How is school? Never settle for a half answer. If school is going well, your teen is doing okay even great. School is a good way of taking the emotional temperature of your teen. So when school is not going well, be concerned and become investigative rather than accusatory.
They are what every parent looks for, but they don’t always know how to interpret them. Since not every teen is destined to earn a high score, average scores can also be a sign your teen is doing well. However, a sudden change in grades or grades that seem to stay low with each grade level is concerning. A lower grade can mean they have met their academic limit this is common in 2nd or 3rd year in high school. The work does get harder, but for teens in regular classes sudden low grades or a change in grades can mean:
- A learning disability that was not challenged before
- Attention deficit disorder (earlier signs may ave been missed or dismissed)
- Depression or even ongoing sadness called dysthymia
- Home conflict (divorce, family tragedy)
- Recent trauma (sexual, physical or verbal abuse)
- Substance and Alcohol use
- They are unsure about their future and confused about the role of school in that future
A sure way to avoid school is illness sometimes called somatization. When an illness that seems very real is a mask for emotional problems. If the doctor is not clever enough to ask how school and the rest of their life is going, this avoidance can be missed entirely. Sometimes teens will tell a stranger things they won’t tell their parents. The reasons behind the illnesses are:
- Socializing difficulties (no friends)
- Unusual anatomy or delayed puberty (changing in the locker room when you have gynecomastia, breast development in boys or appear very young)
3. Truancy or missing class
If you can’t get a legitimate excuse, skip. There are other teens not doing well in class and these teens tend to socialize with each other outside of school. This is a terrible cycle since teens that skip class are in danger of or have already failed out of school. It can be difficult to motivate someone so behind on class work. It may take a lot of convincing that these teens may not be the best influence to return to school especially since these are their friends, their support, and they understand what they are going through.
4. Your teen tells you.
If you are in the fortunate position to have your teen tell you what their needs are, “I need an alternative type of schooling,” “I’m really not enjoying school” or “I’m more miserable than I think I should be at school.” Please listen to them. They are frequently correct. The hard part about this is as a parent you have to let go of your fantasies of what you thought your teen would become AND you have to let go of how you think your teen can get there, to happiness.
School concerns are better dealt with early. Once you get too far behind it may seem impossible, but even then, things are not what they seem.