What To Do If Your Child Is Struggling in School (An Education Specialist Explains)

What can you do to help your child who may be struggling in school?

I have two decades of experience in education curriculum, professional development training, parent engagement, youth leadership, and more.

So when parents approach me about this issue, I align much Maggie Dent, a parent educator. Here’s what I would say:

There are typically some underlining reasons as to why children struggle in school. And our job as parents is to find out what that is. You can do this by helping your children problem solve and come alongside them and affirm they have your support in finding a solution.   

It’s important to stay positive and talk to your child along with their teachers to see if there are any underlying issues. 

If your child is starting to get frustrated with a topic that doesn’t make sense, take study breaks to help refresh their mind. Always reward good behavior to give them motivation, and implement any changes in their life that will help their study habits. 

Continue reading to uncover how you as a parent can help your child with their academics. 


  • My Child Is Struggling in School: How Can I Help?
  • Signs Your Elementary Student is Struggling in Academics
  • Signs Your Middle Schooler is Struggling in Academics
  • Signs Your Highschool Student Is Struggling in Academics
  • Possible Reasons Your Child is Struggling Academically
  • An Academic Learning Program Designed To Help Struggling Students

The Top Ways You Can Help Your Struggling Child in School

It’s primarily your child’s responsibility to get back on their feet and put some extra work in. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything to help. Your assistance may prove extremely useful to your child. 

Here are a few ways that you can help. 

Validate Them

Children in grades 4-12 will need your help in validating how they are feeling and what is happening in their life. 

All it takes to get started is a simple conversation with your child to dig to the root of the problem. Be careful not to show any anger or disappointment in this conversation. Try to be empathetic, calm, and approachable so that your child would feel comfortable talking to you and feel safe that you won’t judge them.

Reach Out to Their Teachers

Teachers have likely noticed that your child has been struggling and may be able to point out exactly what the issue is.

After talking with your child and the teachers, you can come up with a way to tackle this problem together.

Set Clear Goals and Desired Outcomes

Before making any drastic changes, it’s important to reflect on what works and what doesn’t. Strategizing and discussing the desired outcome will help your child feel more ownership of the changes. With your guidance, your child will learn how to set realistic goals and earn a sense of achievement when goals are met.

Implement Necessary Changes

Start by designating a specific time for homework with no distractions. During that time, your child won’t be allowed to use their phone or other devices, go out, or watch TV. You should get involved, too. Check the homework once it’s done to make sure they are doing their assignments correctly. When homework is done too early or there is no homework, that’s a perfect time to supplement it with reading time.

Reward Good Behavior 

Reward your child when they make progress. This creates an additional source of motivation for your child. Some examples of rewards would be allowing them to go see a friend after their work is one, play video games, or watch some TV. The goal is to build internal motivation rather than just a quick fix.

Signs Your Elementary Student is Struggling in Academics

The sooner you notice that your child is struggling to catch up with their schoolwork, the better. These problems will not go away on their own, and without immediate attention, the problems will continue to grow. 

Children aren’t always open about their struggles in school. They may feel that you’ll punish them for not being good enough, or they may simply be embarrassed. Whatever the case, it’s important for you to learn to recognize the early signs that your child is struggling. 

Here are a few common ones:

  • Refusing to talk about school
  • School becomes boring for your child
  • Misbehaving in class

Your Child Refuses to Talk About School

Up until a few weeks ago, your child was more than happy to tell you about their schoolwork, classmates, and teachers. But now things have changed. When you ask them about the school, you often receive vague answers or outright refusal to talk. Pay close attention to what your child does talk about. It’s possible they are only refusing to talk about certain subjects and not a school in general.

What’s causing this shift in behavior? It’s safe to assume that there is some kind of a problem at school. You’ll clearly need to investigate further and find out exactly what it is and if it’s performance-related.

Your Child Suddenly Starts Saying That School Is Boring

Any major attitude changes toward school and schoolwork may signal a problem. But one that most parents tend to overlook is when their child suddenly starts claiming that school is boring. 

