Is your Child Failing School?
CHILD THERAPY FOR ACEDEMIC STRUGGLES
Is your Child Failing school? Try academic counseling. Academic struggles in children can have root causes in mental health. We work with kids to develop an academic mindset.
Poor Grades on Your Mind? Our Therapy Can Help with Academic Struggles
Is your child suddenly coming home from school with report cards that don’t reflect what they usually were? Does your child have (or maybe never had) poor study habits when it comes to homework and studying? Poor grades are a red flag for many parents, and us.
One of the top concerns that parents have about their child are concerns over academics. Any parent that has hope for the child’s future understands the importance of academic success and if there is any extra help they can get to assist their child they take it. In fact, at least 20% of children have emotional and behavioral difficulties at any given point in time. Add onto that that 60-80% of children with anxiety and depression are not receiving proper treatment. Undiagnosed mental illness plays a major factor in poor academic performance. 
We understand that often the issue isn’t low intelligence or poor teacher support, typically there is an underlying behavioral issue. Grades are most associated with intelligence and motivation (the latter is mostly behavioral) . So for many students (even smart ones) lasting academic success requires a change in behavior. And as with many behavioral issues that we deal with, the earlier the intervention the better.
A growing number of children are developing behavioral problems. As schools increase hours, move earlier and limit play/social time, children are becoming more and more stressed. On top of that, specific events at home can also trigger poor academics. Many children suffer from an adjustment disorder as they adjust to a new school after a move, death or divorce. Serious medical conditions can also abruptly change a child’s schedule and behavior. At such critical moments (and overall) it is important to keep an eye out for behaviors in your child that may develop into habits. The earlier you catch a habit the less it stays ingrained in your child’s brain.
It’s important for parents to pay attention to their child’s behavior in schools. Many children slip through the cracks as frontline staff (teachers, coaches) don’t have comprehensive training when it comes to mental health. In fact, 99.9% of student time in school is with professionals that don’t have proper mental health training.  this is why it’s important for parents to be investigators and advocates for their child’s mental health, so that they don’t get overlooked.
We can help you look out for behaviors and attitudes that should raise alarms in your mind. It is important for us that parents get all the information they need to make an informed decision for their child’s mental health.
After reading this if you are still unsure if this information is related to your child you can contact us and we may be able to better advise you.
Children & Teen Therapies for:
OUR THERAPY APPROACHES
Contact us to schedule an appointment or ask a question:
Academic Struggles that Behavioral Therapy Addresses:
- Not finishing homework
- Trouble making friends
- Acting up in class/ not paying attention
- Frequent disciplinary action for behaviors – typically aggression or frustration displayed at school
- Truancy/ Missing class
- Test anxiety
My Child Has One of These Behaviors. Is Therapy Best?
It can be difficult to tell whether a child needs tutoring or behavioral work. This line of questioning may help you determine which path is best for your struggling child:
(1.) When you talk with your child’s teacher(s) do they say that your child pays attention in class (sits still, takes notes, doesn’t interrupt)?
If the answer is yes, that means that your child is trying to engage, but that just isn’t enough. She may need tutoring or academic support to better engage with the material. Other possibilities may be vision problems, a learning disorder, dyslexia, etc.
If the answer is no, then the core of the issue is behavioral and could likely be addressed with therapy.
(2.) If you provide your child with academic support such as a tutor, does she show up and participate fully?
Again, if the answer is no, then the core cause is likely behavioral.
A Note on Learning Disorders
LifeStance is not equipped to treat and medicate learning disorders (ADD, ADHD) on our own, but we do often identify and work with partners who do handle that side of treatment. Because of this we don’t offer evaluations to qualify for 504/IEP plans and other state mandated academic support.
However you should know that many parents misdiagnose common mental health struggles that we do work on children with (anxiety, depression, etc.) as learning disorders when this is not really the case. In fact, most learning disorders have a behavioral component for which we can help.
