Five moves to make if you just found out that your child is struggling in school
Ah, back to school; every parent loves this time of year. Things are new and exciting; your teens are safe and exactly where they need to be. They love their teacher and new classmates. A fresh start all around! And then reality hits…
Whether it is Back to School Night or the first round of progress reports, you have just been informed that your child is struggling. How can that be?! Everything seemed to be going so well! You would rather learn this now than later. We want to be proactive to make this and every year a positive experience for your child.
Here are some ways to get ahead of the issue before it becomes a real problem:
1. Ask your child how they feel the year is going?
Is it going better than last year? If not, what is different? How can we make it better? I recommend doing this when everyone is calm and not in the middle of a homework battle. Please spend some time together doing something you both enjoy, and then bring it up. Their response might surprise you. They may know exactly why something is out of sync, or they may not realize they are struggling. Have your child troubleshoot with you on how to remedy the situation. Discussing this together makes them feel heard and fosters coping skills and accountability. If your child becomes defensive when you ask, this may indicate something more. Is there emotional stress surrounding your child at school distracting them? You must remain calm and respect that this is stressful to your child, causing them to become sensitive to the topic.
2. Reach out to your child’s teacher
You want to begin or continue the relationship (even if you just had a 20-minute conference). Sometimes we need time to process new information, especially when it comes to our children. Try to assume they want what’s best for your child. Get their opinion on why your child is struggling, and listen to how they plan to address it. Then, together make a game plan on how you can support your child moving forward. Everyone should be working as a team!
3. If your child has a 504 plan or an IEP, reach out to the school psychologist.
Have the school psychologist or counselor check in with your child. They may also be able to provide some new insight if your child feels comfortable opening up to them. The school psychologist can also request a team meeting. For example, is it just in one class, or is this happening across the board?
4. You don’t have to fight the battle alone. Hire a professional
Is your relationship with your child feeling strained due to a homework battle every night? If they struggle in a particular area or subject, find a content tutor to supplement their class work. Or is the problem more generalized? For example, does your child struggle with organization and planning? Do they lose assignments or wait until the last minute to get things done? An Executive Functioning Coach provides extra support in developing these skills along with study skills and test-taking strategies. If possible, consider this option. It may alleviate enormous stress from your evenings, and who doesn’t need that?!
5. Find ways to infuse their lives with opportunities to build confidence and stand in their power
What lights them up? What are they passionate about? Is there a cause that they believe in? Do they have a business idea? All these questions lend themselves to becoming a new thread of life experiences. These are tangible ways to reconnect with your child while allowing them to learn more about themselves outside of school. Co-create opportunities with them, so they feel empowered and inspired.
Keep this as an ongoing open discussion with your child. Continue to re-assess every few weeks to make sure things are still working. If not, back to the drawing board! Nothing has to be a permanent solution. And remind your child that this feeling they have right now is only temporary. They have the power (along with your unconditional support) to change this and turn it into the best year yet. Not only will this help your child, but it may even bring you closer.
Our children deserve to feel empowered. Look for ways to give them a stronger sense of self. Remind them you are on the same team. And above all, be sure to have fun together.