As we start the second academic quarter, it is a stressful time at school for teachers and students alike: report cards are going home soon! For many students, this comes with a wide range of emotions: disappointment, excitement, nervousness, worry, frustration, satisfaction, uncertainty, or shame.
Here in the school counselors’ office, we frequently talk with students who are experiencing stress around their schoolwork, feeling overwhelmed and under pressure, or worrying about disappointing others. For even younger students, self-esteem is often connected to academic success, and they are highly aware of the potential for rewards or consequences based on their results.
That’s why we want to offer some reminders to parents about how we can collaboratively support students both in anticipation of receiving report cards as well as discussing their results as a family:
Tip #1: Keep Things in Perspective
Student performance should be measured with multiple sources of data, so report cards should not be given more weight than one piece of progress information. Keep open lines of communication with your child’s teacher in order to stay engaged and informed about your child’s education.
Tip #2: Stay Calm
Approach conversations about report cards with calmness and clear communication: if your child’s grades are disappointing to you, your child is likely to feel disappointed as well. The conversation should revolve around setting goals to help them improve or address challenges, as opposed to revoking privileges, which studies have shown is not effective at motivating children academically.
Tip #3: Find a Positive
If they did not do as well as expected, remember: even a bad report card has some positivity in it. Find out where the child has performed well and praise them for their effort. When children feel that their strengths are noticed, they are more likely to try harder in the future. On the other hand, if a child feels that their efforts only matter when they achieve a certain score, they may give up the next time they feel disheartened.
Tip #4: Praise Effort
If your child has had a great first term: celebrate their successes! Avoid the temptation to buy them gifts or offer monetary rewards, and instead, try to plan a special outing as a family or one-on-one time with your child. When praising them, focus on effort, such as perseverance, rising to the challenge, using strategies and tools, and other things they can control. When the student is struggling in the future, this helps them develop resilience by remembering they can use these strengths, as opposed to feeling defeated because they believe they are simply “good at” or “bad at” something.
Tip #5: Develop Healthy Habits
It is essential that students strive towards balanced, healthy lifestyles to achieve their academic potential: that means plenty of sleep, a nutritious diet, regular exercise, limiting technology use, and offering opportunities for self-care, family time, and unstructured social time.
Tip #6: Listen
There are many reasons a student may not meet their potential, or their grades may change over time. They could be distracted by interpersonal concerns, struggling with a specific subject, or having trouble self-regulating and managing impulse control. Instead of approaching with blame, try to show you are willing to listen and seek solutions together. Students who experience academic stress may need extra support at school, and our Student Support Department has experienced staff who can help with academic support, behavioral interventions to improve focus and organizational skills, and social-emotional support to help students manage their emotions to optimize their “readiness to learn”.
Remember: to help your child be successful next quarter, they need to feel supported and not fearful of negative consequences. If you are concerned about your child’s grades, please reach out to their teachers or our team – we are here to help!