Building confidence in a child with special needs can be a challenge for both child and parents. Laurie Wallin gives some practical advice in this post about a recent confidence building adventure with her daughter.
Helping Our Kids Press Into New Abilities
by Laurie Wallin
“OW!” She cried, rubbing the sore thumb. She tossed the hammer down on the workbench. Folded arms, scowling deep, she demands: “Help me, mom!”
“I’ll steady the nail, but the rest is all yours, kiddo. I know you can do this,” I assured her.
Confidence Building 101
Four rounds of this, a few large meltdowns and thirty minutes later, she held the small wooden truck in her hands. A toy she’d built herself at the family day we attend monthly at a local hardware store.
With bipolar, developmental delays (none of which impeded the task of the moment), and post-traumatic stress and anxiety issues from early life in foster care, this was no small feat! Honestly, the amount of frustration it causes me has had me nearly throwing in the towel multiple times. After all, it’s pretty embarrassing to have a tall 10-year-old kid who LOOKS “normal” have a tantrum like a toddler…
Confidence Building Tools
Here are a few tools that get me through so we can get her through these moments that can build such confidence and joy:
- Breathe – Notice my body’s response (breathing, posture, tension) and actively relax my body and breathing so I can cope well.
- Affirm the truth – What people see isn’t what’s really happening. No matter what they think, I’m doing something important here and so is she. I won’t remember or see most of these people again, but my daughter will remember this for the rest of her life.
- Take care of me – Get a hug from hubby or work with one of our other girls.
- Smile – This simple gesture diffuses a lot of tension when we’re trying to help our kids and they’re getting frustrated with themselves.
- Support (but don’t do the whole task) – I held the nail and guided the hammer. I read and followed the directions out loud, conveying my own questions and thoughts as I went.
- Get out of the way – At one point, I left the area completely to process the feelings and tension growing inside. It was toward the end, and when I came back, she’d struggled through the last pieces. I returned to a composed child, admiring something she never thought she’d make. (And yes, that moment brought tears. Tears that would have had trouble coming through a wall of stress if I’d let it get out of hand inside.)
Confidence Building Is Hard Work
It’s probably one of the hardest things we have to do as parents of children with special needs: assist their growth and exploration. We want to save them the intense frustration. We want to save ourselves the grief and embarrassment. But really, over all of it, we all want our children to hold their lives in their hands and smile wide in admiration for all they’ve accomplished. It’s what drives us, comforts us and gives us hope.
How Do You Help Your Child Build Confidence?
When your child needs a confidence booster, what do you do? Which of Laurie’s strategies are you going to try when the opportunity arises. Leave a comment, and then connect with Laurie at lauriewallin.com, You can also click on this link to download the first fifteen pages of her upcoming new ebook You Are Truly Perfect.
Laurie Wallin is a wife and mom of four – two adopted with developmental delays, mood disorders, and ADHD. A former junior high teacher turned speaker and life coach, she loves to learn, laugh until their sides hurt, and help women be courageous in life.