Parents feel they have failed their son

Q: Our son is being held back a year in school — we feel we’ve failed as parents. How do we help him adjust to repeating his grade level? What should we do if the other kids start to tease him about it?

Jim: It may be tough for him to see right now, but being held back in school isn’t the end of the world. Also, childhood problems and struggles don’t necessarily point to parental failure.

Failure is part of life, but too often adults try to put a positive spin on everything that happens to a child. It might be much more beneficial to allow this to be a character-building experience that teaches your son how to take defeat and disappointment in stride.

For an elementary school child, repeating a grade can be a great opportunity to nail down foundational skills. It can allow time to develop emotional intelligence and maturity. Status as an older (and possibly bigger, stronger) kid may also give him a social edge with his classmates. The experience is harder on a teenager, but if an extra year of work is what it takes to move forward, there’s no permanent harm done.

In regard to teasing, to some extent children have to learn how to face such adversities on their own. Your son could try to enlist support from teachers or other school authorities. Meanwhile, do everything you can to bolster his confidence and reassure him of his value as a person. If his classmates call him “stupid,” ask him if he believes it. Talk things through with him until he learns not to take insults and bullying to heart.

This is also a good time to determine why your child has been struggling in school. Learning styles, learning disabilities and relational or family conflicts all impact performance. Seeking help from a licensed professional, such as a learning-style specialist or family therapist, can help him get back on the road to success.

Our counseling staff would be happy to discuss this situation with you over the phone; call 1-855-771-HELP (4357).

Jim Daly is an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program.