As your child grows from childhood to adolescence their changing priorities present a fresh batch of parenting challenges – lots of which tie directly with experiences they’re having at school. When GCSEs and A Levels approach, you want to help them enjoy life and do their best academically, but it can be hard to work out what’s going on in their busy teen life.
School might be ‘fine’ or ‘OK’ when you ask, but you don’t really get the full picture – and feedback from school itself can be a bit scarce, meaning you have to piece together what you can. As exam season nears, keep your eye out for common problems that might be holding them back. Here are five red flags to look out for in your teen, and what you can do to tackle them.
They’re disengaged from learning
As the academic year progresses, if your child switches off from school work it becomes harder to incentivise them when exams are only a few weeks away. If there are subjects they really don’t like, then helping them understand the relevance of it to their long-term ambitions is a great way to help them find enough focus to get through exams. If your child hates Maths and wants to be a chef, for example, then explaining how budgeting, inventory counts and recipe measures all require basic sums and equations can help motivate them to work past their initial resistance.
If they’ve become resentful of a subject that they’re normally passionate about, this can also be a sign that something else is bothering them. Having an open conversation and working out what caused the change is the best way to find a solution and have them enjoying class again.
Learning difficulties are holding them back
Disorders such as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and Dyslexia are very common but often underdiagnosed. If a kid regularly struggles with literacy or concentration, then they can convince themselves they’re stupid and lose self-confidence. When this sort of thing persists, it can be a good idea to speak with an expert. Their school’s Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) can conduct a test for Dyslexia, and if you’re worried about ADHD you can also talk to your SENCO and see your local GP. With a diagnosis, you can immediately start to find the special help your child needs. Schools have budgets especially to help children with learning disorders, and often knowing that they have a condition can help the child to realise that there’s nothing wrong with them – they just need to approach studying in a different way that works for them.
Struggling with attention span is also more common in teenagers across the board, so working out whether an issue is age-related or an ongoing disorder can help you find the best course of action to help them either way. Knowing your child has a learning difficulty doesn’t sentence them to low-achieving. Rather, it enables you and their school to adequately give them the extra help they need to do as well as other pupils.
Anxiety is getting them down
If your child isn’t coping well with the pressure of school, it can only get worse as exam season approaches. Teenagers are especially sensitive to stress as changes in school workload coincides with the hormonal rollercoaster of adolescence. If you can lay down good coping mechanisms and study skills with them then this can help assuage a fear of failure and let them concentrate on their learning. If you can, giving them a desk space at home where they can keep revision notes and books in a systematic way can also help ease their nerves.
Ultimately, anxiety about performing well at school comes from a fear of letting people down and missing out on creating their best future.
Let your child know that exams aren’t the end of the world, and that no one can ask for anything more than their best effort. By making it seem less final, you can help calm their fear so they can focus.
Peer pressure is leading them astray
The social pressures of secondary school can lead kids in all sorts of unexpected directions. If you think they might be getting pushed into doing things they don’t want to do or aren’t happy in their friendships, then they could be bowing to peer pressure. It might not be considered ‘cool’ to raise your hand in class, so your child’s questions go unanswered. Or perhaps there’s pressure to join the crew who are bunking off Science, meaning that important lessons get missed.
Increased irritability, reckless behaviour, a drop in mood and a sudden change in attitude are all common tell-tale signs of peer pressure, and the emotional effects can be upsetting, damaging their school-work at the same time. If you’re worried, sitting them down one-to-one, or with your partner, in a comfortable setting to talk is a good way to find out about potential problems that can be affecting their behaviour. If you can create open communication and keep their trust in you then you give yourself the groundwork for encouraging positive changes.
They’re falling behind
While teachers need to make sure that a curriculum gets fully covered by a class in time for exams, if a child gets stuck on a topic along the way then it gets harder to catch-up as time goes on. You might hear your child complain about their ‘hardest’ topics, or see that they’re struggling with their homework in certain subjects. This can happen for a number of reasons and is really normal. If you can identify how they’re doing and find extra help for them then you can stop problems from snowballing and affecting them in the long-term. Have regular chats with your child about their subjects and use parents’ meetings and report cards to stay up-to-date with their progress. If you can identify where they need extra help, you can help make sure they find it.
If any of these warning signs ring true for you, know that it’s totally normal and totally solvable.
With MyTutor lessons, one-to-one help from a dedicated tutor can take a huge weight off your and your child’s shoulders. Whether they have special learning needs, are struggling with anxiety or just need a motivational boost, some lessons using our online classroom can help them achieve their best. All of our tutors are high-achievers and at top UK universities. So while sharing expertise in their subject, as they sat school exams only a few years ago, they can easily relate to teens and pass along their secrets to exam success.
By addressing the warning signs, you can make sure school is the fulfilling environment it should be and help your child achieve their full potential.