How to foster self-advocacy?
Simply put, self-advocacy is a person’s ability to ask for what they need and share their thoughts and feelings. It is an important skill, especially for young adults navigating the world for the first time. Whether it is a college student contacting a professor regarding a course, or a young professional negotiating their first job offer, strong self-advocacy can make a huge difference in a situation’s outcome. As parents, fostering self-advocacy can be tricky. Parents must shift from doing everything for their young child to doing nothing for their young adults (hopefully.) The goal is to shift from the position of Office Manager and Personal Assistant to the position of Part-Time Consultant ;) It’s delicate, but with a little practice and some consistency, you’ll have confident, independent young adults in no time.
#1 - Start early You cannot start this process too early. For example, as soon as your child starts school, encourage them to speak up when they do not understand something; encourage your student to talk to their teachers about their homework and tests. Another great place to start fostering self-advocacy is at the doctor’s office; encourage your young child to describe their symptoms themselves; encourage them to ask questions and be involved in their health.
#2 - Explain why Children can be shy, and talking to teachers and doctors can be daunting. Explain to your child why this process is important. You can use phrases like “knowing how to speak for yourself is important, so we can practice together.”
#3 - Get them involved Whether it’s at school, at the doctor’s office, or in day-to-day activities, get your child involved as often as you can. If your child is struggling in a class, help your student draft an email to their teacher asking for extra-credit opportunities, don’t just email the teacher yourself. Or let’s say your family is going out to dinner, ask your child to pick the restaurant, make a reservation and figure out what time you should leave the house to be there on-time. Involve your child as much as you can, it will help grow their confidence and foster their self-advocacy.
#4 - Be consistent Help your child practice these skills across the board, at home and at school; with family, friends and strangers. It doesn't have to be perfect every time, but consistency is key; you will have a confident, independent young adult by the time they go to college!