Nothing breaks a parent’s heart like watching their child struggle at something. As the school year gets started, and we all adjust to the ways that school looks different for each one of us, many families find themselves in an uphill battle to support kids, especially those who might struggle to learn even in the best of learning environments. 

There are so many reasons a kid can struggle with learning; dyslexia, ADHD, anxiety, developmental delays and more. No matter the reason, here are some practical steps parents can take to help support their struggling learner and make this school year just a bit smoother.

how to support a struggling learner

1. Advocate for Your Child

As a parent of a struggling learner, one of the greatest lessons I have learned is that no one will fight for my child and their needs like a parent will. You understand your child best and know when they are not being supported in the ways that are most effective. 

Advocacy means helping give your child a voice. You can do this by 

  • Scheduling a time to talk with their teachers about their educational needs. 
  • Connecting with the school counselor to find out what resources are available.
  • Persistently seeking out help and resources and if they say no, ask again in a different way! Educate yourself on what types of resources are available. If your child is doing distance learning this year, they are likely going to need additional supports to be put in place in order for them to be successful. Most schools are struggling to know how to support these learners, so come with a list of suggestions and be part of creating a plan for your child! 

2. Develop Time Management Skills

Time management can be a struggle for all children, but especially those who are struggling with learning. Executive functioning (the ability to organize and reason) can be impacted. Help your child get organized and stay organized. 

  • Start the week or day out by making a list what needs to be accomplished that day from online classes they need to attend to assignments that need to be turned in. 
  • Help them make a list they can follow as a road map and cross off when they are done. You could also put sticky notes on a whiteboard of everything that needs to be done that day and as they complete each task they can move the sticky notes over from one column to the next. 

As you are helping to organize your child, be sure to stay flexible. Every day is not going to go exactly as planned, allow the space and flexibility to move things around from time to time.

3. Encourage Positive Experiences 

So many times kids who struggle at school can begin to feel like everything in life is a struggle. Self-esteem is often negatively impacted, and they can get stuck in the mindset that either they are a failure and that everyone is better. And that’s really not true. While particular parts of academic learning might be challenging, academics is not the only places of intelligence. We can excel in how we move our bodies, know ourselves, know other people, music, art/drawing, science, outdoors, and so much more.

If school is difficult, help engage your child discover the places and things that come easily and naturally to them and provide opportunities for them to do those things. If they enjoy sports, make time for them to move their bodies every day and highlight the ways in which that comes naturally to them. Are they good friends? Notice the kind ways they engage with others and tell them what you see. Whatever it is take the time to help them find something that is “theirs”.