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How to overcome learning difficulties

By Zoe Buckley 2 min read

Three of the best ways to help your child with their learning problems.

As parents, having a child who battles academically may feel daunting. With the right support system in place, along with a great tutor, parents can ease the pressure on the system and position their children for success by following a few basic steps.

1. Releasing guilt and shame

When our children experience learning difficulties, it is easy to take that as a sign that you have failed them. This can be followed by feelings of guilt and shame.

A child’s inability to perform well is not a reflection of anyone’s parenting skills. It simply means the child has encountered an obstacle and is battling to overcome it.

By releasing all the preconceived notions that tell us this is shameful, we are able to embrace the situation and face it with a positive mindset. Be careful not to downplay the immense frustration your child is experiencing—let them feel heard and ensure there is no guilt or shaming from your side.

2. Rewriting negative thought patterns

Many adults try to shame children into achieving. “You should have mastered this by your age” or “It’s actually quite simple” may feel like words of encouragement, but they’re harmful.

Behind every learning difficulty is a negative association with that subject. Research indicates that children who are shamed for failing to understand are less likely to try. We see this over and over. Breaking these negative associations is difficult, but necessary to achieve success.

3. Encourage your child

If you find it difficult to get involved without getting frustrated, acknowledge that those feelings of frustration are your own feelings. They are not caused by your child. Your child can only push buttons that already exist.

In these situations, it can be immensely helpful to involve a third party, such as a tutor. A happy brain improves information retention. Positive associations to learning will increase the brain’s ability to retain information.

There is a very simple explanation for this: When we are stressed or under pressure to succeed, the body is in fight-or-flight mode. The sympathetic nervous system is called to action to help the body survive. Adrenaline is released, the heart rate increases for more oxygen to the lungs and the thinking part of the brain, the frontal cortex, takes a backseat.

Think about it like this: How likely are you to understand calculus when you’re being chased by a lion? A child who is stressed and under pressure at school may be sitting still in their chair, but their brain and body have undergone the same chemical processes as if they were being chased by a lion. They cannot grasp the calculus, despite trying. It is a biological reality.

This is why it is crucial to get your child’s stress levels under control in order to engage the brain and allow it to absorb information.

Positive outcomes and greater academic success are achievable. Allow your children to attain their full potential, beyond what you could have envisioned.

Zoe Buckley started working as a one-on-one tutor with children and adults who have learning difficulties 10 years ago when she noticed students who struggled with a subject also had a negative emotion attached to the subject.