The LifeStance Approach to Academic Struggles
First session: You and your child will meet with one of our child therapists and discuss the situation. Our therapist will ask questions to really get to the heart of the issue and determine whether testing may be needed. “How often does this behavior occur? When in the week?” At this time we will also develop a basic plan with goals that can guide the next steps in therapy. “What outcome do you want to achieve from our sessions together?”
Second session: If a learning disability is suspected, we will help connect you with a testing specialist in the area. We may set a goal of completing related tests in the first few months of therapy.
Later sessions: At LifeStance we use a variety of evidence based methods (including CBT) to create the perfect approach for every child. The core of all of these approaches involves getting to the core emotion that leads to the behavior in question. When it comes to academics, many kids believe that they are “stupid” perhaps from what others have told them, or from their interpretation of their situation. We work on why that is, and come up with some activities and skills to better manage those negative thoughts. Future sessions may involve reviewing the application of these skills in daily life and following up on the goals we set early on in therapy.
How Mental Health Affects Grades
When a child is struggling with a mental condition, the majority of their mental state is focused on creating, processing and fighting negative thoughts. When they spend most of their mental energy on this perpetual fight, they get worn out and have less energy to engage in class. This is why it is common to see children with anxiety and depression getting frequent headaches and low energy levels. Both of which further distract from learning.
When it comes to depressed kids, they often think “I can’t succeed at schoolwork so why even try? And who cares?” It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that because they can’t succeed, they won’t try and therefore fail. If you have heard such concerns from your child then know that these are major red flags. We work with kids on the many root causes of depression that lead to lower grades. You can read more about our approach to depression in children here.
On the other hand, children with anxiety often think “It’s too overwhelming to do this homework and study. I should avoid it.” Often these children are extreme procrastinators. If you child has said these things when questioned about their procrastination, that is a major red flag for anxiety.
Children with social anxiety or separation anxiety will go to extreme lengths to avoid attending school (such as faking sickness every morning). While children with test or presentation anxieties are hindered during the school day.
Children that have experienced trauma (even on more “mild” forms like bullying) often have poor conceptions of their self worth. If they don’t believe they are worthy of approval or good grades they don’t seek this out. This also often shows up in a “who cares attitude” and avoidance of school. It can be a component of both depression and anxiety in children. Learn more about how we approach child trauma here.
What Parents Can Do On Their Own
Before you pursue therapy there are a few things that you can try to be certain that a behavioral intervention is best.
- Create an environment supportive of learning. If your student is supposed to be doing homework then you need to limit the distractions available to them while they do it. This means no TV or music “in the background.”
- Talk to your child about their thoughts and feelings. Push a bit deeper past “I hate school”, but understand that especially in the teenage years children don’t want to share much with their parents. Provide support and encouragement as best you can, but expect some privacy from children in terms of their relationship with you.
- Get to know your child’s peers. As children grow they begin to respect and follow their peers more than their parents. Understanding what your child’s social group is like is important when it comes to academic success.
- Encourage holistic health. Proper sleep, nutrition and exercise are important (though indirect) factors that are involved with academic performance. The neurotransmitters in the brain that regulate mood are built from certain chemicals in our diet. For example, amino acids like tryptophan are important in the regulation of mood. Tryptophan can be found in poultry, fish oil, beans, nuts and seeds
- Talk with your child’s teacher to get a betterer picture of what your child’s classroom behavior is like. Taking notes at that meeting that can be shared with your child’s mental health support network is important for us to guide best practices.
Break-free and begin your journey to
There is a future life where trauma does not control your day. Imagine yourself feeling calm, confident and ready to handle new situations with ease. The tools to living the life you have always envisioned are here, at your fingertips.
LifeStance Health can help.
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Our services are also available online through Zoom. Telehealth/Online counseling gives you the opportunity to explore your challenges in life without complicating your daily schedule.
If you have questions and would like to talk about any of our counseling services, please reach out for a complimentary phone consultation or send us an email.
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