What should I do if my child’s grades are dropping?

Dear Acenda,

Heading into 2021, my child's school is continuing a combination of online and in-person schooling amidst the pandemic. He's only in 4th grade, but I've definitely noticed the difference in his motivation towards school and it's starting to reflect in his grades. He's always struggled with math, but he was always determined to get the help he needed from his classmates or teachers that he just doesn't seem to feel comfortable doing now. His overall demeanor has been very anxious since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, and now I'm worried that it's affecting his focus and could lead to even more problems in various subjects.

His last math quiz was sent home to be signed because he unfortunately failed it. When I asked him about it, he was very dejected and dismissed it. I'm not angry with him, but I want to help him so he doesn't fall behind. What should I do?


Stressed About School

Dear Stressed About School,

You're certainly not alone in your concerns about how children are reacting to the changes and adaptations due to the pandemic. You should never belittle your child for lower grades due to extenuating circumstances, but rather show them that you are there to help them get the assistance they need to hopefully reinvigorate their motivation. There are often reasons behind a child having a change of motivation and/or grades decreasing. The fact that you're approaching this from a concerned perspective rather than a frustrated one is very helpful and may help your child feel supported by you. It's also understandable that your child may be embarrassed and not want to talk about their grades.

young girl doing homework at a desk with a computer
Approaching this touchy topic in a gentle manner is key to showing your child that this is a safe space to be open and honest about their struggles. Ask open-ended questions to encourage a discussion.
Also, try to start your statements with "I" rather than "you".
For example, say "I noticed your math grade has dropped. Help me understand what happened so we can work together to find a solution" rather than "You failed your last quiz. You need to raise your grade in math".

Assure your child that they are not alone and that they are not a failure. No one could have predicted how drastically life has changed within the last year, and we're all experiencing this for the first time together. Encourage them not to feel ashamed or embarrassed if they feel anxiety over circumstances. Also, offer to set aside a time to sit with them to complete assignments and lend a helping hand where you can.

If you are still worried about your child's performance in school, perhaps it's best to reach out to his teacher or school counselor to discuss your concerns and discuss a plan of action for extra help.

If your child is struggling with anxiety, Acenda offers counseling and therapy services specifically for children and adolescents. Call our main number at 844-4-ACENDA (844-422-3632 x9500) for more information or to schedule an appointment.