Struggling Student at Home? 5 Ways to Cope

Your student isn’t doing as well in school as you’d like. You worry that things will get worse if you don’t take action now.

But you’re not sure exactly what to do — or even how to evaluate the problem. Is this a “phase” your kid will grow out of? Is it an issue of comprehension or learning ability, or something behavioral, or entirely external? How does your kid’s academic performance compare to their peers?

These are all valid questions. Answering them can give you a handle on the issue and help you plot next steps, which could include some or all of the following.

1. Consider Changing Schools (And Possibly Going With a Residential Option)

Let’s begin with what would seem to be the most drastic option: changing your child’s school, possibly to a boarding school.

This decision isn’t one to be made lightly, but it could be the right move. For example, if your kid’s current public school isn’t flexible enough to adapt to their learning style, a smaller boarding school with a more student-focused teaching approach — like Delphian School, known for its “mastery” approach — could be just what’s needed. 

2. Be Available to Help With Homework and School Projects

You’re a busy parent who feels like you have no time to help your student with homework, school projects, or extracurricular activities. Except maybe you do.

It only takes an hour or two each week to make a difference. Set weekly or twice-weekly “office hours” in the evening or on weekends where you’re totally, 100% available to help your kid with whatever they’re working on. Or hold occasional “study hall” hours for your child and their friends while you’re at home. 

3. Get More Involved in Your Child’s Academic and Extracurricular Life

After you’ve extended a helping hand, the next step is to get proactively involved in your child’s studies and extracurriculars. That could mean chaperoning field trips, sharing your expertise as a PTA board member, or simply keeping in close contact with your kids’ teachers. 

If you’re not sure where to begin, seek out ideas from other parents online and in the real world. As is usually the case, it’s more important to get started than to spend precious time honing the “perfect” approach.

4. Hire a Private Tutor

Could a private tutor help your kid in school? Many parents swear by private tutoring, but it’s not free from trade-offs. There’s the cost, the potential inconvenience, the question of what to do when it’s not working out.

A possible compromise: Using digital tutoring resources like Chegg, which has a stable of human tutors as well as more automated offerings that leverage “smart” algorithms and custom curricula to meet students where they are. Digital tutoring isn’t perfect either, but it’s easier to stop and start than the old-fashioned method.

5. Listen to Your Child’s Needs

Above all else, be receptive and responsive to your child’s needs. You know your kid best, but to effectively help them with their students, you have to understand what they need — and what they don’t. 

Every Student Is Different — Do What’s Right for Yours

Even the “best” students struggle, but it’s true that some have more trouble than others. This isn’t the fault of the individual student, of course, nor does blame necessarily lie with their instructors, school administrators, friends, parents, or anyone else.

It’s a complex problem, one with no easy solution.

One thing we do know for sure, though, is that every student is different. Every student therefore responds differently to changes in teaching method and style, course material, and instructional setting. 

As parents, it’s on us to pay close attention to these responses and lean into those that show promise. In other words, to do — to the best of our abilities — what’s right for our students.