I don’t think anyone has gone through any level of education without struggle. Struggle isn’t always bad. Struggle helps us grow in several ways. It helps build resilience. It supports a growth mindset. It helps us think outside of the box.
But without encouragement or guidance, struggle can also lead to a poor outlook in school. It can create a poor self-concept. And destroy confidence.
Several things may make you think your child is struggling at school. It could be their attitude when they get home. A poor report card. Irregular behavior at school or home. Withdrawal from people or activities they enjoy. Or comments that are outside of the norm.
If you think your child is struggling, here are a few actionable steps you can take!
1. Reach Out to Teachers
If your child’s teacher has not already reached out to you about concerns (emotional/behavioral/academic), make a quick phone call. Describe what you have noticed with their grades, behavior, or communication at home. Ask if the teacher has noticed anything in the classroom. You can ask if the teacher has anything in place to help them. If the teacher hasn’t noticed what you are seeing, kindly ask the teacher to keep a closer eye on your child to see if they start noticing your concerns.
2. Talk to Your Child
Navigating a conversation with your child is not always easy. Some kids do not like expressing their thoughts and feelings on a regular basis or when they know you are trying to find something specific. Sometimes, the best conversations happen while you are doing something together. Maybe you are driving to a park, or walking through the grocery store. Cooking dinner, or cleaning up the mess afterward. People feel more comfortable in conversation when sitting beside someone or working on the same/similar task. Sitting across from someone and trying to dive deep can lead to feelings of being interrogated. This unintentionally builds more walls and can send your child into self-protective mode.
3. Write it Down
Write down your specific concerns and patterns over time. This could be things you see, things your child says, or communication from school staff. It’s critical to write your observations and thoughts down. This is important for when you communicate with others or meet with school staff. You now have a specific log that can help your school team make decisions to support your child.
4. Ask for Tutoring or Guidance
After you have your concerns and patterns written down and you have spoken to your child’s teacher(s), try asking about school programs. Academically speaking, this may be an after-school program or an intervention during school hours. If looking for emotional support for your child, see if the school counselor has any groups or could provide check-ins.
5. Request an IEP Meeting
If you feel like your child's struggles are not getting better, I recommend requesting an initial IEP referral. Recognize that when you are requesting such a meeting, you are saying that you suspect your child may have an educational disability, requiring specially designed instruction. The team may recommend another intervention or may decide to complete assessments right away.