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  • Carolyn Boutin

Unconventional Signs Your Child Might Be Struggling

Currently, your child’s teacher is working very hard on report cards. Assessment is such a vital part of the education process. However, it is only one tool for determining if your child is succeeding at school. Report cards are just a snapshot and do not show the whole picture of your child’s life at school. It can be difficult as a parent to gauge how your child is performing. Children often carry much shame about their performance at school, and instead of reaching out for help, they put time and effort into hiding what is happening inside.

Here are some clues that your child may be struggling at school.

If you haven’t received any marks back in a while, that can be a sign that your child is not meeting expectations. Most teachers either mark daily or in bigger chunks. So, if you haven’t seen any marks in a while and your child tells you, “Oh Mr. So-and-So never hands anything back,” I recommend reaching out to the teacher and confirming what work has been handed back. Keep in mind to ask the teacher in a non-judgmental way that doesn’t put the teacher on the defence. You may learn that the teacher has been consistently handing back work that has ended up in the garbage or stuffed into a binder.

Another clue is if your child is hesitant or unable to start work independently. This can be a sign that they’ve lost confidence and feel overwhelmed. If your child feels this way, they may be picking up on messaging from their teacher or classmates that they are not doing as well as they should. If they are floundering, a great way to support your child is to encourage them to get their work out, write their name at the top, and identify what the first step towards completion would be. It might be necessary to go through the first couple of steps and then encourage them to finish independently.

If your child has stopped talking about their day and seems frustrated and angry when pushed for details, this can be another clue. Make sure you ask the “right” questions that will encourage your child to answer with more detail. Some examples are: “What was the hardest part of your day?”; “What was the best part of recess?”; “Whom did you help today?” These questions aren’t about their academic progress or accomplishments, so they help your child speak to you without feeling pressure. It is also important to share difficulties you may have faced during your day. You will be modelling self-expression and showing your child that you don’t always have to be perfect. Your child needs to know that it’s okay to stumble or make a mistake, and sharing your adversities is a way to do this.

Contact the school if you notice some of these signs in your child's behaviour. Work with your child’s teacher to determine if they are seeing the same things you are seeing. If you’re concerned about your child’s mental health, please reach out to your healthcare team or access support through the City of Hamilton’s Child and Adolescent Services

As a parent, it is important to trust your gut and follow the signs to ensure that your child feels that they are succeeding in school.

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