Our son (fourth grade) says one specific kid in his class is a huge distraction — to my son as well as other students. He says the boy is always in trouble, never in his seat and needs special adult “attention” daily. How can we help our son when his issue seems to be someone else?
This is a great way to look at the issue; not blaming the child acting out in class but instead helping your son to deal with an ordinary (though annoying) school situation.
Every school includes all types of students with varying abilities for social interaction and self-regulation (managing their emotions and adjusting their behavior). Teachers must manage their classrooms by attending to the needs of every child — from the well-mannered and easily directed to the more challenging disruptive students — and sometimes it is a struggle.
To help your son, first validate his feelings about the situation. It is important to learn his feelings of frustration are valid and that there are better options than to just blame another.
Schools are typically aware of these behaviors and are likely working with the disruptive student confidentially. That said, letting your son’s teacher know about his unique experience can start a productive conversation and show him you take his needs seriously.
Certain strategies can help him maintain focus in class, such as making a point to get involved in class discussion or taking notes. His teacher might suggest other activities he can do at his desk that can provide some buffer to the distraction as well.
All YFS school-based counselors are familiar with the practice of mindfulness, which includes strategies for focus and attention. A free, confidential consultation with them is highly recommended.
Helping your child develop skills to deal with this frustration and showing him that you asked for assistance will serve him well. There will be many times in his future, at school or later in the workplace, where he is likely to face similar frustrations and will be able to draw upon these learned skills.
So even though this classroom situation might not be ideal for your child, proactively helping him to handle these situations will provide benefits now and in the future.
Cindy Goodwin is the director of Mercer Island Youth and Family Services. The advice offered by YFS is intended for informational purposes only and to guide you in seeking further resources if needed. The answers to questions are not intended to replace or substitute for any professional, psychological, financial, medical, legal or other professional advice. If you have a question you would like to ask Cindy to answer in this column, or if you need additional professional resources, email email@example.com.