Struggling Child? Make an Academic Action Plan

The blank slate of the new calendar year presents the perfect opportunity to assess where your child is – and figure out if a reboot is necessary. I know that sometimes it takes all fall to get settled in, and then, bang, it’s the holidays and then, boom, it’s January!

struggling childNow, the school year is far enough along that you can pretty much get a handle on where your child is – what subjects he might be struggling with, and which teaching styles might be presenting a challenge.

Read on for an action plan that you can implement now to make the rest of the school year a success!

  1. Review grades online with your child. I bet you’ve had this conversation with your child. “How’s everything going?” “Good.” “Are you caught up?” “Yes.” Huh. My motto is “Trust, but verify.” Kids should be keeping track themselves of where their grades are, but sometimes it takes a parental peek at whatever online grading system your school uses to really see what might need a redo – or even what needs to be turned in! Sometimes it’s as easy as finding a paper in the “no name pile” and turning it in to get credit. I know that my child is often stunned at what has been recorded as “not finished.”
  2. Review past assignments and tests. The only way to figure out what your child needs to focus on is to know what they don’t know. Look over calculus assignments or AP Biology tests that have been returned to see where your child is struggling. Maybe you’ll find that the teacher wants them to turn in neater or more complete work. Sometimes you discover it’s just one unit that was making a dent in their grade and with extra work on that challenging concept, they’ll be back up to par.
  3. Look ahead to what’s due and when and create a calendar. Sometimes kids feel overwhelmed with all they have to do, and it paralyzes them. Help them get a handle on how to effectively plan to do small bites of projects on a regular basis so they aren’t overwhelmed at the end. Review the efficacy of studying a little each day rather than a lot in one day.
  4. Discuss study habits. If study habits got lax because of the holidays, now is the time to button down. Take a look at the schedule to see if homework is getting pushed later, when it’s hard to be effective. Check out tech use to see if your child’s “multitasking” is keeping them off task. Refer to the calendar you both created, and figure out how to fit the work that needs to be done into an efficient weekly study schedule.
  5. Help them create a script for asking for help. Is the teacher lax about putting grades online so they don’t even KNOW what’s been turned in? Do tests cover too much material that they haven’t reviewed in class? Does the teacher neglect to provide adequate feedback on English papers, or does it seem that your child doesn’t know exactly what’s expected? Help her formulate a plan to speak to the teacher about a specific issue that would make a difference. Hint: Sometimes email is easier!
  6. Intervene as a last resort. It’s always best to let your child solve their dilemmas themselves, but sometimes there is a time and a place for a parent to send a short email or arrange for a meeting. Sometimes that personal touch makes the difference between your child struggling – or succeeding. I always err on the side of realizing there might be ‘something’ I don’t know about this situation – it’s never about taking sides against the teacher or being accusatory. It’s about getting to the bottom of a problem your child is having – real or perceived – and working together to solve it.

When your child is struggling, it can be hard to know how to best help. But by following these six savvy steps you will be on your way to first identifying the issues – and then creating a realistic action plan to solve them!

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