By Sean Alexander

Children all across the United States are struggling in school. What's more, many of them are struggling in silence. Research shows that in urban areas, between 50-70% of children don't graduate.


It’s important that we recognize when a student is struggling in school. It takes time to pinpoint the problem and find a solution. Without regular check-ins on your child’s performance in school, you could be missing signs that they need help.

There are many reasons why students struggle in school. It could be stress, unaddressed mental health issues, or trouble with peers. They may have different needs when it comes to learning.

Whatever the reason, you first have to recognize the signs in order to help.

8 Warning Signs That a Child Is Struggling in School

    1. Your Child Refuses to Talk About School

    It's a conversation every parent is familiar with. You ask your child how their day at school went, and you're met with a one-word answer. "Fine."

    Many parents leave it at that. They figure that if there was an issue at school, their child would bring it up to them. Fine is okay, right?

    In many cases, that can be true. But it's a good idea to probe further from time to time. Ask your child to elaborate. Listen to what they say, or in some cases, what they don't say. If your child doesn't talk about school with you, it could be a sign that something is wrong. Kids often feel they're asking for trouble by bringing up struggles with their parents. Instead, they keep it to themselves to avoid conflict. When you suspect something is wrong, it's important to ask probing questions at parent-teacher conferences.

    But you can't help fix a problem you don't know about.

    2. Your Child Has an Attitude Shift Toward School

    Pay attention to your child's attitude towards school. Everyone has days when they're feeling less than stellar about heading to school or work.

    If you've noticed a big shift in the way your child feels about going to school, that could be indicative of a problem.

    The problem could be something short-lived, like issues with their peers. Or, it could be a deeper problem rooted in their performance in class. Your guidance could be the difference between a lifetime of negative attitudes towards school, and a blip on the radar.

    3. Your Child Has Eating or Sleeping Difficulties

    Student having trouble sleeping in bed with his phoneA sudden change in eating and sleeping habits is a sign something is wrong. When we're stressed, our bodies try to help us survive a perceived attack. The first thing to happen is a change or decrease in appetite.

    A loss of sleep is normal when a child is experiencing stress. When we're settled in bed, our minds work through all the things that are bothering us.

    A decreased appetite plus a lack of sleep means poor performance in school. Sounds like a vicious cycle, right?

    4. Your Child Is Misbehaving at School

    If you have a child who acts out in school, it could mean that they're struggling to connect with the material in the class.

    There are many reasons your child may be acting out in school. They could be responding to something happening at home, trouble understanding concepts, or have learning disabilities.

    Either way, a student misbehaving in school is a student who isn't focused on their work. If the school takes disciplinary action against your child, it could mean even more trouble down the line.

    Our children are constantly giving us feedback on their lives. Whether that feedback is verbal or subtle, it's our job to listen and do what we can to help.

    5. Your Child Spends a Long Time on Homework

    If your child spends a lot of time on homework, it doesn't necessarily mean that they're struggling with the class. It's a sign that you should contact their teacher, and ask how long an assignment of that nature should take.

    If your child is spending too much time on homework, that's a red flag. There's something in the assignment that they're not getting.

    It could be something as simple as needing to be re-taught a concept. Or it could be an indicator that your child needs some additional help. Either way, you should provide gentle intervention without shame or frustration.

    6. Your Child's Teacher Voices Concern

    A frustrated student with his head on his notebookThe best resource in your child's classroom is their teacher. They see firsthand how your child is keeping up with the classwork.

    If your child's teacher thinks they're struggling in class, you should take what they say to heart.

    The teacher’s number one priority is seeing your child succeed.

    Your child's teacher is your best ally in the battle to get back on track. Treat their teacher with respect no matter what! Teachers have challenging jobs and are providing you an amazing service. If you disagree with the teacher, find a way to engage them with respect and humility.

    7. Your Child Receives Poor Grades

    Grades aren't a perfect indicator of how well your child is doing in school. They are however what schools look at when considering your child's advancement. Grades are important for many things, from unique in-school opportunities to their SAT or ACT score to college admissions and beyond. If your student has poor grades, that's your cue to get additional help.

    8. Your Child Doesn’t Feel Challenged in school

    A child who doesn't feel challenged in school is going to feel bored. They're going to zone out in class. If you have a gifted child with lots of academic energy, it's imperative to challenge them. That's how you push boundaries and build new synaptic connections.

    It's important to remember that no two students learn in the same way. If your child easily zooms through the material, they may be getting overlooked in class.

    Poor school performance isn't the only issue your child could run into if they aren't challenged.

    They could also experience:

    • Less motivation to learn new things
    • A lack of self-discipline
    • Emotional and behavioral development issues
    • Trouble overcoming obstacles later on in life

    Being challenged in school is a critical part of a child's learning. It is crucial that you ensure they are in the right classes for their ability level.

    What to Do If Your Child Is Struggling in School

    A young student sitting at a desk, taking notes with a pencil, with illustrations of geometry, multiplication, a magnifying glass, a pencil, and a lightbulb superimposed over the image.If your child is struggling in school, it's easy to feel like you're in over your head. Luckily, there is plenty you can do to help them get back on track.

    Having open, honest communication with your child is a necessity. Ask them how they're doing with specific questions about their school work. Open lines of communication between your child's teacher, principal, and counselor.

    If your child knows you're there to support them with love and kindness, they're one step closer to success.

    There are extracurricular activities you can do as well. Find out what your child is passionate about. If it's music, sign them up for lessons. If it's sports, make sure they are on a team. If it's astronomy, join the local astronomy club.

    If your child is struggling in school, the best thing you can do is get a tutor. A tutor is someone who is gifted in the subject your child needs help with. They can provide one-on-one help in specific subjects, be it math, physics, English, or biology.  As a parent, it's not a good idea to tutor your child. Your child wants to impress you and won't feel safe making mistakes in front of you.

    Help Keep Your Child from Falling Behind

    It's our job as parents to ensure our children get the help they need to succeed in school. While it's normal to struggle from time to time, if your child is living in a constant state of stress, something is wrong. Left unchecked it will breed a resentful relationship that could shape their view of school forever.


    • Sean Alexander

      COMMAND PILOT, OWNER Sean has been a professional educator for 15 years and has taught math, physics, and astronomy at all levels.  His experience ranges from working at a high school for severe learning differences to teaching advanced physics at Stanford.  After completing his graduate work in theoretical physics Sean founded Alexander Tutoring, with the mission of revealing the deep connections between math and nature to as many students as possible. 

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