how to help a child struggling academically

In today’s day and age, school work for young teens is more important than ever. Getting into a good college has become more competitive, which leads many to start good study habits earlier. But for many teens, the most important part of school has become lunchtime when they can hang out with their friends. During adolescence, it is not uncommon to see previously academic-focused students to begin to struggle in their classes. For some teens, it’s as simple as creating better study habits and creating some balance. But for other students, it could be that there are underlying issues. Whatever the reason for your daughter’s academic struggles, there are ways that you can support her on her educational path. 

Creating Good Study Habits

Balancing school, sleep, and a social life may seem almost impossible for your teen. However, if you follow a few simple steps, you can help your teen improve study habits, while still living a happy, restful life.

  • Stay organized. Students have a lot on their plate with school, clubs, friends, and family responsibilities. It can be nearly impossible to hold all of that information in their heads. Most students can benefit from writing down assignments, due dates, and obligations. This could be in a planner, a wall calendar, alerts in a phone, or all of the above. Staying organized and seeing responsibilities clearly in multiple places can help your daughter stay on track as she works towards her goals. 
  • Plan ahead. Even if she has no test to study for, setting aside a 60-90 minute period each day will help her learn more over time, rather than cramming everything in the night before a test. It can also be helpful for your student to check their entire week and month in their planner or calendar. Getting a bird’s eye view of their schedule can help them pace their homework and projects. 
  • Keep computers at a distance. When your daughter is studying, make sure that she’s not constantly on her computer. Although computers are great for research and are used as study tools by many schools, they can also pose a distraction for your teen. Social media is just a click away, and that lends to minutes upon minutes of distraction.
  • Take breaks. Encourage your teen to study for periods of 30-45 minutes, followed by a 5-10 minute break. During this break, they should leave the room they are studying in to exercise or take a quick power nap. This balance can help your daughter refresh and avoid burnout. Building in breaks will give her some flexibility so she does not start to develop a negative association with homework.
  • Eliminate unnecessary distractions. Your teen’s study area should be a cell phone-free zone. For positive study habits, Cell phones, video games, and television should not be present in the study space because teens would much rather be entertained than focus on studying. Setting healthy boundaries around her technology use can help her manage expectations around homework time. 
  • Designate a study area. Finding the most comfortable, effective space to study is extremely important for your teen’s productivity levels. A traditional desk environment may not be the best for your child. Instead, they may work better at the kitchen table or sitting outside. Trying out these different environments is important for your child’s future success.
  • Encourage positive thinking. If it’s the night before a test and your teen is worried about it, help her avoid catastrophic thinking by encouraging positive thoughts about the exam. Thinking positively has been proven to improve test scores. Celebrate her victories big and small to help encourage her to keep working towards her goals. 

Issues That Can Lead to Academic Struggles

Academic struggles in adolescents can emerge for numerous reasons. It can start with a few missed assignments or anxiety around testing, and quickly snowball into a larger issue. Knowing some of the causes of school troubles could help you, as a parent, help your child in this situation. Common causes of school struggles include:

  • Sudden, significant life events (ex. Moving, friend/family death)
  • Learning difficulty (ex. Dyslexia, ADHD)
  • Bullying
  • Substance abuse
  • Depression/Anxiety/Other disorders
  • Procrastination or time management issues
  • Disinterest in topics of study
  • Low self-esteem
  • Chronic illness 
  • Because of the multitude of things that can disrupt a child’s learning, it’s important to stay aware of what’s going on in your child’s life. For example, if your family recently moved to a new town, keep an eye out for signs that your child is having issues in school.

Academic struggles are often closely related to the mental health of students. According to reports from the United States Department of Health and Human Services, 21% of school-age children have a diagnosable mental health condition. However, only about 20% of these children are diagnosed and treated. The remaining 80% often experience difficulty in school and may be more likely to drop out of school.  For example, a student with a learning disability that is not recognized or correctly treated might become stressed due to pressure from their family to earn better grades or frustrated with teachers who do not offer adequate assistance. The student might then become anxious about school, and the stress might also manifest as aggression toward their teacher or peers. 

The first step to address academic struggles is to identify the root of the issue. Teens may feel uncomfortable or embarrassed to talk about why they are struggling. Create a supportive space where your daughter can talk about her concerns without fear of judgment. Some teens may not have the skills to communicate their struggles. In this case, it is important for parents to be aware of any changes in their daughter’s mood, physical health, or academic performance. Addressing these issues and finding the right learning path for your daughter as soon as possible will best set her up for future academic success. 

Social-Emotional Learning and Other Options

A recent article published by The New York Times discusses different teaching techniques used for easing academic struggles. The main focus is on social-emotional learning. Emotion is critical in engaging students. Have you ever tried to explain something to someone that has absolutely no interest in what you’re saying? They don’t hear you, they don’t take in that information, they don’t care; this is from a lack of emotional connection to what you’re saying.

Social-emotional learning, defined by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, is “the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goes, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”

This type of teaching recognizes that in order for someone to learn, they have to be emotionally invested, otherwise the information is going to go in one ear and out the other. Oftentimes academic struggles arise when students feel the information they’re being “forced” to learn is irrelevant to their lives. The way to get them interested is to make it personal. For example, explaining how knowing algebra will help someone that has a dream to become an owner of a small sandwich shop.

For some students, a traditional school setting may not be the best fit for their learning style. This is where a therapeutic boarding school can help. A therapeutic boarding school not only offers accredited academics but also clinical support for students dealing with underlying issues such as ADHD or anxiety that are contributing to their academic struggles. Asheville Academy for Girls offers the highest quality of academic programming to our students. This helps students achieve grade-level goals, and most importantly, feel empowered to succeed in future school settings. Our team of highly qualified teachers delivers curriculum aligned with national standards in a classroom setting that meets the diverse needs of our student body. We deliver year-round academic programming for grades 4 through 10. All core curriculum is aligned with national standards, ensuring that students are achieving at grade level and are able to transition smoothly into traditional settings upon graduation.

Asheville Academy for Girls Can Help

Asheville Academy for Girls, a therapeutic boarding school for young girls ages 10-14, helps girls struggling with emotional or behavioral issues causing them to struggle academically and socially. Asheville Academy’s fully accredited academic program provides a personalized learning environment for each student. During the program, each student learns more about their own learning styles, which helps educators teach them the study skills correct for them.

Our nurturing environment and relationship-based community provide an emotionally safe space for your child to heal. Once students feel safe to be vulnerable, we can start to process any previous trauma, anxiety, negative patterns, and academic issues.  Upon completion of the program, your child will develop the confidence and resilience to rebuild strained relationships, advocate for their needs, create healthy boundaries, and face life’s challenges. 

For more information about Asheville Academy, please call 800-264-8709.