Originally Sent: 12/11/2014

HSLDA Homeschooling a Struggling Learner

December 11, 2014


Auditory processing disorder -- how can I help my child?

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Helping Your Child Deal with Anger and Other Emotions While You Homeschool

by Marian S. Soderholm, MA, LD Specialist
Guest Writer

I have spent my whole life learning about “wiring”—the unique way each person thinks and feels. As a child, I had to deal with my own ADHD and Asperger’s. And as a classroom teacher, a marriage and family therapist, and a homeschooling mom, I have helped other people (including my own children) to understand their own cognitive and emotional wiring.

While our cognitive wiring has to do with how we learn and live, our emotional wiring affects how we handle things like anger, jealousy, depression, and loss. Through experience, I have learned several successful strategies that we can teach our children to help them handle life’s emotional roller coasters.

A Frame for Feelings

The first strategy is to help your child deal with their emotions openly, rather than just labeling the emotion as “bad.” Even your child’s most unpleasant emotions—such as fear, frustration, or anger—can be managed. But because children don’t know how to handle their own emotions, they can quickly become overwhelmed by them. Once a child becomes lost in his or her feelings, then it becomes a family dynamic that everyone has to handle. By framing the feelings in one of the following ways, you help your child feel hope that he or she will not be overcome by even the strongest emotions.

One way to start your child on this path is to say, “The anger that you feel is not bigger than you are. If you feel angry, let’s make that anger small enough by talking about it. Then we can see what we can do about it.”

If your child or teen cannot cool down enough to talk reasonably, let him or her walk away for a bit. Give your child a chance to calm down. By giving your child physical distance from the situation, you downplay the power of anger and help your child feel hope rather than loss of control.

Stay Active

The second strategy is to mix your academic lessons with physical activities. This works best if you teach your students in small chunks throughout the day. Do a sit-down academic lesson, then follow up with some exercises. Movement diffuses the pent-up emotional energy in your child’s body, and helps your child to redirect his or her thoughts. Neurotransmitters such as dopamine or serotonin are released in the brain when we move, which can have a positive effect on mood or behavior.

You can also use multisensory teaching to mix things up further. Multisensory teaching is a highly successful type of schooling for children of all ages and learning styles, since it allows them to learn in all dimensions. Students get a chance to see a concept (visual dimension), hear it (auditory dimension), speak it (verbal dimension), and do something with it (kinesthetic dimension). This type of involvement in the subject matter also takes the focus off of possible emotional outbursts and redirects that emotional energy into physical activity. Since it keeps the students moving, it also releases serotonin, which has a positive effect on mood and depression.

Permission to Feel

The third strategy is to acknowledge yours and your child’s feelings regarding their wiring, and to give positive feedback in regards to learning to cope with this wiring. If we let children think that they are broken because they are not “normal” then we have set a lifetime pattern of defeat in motion. “Normal” is a setting on the dryer!

Instead, it is important to help our children to recognize their own patterns of thinking, feeling, and coping in themselves and to be able to talk about it. The Lord makes it clear that we can become angry but choose not to sin.

In my own life, it took me many years to learn how to cope with my own emotional wiring. In fact, some days I still struggle. I deal with the embarrassment of failing at times. But through those hard experiences, I have built a rich background of experience, which I shared with my own children and still share with my grandchildren.

I learned the importance of teaching children that it was okay to feel what they felt, and of keeping our lines of communication open so they could talk about their feelings as they grew up. Shaming or blaming our children, or losing our own tempers, says more about our lack of coping skills than about our children.

Above all, I encourage all homeschooling parents to remember that the Lord is with you, and that He can walk you through anything He has allowed to happen. He truly does promise to never give us more than we can handle, and we handle it with Him.

Should your family like to find a private, homeschool-friendly professional, such as a counselor, tutor, therapy provider, or evaluator, please be sure to check out the “Find a Professional” search tool on HSLDA’s struggling learner website.

• • •

About the Author

Marian S. Soderholm, MA/Learning Disabilities Specialist—Marian is a veteran homeschooling mother and a grandmother of two. Married to Erik for over 33 years, she earned her BA in English, has two teaching and specialist credentials, and earned her MA in marital and family therapy, with a specialty in ADHD, Asperger’s and dyslexia. She has taught in both private and public school and college. A CLASS graduate, Marian has been speaking for over 15 years at various conferences and workshops. She currently runs her own educational assessment and consulting business and is listed as a private educational consultant on HSLDA’s database of homeschool-friendly professionals.

• • •

Additional Resources

• Marian Soderholm’s Nature of Learning educational assessments website.

• Nature of Learning educational assessments and resources Facebook page.

Books and instructional materials:

How to Really Love Your Child by Ross Campbell

Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick

The Heart of Anger by Lou Priolo

The Big What Now Book of Learning Styles by Carol Barnier

Biology of Behavior CD Set by Dianne Craft:

Pro-ed—resources for teaching coping, regulating, behavior skills, anger management, etc.


• “Singing and Movement Increase Learning” by Faith Berens (e-newsletter)

• “Teaching Strategies for Teens with Focus/Attention Difficulties” by Joyce Blankenship (e-newsletter)

Online helps:

Focus on the Family

Family Life Today

American College of Pediatricians

Meier Clinics

Pathway to Hope

Christian Care Network search engine for Christian counselors

Mental Health America

National Institute of Mental Health

• • • •

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