How to Turn Around a Tough School Year

Staff Writer
Baystateparent Magazine
By Katherine Firestone

Sometimes the start of the school year just doesn’t go your child’s way. The new year is a great opportunity to turn that around! Here are four tips to make the rest of the year brighter at school.

Find that motivation

The first step is to make sure your child is motivated to turn the school year around. A tough start can be a bit demoralizing, so you want to make sure your child is in the right mindset when he or she goes back to school.

There are three components of motivation:

* Autonomy: We want to be in control.

* Mastery: We want to be good and get better at something.

* Purpose: We want to do things that matter

To help your child find that internal motivation, help them set goals that matter to them academically. Let him choose what his goal is (autonomy). Set up a plan for success so he gets some small wins quickly (mastery). Ask your child why he chose his goal, and talk about its importance (purpose).

Get your friends and family (maybe even teacher) on board

Change is hard. Having a strong support system will help. Encourage your child to talk to her friends about her new goal, and maybe even her teacher. Saying the goal aloud increases accountability because friends will ask how it’s going, plus they are there to help if she falls off track.

Find a tutor

If it’s a particular subject your child needs help with, a professional can help. Maybe that’s a tutor, a therapist, an after-school program with volunteer tutors, or a friend who is just really good at math. No matter what is causing the difficult year, find someone who can dedicate their time to help your child succeed in that area.

Work on developing a child’s grit/growth mindset

Your child is just not good at science — yet. Adjusting his mindset to think this way will help him feel comfortable asking for help and trying harder. Dr. Caren Baruch-Feldman wrote an excellent workbook, The Grit Guide for Teens, to help them adjust their mindset, build their grit, and achieve their goals. Working through the activities in this book will also help develop that motivation (Tip #1) to turn the year around.

Once kids learn they can adjust course mid-year, they may start to realize they can turn around any day that starts off sour. (Actually, this works great both ways. If we can teach our kids to turn around their day, they will learn they can turn around much larger things, too.)

Katherine Firestone had a hard time in school because she suffered from undiagnosed ADHD until her junior year of high school. What made her successful during this time was the support system she had around her. After college, she worked as a teacher, and saw that parents wanted to help their kids at home, but didn’t know what to do. She started the Fireborn Institute to give parents ideas on how to help. She is also the host of The Happy Student, a podcast for parents on promoting happy academic and social lives.