Q: Our son is being held back a year in school -- we feel we've failed as parents. How do we help him adjust to repeating his grade level? What should we do if the other kids start to tease him about it?
Jim: It may be tough for him to see right now, but being held back in school isn't the end of the world. Also, childhood problems and struggles don't necessarily point to parental failure.
Failure is part of life, but too often adults try to put a positive spin on everything that happens to a child. It might be much more beneficial to allow this to be a character-building experience that teaches your son how to take defeat and disappointment in stride.
For an elementary school child, repeating a grade can be a great opportunity to nail down foundational skills. It can allow time to develop emotional intelligence and maturity. Status as an older (and possibly bigger, stronger) kid may also give him a social edge with his classmates. The experience is harder on a teenager, but if an extra year of work is what it takes to move forward, there's no permanent harm done.
In regard to teasing, to some extent children have to learn how to face such adversities on their own. Your son could try to enlist support from teachers or other school authorities. Meanwhile, do everything you can to bolster his confidence and reassure him of his value as a person. If his classmates call him "stupid," ask him if he believes it. Talk things through with him until he learns not to take insults and bullying to heart.
This is also a good time to determine why your child has been struggling in school. Learning styles, learning disabilities and relational or family conflicts all impact performance. Seeking help from a licensed professional, such as a learning-style specialist or family therapist, can help him get back on the road to success.
Our counseling staff would be happy to discuss this situation with you over the phone; call 1-855-771-HELP (4357).
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Q: As a newly single-again person, I've decided to try online dating. I thought it would make things easier, but it's overwhelming! I can't even decide where to start.
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Many singles try online dating sites for one simple reason -- they feel they need more choices than they're finding through traditional dating. After all, we've been conditioned to think "the more choices the better," right?
Well, a lot of online daters are discovering the same thing: Too many choices can be as big a problem as not enough. After months of clicking through hundreds of dating profiles, they feel less capable of making a decision than when they started.
That indecisiveness is so common that researchers have coined a term for it: "decision paralysis." When you have unlimited choices, the fear that you'll make a wrong decision can paralyze you from making any decision at all. Before long, your hopes for romance can be lost to anxiety and unhappiness.
But there are a couple of practical solutions for conquering decision paralysis. The first is to stick with traditional dating (at least partially) and allow the availability of people within your social circles to naturally restrict your options.
But if you like the benefits of online dating, tap into the decision-making filters you rely on every day. Character trumps appearance; narrow your choices based on character traits that matter most to you. Or trust a dating service to select people with whom you're most compatible.
Either way, move carefully and prayerfully, taking time to really get to know prospective dates in various settings. For more insights into purposeful single living, see Boundless.org.