What Do You Do When Your Child Has A Problem In School?

by Dr. Shanthi Thomas

It is one of the most dreaded moments in a parent’s life when he/she gets a call from the school, to meet the Principal or the class teacher. Immediately, the parent imagines all sorts of scenarios in which things could go wrong; maybe her son got into a fight, maybe her daughter did not hand in homework, perhaps something more serious happened, so on and so forth. In any case, it is true that something is amiss regarding your child, when it warrants you being called to the school. What do you do when your child has a problem in school?

1. Prepare to understand, not judge

Ask yourself if you are in the right frame of mind to tackle the issue. The right frame of mind would be a preparedness to understand instead of being judgemental. Whatever be the issue with your child at school, it is something to be understood and dealt with, not something to be judged as right or wrong. This mental preparedness is the first step towards solving the problem.

2. Leave your personal feelings aside

Very often, in this kind of a situation, it is easy to be led by your own feelings about the people involved and the situation, and the kind of things you have heard have happened to other parents. It is easy to feel anger and embarrassment if you think you or your child has been misunderstood or dealt with unfairly. It is imperative that you leave these feelings aside and focus completely on the child and his/her well-being.

3. Partner with the school

It is important to see the school as an ally instead of an adversary. After all, other than you and your close family, your child’s teachers are the only other people who would naturally wish well for your child. Therefore, partner with the teachers or the Principal in dealing with the problem. Tell them that you understand the situation, ask their advice and seek their help. This will lead to more real time communication between you and the school, which leads to better understanding of your child’s behaviour.

4. Do your part at home

If it is a problem of your child not handing in homework on time, make it a point to sit with him every night till he finishes his homework. When it is a problem of the child not being able to sit at one place and attend to the classes, see if he needs to be taken to a psychologist or counsellor, to rule out any issues such as Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). If it is a problem in learning itself, get him evaluated for a learning disability. In case he needs additional help in understanding, see if you can hire a personal tutor if possible.

5. Make your child an independent learner

Slowly but surely, work towards making your child an independent learner, who can take responsibility for his school work. Never ever do his work for him, but sit with him and help him if he finds it difficult to finish his work. Work with him to draw up a schedule or timetable for the day, allotting time to play and to study. Spend time with him to talk to him and understand in what ways school is difficult for him. Sometimes, the issue might come down to some form of bullying about which the child may not be open with you very easily.

6. Don’t criticise the school or teacher in front of the child

This is a mistake many parents commit knowingly or unknowingly. It is important to understand that teachers have their individual differences in temperament and behaviour. Not every teacher will be liked by your child and that is ok. Learning to adjust to the teaching styles and behaviour of different teachers is good preparation for life, for youngsters.

7. Understand that a teacher’s job is not easy

In some circumstances, the school may have acted in not-so-ideal ways. Teachers may have been a little unthoughtful. Even in such circumstances, it is important to approach the issue from a place of understanding, not of judging and attacking. Teaching, like parenting, is not an easy job, and teachers do make mistakes sometimes. In normal circumstances, it is important to see the school as a partner in bringing up your child, although in extra ordinary circumstances such as child abuse, you will have to put your foot down, and see that justice is served.

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