Parents want the best for their children, but there are times when most children encounter problems at School. The reasons vary but often include: not getting on with their teacher, classroom disruption and being away through sickness. The problem is once they start to fall behind, catching up becomes increasingly difficult.

When I was at School, I tended to keep things quiet and believed that I would fix any issues I had on my own without making a big family fuss out of them.  Of course, I didn’t actually realise I was completely hopeless at doing this until I got to Christmas of Year 12 and realised I really needed help.  By that stage, my parents knew and were asking about why I wasn’t asking for help and why I hadn’t said anything to them.  Bit late by then though, the damage had been done.

Like a poker player, however, I had my tells.  Even I knew that I was giving off little clues now and again that something wasn’t right. I’ve seen others in the same situation do other little things which give the game away.

With this in mind then, here’s my list of what to look out for.

  1. They don’t want to talk about it – This is of course the classic for some students and it was certainly the staple for me – the idea that I could just avoid the subject and talk about something else to do with my life.  Some kids don’t even wait to be asked about their work, they’ll keep you busy with the details of their social life.
  2. Everything always seems to be fine – It’s almost a dead cert that at some point, you’ll come into the odd difficulty with your studies.  The best students understand they have an issue somewhere and the vast majority will talk it out.  However, unless you’ve got the next Einstein sat opposite you, things are never going to be always perfectly fine.  They’ll tell you how they’re always getting decent marks and the like – take it with a tiny pinch of salt and ask if they’re having issues and that it’s alright to talk about them.  Combine this point with number one and you might begin to suspect that something is amiss.
  3. Everything is apparently okay but they’re dreading parent’s evening – Yeah, alright… I was really guilty of this.  I always used to be one of those students who said everything was going well and then shifted uncomfortably at the thought of parent’s evening or a night for reviewing progress with teachers.  Some might ‘conveniently forget’ to tell you and you might even miss it altogether.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that they think the teacher hates them, it may just mean that things aren’t quite so rosy as they’re making out.  I remember this happening with my maths – I used to make out I was top of the group.  Fair enough, but when your maths teacher compares you to a mid-table Premier League team, my parents were in for a bit of a surprise!
  4. They seem irritable when they’re asked to do the chores – It’s a stereotype of teenagers yes, but if they’re feeling the pressure they might feel the need to spend more time on their work and less time helping around the home.  Nothing wrong with that, but if you combine this reason with number 2, you potential have a child who’s trying to play catch-up.
  5. The exam results didn’t match what they ‘said’ they might be like – I always used to come out and say ‘yeah, that exam wasn’t too bad.  Feeling confident!’  Was it heck.  When those results came out at the end of AS Level I was somewhat red-faced as I had given off the impression of doing a lot better.
  6. Yes, the mock exam went perfectly – I have to be honest, mocks never go perfectly – there’s always things which need to be sorted.  Consider also that full revision in classes has rarely ever started when the mocks go ahead so to be able to knock a top grade straight off the bat is quite unlikely.

This isn’t to say that you’re accusing your kids of lying, of course.  It’s just that, from my experience, it takes a lot of guts to be able to say ‘I’m struggling, I need help!’ and some are less willing to do that than others.

Of course, the other key sign that you could look out for is if they turn round ask for a tutor. Just a thought.

Ultimately, if you spot things like this early you should be able to recommend a solution and sit down and work through any issues they might have.  My advice, as one who received help from a tutor, would be to not make it sound like it’s their fault, reassure them that you’ve spotted the odd thing and that some help might suit them in the future.




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As an Englishman in Paris, I enjoy growing my knowledge of other languages and cultures. I'm interested in History, Economics, and Sociology and believe in the importance of continuous learning.