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4 Questions to Ask if Your Child is Struggling in School

As a parent, your child's educational experience and performance are very important to you. When your student struggles in school, you may feel helpless or frustrated. No matter your kid's age or grade level, it is important to support your child in overcoming his or her difficulties. This can seem like an overwhelming task, but by asking a few questions you can begin to understand the scope of your kiddo's struggles in school. Here are a few questions to ask:

1. Which class or assignment is causing the most difficulty?

The first step you should take when your child is struggling academically is to determine which subject or assignment he's struggling with. You can ask him directly, or you can ask his teachers about the patterns they have observed in your child's performance. Oftentimes, if a student is struggling in one course, he may feel overwhelmed or discouraged, which can cause a ripple effect in his performance in other courses. By identifying the root cause and developing a course of action to address the problem, you can help your child improve other grades—and his confidence.

2. Is your child in an appropriate course level?

If your student is struggling in a course that is based on placement, such as math or English, ask her teacher about whether or not the course is an appropriate level for your child. If your student is enrolled in a course without proper placement, it's possible that the material is either too advanced or too easy. If course material is too advanced, it may be in your child's best interest to take a lower level or more introductory course to ease her into the material. If the course is too basic, she may not feel challenged or engaged, which can also cause her performance to suffer.

3. What are your child's study habits?

Evaluate your student's study habits. If you don't regularly check on his study time, ask him directly how much time he's committing to studying each week. Ask how he studies and in what environment. Is he using textbooks, reviewing course notes or studying with a partner? If you find that he's not spending enough time studying or isn't using all of the resources available, try coaching him into improving his study skills. To ensure he'll be responsive and actually enlist your help, the conversation must come from a place of kindness and support, rather than frustration, disappointment or anger.

4. Is it possible that a disability is affecting performance?

If your student continues to struggle with performing many of the same tasks, assignments or subjects, you might want to see if her performance is being hindered by an underlying learning disability. Generally, students with a learning disability may have difficulty processing certain information; however, other types of disorders, such as ADD or ADHD, can also have negative effects on school performance. Many students with disabilities are very successful in their courses with the proper educational resources and support. However, without adequate support services, a learning disability can feel impossible for a child to overcome on her own. The first step in identifying a disability is to consult with a principal or a doctor about evaluating your child. All public schools are required to have resources to help evaluate and support students with disabilities.

Brenna Tonelli is a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors, the leading curated marketplace for private tutors. The company also builds mobile learning apps, online tutoring environments, and other tutoring and test prep-focused technologies.