When The Start of School Doesn't Live Up to The Hype

4 Steps Parents Can Take to Support Their Child Who Is Struggling in School

As a parent, the following statements can make your stomach tighten into knots:

  • “I hate school.”
  • “Please don’t make me go.”
  • “I’m stupid.”
  • “No one likes me.”
  • “I can’t do it.”

Getting a phone call or email from the school can bring all the challenging emotions to the surface.

  • “We’ve seen aggressive behavior.”
  • “Struggling to keep up.”
  • “Not connecting with the other kids.”
  • “Can’t sit still or focus.”
  • “Refusing to do work or listen.”

Where do you even begin?

First, let’s acknowledge that this is hard. It can bring you right back to struggles you may have had in school. These concerns are impacting your child and that hurts a parent’s heart. It feels so overwhelming that you would like to avoid it and shut down. That’s where you begin, by empathizing with your child. They are feeling similar emotions and may not be able to articulate them.

Step one: Talk to your child. Let them know that you love them and believe in them. You are here to help them and work with the school team. Ask them to help you understand how they feel. What frustrates them the most? Be supportive of your child and don’t dismiss concerns. Identify strengths and what is working well. In every situation there is some progress. This requires looking at the whole picture.

Step two: Team with the teacher and the school. Be open to feedback. Who are the people on campus that I should be communicating with? The teacher is the first person you want to reach out to. Start your conversation with appreciation and recognition of all they are doing for your child. The teacher wants your child to succeed. It is the rare situation where confrontation is needed. You will also want to connect with an administrator and school counselor.

Step three: Identify the area of struggle? What is the concern? Is it academic, behavioral, or social? It is important to be specific as there are interventions for each area. Does my child need these supports more than the other students in class? While we don’t want to spend a great deal of time comparing children, it can be helpful to notice where the class is overall and if your child is struggling in a certain area.

Step four: Know what your educational rights are. Is the behavior a manifestation of a disability? Students with an ADHD or Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis may have difficulty with expected behavior. Could your child benefit from a 504 or IEP? These are plans within the special education system that details the interventions and accommodations. What is the least restrictive environment? For example: you want to keep your child in general education classes. However, if they have a learning disability and struggle in math, they may need extra support for that specific subject. All of these supports and details would be outlined in an IEP.

Please consider this a starting point for working with your child and school team. If you have any concerns please reach out to our team of child therapists, many of which have worked in school settings before. We want to support you and your child.








About Corrie Puscas

Corrie Puscas, LLPC, earned a Master’s degree in Professional Counseling from Texas State University. Her experience with young children includes four years as a professional nanny, teaching and directing middle school theatre for ten years and serving as a school counselor for three years. She specializes in children's counseling, ADHD and learning differences, school struggles, and foster/adoption issues. She sees children, adolescents, and their families at Lifeologie Counseling Grand Rapids Ada.

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