How to know if your child is struggling at school

Every parent has heard a story and said, “Oh, that is not my child.” 

We love our children. They are a precious gift from God, but that same love can cause us to have blinders in certain areas, and one area could be school.

No one wants their child to struggle, so it can be difficult to accept when they do. Kids can struggle in several ways, but here are some areas to look out for as your kids make the leap to “real school.” 

Five Signs of Academic Struggle

  1. Frustration - How does your child respond to adversity? When they are challenged, if they shut down in frustration, they will likely to do the same when challenged in school.
  2. Apathy - What does your child take pride in? Are they driven to improve in school as well as other areas?
  3. Anxiety - Does your child have trouble sleeping the night before tests? Do they display stress over their academic work?
  4. Avoidance - Do they not want to go to school? Do they not want to discuss their school day?
  5. Consistently low scores - Testing is a highly debated topic in education today, but consistently low scores are an indicator that your child might be struggling.

Three Signs of Social or Emotional Struggles

  1. Has your child become reclusive? If your child is avoiding social interaction at home and school, it could be an early warning sign of a greater issue. 
  2. Is your child acting out? There are a variety of motivating factors here, but in my experience as a teacher, acting out is usually tied closely to a social or emotional need not being met.
  3. Has there been a change in their relationships? A change in friend groups or the lack of close friends can signal a greater problem.

What to Do When You Notice These Warning Signs 

First, talk to your child. It doesn’t matter how shut-off he or she may seem to be, they want to know you are there. Every kid wants to feel loved.

Next, schedule time to talk to your child’s teacher. Unannounced visits create stress for both the child and the teacher. By scheduling time to talk, the teacher will able to prepare the conversation so he or she can answer your questions thoroughly and help you address your child’s struggles.  

When you’re meeting with the teacher, be open to what you hear. There’s a reason people say it takes a village to raise a child — parenting is tough! Let your village help you. 1 Peter 5:5 reminds us that “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” 

Let your village help you.

Teachers are experts and work with kids every day. Rather than assuming you already know what’s happening, ask your child’s teacher if you can observe for a day. 

As you start to implement whatever plan you and the teacher agree to, remember to be patient. Some struggles last for a season, but others take longer to overcome. Listen to the Holy Spirit as He guides you, and ask God for the love and patience you need for the situation.

There could be setbacks along the way, and that’s normal! Don’t rush in to save the day right away, or try to fix everything for your child. Foster a growth mindset. One of the hardest things to learn is when to take a step back

Failure can be a good thing. We learn lots during times of adversity. You are raising your child to be independent, and learning to work through struggles is how we become mature and complete (James 1:2-4). 

Remember to pray with your child. The Bible tells us that “in every situation, by prayer and petition” we can present our requests to God. And you know what follows? Peace. A peace that transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7). 

Finally, consider talking with a doctor. Sometimes, it’s necessary to seek professional help. Approach that visit with humility as well, and be open to what you may hear. “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22). And when it comes to our kids, why wouldn’t we want all the counsel we can get? 

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