One of our key roles as parents is to advocate for the rights and needs of our child. However, there will be times when our children will need to be their own advocate, particularly as they get older.
Whether it be at school, a sporting or recreational club, or even amongst peers, self-advocacy skills are an important part of a young person’s tool kit. This is particularly true if they have health conditions, learning differences or other neurodivergent conditions. However, every child can benefit from self-advocacy skills, helping them throughout school, relationships and their adult life.
The benefits include:
- Self-empowerment and increased independence
- Increased self-esteem and confidence
- Problem solving and critical thinking skills
Teaching your child how to self-advocate is a process and requires the development of the following skills:
This is one of the key elements of successful self-advocacy. Being aware of what their personal strengths and weaknesses are will help your child understand their specific needs. We all having different learning styles, sensory preferences and emotional needs. Being able to identify what these are is a very important part of self-awareness. Here is a great self-awareness worksheet to help with this process.
After identifying personal needs it is important to understand how to meet them. This involves knowing what works for them personally and who/where to go to for assistance. The best part of self-advocacy is that the individual may be able come up with solutions that work for them that others may not have thought of. Challenge them to think creatively about problems and to persevere at finding a solution. Help them set personal goals and teach them that set back are not failures.
It is important that children can articulate their needs and are not afraid to ask for help. Encourage them to speak up if they are having difficulties and let them have a say in processes that involve them (if age appropriate). Teach them positive, respectful, assertive language.
Another key part of self-advocacy is knowing personal rights, but also responsibilities. This helps your child build respectful, mutually beneficial relationships.
By modelling positive self-advocacy skills and having open discussions with your child, you will help them develop skills that will stand them in good stead for life.