Help! My Child Is Struggling in School

8 Oct

Chistina Murphy, LPC, the Program Director for Griffith Centers for Children and Jessica Rock, MA, MFT, a Community Clinical Supervisor came and spoke to the group last week about strategies to best navigate educational options and services that may be available through schools.  Also highlighted were a host of parenting and communication tips to ease children through rough spots.


Christina described the benefits of positive parenting (reinforcing positive behaviors you wish to see more of-no matter how trivial-while downplaying the negative ones we wish discourage). Jessica offered a video game analogy:  when playing a game, often a desired outcome is reinforced by many bells and whistles, while a “miss” is accompanied by a brief “wa-waa” sound, then the game continues, without further fanfare.  The speakers offered the reflecting technique where you reflect the emotion being expressed (” I see you jumping up and down, are you angry/anxious/excited/ upset?”).  Recognize some behaviors for what they are–attempts to self-regulate negative emotions.  You can redirect the behavior to something safer, for example, “how about we stop jumping on the bed, and jump rope outside?”.  Jessica endorses trying for one or two small goals daily.  Jessica suggests asking the child what consequence they think they should receive when they transgress.  Whenever possible, it is helpful to build continuity between reinforcement systems used at school and at home to best support the behaviors we want to see.

A handout provided a useful tool parents can use to describe our emotions.  Sometimes, just labeling the emotion makes them more manageable.  It is important to stay present physically to the child, if having trouble regulating emotion. Try not to reinforce tantrum behavior by providing the desired object, rather try to praise efforts by offering something pleasurable, like a hug (reinforces calming down).  One technique is to offer a “Self-Control Contract” where kids agree to ideal goals for emotion regulation (example: I agree to use an inside voice, ask calmly for what I need, etc”). Another handout the speakers reviewed anger management, both in parents and in kids.  Of course, modeling anger management for our kids is an ideal way to teach it.

Finally, the therapist outlined the different plans available through school: 504 Plan vs individual education plans (IEPs) and how to distinguish between them.

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