Whether your teen is not getting good grades in school or is considering dropping out completely, it’s not too late to help him or her make the right choice. In fact, studies show that interest in learning steadily decreases from kindergarten to high school, and just under 70 percent of teachers have said low motivation is a big issue in the classroom. So you’re definitely not alone as a concerned parent who wants to boost your child’s love of learning. But how can you get started? Here are some ways to better support your student so he or she is more likely to stay in school and even start getting good grades.
Encourage Open Communication with Your Teen
Many parents say they want their teen to talk to them, but they don’t always show it. Maybe you ask your child questions, but don’t truly listen for the answer, and your child has picked up on that. This is why it’s important to use active listening techniques when you communicate with your child. This means stepping away from any screens and stopping everything you’re doing to talk to your teen. Make it clear he or she has your full attention, and don’t interrupt.
You can show you’re listening by summarizing what he or she has said every few minutes, being sure to use a sympathetic tone as you talk. Resist any temptation you might have to judge, nag, or say “I told you so” or you risk your teen shutting down and not communicating with you at all. Keeping the lines of communication open–and making it clear your child has a supportive adult to talk to–will help you get to the bottom of why he or she wants to drop out or is getting bad grades.
Work on Getting the Resources Your Teen Needs
As you listen to your teen talk about the issues at school, you’ll likely hear at least a few reasons he or she might not want to go anymore. Maybe your teen is being bullied, or perhaps he or she feels hopelessly behind academically and doesn’t anticipate ever catching up. These problems can be overwhelming for teens to deal with on their own, so this is your chance to help however you can.
For example, if your teen doesn’t understand the academic concepts he or she is learning in school, it’s a good idea to reach out to the teacher and explain this. Your child’s teachers should have some resources to help, whether it’s by offering extra guidance after school or giving you recommendations for a tutor. And if you suspect your teen is getting bullied at school, it’s time to contact the principal to find out how to solve the problem so your child can feel safe at school. Additionally, if you think your teen may have a learning disorder or other issue that is making school hard—such as anxiety or ADHD—it’s best to see a doctor to discuss therapy or medication. These tools can make a big difference in your child’s school performance.
Provide Support at Home
If your child is struggling at school, it’s helpful to consider that the underlying issue may be something you’re doing—or not doing—rather than just a problem at school. For example, if your child doesn’t have a quiet place to do homework, he or she is less likely to do it than if you were to provide a dedicated, distraction-free spot with all the necessary supplies. Similarly, if your house is often loud or distracting late at night, your child might not be getting enough sleep to succeed.
Luckily, these issues are easy to resolve once you discover them. As you work on improving the sleeping and studying issues at home, make sure your attitude is supportive. Being positive and recognizing even the smallest achievements will keep your student motivated. This might range from putting those A and B-rated papers on the fridge, to offering rewards for academic improvements.
Stay Involved with the School
Being involved in your child’s education is a major factor in his or her success. In fact, studies show that parent involvement is the main predictor of success when it comes to grades. So don’t be afraid to get more involved with your student’s school! This doesn’t mean you have to show up at school unannounced or surprise your teen by working in the cafeteria. It just means you should make it a point to stay in contact with the school staff and attend any events parents are invited to.
This might include parent/teacher conferences, back-to-school night, and any special programs the school puts on, such as concerts or awards shows your teen is a part of. You can also volunteer at the school or join the PTO if you want to stay informed at all times. And of course, you should always feel free to email or call the principal and teachers with any questions during the school year. They tend to appreciate respectful, involved parents who show how much they value their child’s education.
Consider Alternative Education Options
Let’s say you’ve tried all these tips, to no avail. Maybe despite getting sufficient rest, extra tutoring, and positive reinforcement, your child’s grades are still low. Or maybe your child still seems upset every day after school and wants to drop out. At this point, it might be time to look into transferring schools.
After all, what may be a great school for one child isn’t necessarily the best for someone else. Sometimes the school is just not a good fit. Rather than letting your teen drop out of high school altogether, look into other schools in your district. This could be another public school, a private school, a charter school, or homeschooling.
One example of a resource you have in Phoenix is ACYR’s own City View High School. This AdvancED accredited charter school offers a supportive atmosphere, with small classes and a hands-on approach to learning. Even if your child has already made the decision to drop out of high school, it’s not too late, since City View also offers a dropout recovery program that will help him or her earn a diploma. Learn more about this charter school by visiting the City View High School website, and feel free to contact the school with any questions you have.