Most of us know without being taught that children are defenseless from the moment they are born. Think about it — a newborn baby cannot regulate their own body temperature. Their eyesight is nearsighted at best. These little nuggets can’t even hold their own heads up! Without the support of their parents, babies are completely defenseless. So, they need us: their grown-ups. Advocating for our children’s needs is one of our most important duties as parents if we want to them to survive and then succeed.
Please don’t misunderstand me. What defenseless newborns need from their parents looks much different than what a middle schooler or even a teenager needs. Yet I would argue that even teenagers have limitations to their defenses.
How Do We Develop Defenses?
Teenagers lack two major things: life experiences and a fully developed brain. These limitations impact how well they are able to defend themselves. Let me give an example of this. By raise of hands, parents, how many of you have been scammed at some point in your life? My hand is going right up there with yours. What I learned in my youth — through falling prey to a scam — is how not to fall prey to scams! I have referred to this life experience many times in my rolodex of experiences to avoid falling into another scam. So, because of experience, now I don’t get scammed.
Our teenagers have not had all the life experiences adults have, which leaves them without the appropriate defenses. For this reason, they need us to teach them. They need our shoulder to cry on when they make mistakes. They need to know we were all there once.
Helping our teenagers build an arsenal of life experiences is just one way our children need us to advocate for them, but there are so many other important ways. One of the areas that has come to my mind as we enter back into the trenches of school is advocating for our children’s needs in the educational environment.
Advocating for Our Children’s Needs Educationally
What does this mean? Because our kiddos have so many unique qualities, some are good at art and struggle with reading. Some have a great sense of humor and struggle in math. Some excel in history but have poor reading comprehension. These unique traits require advocacy to achieve success, but our children are defenseless or nearly defenseless in advocating for their own needs in the classroom.
Did you know that there is a set of laws that requires schools to provide additional support to your child if they are struggling academically? Did you know that if your child is struggling academically, you can request an evaluation in writing and the school has a limited time frame in which they can respond, justifying a decision to test or not to test? I can almost guarantee the majority of your children do not know this. They may not even be aware that they are struggling. Instead, they might see themselves as the “stupid” or “bad” kid.
This is why your children need you to advocate for their needs. They need your life experiences, your wisdom, your tenacity. They need you to use your boldness and strength to advocate for their needs at school this year. They need you to research the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). And when the school says no but in your heart of hearts you know something is off, your kids need you to go back and fight harder for them.
I have worked with many children on Individualized Education Plans (IEP) or 504 accommodations. There are laws in place to help your child succeed. The school, in fact, is there to meet your child’s need to succeed. You are there to advocate for you children’s need to get the support available to them.
Parents, advocate on! Use your resources, your defenses, and your wisdom to help your child succeed. And when you need help, Dawn Institute is there to help both you and your child succeed.