How to handle teen academic problems

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MANY parents are concerned about how their teenagers will do in school. If your teen has had academic problems in the past, you might worry about whether he or she will be able to succeed this year.

It is important to find out the root cause of your teenager’s academic issues: Some parents assume the problem is behavioural when it might be a learning disability, a mental health issue, or even a physical health issue to blame.

Keep the main goal in mind

Your teen might feel embarrassed or ashamed of poor grades, and this can lead him or her to get defensive when asked or confronted about school performance. Remember that you and your teen are on the same side; they should understand that you’re not the enemy. Work together to determine what the goal is: Is it to get on the honour roll? To pass Maths?

Keep in mind that it’s not all about the grades: If your teen is struggling, chances are good that there is something else going on, and that “something else” is what needs to be solved along with the poor grades or undone schoolwork. This is where various professionals might need to come together to help your teen face whatever obstacles are standing in his or her way.

Talk to your teen’s guidance counsellor

Your high school student’s guidance counsellor can be an invaluable resource when it comes to making sure that your teen is in the right classes commensurate with his or her ability and interest. In some school districts, this is not always done automatically, so a meeting with the guidance counsellor can be a good way to get your teen switched into classes that are the right difficulty.

In addition, guidance counsellors have a lot of experience helping young people overcome various teen academic problems. Your high school might also have a social worker on staff who can help if there are personal or family issues getting in the way of your teen’s school success.

Take your teen for an evaluation

There are many conditions that can cause academic problems in teenagers. These include learning disabilities, autism and mental health issues. Taking your teen to their primary care physician is a good first step toward ruling out or discovering one or more of these teen academic problems.

If a problem is found, you will likely be referred to a specialist of some sort. In addition, your teen might be eligible for special plans at school that will help them to succeed. You will likely need to advocate for your teen to be sure that they are getting the help they need if they do qualify for one of these special plans.

Reasons for teen academic problems

Teenagers are not only under a lot of stress but they are also in the phase of life where they might develop learning disorders and mental health issues. Any of these issues can interfere with academic success. They include:

Autism. While the vast majority of autism cases are diagnosed during early childhood, some teens, particularly those with Asperger Syndrome, or high-functioning autism, go undiagnosed. If your teen has always been “quirky” or has had trouble making friends and relating to others, an evaluation for autism is warranted.

Learning disabilities. Most learning disabilities are suspected and confirmed during the elementary school years, but teens with mild learning disabilities or excellent coping methods might not have been. The work gets more difficult and expectations rise during the middle school and high school years, so some children are able to succeed in elementary school even with learning disabilities only to find that once they get into the upper grades, the schoolwork seems impossible.

Behavioral issues. Some teens have disorders such as oppositional defiant disorder and anger management issues. These can affect school success and should be treated before adulthood.

Social anxiety. A teen who is avoiding school or feeling very anxious while in school due to social anxiety is not likely to have good grades.

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