What do you do if your kid falls down? That’s a question any mom can easily answer: You help pick them back up. When they were little, that meant hoisting them up by their armpits and safely planting them back on their feet. As they got a little older, helping them back up meant lending a light hand. And now that they’re a teen, getting them back on their feet is simply a matter of encouraging them to find the strength in themselves.  

Falling behind at school is a lot like falling down – it’s a temporary setback that requires your kid to dust themselves off, realize why they fell, and then get back up. Luckily, you can still help. With a bit of encouragement, a smart game plan and some outside-the-classroom thinking, you can help a kid who’s struggling at school. Here’s how. 

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Determine the Issue

If you find out your kid is struggling with a high school course, the first thing you should do is engage in a dialogue. Resist the urge to scold or reprimand; instead, coolly investigate the reasons why they’re falling behind in their studies. 

Perhaps they don’t understand the course material and have trouble keeping pace with their peers. Maybe they are uncomfortable asking their instructor for help. They may be dealing with a mental health issue, like depression or anxiety, or an undiagnosed learning disability like dyslexia. Finally, they may find that the social pressures of being at school – trying to fit in and “be cool” – are affecting their academic performance. 

Consider a Self-Paced Environment

Once you’ve determined the source of the problem, you can go about addressing it. One possible way to address the issue is to propose a different learning environment. 

“Self-paced learning,” a feature of many online high schools, allows students to learn at a speed they feel comfortable. They can allot more time to concepts they find challenging and less time to stuff that comes easily. Crucially, they aren’t required to keep pace with their peers. If you think the one-pace-fits-all approach of a conventional school is holding your teen back, look into how they can complete their classes online instead. 

Develop Goals and a Schedule

Finally, develop goals and a schedule to keep your kid on track. Several issues surrounding learning struggles stem from a lack of structure – your kid doesn’t have a clear idea of what they are working towards, nor do they have an adequate road map for achieving those results. 

Together, list a few educational goals. These can be as specific as a particular mark (Let’s say they want to achieve at least a B+ in Math) or as general as graduating high school. Then, you can plot a path towards that goal, complete with a study schedule, measurable indicators, contingency plans in the case of setbacks, and rewards for a job well done. 

Remember, education always allows second chances. Talk with your kid about the source of their struggles and propose solutions for addressing the issue. Consider an online school if your kid’s problems stem from pace or social pressure, and create a goal plan to keep everything on track.