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Helping Children Feel Good About Seeking Help in School
Tips from Teachers
Insights and Ideas from Smart Love teachers and tutors on how to help your children have a successful school year!
Sometimes it can be hard for children to ask for help. They can feel hesitant or inhibited because they may fear that it is a reflection of their abilities or have feelings of inadequacy or shame. But when parents are able to have conversations with their children about the importance of asking for help and framing it in a way that praises seeking help - it can have big impacts in their learning and school experience.
Helping Children to Identify Their Feelings: Sometimes children can have a hard time knowing when they could use some help. Conversations with students about their experience inside the classroom or during lessons can provide parents with information about what is going on for them. If your child shares that they are feeling frustrated, bored, confused, or even angry, parents can explain that these emotions are how our minds communicate to us that we could use some support.
Identifying Who Can Help: Help your child identify others at school, such as teachers, counselors, or the school nurse, whom they feel comfortable approaching for help or support. Explain that teachers are there to help them learn and to have a positive school experience. Friends and peers are also a great resource for help, especially if they're working on group projects or assignments.
Feel Good About Seeking Help: Sometimes children can feel afraid to ask questions as they fear being judged by peers or their teachers, but try to explain that everyone needs support in different areas and there is no such thing as a bad question. Parents can let their children know that if they seek help early before the content moves on, it can prevent further confusion. Examples could sound like, "Remember when you were struggling to memorize math facts, but then your friend created a game to help you understand it more? There are many different ways for all people to understand information - and it's okay to seek help."
Modeling Help at Home: Discuss with your child how asking questions is a sign of curiosity and a way to learn and grow. This can be demonstrated around the home, for example, when parents are cooking dinner, they can ask their child, "I could use some help. How many eggs does the recipe call for?" or "Could you help me and preheat the oven to the temperature listed on the recipe?" By modeling how to ask for help at home, children will understand that needing support is normal and doesn't undermine their capabilities.
How Students Help Teachers: Share with your child that when they ask for help from a teacher, it helps the teacher as well. Explain that teachers value students' feedback in regards to their lesson (i.e., not understanding vocabulary or a specific concept), which communicates to teachers which parts need further clarification. Children could say to their teacher, "Can you explain this part in a different way? I'm still confused about this story problem." When children understand how their questions can help their teachers, it can alleviate anxiety about approaching their teacher.
Problem-Solving Together: Emphasize that seeking help is a collaborative effort. Parents can strengthen this skill set by problem solving together at home. It could sound something like, "I noticed that you have been having a hard time finding your toys. I wonder what we can do so that it is easier to find them?" or "I noticed that you are having a hard time getting out the door for school on time. I wonder if there is anything we can do the night before so that the mornings are less hectic?" or "I see that you are stuck on that history question. I wonder where we could go online to try and figure out the answer?"
Celebrating Progress: Celebrate and praise the moments when your child takes the initiative to seek help and highlight how good it might feel afterwards. It could sound something like, "It's so great that you asked for help. It seems you are enjoying your math class better. How has this been for you?" When parents emphasize the positive aspects of children seeking help while leaving room for their child's potentially mixed feelings, it reinforces their willingness to continue their efforts and take risks even when facing challenges.
By teaching these concepts, you'll empower your child to navigate school confidently and to reach out for help when they need it, fostering a positive and proactive attitude toward their education. Explain that teachers and counselors will keep their conversations private when it's appropriate, but they might need to share important information with parents or other school staff if safety is a concern. If your child is communicating events that are troubling, reach out to their teacher or talk to a professional.
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