Expert advice on helping your child deal with failure

Expert advice on helping your child deal with failure

Has your child ever failed a grade or course? Nonhlanhla Makhathini, a social worker in Gauteng, shares helpful tips on how you can be a great support system for your child.

Mother comforting crying teenager
Mother comforting crying teenager/ iStock

Every year there are reports about matriculants taking their own lives because of failure. 

However, with support from parents and society, social worker Nonhlanhla Makhathini believes it doesn’t have to be the end. Makhathini says your support as a parent can help them deal with failure in a positive way.

Failure is not only academically-linked, as sometimes in life we fail at a task or fail to achieve what we had hoped to achieve. 

This is why Makhathini says it is important to let the child know that “we all go through a season of failure”. 

READ: Superstar Ed Sheeran failed music in college

“Failure doesn’t define the child. The child needs to understand when you fail it doesn’t mean you are dumb,” says Makhathini. 

She adds that “it’s during this time when a child is at risk to fall into the temptation of committing suicide." However, to prevent this, she says it is not only important to say encouraging words to your child but to also observe how they are coping.  

“Parents must be observant,” says Makhathini. She adds that if you see that your child is struggling and might be suicidal “make sure the child is not left alone. Make sure there is someone around the child. Observe the emotions the child is experiencing.” 

She says parents should know what to say to the child because that is critical. Makhathini encourages saying words such as: “You can do better in the future. You will improve when you do it again. It’s not the end of the world, you can succeed.”

One of the mistakes parents make is to compare their children to their peers who passed.

 “Stay away from blaming, naming, labelling, belittling, and comparing them,” she says.  

She says words such as, “I told you you were going to fail. You were not committed,” are not good.  Instead, parents should empathise with their children. 

Makhathini says if parents see their child is not coping, they should consider engaging in fun activities such as taking them out. 

She says if needs be, the parent should consider taking “leave to be with your child. Take the child out. Help them relax”. 

Makhathini says doing this will help your child better deal with failure. 

However, Makhathini says in instances where parents see that their children are withdrawn and they are failing to reach out to them, they should consider taking their child to professional counsellors.  

Finally, she says the parents should talk to the child about how he or she plans to improve. She says the parents should ask their child “what does she think were the difficulties, what can be improved.” She says this “will assist the child to look at solutions" and not make the same mistakes as they did in the previous year. 

Image courtesy of iStock/ yacobchuk

READ: Here are ways you can improve your matric results

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