As parents, one of our biggest fears is finding out that our child is unable to cope academically in class. We each hope that somehow, miraculously we will have the perfect child that will sail through school effortlessly with minimal effort on our part. But the reality is that most children go through a phase where they struggle in school.
Children are sometimes unable to grasp academic concepts and their grades fall. We get called into school and are asked to work on their issues. Some of us then outsource the problem to a tuition teacher and others yell at the child to put in more effort and some do both. Or we accept the situation and say, “Grades don’t matter. I was not a good student. But, look at me. I’m doing perfectly well in life.” Unfortunately, all of these outlooks only help your child in the short term. If your child is falling behind in class, it can affect his self-confidence and self-esteem, leading to possible depression.
There are simple measures that can be put in place to help your child deal with the situation.
Identify the source of the problem
Are his grades dropping compared to his earlier grades? Or are his grades lower than those of his peer group? Each child has a different learning curve and is able to absorb and process information in a different way. Make sure that you are only focussing on his learning and not benchmarking him against his peers.
Understand the nature and extent of the problem
Is he struggling across all subjects or only in a particular subject area? If he is struggling across all subjects, it could indicate a learning difficulty or a lack of organisational skills. If it’s in a particular subject area, it could be that he isn’t able to comprehend the information coming his way. It is also possible that he doesn’t like the teacher. Studies have shown if the learning environment isn’t conducive, children will have difficulties retaining information.
Talk to your child
Depending on the age of your child, talk to him about the difficulties that he faces in class. Give him an opportunity to explain his frustrations. Ask questions to elicit more information on how he learns. “When the teacher explains a concept, are you able to understand what she says?” “At what point, do you get confused about what you need to do?” “What will help you understand the concept better?”
Ask to speak with the teacher
Don’t wait for the scheduled parent-teacher conference. It always helps to nip minor problems in the bud. Try and understand the situation from the teacher’s point of view. Ask the teacher for more information and practical steps that you can implement at home to help your child cope in school.
Get organised, make a to-do list
Does your child have a problem completing his work on time? Some children fall behind in class because they lack organisational skills or focus to manage their class work and homework. They forget to write down important information in their diary. If this is the issue, set a system in place with the teacher and your child that works for both. Ensure you sign his diary everyday and stay informed on class submissions. Encourage your child to be more organised and responsible at home. Teach him how to maintain his books in order. Show him how to make a things-to-do list or a timetable to help him prioritise his work.
Ask pointed questions
Does he have a strong foundation of the subject and is facing difficulties in new concepts being learnt? Or does he have a weak foundational understanding of the subject? Asking pointed questions will help you determine and fix the root causes. By tackling the root cause, you can prevent the same issue from recurring. Speak with the teacher on additional activities that you can do at home to reinforce your child’s learning. There are numerous worksheets, games and activities available on the internet across all ages and subjects.
Develop study skills
Some children are able to pay attention in class but struggle to study during exams. Help your child develop study skills to make it easier for them. Teach them to read text and highlight the main points. Show them how to make notes, flash cards or use mnemonics for better recall.
As your child gets older, the academic demands on him will only get higher. Don’t wait for the school to call you. Prepare your child for the increased academic pressure by making it a part of his daily routine. Set aside a quiet area for him to study. Encourage him to do his homework at the same time everyday. You don’t have to sit at the table with him, but initially, be present in the room. Keep checking in and ask if he needs your help.
Teach him time management as it will be important as he grows older. Maybe, set a timer to help him finish his activity within a certain time frame. Even during vacations, keep his mind active and engaged. Encourage him to read as much as possible. Play games to reinforce his math and vocabulary. A few basic life skills taught at the right time will go a long way in ensuring a smooth, academic life for you and your child.