It’s perfectly natural that at some point or another, most kids will go through a problematic period at school. As they hit secondary level, the impact of moving into the more challenging, both academically and socially, can generate problems, worries, and anxieties that manifest themselves in a variety of ways.
It could well be just a phase given the hormones flying about the place, yet some signs can point to deeper underlying issues. If you think your child may be having problems at school then don’t worry, you’re by no means alone on this one – here’s five symptoms to look out for.
1) Have you noticed a growing reluctance to go to school in your child? Ranging from general moaning and lethargy to more physical symptoms such as crying, trembling or vomiting before school, the warning signs should be pretty clear. Be careful not to dismiss all illness as feigned, but pulling ‘sickies’ is the time honoured way to get out of going to school (let’s face it; we all did it). Long term illness with no apparent cause can be a sign of underlying issues at school, whilst if your child is routinely trying to miss school on certain days this could indicate an issue a with a particular teacher, class or subject.
2) Has your child been noticeably miserable, quiet or unhappy? We’d all like our kids to open up to us all the time but honestly, that’s not going to happen. Kids often give answers to questions about their feelings using a mere word or two, sometimes a grunt will suffice. Even the most exuberant souls can be forced into their shell if there is something wrong at school. Be on the look out for newly developed habits like nail-biting as well, this can be a sign of nervousness or anxiety.
3) Are they showing an unwillingness to do homework, assignments or revision? When problems are getting worse, kids can start to give up completely. It could be that they are struggling in a particular class and aren’t getting the help they need, are embarrassed about failure or are simply losing faith with school altogether due to some other issue, like bullying. It’s important to get to the route of the issue – ask direct questions such as ‘how are you getting on in maths?’. Remember, body language can speak louder than a thousand ‘fine’s’.
4) Has your child become disruptive in class? Have they started getting into trouble? Behavioural problems can often be a cry for help and an indication of unhappiness. Talk both to your child and to teachers/head teachers and try to deal with the problem in a positive way.
5) Have you noticed a slip in their grades, and have the school been in touch with any concerns? Perhaps the most obvious pointer that your child is having problems comes with a letter home or a phone call from a concerned teacher. Always be aware of their academic standard and predicted achievement, but at the same time remember school gets harder as it takes its natural curve and this can often affect grades. However, a dramatic slump combined with any, or all, of the above should red-flag parents to potential problems.
So what to do? Remember that it’s not about you. Natural as it is to get upset and blame the school, a teacher or classmate, it’s about your child so put personal feelings aside and keep their interests at heart.
Try to work and communicate regularly with the school whilst devoting as much time to your child as you can and take solace in the fact that each situation is unique – there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.
At this time, school is a heady mix of emotions, pressures and worries for our kids, communication is key.