How to Empower your Child to Self Advocate in Life and in School
“Always believe something wonderful is about to happen!”
Learning how to self-advocate as an adult begins in the preceding years at school, and learning to be your child’s example of what self-advocation looks like starts small and, with time, will spill over into more complex issues to tackle if needed. A parent can never anticipate if their child will be an individual that will need to learn the life skill of self advocation. Most children can naturally speak up for what they need and want, especially if they desire it. What does a parent do when a child struggles to self-advocate, especially if more significant challenges arise. For example, bullying, body shaming, not making friends, school life can be full of challenges. While some kids are naturally assertive, some children can be shy and reserved by nature, unfortunately making them subjects of bullies. Knowing how to self-advocate on more challenging issues for children is a learned skill.
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Here’s How to Empower your Children to Speak up for Themselves:
Self Advocating for the Shy Natured Child
Self-advocating for the shy-natured child can be incredibly difficult for them. Speaking up for themselves is not within their natural nature. One crucial way to empower your shy child is to “Not Talk” often about their shyness but rather verbalize their other characteristics quality they may have like, humor. Do not allow this label to be a dominant of who they are but rather just part of who they are as a person. Avoiding labeling your child “shy” will develop their self-worth by knowing they have many qualities. For example, when presented with the moment when meeting new people, rather than tell people that your child is shy, tell them that they take time before warming up to people. Allowing your child the time to feel out other people and gain the self-confidence to assess an individual will allow your child to develop and hone their intuition. Also, avoid pushing your child too hard to socialize or speak up in public places but rather encourage the moment by example. When a parent models the moment themselves, that instantly provides a visualize for your child to carry with them in possible future moments themselves.
Practice makes perfect: Life is filled with moments to practice the necessary skills for a more fulfilled life. Starting small in controlled situations like a family dinner of cousins and giving them chances to practice ways to grow past their shyness will make more extensive problems easier to self-manage and self-advocate. Learning social skills while at home and use parental positive reinforcement with time will show the progress parents desire for their children.
Another way to help a child move past shyness is to find ways to support others. In life, when we’re helping others to be a better version of themselves, we are the most fulfilled. So to find your local charity and foundation and volunteer at a place that can bring joy to another child. The feeling of many a difference in someone else life is tremendous empowerment a parent can offer a child.
Teach Them to be Self-Advocates
Self-advocacy is the ability to communicate what one wants precisely. A child who shares their needs effectively learns how to speak up, become more confident, and perform better in school. Self-advocacy also helps children to be independent and to stand up for themselves when challenged. They also communicate their problems more to teachers and parents, hence getting necessary solutions for possible issues.
Practice makes perfect: Children begin to self-advocate at a very young age and, in truth, better than most adults do. Why do they stop? Usually, because they felt a sense of guilt or shame surrounding the desired expression by an adult. How do we as parents continue to support them in speaking up and asking freely for what they want and yet be mindful of the individuals around them as well? It starts with us, and it’s a minimal action to add to our everyday language. Express a personal desire that also includes the benefit of those around you. For example, a parent can express that I need a beach day to recharge after a long week even though everyone wants the park because it’s how we have the most fun together as a family, which lifts my spirit. That immediately switches gear to how everyone can benefit and share simultaneously as a family. Teamwork!
Prepare Them in Advance.
A child can learn assertiveness ahead of joining the school or any new situations. For example, you can role-play skills while still at home on how they could handle different situations. Also, teach the child how to question things they disagree with and what to do when uncomfortable. You can also teach her how to trust their intuition or gut when in compromising situations. Finally, always encourage your child to share their thoughts about problems in school or any situation. This way, they will develop a character of speaking up and sharing information with others.
Practice makes perfect: Open up a dialogue with your child about what they might find challenging to deal with in different kinds of situations and then role-play and or model ways to handle those kinds of moments. The most effective way is to empower your child’s abilities to self-advocate is to let them practice using their own words to solve the situation. Speaking up and acting out possible events in advance will reinforce the skills needed if the moment arrives to utilize.
Please remind your child that most often, when someone, whether it be an adult or child, acts out in ways that are not their best selves, they may be having a difficult time in life. That does not mean one should not speak up but rather something to keep in mind when dealing with any individual in life.
When to Step In
Once a parent feels they have equipped their child to self-advocate, when does a parent step begin to step back. Being protective of your child’s well-being is necessary and natural for any parent. The problem occurs when you become overprotective or step in too soon while your child is gaining their footing to advocate for themselves. Your parental instinct to help and protect your child is always strong. You should, however, allow your child to make mistakes on this journey since it is a meaningful way to gain strength but, most importantly, perspective. Babies, for example, will not learn how to walk without falling. If you keep holding your child from falling, they may never take that leap of faith and walk independently. The same happens when you keep protecting your children from confronting small challenges on their own.
Practice makes perfect: Stepping back when your child is dealing with small challenges, even if when they may experience a sense of emotional pain, is necessary to help them learn to either seek support, change methods, walk away, etc. Learning to ask for help is the most effective form of self advocation. Learning to utilizes the resources around you to solve a problem is a powerful tool. Much too often, parents step in before their child realized how to solve a situation.
Overall, empowering your child to problem-solve and handle various situations is a beautiful goal! Your child will also realize in the process that confiding in you, the parent for support in addressing challenges is the most incredible resource they have—Win-Win in self-advocate, self-confidence, and a fantastic bond between parent and child.
Because life happens on the Yard and in the classroom, and it takes both environments to shape a “Whole Child”! Learn more about our parenting classes and SEL Family Classes.