Signs your child is struggling at school (2019 edition)

Jul 22, 2019Careers and University, Parent advice

Being the parent of a teenager, it can be really hard to assess where they’re at with school and everything that comes with being an adolescent. It’s especially tricky when they avoid telling you what’s really going on with their learning and you feel like you can’t offer advice because you’re not familiar with the school system yourself.

In this piece, we’ll break down the signs that your child might be struggling at school and what you can do about it.


1. They don’t want to talk about school


Dishonesty, evasiveness and overconfidence are all critical warning signs a student is struggling. If you ask your child how they’re going with school and they give blunt answers, become aggressive or defensive then this is a sign they’re avoiding discussion about school and something might be wrong.

Likewise, to ensure they don’t worry or upset their parents, sometimes struggling students will be overconfident about school-related matters.

If your child is confidently dismissing your concerns without giving any details of their alleged success, it’s likely they’re overcompensating.


By having a tutor or mentor that is closer to their age your child will realise struggling at school is not a reflection of their intelligence or ability, but a normal part of growing up. Once accepting this, they can address their issues head-on.


At IE we look hire young, relatable individuals as our tutors for this reason. With a respected peer as a mentor, students tend to feel more understood in their difficulties, and are more comfortable opening up to someone outside of their immediate social circle. People are more receptive to advice when it comes from a neutral position, rather than from someone who they fear will be disappointed or upset by their honesty.

How to help:


If you notice these warning signs, it’s important that your child feels that they can open up about their struggles. Try to foster an open dialogue about failure and vulnerability at home. You can do this by openly talking about your own mistakes and weaknesses, showing them that you would never punish them for admitting they’re struggling, and always adopting a calm, gentle demeanour when broaching sensitive topics.

2. They express boredom and apathy towards school


It isn’t common for teenagers to be apathetic towards school, however, if  they show no excitement about a trip or appear to have no nerves about an upcoming test then it shows that they could be completely disengaged.

Most teens have a heightened sense of injustice, and if school isn’t working for them, they’ll be vocal about it. If your  child rarely shows any evidence interest towards school, it’s time to investigate why.

Research shows when students think about the bigger picture of learning and what they want to contribute to the world, they end up more inspired to learn.

Our tutors help students cultivate meaning at school by personalising the learning experience. They work with students to uncover what motivates them – both at school and in their life/career and then use that intrinsic motivation to contextualise their class material. IE tutor also make school more interesting by applying academic material to the “real world”, and showing students that what they’re learning now can have real life impacts in the future.

How to help:

You can help your child get more meaning out of school by supporting them to find their intrinsic motivator. It’s important to support them in finding what they’re passionate about, and helping them to use that passion to fuel their studies.

3. They are distant or detached 

High school can be a really tricky place. There’s academic stress, friend dramas, and the pressure of thinking about what to do after school, so it’s easy for your child to feel overwhelmed and a little lost. However, if your child is particularly anxious, this will show in their attitude at home. As a parent, it is crucial that you show compassion to your child to ensure they feel heard and understood.


It could help your child to have a mentor to remind them of their self-worth and build on their motivation to overcome their learning difficulties. Our tutors are trained to listen to all of the mental hurdles a student is facing, and show students that these struggles aren’t the be-all-or-end-all of their school experience.


One simple way our tutors do this is by breaking complex concepts down into basic components, and working with the student to solve them at their own pace. We’ve found working through things slowly in a non-patronising way is effective for building confidence in students.

When students receive compassion, understanding and informed encouragement from a respected peer, they will also gain the mindset and mental grit to tackle problems on their own, whether those be mental, social, emotional or academic.

How to help:

When teenagers are stressed and anxious they tend to isolate themselves rather than burdening anyone else with the woes of their situation. It’s important that you explain to them no matter what is going on, you are there for them and will give them the support they need to overcome it.

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