Your child needs to learn to self-advocate in order to communicate with others, become independent, and grow into a self-sufficient young person. Self-advocacy includes: taking responsibility for communicating with others, speaking up for yourself, knowing how to get help, and being able to listen to others. Helping your child learn how to express their needs and desires will build the foundation for confidence and self-awareness as they grow older.
Here are three ways for your child develop this important skill:
1. Learn How to Ask
Often, children have a hard time identifying what is wrong, or what they need. Teach your child to express why they want or need something. If they ask for something, prompt them to express why they were asking. That way, you are guiding them to first consider, and then communicate, their needs in a given situation. Encourage them to ask for needs both inside and outside of the house. For young children, it can be helpful to give them scripted words to use.
2. Take Responsibility
When children have tasks that they are able to complete, their confidence grows. Try giving your child regular chores, or a short list of responsibilities that they need to complete daily. Learning how to handle and practice responsibility positively will build your child’s self-esteem.
3. Talk about Strengths and Weaknesses
One thing that can help young people to self-advocate is knowing their own strengths and weaknesses. Consider different kinds of strengths, and point these out to your child regularly. Take note of their successes! Likewise, being aware of areas for growth is helpful for children. If they are aware of their weaknesses, this can help them communicate with teachers about challenges. It is important to always frame discussion of weaknesses with a “growth mindset”—encouragement will help your child’s confidence!
Above all, observe and communicate! Learning to self-advocate depends on conversations with parents and role models, as well as consistent encouragement. Give your child the language and the confidence to ask for what they need—and watch their self-advocacy grow.