Our son used to be an A student but now he is getting Ds and Cs. He is a freshman in high school. The teachers tell me he does not do his homework. Sometimes he does it but forgets to hand it in. We can't figure out why he is no longer interested in school and we are getting worried!
High school parent.
Dear High School Parent,
High school is a big change for kids and sometimes they can be thrown off course. There may be any number of reasons your son is doing poorly. He could be affected by the extra work load, by having to deal with many teachers and students (depending on the size of his school), by a teacher who made an offhand comment about his academic skills, or a fellow student who disparaged him.
Indeed, there may be a deeper problem. When kids change their habits so drastically, it can be a mask for behind the scenes worries – most likely trouble with other kids at school. He may be finding it hard to make friends, he may be the target of bullies. He may be hanging around with other discouraged kids. There is lots of talk about bullying these days and his school should have instituted programs and discussions that offer kids a confidential way to report their problems. If not, take steps to see that they do. I recently wrote about this.
Some teenagers need more guidance. Many schools offer advisory sessions, pairing a student with a teacher mentor. Make an appointment for you and your son to meet with his advisor. If he doesn't have one, see the grade advisor or guidance counselor for advice, suggestions and referrals, if needed. It may be that he needs outside counseling.
Of course, even if he is not having any of the troubles I mention, you should attack the homework issue. Help him get into a routine. Organize, set a time and conditions to complete the assignments, and be there to see them through. Make sure he leaves home with his homework. If there is email communication with the teachers, alert them that the work is done and on the way – or maybe he can email it directly, if it is in a format that lends itself to that. Ask the teachers if there is make-up work that can bring his grades up. Maybe a reward system will work, after all a high school kid is just that, still a kid, wanting stuff.
Another thought: encourage him to find a school activity that shows off his best skills: clubs, sports, or community service. He can boost his self esteem, meet kids with similar interests and stay motivated to be in school.
This academic year is winding down so if you can help him focus on academics for the next few months, at least that part of the year will not be a total loss. The problems that are besetting your son will need time to solve so it's worth pursuing them even as summer approaches. Summer could be the time to get him involved in the extra-curricular activities.
I hope other parents will weigh in with strategies that helped their kids in this situation.
Good luck to you and your son!