Life Lessons from the Paralympics

I read somewhere yesterday, on Facebook probably, that when a door closes, open it again – that’s what doors are for! Oh how true.

Quite by coincidence the children were talking about having watched the Paralympics on television, which opened a discussion about overcoming difficulties in life to follow your dreams. They were hugely impressed that people who lacked what they take for granted were so successful through hard work and dedication.

We agreed that it’s about perseverance: believing in yourself and not giving up. Not everything in this life will come easily to most of us – very little in fact – but that’s no reason to give up, and that’s a valuable lesson to learn early in life.

I realise I’m walking a fine line here, but I truly believe there is a happy medium between the tiger parent and the one who is too scared to push their child a little. Children need time to be children and they all develop at their own pace (my daughter didn’t really speak until she was two but was potty trained by three; my son, with whom I could hold a reasonable conversation at 18 months, may well wear nappies at night forever…) but we have a duty to show them the power of perseverance.

Driving home in the car during the first week of the new term, my daughter (now in Year 1) was bemoaning her new ‘workload’ and was telling the little one how lucky he is to be in nursery. When quizzed more deeply she actually admitted to having enjoyed her new classes and all the new information she was taking in.

The step up each year should be a challenge and I can help by making that transition as smooth as possible. I’ve found that creating a routine around the new expectations has really helped my daughter to adjust. For example, homework is done during peak attention times (i.e. not at 6pm just before dinner) and good effort is rewarded at home as well as at school. Working together to ensure she has the right kit for each day at school makes her more responsible and confident in self-care.

It’s not all about the academic side of course, and we are lucky in that the extra-curricular activities at school are so good. My daughter is around the middle of her class academically, but passionate about dance and swimming. My role as a parent is to encourage her to keep focused on her school work whilst sharing and supporting her to develop her talents in the areas where she excels.

That’s really what it’s all about – finding the pearl in your oyster, so to speak, and nurturing it. There are a few of us who really are geniuses but for the vast majority (parents and children alike) we do best in the subjects we enjoy. Yes, we need to work hard and give of our best in all we do, but we should never underestimate the confidence boost that results from success in the things we love.

This is the beginning of a new school year. It’s a time of change and of opportunity; the opportunity to discover new interests, new friends and new challenges to overcome. It won’t be plain sailing all the way but by keeping the communication going, between parents, teachers and children, obstacles can be spotted early and solutions uncovered to help minimise problems.

Einstein, Caesar and Richard Branson – all dyslexic, all (I think we can safely agree) pretty darn successful! It’s important to remember that the things our children struggle with are a challenge to be overcome, never an excuse, but equally don’t sweat it if your child has trouble with a particular subject; help them to persevere but also find the one thing they really enjoy and help them to achieve success there.

We’re here to raise happy, healthy, confident and well-rounded individuals and the key to that is helping them to be successful in whatever area they choose.

Sophia Lee-Spencer is a blogger, mother-of-two and staunch BrainBox fan.