How to find out why your kid is lagging behind at school

By identifying the signs and implementing the right approach, parents can help their children cope with learning difficulties at school.


As a parent, it can be worrying when you realise your child is falling behind.

Is the pace too fast for them? Are they being bullied? Do they have a learning difficulty?

There a number of reasons why kids may fall behind in school, but it’s important to get to the root of the problem and help them overcome any issues.

“The most common reason [that kids fall behind] is that the child hits a slump after the holidays or a long break,” explains Joanna Santillan, mother of three and founder of, an online resource for after-school activities for students.

“Other reasons, which can be classified as alarming, are when a child has a learning disability or performance and behaviour problems, and when a child is going through a serious issue in school such as bullying.”

In most cases, children would rather keep their problems to themselves, leaving parents and teachers in the dark.

Have a heart-to-heart

Failing grades, not wanting to go to school, skipping homework and avoiding friends –these should all be red flags for parents. If you notice these, sit down and have a talk with your child.

“Ask ‘what’ questions, not ‘why’. ‘Why’ questions invite your child to make excuses, to blame someone or something for his problems, while ‘what’ questions ask your child to report the facts,” explains Joanna.

“If you’ve noticed your child’s grades are suffering, it’s critical that you put more effort into helping them manage their homework. Kids need structure and supervision, and they need somebody looking in on them who will hold them accountable.”

The next step is to schedule a meeting with teachers to personally ask them about their observations.

“In my experience, teachers can be very helpful in telling you what they’ve observed. Tell the teachers what you see at home and then ask what they see happening in the classroom,” adds Joanna.

Professional assistance

Sometimes the root of the problem might be medical in nature and visiting your child’s paediatrician can be another option.

“Even if you suspect your doctor will brush off your concerns, it’s essential that your child be checked for possible medical issues that could be causing a problem,” Joanna points out.

“Children can be evaluated for free in most cases, or you can pay to have an evaluation done by a private child professional or a major university or hospital.”

If your child’s problem is medical-related, parents should discuss with the therapist the specific areas that need to be worked on to help the child.

“You have a part in this so take notes about a typical day with your child, including behaviour, language and habits, or video your child so that you have a visual record of where your child is, developmentally.”

If the child has special learning needs, the parents can schedule additional consultation time with teachers and school staff to see if it’s possible to implement a different programme to meet their needs.

Extra help

Once you’ve identified the learning areas that your child needs to improve in, a tutor could be a good option to help them get back on track.

“The purpose of tutoring is to speed up the learning process, make up the skills the child has lost and get them back up to the instructional level so the teacher in the classroom can continue the learning process with the child,” explains Joanna.

Try asking your friends for referrals or you can approach volunteer organisations or educational institutions that offer such services.

You can also search online and check reviews and recommendations from fellow parents or education communities.

Most of all, be patient, listen to your children and devote time to encourage them to help them regain their self-esteem.

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