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Parental Anxiety: 8 triggers that make homeschooling a child with learning differences harder

Many of us are finding the new need for homeschool stressful. And it’s not just because now in addition to being a teacher we are now also butlers, chefs, and technicians. The busy work and ensuring assignments are done are only half the battle –  there’s also an emotional load. This is particularly true of parents whose children have learning differences. 

Stressed parent coronavirus

Here are 8 triggers that can increase parental stress when homeschooling during COVID-19 lockdowns, or anytime:
1. Fear of Setbacks

Parents of children with learning differences know setbacks. They’ve been through them before, and they’ve worked very hard to help their child overcome them. In general if your child has a learning disability you carry more anxiety about your child falling behind than a parent whose child performs well in the traditional learning system. Watching your child’s learning challenges isn’t easy. Whether they are challenged with memory, organization, or reversals it is worrisome. It’s hard not to jump into the future wondering how your child will thrive despite these challenges.

2. Competitiveness:

Let’s face it, we live in a competitive society. We have our own educational experiences with trying to be the best or struggle when we did not get that A. It’s very hard to accept that each person has a unique set of skills, and that sometimes those skills don’t apply well to school work. Our own competitive histories can make it harder to watch a child struggle, and increase our fear that they are falling behind the others. Competitiveness increases comparing, and comparing increases anxiety. 

3. Stress About MORE Services

Most parents have worked pretty hard to get services and accommodations for their child. Unfortunately the school system doesn’t make this process easy. It’s hard during this time to not jump ahead and wonder what battle you may have to undertake again to get new services or revisiting IEPs. Especially since most homeschool programs are pretty minimal compared to what happens in school.

4. Unknown Terrain, Again.

Parents of kids with learning differences have waves of living in unknown terrain. It’s normal to have moments where it feels like you have your child moving along in school and other times where you know they just aren’t making the strides they need. Being in a place of unknown is hard, and now with COVID-19 you find yourself here again. And not just with what’s happening in the pandemic, but also what’s happening with your child’s learning.

5. Little Trust

Let’s face it, trust in your child’s school is hard earned. Most people feel like they have to stay on top of schools to make sure their child’s needs are being followed. As schools transition to online learning this anxiety can arise again. Will school be able to accommodate your child’s needs virtually? Will the teacher keep your child’s individual needs met, whether it be spelling tests, writing assignments, or math work? Can you trust that what assignments your child is given will help them be prepared for the next grade level? 

6. Your Child is Different From You:

It can be very hard to watch your child flounder or struggle with tasks that come easy to you. Something that feels like it could be done quickly or more efficiently can take a long time for children with learning differences. Frustration can grow as you watch the struggle. You may also feel like the things you can do have helped you, and anxious that your child doesn’t have access to those same things. 

7. Your Child is Like You

Watching your child struggle with the same things you did will trigger early experiences. Even experiences that are long forgotten will spike anxiety. It can be very hard when a parent relates so directly to their child, it’s very easy to project feelings onto them. This can cause a parent to be over or under reactive to a child’s educational needs. A parents anxiety could spike as they feel more confused on what to do. 

8. Loss Of What You Built

As a parent of a child with differences you’ve worked hard up until this point to move them towards grade level or hold them there. It’s very hard to consider that those efforts could be lost. That when school starts again, your child could find themselves behind the pack again. 

Dealing with homeschooling a child with learning differences is challenging under perfect circumstances. Under COVID-19 stay at home orders, and with work, other children, relational issues, and any number of stressers at play, it can seem impossible. The first step to coping with these things is awareness. I hope these reminders will jog your mind, so next time they are happening you can have more awareness.

Consider your own health and wellbeing during this process as much as possible, and reach out for help if you can, even if it’s just a quick phone call. If you have time, consider consulting with a therapist. If you are in the Los Angeles area (or are willing to continue remote therapy in the post-coronavirus world), feel free to schedule a free consultation with me.

I also suggest Susan Stiffelman’s Monday check ins as a supportive way to start the week. She interviews professionals who speak to the challenges of parenting during the pandemic. If you only have 6 minutes, this blog post from the website Happy Family is also very helpful. It’s a hopeful message about how the increased pressure of this time is also an opportunity for growth. Next week I’ll write about using art as therapy, engaging your mind in this unique way will also help with this intense growing process.