Posted by fxckfeelings on September 28, 2017Share This Post
It’s hard to watch your child struggle in school, even when your child is old enough to rent a car and the school work that’s giving him trouble is for his master’s degree. Your parental reflexes tell you that you’re responsible for alleviating his pain and, when you can’t, you still can’t help but feel like a failure. Remember, however, that the pressure shouldn’t be on you to absorb his pain, but on him to absorb your values so he knows how to persevere and do tough things when he decides they’re worthwhile. You can never fix your kid’s problems, but if you teach him how to approach problems with the right ethics and expectations as his guide, he’ll have a set of tools he can use to help himself for a lifetime.
I have a son who has continually struggled in high school and now in college. He is very bright but has difficulty keeping organized and completing his work. The doctor prescribed him medication which he doesn’t like taking because he doesn’t like how it makes him feel, but when he does take it he does do better at getting his work completed. He’s now in his third year of college and is still struggling. He feels that there is a stigma attached to medication… that it’s a drug and he’s cheating by taking something. It also prevents him from getting a good night’s sleep. But he’s otherwise so slow at completing tasks it takes him nearly an hour to eat his dinner when I cook a meal. My goal is to get any suggestions that you might have to make his life easier.
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When a nice, ambitious kid can’t keep up with his peers at school and can’t deal with the side effects of the meds that can help, it’s natural for him to feel like a double fuckup; an academic failure without the medication and a cheater when he takes it, he feels stuck in a lose/lose situation. And you’re at a loss as to how to help.
Your goal, of course, isn’t to make his life easier or happier, because that’s just not possible; if it was, you’d have my job (along with some magic powers). It’s worth taking a hard look at whether he’s getting nothing out of college, because if he isn’t, then the studying and resulting misery may not be worth the trouble. If, however, his efforts are getting him an education that will improve his ability to lead the life he wants, then the pain and unhappiness are worth enduring, and you both deserve credit for pushing through it.
You can’t make him happy, but you can let him know how much you respect his accomplishments and how strongly you think he should, too. Your job isn’t to tell him that he’s special and he’ll succeed in the end. You both need to accept that he’s always going to be different, things aren’t going to come as easily to him, and his definition of success can’t be the same as everyone else’s…and that all of that is OK. Being negative about his situation—thinking of himself as “dumb” and as medication as “cheating”—will only make a tough job even tougher. As his parent, know how to disregard such destructive thoughts, show him how to judge his accomplishments more accurately, and give him pride.
You may not be able to make his studying easier or find a better medication, but you can do a lot of good by keeping his mind on the values that matter. Remind him that his college education isn’t an intellectual competition but an investment in acquiring intellectual skills for his own good reason, at his own pace, and in his own way.
Ultimately, he’s the one who must decide whether going to college is worth the extra trouble and bothersome side effects, as well as the time and tuition. If he can see that it’s worth doing, however, and puts in the extra effort while sacrificing other activities and enduring those side effects, then you’ve both got a lot to be proud of.
“I hate to see my son get tired and down on himself, but I admire his willingness to overcome obstacles and I will use our conversations to teach him how fatigue can distort your thinking and how you can use your values and experience to fight back and judge yourself accurately.”
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