Teaching Kids Self Advocacy

What does it mean to teach self-advocacy? And why is it important?

Self-advocacy is the ability to recognize one’s needs and have the tools to be able get those needs met. It means taking personal responsibility for yourself and having the confidence to have your voice heard. While parents are the primary advocates for young children, teaching kids how to speak up for themselves and take care of their own needs is a vital skill to learn. And it’s never too early to start the process. Here are some tips for teaching positive self-advocacy skills to your kids.

  • Encourage children to know and understand themselves – their strengths, weaknesses, interests, needs and wishes. With a clear perception of who they are, they can better understand what they need.
  • Develop self-respect. By learning to value themselves, kids are less likely to be taken advantage of and more likely to take action on their own behalf when necessary.
  • Have children practice speaking up for themselves by asking their own questions when they need information or don’t understand something.
  • Role play different scenarios in which children must respectfully ask for what they need.
  • Make sure kids understand that advocating for oneself is not the same as disrespecting the needs of others. Being a good self-advocate does not mean being selfish. It is not demeaning or demanding. Communicating thoughtfully and intelligently will bring better results than being loud and rude.
  • Demonstrate good self-advocacy skills yourself in daily life so your children can model these positive behaviors.

How can you be a better advocate for your child?

As a parent, you have the most detailed knowledge of your children’s strengths, weaknesses and life experiences, putting you in the position of being their best supporter. Stay in tune with what is happening in your child’s daily life. Ask them to share the ups and downs of their day. Know their teachers. Don’t be afraid to contact them and ask questions throughout the year. Document any issues you have with the school to back up your concerns should you need to talk with someone about them at some point. Ask for updates from your child’s teachers during the year to make sure you are aware of any potential problems that may be developing.

If there is a problem at school, get all the facts from your child and his perspective of what happened. If appropriate, ask your child to approach the teacher himself to try and solve the problem. If necessary, request a parent-teacher meeting to discuss the situation. Keep an open mind and remember that you and the school are a team working together for the benefit of your child. Show your child how you are advocating for them in a positive, respectful manner so they can learn from your example and use these same skills themselves.

Teaching kids how to be their own best advocate gives them the self-confidence to go into the world knowing they can handle whatever may come their way. As a parent, demonstrate how you advocate for yourself and them, to provide the hands-on, practical skills they can emulate throughout their life.

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