Why do some kids struggle in school?

child crying

What could cause a child to struggle in school?

  • Developmental delay

The parents will hopefully have realize this early on and taken the child for therapy.

  • Learning difficulties

These difficulties usually only become apparent when a child goes to nursery school or Gr. R. Referring a child for an assessment at an occupational therapist.

  • Emotional stress

Parents fighting constantly, parents divorcing, being bullied, being shouted at by the teacher, having learning difficulties, being molested and feeling guilty for disappointing his/her parents are just some of the factors that can cause emotional stress and even lead to depression.

  • Being underfed

Children coming from low income families may not be receiving nutritious meals and thus the physical, cognitive and emotional demands of the body cannot be met by the amount of food that they are receiving.

  • Chronic illnesses

Suffering from a constant illness may cause a child to miss school days, getting tired easily or experiencing emotional stress which are all factors that could cause a child to struggle in school.

Chronic pain

This is could lead to tiredness and emotional stress.

  • Poor eyesight

We need our eyes and ears to receive information in the classroom. If a child’s eyesight is problematic he/she will suffer from headaches and/or not be able to see on the black board/text book. It is recommended that a child is taken to an optometrist, every year, since the age of 5.

  • Poor hearing

We need our eyes and ears to receive information in the classroom. It is recommended to take your child for a hearing test when he/she is Gr. R.

  • Chronic tiredness

An unstable home environment can cause a child to experience emotional stress or not to be put to bed at a reasonable time. Then he/she may struggle to stay away during school time.

  • Home language vs teaching language

Some parents want their children to attend school for Example English while his/her speaking and understanding of that language is really poor.  This will cause a huge barrier for learning and will cause the child to fall behind. Ensure that you child is able to understand the language or send your class for stimulation classes e.g. Tina Cowley Reading Centre before placing you child in a school where the teaching language is different that the home language. The best idea is the place your child in a pre-school since that age of 2 or 3 to empower him/her to be comfortable with e.g. English before placing him/her in Gr. 1.

  • Labelling

Especially kids with ADHD are labelled by some teacher and then the children as well. Be careful for labelling a child as naughty when there could be other reasons for their behaviour that they have no control over. This will cause a rift between the child and the teacher that could result in a negative behaviour towards school as well as performance.

  • Boredom

Some kids perform above the level expected from their peers. Have activities ready that can challenge these kids when finished with the class work or they will start to bother other kids and become fidgety.

  • Emotional immaturity

When parents choose to place their child in Gr. R in the year that they turning 5/in Grade 1 when turning 6, the child will always be younger than the other children. Even though the child may be academically ready for school; emotionally the child cannot cope with the structure, working independently, receiving criticism, concentrating for the appropriate amount of time.

What can you as a parent do to help my child?

  • Try to find the cause of the poor performance at school. Was it only 1 test? Did it start suddenly?
  • Don’t delay in taking action if your child’s performance is constantly poor. The behaviour won’t rectify itself, you need to take responsibility and help your child find solutions for the problem.
  • Praise your child for trying their best/working hard. Don’t limit your praise only to high marks on a test/performing the best in class.
  • Limit the amount of pressure you put on your child. Some parents put so much stress on their children that the moment the child performs poorly they start feeling guilty, can become depressed and even en up committing suicide
  • Don’t measure your child worth on the marks they get in tests. It is so important to react with understand when your child performs poorly and let them know that you still love her. Reacting with anger actually decreases a child’s motivation for trying harder.
  • Talk to your child’s teacher. This will help you to find the reason for the poor performance as well as to discuss how you are going to handle it. Make a weekly appointment, even just for 1 minute when fetching your child, to discuss your child’s progress.
  • Have your child assessed by an occupational therapist. This needs to be done if the poor performance has been since Gr. R or even since birth and/or when the poor performance is becoming persistent. If the assessment shows some limitations in skills therapy will be recommended.
  • Involve your child in stimulation classes e.g. Tina Cowley Reading Centre/Chums for sums at the Edu-centre.
  • Place your child in Gr. R the year they are turning 6 and in Gr. 1 the year they are turning 7. Emotional maturity is just as important as academic readiness.
  • If necessary; let your child rather repeat a grade when he is still in the foundation phase. It is usually more difficult for the parents to accept/adjust to this than it is for the child. If handled correctly the child won’t experience it as negative. The extra year will let your child catch up on lost skills and empower them to become for confident. It is much more traumatizing for an older child to repeat a grade than it is for Gr. R’s, 1’s or 2’s.






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