How to Help Your Struggling Child With School

child at school
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It is heartbreaking to watch your child seriously struggle with school. Fortunately, you can do something about it. Here is your five-step plan:

1. Assess the problem  

Identifying any problem is always the first step in finding the right solution. A good self-test to see if you understand exactly what your child is struggling with is to see if you can explain it clearly in one sentence. 

For example "Johnny is having problems understanding how to multiply double digit numbers."  or "Second grade Suzy cannot finish her nightly reading homework in less than an hour." Not all problems will be related to specific academic skills. Some problems are related to behavior or emotions. A few one sentence examples of these are "Tommy cannot remember to bring home his homework assignments, or to return them, either." or "Jenny is afraid of a bully at school and cries before school each morning."  

The one sentence explanation helps you to identify the specific problem needing to be addressed. Getting down to a one sentence explanation of the problem is a good starting point because it identifies the root of the issue. After you can clearly identify the problem your child is having is the time to look at possible causes or even the effects of the problem. Without having a clearly defined problem, you can't find the right solution.  

2. Find the Right Resources  

Once you have the problem identified, you can begin to look for resources and strategies to help correct the problem.  Talk with your child's teacher about the specific problem, and see what solutions you can come up with together, working as a team. By working with the school teacher, you and your child's teacher will be developing a plan that works between everyone rather than possibly pushing your child in different directions, leading to more confusion and frustration for your child.

3. Follow Through on Help  

Once you identify the problem and come up with a solution, follow through on your plan. This may sound obvious, yet time and again I have seen parents who got this far and then didn't go through with the solution they came up with. Many problems did not arise in a  single day, and it will take a little more than a  few days for most problems to be solved. If it turns out that you cannot use the plan you came up with, look for another solution. For example, if you had planned on taking your child to a weekend tutoring program, but then your work schedule changed and you have to work on weekends, find out if there is another time you can get your child to tutoring or look into online tutoring.

4. Watch for Improvement  

There are two reasons you want to watch for improvement: to praise your child when they improve, and to make sure your plan for help is effective. Children often take it personally when they begin to struggle.  Praising them and letting them know how much you appreciate their hard work can help restore their confidence. If your child does not show improvement within two weeks of starting your improvement plan, you may need to come up with a new plan.

5. Change Plans If Necessary  

If your plan isn't working, then you need to come up with a new plan. For most plans, you should see improvement within two weeks time. Two weeks is enough time to give a strategy a serious try, without wasting too much of a school year on the wrong strategy if your plan is not effective. If your child was facing a small problem, it may take less time to fully fix the issue. If your child has a deep habit that needs correcting or is working to fix a large skill gap, it will take more time to solve the problem completely. Still, improvement should begin to appear within two weeks. If not, then it is time to look at why your plan is not working, and come up with a new plan that will work for you and your child.

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