Is your child struggling at school?

Apr 25, 2012 at 3:00 a.m. ET

It is never nice to see your child struggling at anything, especially if it is schoolwork. Sometimes children are simply overwhelmed by the work they are given and, unsure where to start, simply give up trying. Some children become bored in work and need to be encouraged back into learning, and a small minority have an undiagnosed condition such as dyslexia or dyspraxia. These conditions may make a school environment quite difficult for a child, but are easily overcome by support and aids, making diagnosis so important. If you feel your child is struggling in school, here are some tips on how you can help them.

Overwhelmed child at school

Have realistic expectations

It is great to have high expectations for your child, but make sure they don't go above and beyond the child’s capabilities. Some children are simply not as academic as others and are never going to get an A in their mathematics or English papers. This is not a negative trait and many children like this have talent and expertise in other areas such as more vocational and creative subjects. It is important for you as a parent to know where your child's talents lie and not to give them false hope or put them under pressure when they have little chance of reaching the goal set.

Don’t go over the top with praise

It is very important to praise your child to instil confidence in them but don’t say things like, “I always knew you were the most clever child in your school!” These comments put undue pressure on your child and will make them feel they have to live up to certain expectations. You may also come across as a pushy parent who has unrealistic views and opinions of your child, which won’t change no matter how well they do in school. By all means praise your child, but do so by praising their actions and hard work rather than telling them how great they are.

Speak to the teachers

If your child’s marks go down, talk to your child, but then follow this up with a meeting with their teachers. They may see things from a different perspective and have ideas and suggestions on how you can help improve your child’s marks. They may also be able to tell you of contributing factors to low marks such as talking too much or not turning up to lessons, which your child may have conveniently left out!

Ask the school to check for learning problems

Many school children suffer from dyslexia and dyspraxia which, if undiagnosed, can cause your child severe difficulties when trying to learn at school. However, once it is diagnosed, there is a huge amount of aid, resources and help out there. Learning disorders can dent the confidence of a child who is struggling and has no idea why, but the minute they have help, learning will look far rosier for them.

Allow for free time

Sometimes children begin to struggle in school because they're simply fed up with the daily routine of work, homework, tea and then bed. It is imperative that a child has some free time every day to do what they choose, otherwise they can become disillusioned and fed up. Allow them an hour in between tea and bed every day to either read, play a board game, watch their favourite programme or talk to their friends to take the edge off the daily grind. As adults we need to wind down after a long day and kids are no different.

More on children and school

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