support from the teacher, it might also be helpful to include the student in part of the meeting, and allow the student to take an active role in advocating for him or herself. If the teacher is not knowledgeable about learning differences, share articles and resources that best explain the support the student will need.
- Allow for downtime during the school year. Children with dyslexia need plenty of downtime after a demanding school day in order to rest their overworked brains. Adding too many extracurricular activities might reduce the valuable time they need to recharge their batteries. Decide as a family what to prioritize and how much to commit to during the school year. Especially focus on activities that reinforce the children’s strengths and boost their self-esteem.
- Make sure the children get enough sleep. They should not sacrifice sleep on a regular basis for homework or other activities as lack of sleep negatively effects cognitive skills and behavior.
- Listen to what your children have to say. As parents, we often want to ease our children’s fears and solve their problems. When your children express concerns or share their worries about school, take a step back and just listen. Do not try to dismiss them by saying everything will be fine or jump in to fix the issue. Instead, acknowledge their feelings so they know home is a safe place for them.
- Be on the watch for signs of anxiety. If the worry and stress turn into anxiety—especially if the anxiety interferes with school attendance or daily routines—reach out for professional help.
- Ease your own worries. Many parents worry about their children’s academic future and self-esteem due to learning differences. Be cautious not to pass on this worry to the children.
Our children are more than their ability to read or spell. There is so much more to them than their grades or academic success. At the end of the day, just let them know that you believe in them and their ability to be successful.
Cigdem Knebel is the founder of Simple Words Books, a parent of a dyslexic child, and author of Sam Is Stuck, a chapter book for young dyslexics. She believes that all children love to read—they just need to find that right book for them.
Her mission is to help young dyslexics, and reluctant and early readers with fluency, comprehension and, most importantly, self-confidence. She accomplishes this by publishing fiction books, and reading and phonics practice resources with the skills of young dyslexics in mind.