How to deal with a teen who is failing in school

Learning that your teen is failing in school can be very difficult on the family and frustrating on you as a parent. Considering all the expectations and wishes that you have for your child as well as any ambitions they may have themselves, the entire situation can be difficult on the whole family.

When high school students fall behind in their classes, catching up can be quite difficult. This can often result in students becoming more demotivated and unwilling to try any harder.

If your teen is currently failing or has already failed, you need to take swift action. There are a few things that you can do to help work on the issue:

Identify the Problem

If your teen has failed a few tests and is in danger of not passing, sit down and discuss the problem. Ask your teen for help uncovering the reasons that he/she may not be passing. Sometimes students who start out strong get side-tracked while other students just aren’t motivated to stay on track.

Talk to your teen and examine whether or not any of the following issues have contributed to a failing grade.

  • Are they finding the subject too difficult? Sometimes teens choose subjects that are a little too difficult for them to work on on their own.
  • Is your child not doing the homework? If your teen isn’t doing homework, it will be extremely difficult to pass the subject. Find out if homework isn’t completed, not turned in on time, or if your child doesn’t understand how to do it.
  • Are they struggling with taking tests? Some students struggle with test anxiety or aren’t sure how to study for tests.
  • Has your child been absent a lot? If your child has missed school due to illness or other issues, it can severely interfere with grades.
  • Is your child under a lot of stress? If your teen is feeling stressed, he may have difficulty concentrating and completing his work.
  • Could a mental health issue be part of the problem? Mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety often contribute to failing grades. Substance abuse issues can also be a factor in declining grades
Talk to the Teachers

Although your teen may not want you to talk to the teachers, it is important to speak with them to help determine the problem. Your teen may not be aware that he’s not paying attention in class or that he’s missing a lot of work. Ask for teachers’ opinions about what your child needs to do differently to pass the subject.

Consider whether your child may have a learning disability as well. Sometimes learning disabilities or ADHD go undiagnosed until the high school years. Inquire about whether or not educational or psychological testing could be helpful.

Problem-Solve with Your Teen

Once you have a better idea of why he is failing, sit down and problem-solve with your teen. Discuss his ideas about how he can improve his marks. Sometimes, simple yet creative solutions can make a big difference.

  • Does he need more structure with homework? Some teens just cannot handle having too much freedom about when and where to do their work. Establishing a scheduled homework time can help.
  • Does he have difficulty remembering what he has for homework? Teens who are disorganized often misplace their papers or forget to bring their work home. Identify strategies to help your teen get more organized.
  • Does he forget to write down his assignments? Some teens try to remember all of their assignments without an assignment book. Other teens forget to write their assignments down. Having your teen write down his work and asking the teacher to initial it after each class can ensure that his assignments are written down.
  • Does he need extra help? Many teens are afraid to ask for help because they are embarrassed or they just don’t understand, even when the teacher tries to explain the concepts again. Staying after school for extra help, meeting with a tutor or joining a homework club can be helpful strategies for many students.
  • Is he just not motivated to do his work? Sometimes teens are just not motivated to complete their work. They may have lost interest or are just bored with a particular subject. Discuss strategies that will help motivate your teen to get his work done.

Work together to develop a plan to address the situation. Discuss possible strategies to help improve their marks such as arranging for tutoring. If they aren’t able to pass the subject, talk to the school about alternative options such as holiday classes or group tutoring.