Steps to take if your child is having problems at school

It’s hard to know what to do when you notice that your child is having problems at school. Here we describe three of the most common problems faced by children at school and what you can do to help.

Your child is falling behind in their schoolwork

  • Look out for warning signs. Although bringing home failed assessments provides a clear indication that your child has fallen behind, it’s not always that obvious. Other (less obvious) signs include a reluctance to go to school or to talk about their school work. Your child may also exhibit lower self-esteem or try to draw your attention away from their studies by emphasising their achievements in another area.   
  • Know that your child may not be aware that they have fallen behind. For example, they may have a friend in class who helps them out with tough maths problems. Ask your child about their school work and make the time to work through their assessments with them. This should give you a good indication of how they are going and help you to pinpoint areas in which they need help.
  • If you suspect that your child does need assistance, it’s worth having a chat to their teacher. Don’t wait until parent–teacher interviews; speak to your child’s teacher as soon as you notice the issue. They will be able to discuss your child’s progress and, if needed, give you some advice about steps to take. This may be as simple as putting together a nightly study schedule to get your child back up to speed or perhaps arranging a tutor.  

Your child has fallen into the wrong group of friends

  • Ensure that your concerns are valid and are not based on speculation. Think about why you are worried about your child’s involvement with a particular friend. Is it because they are causing your child to misbehave at school or be disrespectful at home? Have they gone through sudden changes, perhaps in regards to their clothing style or mannerisms?
  • Speak openly with your child. Let them know why you are concerned, how you think they are being affected by the friendship and the possible implications. This shouldn’t be a one-way conversation, so let your child have their say.
  • If you are still worried, think about putting some measures in place. For example, you might invite your child’s friend over for a movie night if you are hesitant about them heading out alone, place some limits on their mobile or internet communications or encourage your child to try out some new hobbies on the weekend.   

Your child is being bullied

  • The first step is to talk to your child, ensuring that you gather as much information as you can (who they are being bullied by, how often it occurs, if they’ve told a teacher and any other details they can give you). Remember that your child may not be willing to talk about the situation if they are particularly upset.
  • Discuss coping strategies. Although this depends on the severity of the situation, it can help to show your child what they can do. For example, if they are being subjected to light teasing, they can try ignoring the bully or use a routine response and walk away.
  • It’s a good idea to raise your concerns with the school if the problem is serious or ongoing — it’s in everyone’s best interest that the school is made aware of the situation as they are equipped to handle it in a professional manner. It may even put a stop to a bully who is affecting a number of children. Schools take bullying very seriously and most, if not all, have special policies and procedures in place.

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