When your child struggles in school due to a learning disability, it can be all too easy to focus on what he can’t do instead of what he can. But research has shown that kids need encouragement and chance to focus on their strengths on a regular basis to live a happy, fulfilled life. Striking the right balance between shoring up weaknesses and giving your child opportunities to shine is crucial for his overall wellbeing and future success.
Research by Peter Benson shows that kids and teens need more than just academics to thrive, and this is especially true for kids who don’t excel in school due to learning disabilities. Benson’s life work was to dig into the idea of "spark," or passion, in students’ lives. Here’s what you need to know to nurture your child’s spark and bring joy to her life.
Sparks Bring Out the Best in Kids
Benson and his team interviewed hundreds of kids and teens to discover what made them tick, and the ones who were happiest all could identify their special spark. In some kids, this is an academic subject or creative outlet, like music or art. For others, it’s physical activity, leadership roles or volunteer work. A spark isn’t just something that’s fun; it should provide energy and make your child feel like his best self when he’s doing it.
If you’re not sure what your child’s spark is, ask her! If she’s not sure, then work together to see if you can discover what it might be. This might mean a period of investigation. Encourage her to try new clubs or activities, or see if there’s a talent that’s fallen by the wayside that could be revived. It takes some kids longer than others to find their passions, but it’s a crucial part of identity development.
Sparks Put Your Child in Touch With Other Caring Adults
Benson also strongly believed that kids and teens need as many supportive adults in their lives as possible. The more people that see and support the spark, the better adjusted your child will be. Students with learning disabilities are more at risk for missing out on these positive interactions with adults at school. If your child isn’t connecting with teachers, nurturing an extra-curricular spark will help him establish relationships with others in the community — a piano teacher or hockey coach can be an important role model.
The most important thing you can do as a parent is to be a champion for your child’s talents and passions. If her spark isn’t academic, that’s fine! Just help her find her own spark to foster high self esteem and happiness.