If you have a preteen or teenager who is struggling in school, you might feel overwhelmed and stressed out. Since poor school performance during high school is correlated with not only college admission and success but also with income levels later in adulthood, you might worry that your teen is destined to a life of earning a low income. The good news is that there are several steps you can take to help improve your child’s poor school performance. Read on to find out what you can do to help boost his or her odds of success.
Get to the Root of the Problem
Talk to your teenager to try to find out what is causing poor school performance. There are many reasons that school performance could be lacking. Here are just a few of them:
- Classes are too hard. Particularly when teens move into high school level classes, it is common for them to be placed in courses that are too challenging. This can be frustrating and can cause teens to think poorly of themselves and stop trying to do better.
- Learning disabilities. While most learning disabilities are caught during early childhood, some elementary and even middle school students are able to cope well enough to do well in school without their condition being detected. Once harder classes come into play, however, their grades can suffer.
- Stress. Teens are under a lot of stress, and school performance can suffer. Your adolescent might be putting a lot of pressure on him- or herself by joining sports and extracurricular activities, getting a job, volunteering, and trying to maintain an active social life.
- Depression or anxiety. These are common mental health conditions that can cause a drop in school performance among other signs and symptoms.
- Addiction. If your teen is using or abusing drugs or alcohol, a tolerance or addiction can definitely impact their grades.
Help Your Teen Advocate for Him- or Herself
If the issue is that your teen’s classes are too hard, there are a few ways you can encourage self-advocacy. While you likely handled issues such as this when your child was younger, it is a good learning experience for a teen to meet this challenge head-on, if possible. Encourage him or her to go to the teacher or guidance counselor with whatever issue is causing poor grades.
For example, your teen might need extra help in one or more subjects. Impress on your teen the importance of seeking assistance early; the longer they wait, the more behind they will get. They can ask for a tutor or for the teacher to work with them before or after school. If a class is just too difficult, their guidance counselor can switch them to a less challenging class. Be ready to step in as necessary, but try to let your teen handle the issue with the adults who can help.
Consider Testing for Learning Disabilities
If your teen has always struggled in school, now is a good time to consider having him or her tested for learning disabilities. Many teenagers and parents are surprised to discover that there has been a condition like dyslexia, high-functioning autism, or a processing disorder responsible for all of the trouble with academic work. This can come as a relief or as a disappointment (or both). The positive side is that now your teen will be eligible for an IEP or another individualized learning plan that will help the school to help them.
Work With Your Child’s Guidance Counselor
If you do find that your teen has an issue that requires an IEP, work with the guidance counselor to be sure that every teacher is aware of the plan and that it is followed. Depending on your child’s school, you might have to be a squeaky wheel and insist that the law is followed. Also, find out what your teen needs to do to have accommodations at college if that is part of your child’s plan. Knowing ahead of time what is and is not possible will help him or her plan for the future.
Help Your Child Find His or Her Strengths
Your teen might be feeling defeated and worn down if they are struggling in school. This can lead to depression, anxiety, and a lot of stress. One thing you can do to help is to encourage him or her to think about their strengths. Are they musically or artistically inclined? Are they the best player on the soccer team? Maybe they’re an excellent cook, good with small children, or gifted at relating to animals. Whatever they enjoy and are good at, encourage them to find ways to spend time doing that activity.
Does your teen not have an activity or interest that they’re good at? Encourage them to think about what they enjoy doing; usually, this correlates to what they’re good at. Also, brainstorm with your teen to think of different activities that they might want to try. Consider sports, various clubs and groups at school, community activities, volunteer opportunities, and so on. Check the bulletin boards at your local library or recreation center for ideas.
Seek Professional Counseling For Poor School Performance
If your teen has been struggling and none of the ideas above have helped improve their poor school performance, it might be time to seek professional counseling. A therapist can screen your teen for issues such as depression or anxiety. Also, if you suspect that your teen is turning to drugs or alcohol to cope with his or her problems, a counselor can refer him or her to an addictions specialist who can help. A counselor can also help a teen who is not academically gifted to learn what their strengths are so they can think about what type of career they might like to have after high school. This can do wonders for your teen’s self-esteem. Don’t hesitate to make an appointment with a counselor or to ask your teen’s primary care physician for a referral.