9 Tips for Getting Your Child Back on Track

9 Tips for Getting Your Child Back on Track

If your child is having problems, here are some tips to get him on the right path.

By Judy Koutsky

If you notice your child is suddenly having problems in school (he’s gone from an “A” to “C” student) or maybe his behavior has changed recently (he used to love basketball, but then he dropped out), you might be worried that he’s going down the wrong road. Here are nine tips to get your child back on track.

1. Address red flags promptly. “If you notice some red flags -- such as getting into trouble at school, falling behind in a subject, or missing extracurricular activities -- it is important to address the situation promptly,” says clinical psychologist Nekeshia Hammond, PsyD. Talk to your child as soon as the situation becomes known. Don’t accuse him or sound upset. Ask him openly what’s going on.

2. Talk to your child. “[Some children] will easily open up. Other children may shut down or become angry or defensive about your questioning,” says Hammond. “Depending on the response of your child, they may need other outlets to discuss their feelings.” Maybe your child would rather talk to a relative, coach, or other respected adult friend.

3. Maintain positivity and expectations. “Instead of taking an emotional approach (‘I am so disappointed in you’), ask questions like, ‘What can you do differently this year to stay on top of your grades?’” says licensed professional counselor Tina Sustaeta, MS, LPC. “Helping your teen come up with ideas and goals are great ways to show him how much you believe in his ability to succeed.”

4. Communicate with the school. “Communication with your child’s school is critical. Keep in close contact with teachers and administrative staff about how your child is doing in school,” says Hammond. “If your child has started to get into trouble, discuss ways you can work with the school to resolve the issue and decrease further occurrences.” If falling behind on schoolwork is an issue, try to find out if your child is having trouble understanding the material or if there’s something else going on. If he or she is having trouble comprehending the assignments, a tutor might help. “Keep track of your teen’s school assignments. Don’t assume anything,” adds Sustaeta.

5. Revoke weeknight social privileges. If you’re noticing academic grades falling, perhaps it’s because your child has an active social life. “Do not allow your teen to go out socially on school nights,” suggests Sustaeta. Let him socialize on the weekends and leave weeknights for school activities and homework.


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6. Encourage more sleep. “Make sure your teen is getting enough sleep, especially on school nights,” says Sustaeta. “The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests a minimum of 8.5 to 9.5 hours a night.” Inadequate sleep can leave your child drowsy and unfocused the next day at school, which can lead to a myriad of problems.

7. Reduce screen time allowances. In the evenings, along with encouraging an earlier bedtime, “have your teen put all electronics to bed as well,” Sustaeta adds. Staying up late surfing the Internet, playing games on their iPads, or texting friends on their phones does not make for a restful bedtime ritual.

8. Get to the root of the problem. If the problem is not academic, then it’s important to “explore the reason for the change in behavior. Perhaps there is bullying, depression, or anxiety,” says Hammond. Talk to your child, the school, his sports coaches -- people who know him well. See if they have some insight to share.

9. Seek professional help. “In many cases, interventions in the home and school settings are helpful for getting children back on track,” notes Hammond. “However, if things get too out of hand or unmanageable, your child may need to see a mental health professional to explore if individual therapy is an option for him. There is a stigma in regards to mental health, but research has shown that many children and adolescents have benefited from therapy services.” Going to see a therapist simply means you are seeking another form of treatment for your child.

Have you ever felt your child was headed down the wrong path? What did you do?

Judy Koutsky is the former Editorial Director of KIWI magazine, a green parenting publication. She was also Executive Editor of Parenting.com, AOL Parent and BabyTalk.com. Follow her on twitter @JudyKoutsky .

Image ©iStock.com/jane

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