“We’re trying to remember the real positives. After...oh on Friday…when you said can you talk? I thought, I can’t - I think I’ll just be in tears. And it’s only handwriting. I thought, ugh I can’t even talk to you about handwriting… I’m too emotional about it...”
I was on a video call with Abbie a few days after I’d started working online with her eight-year-old son.
The first couple of days had gone really well but on the aforementioned Friday I received this message along with the photo of his practice:
Straight away I’d asked if we could talk because I could feel there was a huge amount of emotion behind her message. Our call on the following Monday was a really helpful opportunity for me to listen and explain some things which helped Abbie begin to relax, trust me and trust the process. Things went well after our chat. Handwriting practice was moved to first thing in the morning after breakfast. We agreed it was hard to focus attention when her son had been concentrating online all morning (due to Lockdown) and was hungry.
It’s really hard for parents.
We want so much for our children.
Parents have their own perspective about how important handwriting is or isn’t. That perspective can change; their viewpoint is formed from personal experiences but also becomes affected by additional emotional factors, like their child’s unhappiness, anger, frustration, anxiety or distress… about pen licences… teacher concerns… fear about legibility in exams…about potential negative judgement or bias.
Parents want to help but often don’t actually know how to. This is sometimes reflected in feeling that they shouldn’t have to, that it’s the school’s responsibility.
When parents contact me I hear things like:
‘I feel the school should have done something sooner.’
‘I’m disappointed that nothing was flagged up.’
‘I actually feel quite let down by them.’
‘I’m concerned that teachers have allowed him to carry on writing like this for so long given that handwriting is taught in class.’
‘He says his teachers have tried but given up.’
I’m always a bit saddened to hear these remarks.
I know how hard teachers work and how they want the best for their pupils.
I know how much parents care and want the best for their children.
We need to work together.
Teachers and parents need to know how to help. That’s why I started Better Handwritten… to give guidance and support on highly effective teaching of handwriting.
Before we started working together, Abbie had done her best to help her son herself.
‘I tried worksheets over and over again but he didn’t engage in the task and it was a real struggle to keep him focused. I was also getting very frustrated with his writing, which (now I look back) was definitely having a negative impact on him and how he felt about handwriting.
I definitely didn't appreciate the bigger picture of handwriting and all the things the brain has to coordinate to write. I felt like we had spent so much time practising and it was having no impact - I was starting to feel like my son was just being lazy and I must be a terrible teacher.’
Working with Abbie gave me an opportunity to help her reflect, understand and relax. I was able to provide a model that was manageable and got results. Thinking back to where we started reminds me just how many parents must be going through emotional stresses and strains trying to help their children.
I’ve actually just got off a call with Abbie! It’s nearly three months since we started working together and we've been looking back to that first week. I think Abbie’s words express the emotions involved for many parents so well …
“I remember speaking to you in the early days and I just felt SO tearful every time we spoke, because I was finding the whole thing so emotional… I couldn’t help him. Working with you isn’t what I expected it to be. I remember thinking, you’re just here to help him with handwriting but all of a sudden you’re helping me with … almost handwriting counselling.
I was so overwhelmed when we were first working together whereas now working on handwriting is such a pleasure. Our whole perception has just changed… how we look at it, how we take it on and how we talk about. Before the whole thing was so negative…for both of us. And it doesn’t feel like that at all any more.”
It’s good to talk about handwriting. It’s good to learn about it… really understand what’s involved. We need to break down the stress barriers that are denying children AND parents the many benefits and pleasures that writing by hand can bring. Understanding is empowering.
A tag from a parent who had bought a Better Handwritten course to use with her son.