What to Do When Your Child Is Struggling With School

Children and teens know that they are expected to do well in school. It’s not always parental pressure that creates a sense of needing to do well. Many children naturally want to strive to be the best, as it generates a sense of pride.

But children often struggle in school at one time or another. Whether your child comes home every day depressed and dejected, gets very overwhelmed with even one or two homework assignments, asks to stay home from school quite often, or has begun merely to show slipping grades, something has impeded her learning.

Pinpointing the Problem

The first thing to do is to have a candid but kind conversation with your child about her experiences at school. Numerous things could be getting in the way of her education, such as:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Teacher goes through the lessons too fast
  • Not enough one-on-one attention to ask questions
  • Dyslexia
  • Poor eyesight
  • Any number of health problems that make it difficult to concentrate, from migraines to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) (IBS – is this an epidemic kids are struggling with. When I read this as a parent it seems out of place) How about just any number of health problems…..
  • Bullying

You may also want to speak to your child’s teachers to find out whether they have noticed any sudden changes in behavior or performance. Perhaps your child is hanging out with a new group of friends who are more rebellious when it comes to schoolwork, for example.

Once you know what is affecting your child’s learning, you can begin to come up with solutions. Some have easy fixes, such as getting a pair of glasses for a child who cannot easily see the board. Others may require more of an intervention. For example, if your child seems to need an entirely different teaching style than what is offered at her current school, you may need to consider switching schools.

Consider Alternative Schooling Options

Private schools generally offer smaller class sizes and a greater ability to cater to the unique needs of individual students. Each school also has its own teaching philosophy. For example, you might find that the Montessori style would help your child learn at her own pace and cater to her strengths.

Other options include homeschooling and boarding school. Homeschooling requires your child to be somewhat self-motivated but also allows for flexibility around health issues. The downside of homeschooling is that it requires some extra effort for socialization, and you as a parent have to assume the role of the teacher.

On the other hand, boarding school offers a community atmosphere and leaves the teaching to subject matter pros. The cost of boarding school may make it seem out of the question for some parents, but if your child truly enjoys learning, the camaraderie and individualized approach of a boarding school could be well worth it.

Be Positive and Supportive

Children and teenagers who tend to struggle in school need their parents or guardians to be extra supportive, not critical. Try not to approach the subject with blame or anger. It might be difficult for you to empathize with your child’s struggles if you had no problem with school, but the truth is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to education.

Make sure the focus stays on what your child needs in the present. Looking to the future and scolding your child or teen for not wanting to have a good career or a college degree is often too heavy-handed. Your child is not thinking about college; she’s worried about being the only one in class who doesn’t understand long division. Don’t create an unnecessary air of despair.

Most children genuinely do enjoy learning. After all, they are curious by nature. If your child is struggling in school, try to pinpoint the problem and then switch gears. And remember, although education is indeed important, everyone has their strong subjects and expecting straight As is not always practical. Encourage your child to do her best.


Photo credit: Alan Levine on Flickr. CC-BY-2.0.

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