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By Jodie Dawson, Psy.D.
Your child needs to be recognized and encouraged for things that he CAN do well. Is he a great runner, musician, or artist? Does he help around the house? Make an effort to give him praise for the little things he does. For example, you can say, "I really liked the way you did your chores tonight. I didn't even have to remind you. I don't know what I'd do without your help." When you take notice, you'll see that these opportunities are around every corner.
For parents it's natural to try to protect kids from life's harms and upsets, but at what expense? The less you tell your child, the more serious he thinks his problems are. Kids suspect the worst if parents don't talk to them. The more open and honest you are with your child, the more trust he'll have in your relationship. Let him know that you're going to get through this together. Include him in as many family meetings and appointments with professionals as possible. Tell your child what to expect in the meetings and talk about them afterwards to get his opinion on how it went. Simply, speak the unspoken to your child, and you will both benefit.
Let him know that you're available to listen to him, you won't tell him how he should feel, and you promise not to make judgments about what he tells you. You might have to take the first step and model the type of discussions you'd like to have with him. If you're nervous, you can write down some notes beforehand to organize your thoughts. Share your own childhood experiences - times you might have felt bad or embarrassed about school. This lets him know that he's not alone. You know what it can be like. You DO know what he's going through. You'll have to say it often, just be sure to say it - "I'm here for you if you want to talk."
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