Aug 5, 2019

Dr. Gellner: We all know that the teen years are hard for kids to navigate, and school issues are no exception. What to do when your teen starts struggling in school.

Announcer: Keep your kids healthy and happy. You are now entering "The Healthy Kids Zone" with Dr. Cindy Gellner on "The Scope."

Dr. Gellner: Middle and high school are tough. As if teens didn't have enough to worry about with peer pressure, body changes, social demands, now there are common core standards that even some teachers struggle to understand. When a teen starts having issues with schoolwork, it's best to figure out why and how to get them the help they need as soon as possible. Teens aren't always willing to let you know they're having a hard time, especially if they are embarrassed that they used to be really good at academics and now they can't keep up. If your teen doesn't want to talk about how school is going, and that's becoming the norm more than just a bad day here and there, you better find out what's going on.

For one, bullying is a huge problem during the teen years. See if that's an issue. And what about if they say they're bored in school? This could actually be them saying they don't understand the material, so they really don't care if they pay attention in class or not.

Homework is another area where you might notice some changes. Supposedly the rule is that kids should spend 10 minutes per grade level on homework each night. Now, obviously, there will be times when your teen won't have any homework, and then there will be teachers who think that the only thing a student should be doing every night is an hour of homework on their subject alone, as is the case, often, for my junior high student.

If your teen is consistently spending an excessive amount of time on homework, it might be time to check in on them. Are they even doing their homework? Are they just goofing around pretending to study when they're just listening to music or playing on their phone? If they really are doing their work, are they understanding it? Are they just staring at the paper and not knowing where to start?

What about if all of a sudden you start getting phone calls from the school about your teen misbehaving? Should you automatically think it's just teen rebellion acting up because their friends are making bad choices and they're joining in? Could it be drugs, alcohol, teen romance on the rocks? Well, maybe it's just that they're struggling with their schoolwork. They're getting frustrated and upset and then they just act out.

So, okay, you've gotten to the point where you figured out that there really is a problem with your teen in school. Where do you go? What's the next step? First things first, talk to your teen to find out their perspective and what they would think would help them best. Sometimes kids know, sometimes they're totally lost.

The next step is, with your teen being aware of you're doing this, of course, talk to your child's teacher. They may have some ideas on what might work for your teen. That's their job to be able to educate a classroom of kids who learn in all different ways. So they become really good at figuring out different ways to teach the material. They know what resources are available if needed too.

If the three of you, parent, teen, and teacher all get on the same page, your teen is more likely to be successful with learning the information that's being taught. The most important tip to remember in all of this is to keep an open mind when talking to your teen and also to be supportive. Teens, like the rest of us, don't like to admit when we're struggling and need help. But if they know you're on their side, they're more likely to keep the lines of communication open, which in turn will lead them to being more successful in school.

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