Children often get bored when they don’t understand what is being said to them, so that could be the case with your child as well.

Misbehaving in Class

Children who don’t understand their schoolwork get bored which often leads to misbehaving. So if you start receiving complaints from teachers about your child’s behavior, don’t just punish or scold them. Take a look at their grades and overall performance to get some deeper insight on what is causing the ill behavior. 

Signs Your Middle Schooler is Struggling in Academics

Like the younger kids, there is a possibility your middle schooler might not wish to talk about their challenges in school. 

Here are a few signs to show that your middle schooler is struggling:

  • Difficulty eating or sleeping
  • Working on homework for too long

Difficulty Eating or Sleeping

Has your child been eating less and having trouble falling asleep? These issues could be the result of excessive worry about something, which, in your child’s case, is most likely school-related. So, if you notice changes in your middle schooler’s appetite or sleep pattern, talk to them. If they refuse to elaborate, make an appointment with their teacher instead.

Working on Homework for Too Long

You might be happy to see your child work diligently on their homework. But before you start celebrating, pay attention to how long they’re doing their homework. If they spend an hour on a single task, they are clearly struggling. 

The fact that your child is still willing to work is certainly a good thing. You can help them out before they fall too far behind.

Signs Your Highschool Student Is Struggling in Academics

High schoolers are just as unwilling to talk about their school struggles as any other students. They might be even more dismissive of the topic than others simply because they believe they are old enough to handle things on their own. 

Here are a few signs to show that your high schooler is struggling:

  • Irritability
  • Changes in social habits

Irritability, Especially When Discussing Schoolwork

Teenagers are known to be fairly irritable, so you might not make much of their refusal to discuss schoolwork but you shouldn’t dismiss it. Try to talk to them and gauge where the problem is, or check in with their teachers. That might give you some necessary insight into why your child is often in a bad mood.

Changes in Social Habits

If you notice that your child is unusually quiet or withdrawn, you might want to look into it further. Some teenagers are naturally more withdrawn so it’s only alarming if it is out of their norm. This can be a telltale sign of your child struggling academically. 

Possible Reasons Why Your Child is Struggling Academically

Once you can determine why your child is struggling academically you are better able to help them out, but it can be hard figuring out exactly what the problem is. 

We have gathered a few reasons that could be the cause of your child’s struggles and possible solutions to consider.

Reasons Solutions to consider % of students who experience this
Stress Don’t over schedule, ensure good sleep, serve healthy diets, incorporate daily exercise, & model self care Nearly 45%
Social awkwardness Focus on their strengths, set priorities, practice role playing to gain confidence, teach empathy Nearly 5% (typical age of onset is 13)
Slow at learning Practice specific skills, work on planning and organization, talk to the school N/A
Special educational needs Give your child some undivided attention, be an advocate for your child, keep goals clear 14.4% (of kids under the age of 18)

The best thing to do for your child is to listen to them and pay close attention to their behavior. You will be amazed at what you learn about your child by simply listening and watching.

An Academic Learning Program Designed To Help Struggling Students

If you feel that your child needs extra help overcoming their academic struggles, you should look into one of Excellerate’s academic programs. These programs quickly gauge your child’s knowledge and then set specific goals to help measure their progress. 

Aside from helping children become better at subjects they are struggling in, Excellerate also teaches them how to take notes, manage their time, and self-regulate. All these skills come in handy at various stages of their education.

What’s more, the program is specifically adjusted to your child’s needs, and the teachers are academic coaches with years of experience in the field. Your child will receive the best possible education that is sure to help them catch up with their schoolwork in no time!

Why Study Skills for Online Learning Are Essential to Your Student

essential study skills help with online learning

Understand why study skills are essential for online learning as they will be a big part of students’ lives even after this school year.

This past academic year has been marked with all kinds of challenges for parents: trying to protect the physical and mental health of the family, helping kids to continue their academic progress, and balancing the demands of work and home while keeping some sense of normalcy. With the pandemic rate of infection subsiding and with the substantial effort with vaccinations, we can optimistically predict the normal school year will be back this fall. School districts are already exploring options to bring more students back to school before the end of the current school year. 

