My Child is Struggling in School

February 8, 2024

When you see your child struggling in school, you want to help – but sometimes it can be difficult to figure out how best to do so. Should you help your child study? Call their teacher? Hire a tutor? It may be tricky figuring out how to handle it, but have no fear – we’re here to help! Read on to see how you can support your child in school.

ASK YOUR CHILD

The first step to take when you see slipping grades is to ask your child what they’re struggling with. Sometimes children don’t know what’s wrong, but sometimes they can easily name the issue. If they’re not sure, prompt them with the following questions: 

  • Is the work too challenging? 
  • Is the work too easy, and are they getting bored and not paying attention in class?
  • Are they struggling to find ways to study?
  • Are they lacking motivation? 
  • Do they understand why they’re learning what they’re learning? 

Whatever the issue, if your child can identify it, then you can start working together to tackle the issue.

HELP YOUR CHILD PLAN

One common reason students struggle in school is that they lack necessary executive functioning skills. Executive functioning skills include all the skills that people use to stay organized, set goals, and study effectively, which are imperative to success in school. If your child is frequently missing deadlines, losing assignments, or if they can’t seem to find time to study, this is a sign they need support in executive functioning. You can help your child by working with them to find an organization system that they can stick to, and checking to ensure they’re using it in the beginning. For tips on supporting in executive function, check out our blog post here.

SUPPORT WITH MOTIVATION AND FOCUS

Once you have a plan in place, your child may need support as they get used to a new schedule. You might want to organize some positive rewards to motivate your child – for example, you may go to the movies or do another fun activity if they reach their academic goals. If you do this, make sure to keep things positive!

You may also want to support your child’s focus. You can do this by holding onto their phone while they complete their homework, or by sitting in the room with them as they work to ensure they stay on track. If you do so, make sure you discuss this with your child ahead of time so you’re aligned – they should agree on these measures as strategies for success to ensure they don’t feel punitive or overbearing.

REMIND YOUR CHILD TO TAKE BREAKS

One important thing to remind your child is to take breaks! Studying may feel insufferable if a child is expected to focus for hours at a time, but much more manageable if they study in chunks or take short breaks every half hour. Help your child figure out what works for them, and then remind them to get up and move around every so often.

REMAIN ENCOURAGING

While you’re troubleshooting with your child, make sure you stay positive and encouraging. You want your child to see you as a teammate and a support, but they may feel hesitant to work through issues with you if they’re worried you’ll get upset. Although it may feel difficult at times, remember that your child is trying their best, and that they may need time to develop the skills and strategies necessary to be successful in school.

ASK YOUR CHILD'S TEACHER

If you and your child can’t identify what exactly they’re struggling with, then the next step is to conference with your child’s teacher. Your child’s teacher sees them each day and keeps track of their progress, and if your child is struggling, their teacher is likely also trying to figure out why! If your child is older, they can ask their teacher for advice first before you reach out. If your child is younger, or if your child has already spoken to their teacher on their own, you can give the teacher a call or schedule a conference to chat about what the issue may be. If your child feels comfortable, it may be helpful to schedule a meeting between you, your child, and your child’s teacher, so all three of you can problem-solve together.

LOOK FOR LEARNING SUPPORT

Finally, if you’ve tried all of these strategies and your child is still struggling, you may need to arrange extra learning support. Ask your child’s teacher or healthcare provider what they would recommend – it’s possible your child may benefit from a neuropsychology evaluation to check for learning disabilities or other medical issues that may be impeding their learning. You may also want to seek the support of a tutor to help your child work in a particular subject or for general academic support. A tutor can also work with your child on building an academic skill-set, or on building executive functioning skills to support with organization, study habits, goal-setting, and memory.

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