Overcoming Past Learning Challenges to Build Academic Confidence

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The Most Common Causes of Academic Problems

Academics can be a major source of stress for teens. This goes doubly so for those who have faced academic challenges in the past. Academic troubles can have a variety of causes, from a stressful classroom environment, issues with other students including bullying, the presence of mental health issues, defiant behavior, or a poor match between student and teacher. Whatever the cause of past difficulties, many teens enter high school with their academic confidence at a low state and without much hope for improvement. To prevent this from turning into a self-fulfilling prophecy of poor performance, parents can work with their teen to identify and address obstacles to academic success and make the positive changes that can help get their teen on the right track.

Academic issues present in a variety of forms, from struggles with test-taking or participation in class, to attention issues, difficulty understanding class materials, or outright delinquency and defiant behavior in and out of the classroom. Causes can be mental, emotional, or social in nature. Learning difficulties, for instance, can stem from learning disorders, such as dyslexia, or from mental health conditions like attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Anxiety is another common culprit, jeopardizing a student’s ability to remain calm under academic pressure while harming their relationship to school and learning overall.

A teen’s interpersonal issues with teachers or other students can also factor into poor academic performance. A simple mismatch between student and teacher can cause a lack of motivation or understanding. Similarly, antagonistic relationships with teachers or other students can account for a great deal of stress which will inevitably impact academic outcomes.

Studies have found the most significant predictors of poor academic performance to be “attention problems, delinquency, and substance use,” with lower GPAs and overall education outcomes resulting when a student exhibits more than one of such behaviors. Parents should be attentive to their child’s behavior, and work to find out what specific kinds of issues are causing their academic challenges.

Finding Solutions With Communication, Tutoring, and Improved Study Habits

Talking about your student’s attitudes towards school is a major first step towards addressing their academic issues. Your teen’s attitude towards school is a very important factor in how they perform in the classroom, so doing what you can to foster positivity in that direction is important. Remember that school is not just grades on assignments – it is made up of relationships with fellow students, teachers, staff, and extracurricular activities. These all impact classroom performance as well as student confidence and achievement. Viewing academic issues holistically means taking these factors into account when addressing your teen’s academic struggles.

It is helpful to ask your teen what made school challenging for them in the past, and where they most struggled. Students may have had a hard time in areas like test-taking, focusing in class, finding time to study at home, or in their relationships with other students. Identifying the greatest areas of struggle gives you a problem to solve. Developing a plan to address these problems, perhaps by implementing new study strategies, a weekly tutoring session, or a new schedule for completing homework assignments, can be a great first step.

A plan to address academic challenges is likely to have multiple components since challenges may have more than one cause. For instance, a student’s attentional difficulties from ADHD might combine with difficulties in a particular subject to give them a particularly hard time. This is why a holistic approach, which considers your student’s personality, learning style, and particular learning challenges, is best.

Overcoming Anxiety and Self-Doubt

Teenagers who have faced academic issues in the past are likely to be anxious and self-conscious about their future experiences in a new school setting, regardless of whether or not they show it outright. Students may feel anxious about the prospect of “failing” again, and may be poised to view all setbacks and difficult experiences as further proof of their inability to succeed in school. Facing down these kinds of anxieties and attitudes is a major part of moving towards academic success, and often takes concerted effort on the part of parents, student, educators, and counselors or therapists over time.

Starting with small academic goals and working up from there is a great way to begin to break through your teen’s doubts in their abilities as a student. Teens might begin working with a tutor, implementing a new study plan, giving their all on an essay or other assignment, or doing extra preparation for a class presentation. As they succeed in smaller tasks, students and parents can hone in on what’s working and in which areas they still struggle. When parents embrace a growth-oriented mindset that focuses on their teen’s strengths, students can more easily find their academic niche where they can be most successful. Above all else, praising your teen’s efforts and remaining flexible is key. Your teen is much more likely to stay motivated if you recognize their dedication and efforts as a parent.

Professional Treatment, Academics, and Therapeutic Boarding Schools

Teens with chronic mental health conditions, like anxiety or depression, are likely to benefit from professional therapeutic help. Effort alone on the part of a teenager will not necessarily overcome a chronic condition like ADHD. Instead, treatment is likely required in the form of regular therapy and possibly medication. Advances made in mental health treatment can also carry over into academics, if obstacles like anxiety or depression are impacting a teen’s performance at school. Beyond therapy alone, dedicated academic settings, like therapeutic boarding schools, can offer benefits of their own.

Therapeutic boarding schools offer a synergy of academic support with therapeutic care. This combination is one of the reasons why therapeutic boarding schools can be a good fit for teens with past academic struggles and mental health challenges. When therapy is conducted in concert with academic counseling, students get the individualized care and treatment plan that helps them achieve success in their academic, emotional, and social lives. Conducting therapy with a student’s academic goals in mind, and addressing academics with growth-oriented strategies that acknowledge student progress in therapy, can be powerful tools in boosting student performance and self-esteem.

Whatever treatment strategy or academic setting parents choose, working on addressing these underlying issues is an ongoing process. Parents should not expect drastic change overnight. Instead, parents should remain open to getting their teen the help they may need, stay communicative with their teen on what’s working and not, and modify their strategy from there.

Monitoring Progress and Maintaining Motivation in the Face of Setbacks

As they work on improving their academic performance, teens will inevitably encounter setbacks in the form of a bad grade on a test or a disappointing report card which didn’t show as much improvement as they’d hoped. In such situations, it is important to identify what went wrong, but it is equally vital to help the student maintain motivation, remind them of their successes and dedication, and keep planning for a new strategy. Communicating with teachers, therapists, and guidance counselors is also essential. Keeping them aware of your child’s efforts and challenges increases the likelihood that they can help support your teenager’s academic endeavors.

At Shortridge Academy, teens are supported by parents, teachers, and mental health professionals with a dedication to breaking through obstacles and modifying each student’s approach based on their learning style and strengths. What’s more, parents can rest assured that their teen is learning the tools they need to overcome past struggles and achieve success academically. The confidence, discipline, and responsibility students develop through these efforts – as well as the breakthroughs they experience in self-image – will serve them well as they develop into healthy, capable young adults.

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