What to Do When Your Child Is Struggling in Elementary School

from a fellow mom going through it
child struggling in school
Source: Canva

As parents, we deeply understand the value of our children succeeding in school. If you’re anything like me, at some point you’ve even daydreamed about witnessing your kid graduating and making great strides in pursuing their career. It’s human nature to wish the best for the little loves of your life. Ultimately, I hope to raise happy, confident, and resilient children—inside and outside the classroom. 

Early on, you may seek out ways to prepare your child for elementary school by researching creative tips for getting them excited about reading and math. As they progress in their education, you become aware of the benefits of homework, even though it may initially present a power struggle between you and your child after school. But if your not-so-little one is struggling academically, it can break your heart and leave you feeling helpless. I recall a sense of shock and despair coming over me when my son’s teacher informed us he was not excelling in third grade. 

Here are some tips and words of assurance for parents whose kids are having academic troubles, from a mom who’s currently experiencing this firsthand. The guidance below is for those parents who’d like to take a proactive approach to helping their child succeed in elementary school. You can positively impact your child’s relationship with their academics in many ways! 


What to Do When Your Child Is Struggling in Elementary School


1. Don’t Blame Yourself—It’s Common for Children to Struggle in Elementary School

As parents, we tend to do this funny thing—sometimes subconsciously—where we believe our child’s academic performance directly reflects our parenting abilities. I’m here to tell you there are many factors at play, so try not to blame yourself if your child isn’t getting the stellar reviews from their teacher you’d hoped for. 

In our case, our son was happy at school and we’d been told he was appropriately progressing in previous years. However, the change in academic rigor from second to third grade has been a jolt for him, and he’s subsequently had difficulties with his teacher’s expectations. I initially blamed myself until I stepped back and realized he’s in school more often than at home, so I’ve had to dig deeper to decipher his core academic issues. Remember, you are your child’s strongest advocate. 



2. Have Ongoing Conversations With Your Child’s Teacher(s) and Their School Support System

In whatever way your child’s teacher communicated the news about your kid’s lackluster academic performance, that should be the start of ongoing conversations between you, their teacher, and the school support system. By support system, I’m referring to the individuals who have a direct impact on your child’s academic well-being, such as the school psychologist, occupational therapist, speech therapist, teacher assistants, members of school leadership, etc. We all understand teachers are busy and many are under-resourced. Nevertheless, their job entails making time for academic progress check-ins so your child can receive the appropriate support.

We received the news about our son in a parent/teacher conference and have since followed up with his teachers regularly via progress checks and resource referrals. In our situation, I’ve actually been in more regular communication with the director of curriculum and the school psychologist to get a more holistic understanding of ways to help our son.


3. Have a Heart-to-Heart Conversation With Your Child

The best person to consult with in situations like these is your little one.  Speak to them directly. In elementary school, they have more language skills and emotional intelligence to discuss details about what’s causing them trouble at school. And since you’re (hopefully) their safe space, they may even confide in you details the school isn’t privy to. 

When we spoke with our son, he said he had difficulties concentrating because there are a lot of distractions in the classroom. He also gave specifics on which subjects are challenging for him. He didn’t feel comfortable sharing any of this with his teachers. We used this information to inform our follow-up meetings with his teachers, which allowed us to ask more probing questions to get to the root of his academic struggles. 


how to help if your child struggling in school

Source: Mary Taylor | Pexels


4. Invest in After-School Academic Practice

In consultation with your child’s teacher and school administrators, be prepared to invest time and/or money to help your child make academic progress outside of school. Some schools may offer after-school tutoring services for free or for nominal fees. 

Some families have the privilege of hiring outside tutors and additional academic resources. Other families—like ours—cannot afford these services, so my husband and I share the responsibility of being our son’s tutor. It isn’t easy since I’ve never been an elementary school teacher, but I’ve made Google my best friend to help support our son. So far, our investment in helping him at home is paying off, as his teachers have already noticed some academic improvement. 


5. Provide Positive Reinforcement as Your Child Progresses

School isn’t easy for every child—all children are different and they all learn at different paces. Regardless, all children deserve to be praised for their efforts and supported through their mistakes. Never underestimate the power of positive reinforcement from parent to child. Kids naturally want to make their parents proud and may feel discouraged if they get the sense they’re “behind” or “failing.” 

When our son studies at home, we acknowledge his hard work and give him words of encouragement for his perseverance. We also explicitly tell him we love him no matter how he performs at school. We want him to know we’re always on his side.  

Parenting Is About More Than Bad Days
Here’s to Focusing on the Positives