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How Parents can Help When Kids Are Struggling Academically

Help! My child is struggling and it is only the beginning of the year…

The December holidays seem like a distant memory and early morning school runs, homework and sport have become the focus of thousands of families across South Africa. Teachers and learners are settled into the school routines and, as with each new year, parents have expectations and hopes of academic success.

But for some parents, hope is short-lived, as they are forced to acknowledge that their child is struggling, despite it being so early in a new year. Panic, frustration, blame and even anger can leave parents and learners feeling helpless or even humiliated. This should not be the case at all.

Why not consider some of these helpful tips to coping with a child who is struggling so early in the year?

1. Know that mistakes and challenges are inevitable. Children are not robots, and neither do they enter this world with an operating manual in their hand. Effective learning can only take place when we accept that mistakes are simply opportunities for growth. Teach this to your children!

2. Don’t panic – you cannot find effective solutions when you are focused on what could and is going “wrong”. Panic will add to your stress as a parent and, even more so, it will most likely be internalised by the struggling child. Remember that despite outward appearances of negative “I don’t care” attitudes, there is a child who fears failure and dreams of success! Acknowledging that there is a problem and choosing to seek positive solutions will be a far more effective approach.

Set realistic goals and realistic learning times. Minimise distractions by agreeing to TV and cell phone downtimes.

3. Aim at developing a positive working relationship with the teacher. Listen to understand, and focus on working as a team to find workable solutions in assisting your child.

4. Be careful of putting too much pressure on your child. This can be counterproductive and cause your child to shut down, or even give up. Blaming and punishing a struggling child will only add to the child’s already diminishing self-esteem, and positive results are unlikely. Children who are forced to add hours of extra study time to their already pressured programmes run the risk of becoming resentful, frustrated, exhausted and unproductive.

5. Set realistic goals and realistic learning times. Minimise distractions by agreeing to TV and cell phone downtimes.

6. Seek help in the form of extra tuition.

7. Enrol your child in a study skills course that is rooted in emotional intelligence skills. Skills in self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social interaction have been proven to increase one’s ability to learn more effectively.

Learning is a process – challenges and obstacles are inevitable. Acknowledge and embrace these, as you seek to sincerely praise and encourage any progress or positive work ethic. As a parent, your biggest challenge is to help your child to recognise their value and purpose as a human being!

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