My son has a dream to graduate this year. But he struggles with school. How can I help him succeed? — Worried Dad, Edina
Sometimes life deals us lemons — and it can deal lemons to our kids, too. That is why teaching our kids to overcome obstacles, face-down difficulties and make lemonade is one of the best gifts we can give them — not just for this year, but for life!
The lemon called dyspraxia squeezed its sour juice over our daughter’s life when she turned 6 and was diagnosed. Dyspraxia — the dyslexia of math — explained why when our child looked at the number 3, she saw an 8. And why she’d misread an addition sign for a multiplication sign. And why the memorization of multiplication tables became an agonizing 100-hour mission that would finally be accomplished, only for the granules of knowledge to dissolve over time like sugar in water. And why, in a mathematical world of logical patterns, our daughter was not able to discern any.
While the dyspraxia diagnosis provided a lens into our daughter’s Alice in Wonderland math mind, it offered little in the way of solutions. Math became a lesson fraught with confusion, frustration and humiliation, and we were worried that over time our child might switch off from school or opt out altogether.
We also realized that if our daughter developed the determination, courage and fortitude to make lemonade from math, she’d have the knowledge, experience and resilience to face down other challenges that life might deal her, too. So we put our heads together and came up with a lemonade game plan — and called it Magic Lemon8. It didn’t lead to immediate lemonade success, but it did carve a path that was good for our daughter’s heart, mind and soul.
When she finally achieved her first A- grade ever in math on her report card this sixth grade year, we all celebrated — with a glass of lemonade!
Magic Lemon8: A Recipe for Your Kid and You
- Relate — Have a heart-to-heart and a soul-to-soul with your kid about the lemon in her life. Encourage your kid to vent. And vent again. Put your thoughts and feelings aside; listen and empathize! Don’t judge. Don’t explain. Don’t solve. Once your child feels heard and understood, the armor will come off and she’ll be ready to move onward and upward — and that’s when progress can be made.
- Educate — To better understand your child’s lemon dilemma, read around the problem, attend workshop or lectures, watch YouTube videos or attend counseling groups on the issue and chat with parents who understand. The more educated you are, the more help you can provide your child. That’s key!
- Create — Help your kid create a lemonade vision. Combine your education with examples from your own life, or from the lives of people you know, to illustrate that lemons come in all shapes and sizes (from divorce, to death, to disease to physical or learning disability) and can be overcome. Read biographies together about inspirational people like Helen Keller, Christy Brown and Aron Ralston (the young graduate who amputated his own arm to free himself from a canyon misadventure) and talk through the “possibility thinking” that each person employed to wrestle their own lemons into lemonade. Then help your child to fashion a plan to do the same.
- Advocate — No child should make lemonade alone. Advocate for your child with teachers, counselors and other professionals. Tell them what’s going on. Sign them up to help if they can and where they can. And line up family and friends to hold signs, stand in the road and provide a lemonade stand of emotional and practical support, too.
- Motivate — In trying situations, it’s easy for kids to grow despondent. Provide your child with motivational books like the Chicken Soup series, Connie Bowen’s I Believe in Me, or Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizukiffer. Sign your kid up to receive inspirational apps on her ipod or phone and watch motivational movies together like The Titans, The Karate Kid, and The Color Purple (as appropriate). Most importantly, use these vehicles to teach your child that there is no such thing as failure, only learning — which will ultimately teach them how to fly!
- Meditate — When the going gets tough, the tough start praying! Teach your kid to turn inwards for a little soul inspiration with prayer, meditational breathing and positive self-talk. Prayer and meditation also will open up your child’s intuitive channels, so encourage her to journal or keep a dream diary, as a way to record the intuitive guidance or clarity she may receive.
- Evaluate — Check in with your child about their lemonade progress on a weekly basis. Ask her how she’s doing, and what you can do to help. And if you or your child feels like her lemonade goal is too big or challenging, reevaluate and change it. After all, there are many recipes for making lemonade!
- Celebrate — The theologian Lynn H. Hough wrote, “Life is a journey; not a destination!” Celebrate each landmark moment along your child’s lemonade journey. High-five the low points, as well as the high. And when your child can finally say she made lemonade, you can both celebrate, together!
There will always be lessons and learning through life. Providing your kid with a lemonade recipe is a gift. And one they can always use — for a life that is less about lemons and more like a bowl of cherries!