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No parent wants to see their child falling behind in school. Yet if your child’s grades are failing, then it’s all too easy to feel helpless, or hope that the teachers will fix it, or bury your head in the sand and tell yourself that it’s ‘just a phase’.
However, the fact is that if your child is falling behind academically, then it is absolutely essential that you are proactive in dealing with the issue sooner rather than later. After all, the longer the problem goes on for, the more catching up that they will ultimately have to do. And of course, in the long run, this could negatively affect their GPA and college applications.
So if your child is falling behind in school and you don’t know where to start in trying to fix it, then here are four key steps that you should take:
1. Get to the root of the problem
When your child is falling behind at school, it is not enough to tackle the issue with things like extra homework or reducing their social activities. You also have to know the actual reasons why they are falling behind in the first place, as getting to the root of the problem is the first key to fixing it.
For instance, if your child has always been a reasonably high achiever and is suddenly slipping behind, then ask yourself what has changed for them. For instance, are they being bullied? Have they fallen in with the wrong crowd? Does their teacher make them nervous? Or could it be something simpler, like undiagnosed short-sightedness?
Alternatively, if your child has been falling behind in school from the start, then this could indicate a behavioral issue, or even a learning disability such as ADHD, ODD or dyscalculia. So it’s absolutely essential that you take the time to talk to them to find out what’s wrong, have them tested for any underlying conditions and, if you think that the problem could be emotional, even arrange for them to see a counselor.
2. Come up with an action plan
Once you have started to tackle the actual underlying reasons for your child falling behind — whether this is cognitive, social, emotional, behavioral or environmental — the next step is to create a catch-up plan. This will begin with liaising with teachers to identify where exactly your child is academically weak, then devising a strategy for dealing with this. If it turns out that your child also has a learning issue, then you will also need to make sure that proper support procedures are put in place at school too.
Following this, you can draw up a study timetable for your child, identifying times in the week when they can do extra homework. If your child is struggling in a specific area, then hiring a tutor can be hugely beneficial too.
A tutor will have the specialized subject expertise that you may lack, plus the ability to give your child the kind of focused attention that teachers just aren’t able to offer. You may find, in fact, that the tutoring track can actually put your child ahead of their peers in the long-run.
A tutor can make a big difference in academic performance for a struggling student.
However, it is very important that you don’t push your child too hard, as this can lead to stress and even rebellion. Make sure you still leave them time to relax, socialize and enjoy hobbies. Rome wasn’t built in a day and, if your child has slipped very far behind, then they are going to need a bit of time to catch up.
3. Offer encouragement
Falling behind at school can really affect a child’s confidence, so it’s important that you work to bolster it. Make sure that your focus is not just on the subjects that they are struggling with, but on their strengths too. Make sure that you praise them for their talents and also their hard work in trying to catch up at school. It’s important that your child knows that you see and recognize all of their skills and good qualities, not just their academic prowess. And if their issue is behavioral, then try to offer positive reinforcement by rewarding them for following rules.
4. Don’t let things slip during school vacations
For children already falling behind in school, the holidays can be a disastrous setback, since they cause them to slip out of the routine of learning and study altogether. What’s more, an estimated 11 weeks’ worth of maths skills are lost over the summer. However, the good news is that just 2-3 hours of active studying a week could be enough to prevent learning loss over the holidays. With this in mind, if you are considering hiring a tutor for your child, then you may want to retain their services over the vacations too. Just a couple of hours a week of concentrated tuition during school holidays could make all the difference to how your child performs in the new term.
In summary, if your child is struggling at school, then it’s crucial to get to the bottom of the issue and identify if it’s cognitive, social, emotional or something else entirely. Next, consult with teachers to put a catch-up plan into place and consider hiring a tutor too. Finally, make sure that your child feels encouraged and that they’re rewarded for their hard work.
If your child is falling behind in school (or already has) then the key is not to panic (admittedly easier said than done), but to take practical steps to help them catch up academically. And most importantly, to always make sure that they feel supported and validated along the way.
With all my support,
Stephanie | Tutor in Tinseltown