However, we know that this pandemic has changed not only our view of the way we work, travel, and shop. The education system as a whole has experienced tremendous changes, too. The development of education technology has been growing steadily in the last few decades, but the past year’s experience has shown us the need for a new way of learning. In the recent podcast titled “How COVID Could Permanently Change Public Education” from Innovation Hub, Paul Reville, a professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education, talks about how technology will have a tremendous impact on these three areas: expansion of the boundaries of schooling (location or time), family engagement, and personalization.

Whether you like it or not, online learning will continue regardless of the geographical location or time and it’s important to think about how your student and you as a family will adapt to this change. In this article, we will review why gaining the new type of study skills for online learning is important.

1. Study skills in online learning are essential because they create benchmarks to measure the growth and success of students as well as a framework to communicate with parents and educators.

For those who can see it, the new technology gives this generation of students a rare opportunity: they can visualize concepts, practice, and achieve mastery in much less time. It can provide students with insight into their strengths and how they best learn on a much deeper level than in the pre-digital learning era. Effective and efficient instruction and assessment also enable educators to incorporate non-cognitive areas such as social and emotional learning and executive functioning skills, essential parts of  21st-century learning skills

This approach provides students, parents, and educators the opportunity to see students as whole learners, not just letter grades and test scores. It gives a more accurate picture of who they are and goes beyond the surface level to show the students’ underlying struggles. Learning these essential study skills will help students work smarter and allow parents and educators to support them better at home and school. 

2. Study skills in online settings are essential because they build agency and self-efficacy in students, essential qualities for classroom and remote learning environments.

What are some of these study skills that are so critical for online learning? A partial list includes goal setting, time management, note-taking, resource management, critical thinking, communication, flexibility, and adaptability. These are the skills students should have for even a traditional classroom environment. Still, now with the possibility of asynchronous and flipped class instructional methods, these skills become even more essential for learning. 

During this pandemic period, students, parents, and educators all experienced the challenges of online learning. They were not prepared for such drastic change in such a short period. But coming out of the situation, we hope to have a better plan for the future. One of the biggest challenges reported for students has been engagement and the need for offline executive functioning skillsets. Equipping students with appropriate study skills will address these issues and help them learn better with technology, whether in distance learning or the regular classroom environment.

But most students need to be taught, and these skills can be taught. Just as adults on a new job receive job training to perform at the expected level, students need training in these all-important study skills so they can perform at a high level and become independent learners. When students start setting goals and can reflect on their own learning, the whole process becomes much more personal and meaningful. When parents know what specific skills to address with their students, and when educators know how to encourage students to have productive struggles and measure their progress, we are providing a measurable benchmark that shows more precisely how to help the student in online learning settings. 

3. Study skills in online settings are essential because they set students up for success in academics and their future careers.

Lastly, these same study skills are more important than ever for the changing job market. A recently published research article, “Good Jobs in Bad Times” by Burning Glass, lists 14 foundational skills key for all graduates. 

Human Skills

  • Communications
  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking
  • Collaboration
  • Analytical Thinking

Digital Building Blocks

  • Analyzing Data
  • Managing Data
  • Software Development
  • Computer Programming
  • Digital Security Privacy

Business Enablers

  • Business Process
  • Project Management
  • Digital Design
  • Communicating Data

Even recent college graduates who are just starting their careers often find themselves without these essential skills since they are not traditionally taught in the classroom. This disparity between the skills required for success in jobs and the skills actually taught will only get wider unless we address this issue with our current elementary and secondary school students. We must incorporate ways to increase these skill sets while embracing educational technology as a part of the new normal.

When students, parents, and educators are trained to use the right study skills for the digital learning environment, the learning experience will be personalized to meet each student’s needs and create the building blocks for future career readiness. 

Would you like to know what the essential study skills are and in which areas your child needs to be supported? Take this self-assessment questionnaire. We will send your results with tips on how to improve in those areas. Or schedule a free trial to receive comprehensive diagnostic results in Math, Language Arts, Reading, and Writing.