What to do if your child is struggling at school

Sep 17, 2012 at 4:00 p.m. ET

Is your child beginning to struggle with grades or behavior? Learn how to best serve your child and how to work with his teachers to help him succeed.

Discover ways to support your child at home and approach problems gently.

When your child struggles at school, it’s hard to shake the immediate feelings of disappointment, frustration and even defensiveness toward the teacher who identified the problems. Brush away these unhelpful responses and go into action mode. You have the power to help your child succeed at school.

Talk to the teacher often

Establish a relationship with your child’s teacher or teachers as soon as possible. Make a point of scheduling a parent teacher conference, introducing yourself by email or volunteering in the classroom. If your child’s teacher identifies problems, whether they’re behavioral or related to learning, talk them over. Get the facts, and don’t rely solely on your child’s explanations of a situation. Depending on a child’s age, a lot can get lost in translation. While a teacher’s criticisms may feel like an attack on your child, they’re really an effort toward the same goal you have: That your child succeeds in school.

Consult with your child’s guidance counselor

School guidance counselors are an excellent gateway to interventions and help at school. Schedule time to talk to your child’s guidance counselor, or if your child is the right age, schedule an appointment for your child to visit. A guidance counselor may recommend assistance with the school’s speech-language therapist or other specialists. Resources such as social skills groups organized by guidance counselors can go a long way toward improving behavior. Many counselors also run study skills groups that can help kids develop better studying and homework habits.

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Consider independent evaluations

The efforts of teachers and administrators can only go so far. If your child has a learning disability or behavioral issue, she may benefit from professional intervention. Issues like ADHD, sensory processing disorder and autism spectrum disorders can influence a child’s behavior and success at school. If your child is showing troubling patterns of behavior or profound learning issues at school, or if your child’s teacher has flagged her for an evaluation, talk to the appropriate specialist. Even small issues are appropriate to bring up to your child’s pediatrician just in case. Sometimes an intervention as simple as tutoring can go a long way.

Be your child’s foundation

You are the cornerstone to your child’s foundation for success at school. It’s important to reward your child’s good behavior at school and to talk about trouble behaviors. However, you should never heap on punishments if your child is struggling academically or behaviorally. Be solution oriented, positioning yourself as part of the team. Your goal should be to get your child back on track. Your child is going to need your help to get there. If you communicate with your child’s school, let your child know. Make it clear that you’re seeking ways to make school days go easier on your child. Be available for homework help and to listen if your child needs someone to talk to.

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