It’s understandable for parents to be upset when their teens come home with poor grades from school. After all, education is very important for most people, and in this kind of economy, a good education can get a person better career opportunities.
However, most of the time, poor grades are only symptoms of underlying issues that often remain unnoticed. Too many times, parents focus too much on their perception that good grades is an indicator of good behavior. Too much focus on the symptom rather than the issue puts the cart before the horse.
Teens are in a stage where there are so many changes going on. In every teen’s process of emotional growth, unmet emotional needs greatly influence how they strive to meet other hierarchy of needs. In the life of teens, their emotional needs are influenced by a diverse number of factors. Parents often wonder why their teens take for granted the fact that they have been given love, food, clothing, and shelter, when the truth is that teens have more complex emotional needs. Some of the factors that come into play are social status, culture, friends, social-economic status, and so on.
If parents want their children to succeed in life (not just academically), it’s important to understand why they are acting out and underachieving. To understand this, they must first understand what their teens’ unmet emotional needs are and find ways to help address them. Doing this helps teens become better-adjusted individuals, and better-adjusted teens often do great in school. Good grades come as an added benefit or a natural effect of helping teens have a higher self-esteem.
If your teen doesn’t seem to be acting out, but really needs some help with schoolwork, here are a few tips to help parents encourage their teens to do better in a healthy way:
- Help your teen organize – Some teens just need help organizing their coursework and prioritizing projects. Parents can buy teens organizers and encourage them how to use it. They can put up calendars on their walls and help them maintain to-do lists. Parents can help their teens prioritize their tasks too.
- Create a quiet space to study – Providing a study area for teens can help encourage them to study. Ideally, this room will be free of distractions like TVs, radios and computers.It’s also good to structure a study time, which teens can use to read and do something constructive in case they have no homework.
- Provide incentive – Of course, learning is already a great reward, but it doesn’t hurt to give teens a little incentive for the effort they put in studying. Ideally, this isn’t something too expensive in order for teens not to lose sight of the right motive for studying.
Is it a learning disability?
Some parents who have done their best to be supportive of their teen’s studies often wonder if their teen may have a previously undiagnosed learning disability. Here are a few of the most common symptoms of learning disabilities among tweens and teens:
- Reads letters in reverse or interchanged sequence (ex. reads “left” as “felt”)
- Avoids reading aloud, especially in front of other people
- Has an almost illegible handwriting
- Avoids or is highly stressed out by composition assignments
- Learns prefixes, suffixes, root words, and spelling slower than most teens their age
- Has trouble relating with other kids at school
- Has trouble interpreting and understanding body language
- Has trouble interpreting and understanding facial expressions
- Spells the same word differently within the same composition (ex. spells “left” as “felt”, “flet”, “letf” within the same essay)
- Has difficulties with memorization tasks
- Shows poor grasp of abstract concepts
- Shows difficulties adjusting to new situations
- Often misreads instructions
In cases where the symptoms above are present, it’s best to have your teen evaluated. If your teen is diagnosed with a learning disability, he/she may be qualified for public special education services. If this is the case, public schools usually provide an individualized educational program that is more suited for your teen’s capability and learning style.
You can also opt to enroll your teen in therapeutic boarding schools where they can get individualized programs as well as therapy in order to help your teen with other aspects of his/her life. The goal is to not just get your teen to pass high school but also to help him/her understand what could help them learn and succeed in life. Therapeutic boarding schools and special education programs can also help teens with learning disabilities become self-advocates and continue to learn ways in which they can help themselves become successful in life.
It’s important to note that having an undiagnosed learning disability may affect your teen’s behavior at home and at school. They may become target for bullies, unable to form friendships, or they may begin to act out in negative ways because they do not understand what is wrong with them. When other children don’t seem to experience the kind of problems they experience with schoolwork, it can really take a toll on their self-esteem. This is why aside from support in their academics, teens with learning disabilities can benefit much from therapy. This, along with the constant love and support of their family, can help them develop a new love and understanding for themselves.
It’s very important for parents or guardians to talk to teens with learning disabilities and assure them that they are not stupid, but that their mind just processes information in different ways and at a different pace from other individuals. Help teens to focus on their talents and strengths while also encouraging them through an optimistic attitude. It’s also important to learn what you can about learning disabilities in order to provide more support for them at home.
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