teen struggling in school

What to Do When Your Teenager is Struggling in School

February 21, 2023

There are many reasons a student might struggle in school. Test anxiety, homework overload, difficulty making friends, and even psychological concerns can all make it difficult for teens to succeed. Every child is different, so it’s important to sit down with yours and find out what’s underlying their academic difficulties.

What to Do When Your Teenager is Struggling in School

While it may be tempting to punish your child until their grades improve, odds are they won’t be able to improve until you find the root cause of their problems. Teen academic struggles are rarely a case of laziness.

Talk honestly with your child about what is causing them to fail. Remind them early and often that you love them and only want to help them, and that you aren’t there to judge or punish them.

Potential Causes

Teaching Style Mismatch: Some students don’t understand the material the way it’s being taught, and no one will take the time to explain it to them. The later in the school year it gets, the worse this problem becomes, as so many subjects are tested cumulatively. You may need to sit down with them after school to help with their homework or hire a tutor to re-explain the material.

Bullying: In other cases, the student is being bullied, either by peers or by the teachers, themselves. This may make it difficult for them to focus, and in the latter case, may affect their grade regardless of their effort. Find ways to remove the bullies from their life, perhaps by transferring them to a different class, or seeking help from the school administration.

Mental Illness: Mental health issues like depression and anxiety can also cause students to fall behind. Depression can inhibit your teen’s ability to motivate themselves to complete assignments. In this case, don’t just use negative reinforcement to motivate them, as that will likely be ineffective. Instead, consider therapy, and perhaps medication to treat the underlying cause.

Learning Disorders: It may also be that your teen has an undiagnosed learning disability. Issues such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia can make it much harder for students to read or comprehend the material they’re given. The Forum offers assessment and treatment for learning disorders to help your child succeed in high school and beyond. 

My Teen Refuses to Go to School. What Do I Do?

If your teen is refusing to attend school at all, it can make things especially difficult. It’s important to remember that if your child is refusing to go, there’s probably a reason. Have an honest conversation with them about why they want to avoid school, and why it’s important that they do. Are they being bullied? Are they embarrassed that they’re struggling? Do they see it as pointless based on career objectives or depression? Talk through solutions with them, and remind them that school is about more than the subjects they study.

It may also help to get a qualified therapist involved to help them find reasonable solutions and treat any underlying mental health concerns or learning disabilities. In some cases, intensive treatment, such as that offered by The Forum, may be appropriate to help your teen find coping solutions.

Mental Health and Academic Help for Teens

If your teen has been struggling in school, it may be time to seek professional advice and treatment. The Forum has a network of clinicians who specialize in mental health concerns and learning disabilities to help your child succeed in high school. Contact us to learn more about treatment options for your teen.