School expectations can be challenging and overwhelming for students. It can be tough learning that your child is having difficulties in middle school, whether they're social, educational, or behavioral. It can also be very difficult to take the first steps in helping your child address the underlying issues that are causing those difficulties. But as a responsible, caring parent, it's your job to help your kids get past their troubles at school and make it a place for effective learning.
How You Can Help
1. Get to the root of the problem by finding the cause for your child’s feelings. Set aside some time to have a one-on-one conversation with your child about school. Ask open ended questions to learn more about what they really like and dislike about school. The most important role parents play in this conversation is that of an active listener. Now is the time to really hear what your child has to say and not give your opinions. Once you have an idea as to which reason(s) are behind your child’s feelings then it is easier to begin brainstorming solutions.
2. Meet with your child’s teacher(s) and discuss your child's concerns. The best way to do this is to address the concerns in a positive manner. Together with the teacher brainstorm strategies for making the school or classroom experience more positive.
[Related Article: Reach Out! Tips for Building a Strong, Positive Parent-Teacher Relationship]
3. Share your child’s sparks with his or her teacher(s). The special ability or interest kids have is their spark. Teachers can work with approximately 25 to 200 kids every day and it can be a challenge to learn what makes every child tick. Most teachers really want their classes to be relevant to their students, so the more you share; the easier it is for the teacher to tap into those interests during class.
4. If you believe your child has a specific learning need but is not currently receiving services or supports, you can request additional help. Ask your child's teacher, a counselor, or a social worker to help you refer your child for help. While schools use different names for the process, all schools are mandated to have a process to identify children with specific learning needs. Whether the academics are too rigorous or not rigorous enough, the school is required to identify and support children with special needs. If you ask for assistance at the school and don’t receive it, call the district’s administrative office and request a meeting with the administrator in charge of students with special needs.
5. Sometimes, kids say they hate school because they are bullied. If your child believes he or she is being bullied, step one is to identify if the "bullying" that is happening is actually bullying, or if it can be categorized as something else, like developmentally appropriate conflict. Learn more about how to do that here. It's important to recognize that some amount of conflict is normal in our children's everyday lives, and it's our jobs, as adults, to raise resilient kids who can rise above difficult social situations.
If you have identified that your child is, in fact, being bullied and the situation is dangerous or life-threatening, it's important to take action. Most states now have anti-bullying laws and schools are mandated to intervene. Check out Three Simple Ways Parents Can Stop Bullying for more ideas.
All parents want our children to be happy, healthy, and resilient. So when we discover our kids are having school problems--whether they're academic or behavioral--we should remain calm, help our child figure out what is causing the academic struggles, and work to resolve the issue.
1. Developmental Assets: A Profile of Your Youth (Minneapolis, MN: Search Institute, 2005), 2003 weighted aggregate dataset, unpublished report.