Are You Paying Attention to, or Ignoring, the Signs that Your Child May Need Help Academically?

Are You Paying Attention to, or Ignoring, the Signs that Your Child May Need Help Academically?

10 tell-tale signs that you child may benefit from a tutor.

Circumstances change in every home and with every child, whether that child would benefit from some support academically or whether that child is gifted and would benefit from being extended and further challenged.

Are we paying attention to the signs that may indicate a child needs support? Do we recognise that support may be offered in a special way beyond school and what parents, carers or grandparents can offer?

There are signs and behaviours that may indicate that engaging a tutor to support your child and your family would be a worthwhile endeavour. No parent wants to see their child suffer or feel helpless to support them. A tutor may just the be the answer.

In these times of school closures and disruptions, remote learning and less exposure to school routine we see various ways this affects children in the home environment and at school.

Globally, we have unprecedented levels of anxiety and depression amongst our young population therefore it is even more important to ensure academic work is being monitored and not initiate or compound a potential situation.

Changed expectations from school and perhaps further demands at home play out showing signs a child would well benefit from having a tutor, or what I like to call, a ‘learning companion’.

All children are capable. All children are talented. All children want to learn.

An expert tutor can begin to identify and draw from a child’s innate and learned skills to develop into a competent independent and self motivated learner. Many children would manage their work with greater ease with increased confidence. It may well be a tutor that can work that magic for a particular child.

The more success a child can experience within themselves, at school and in their world at home and in their other interests can be a determining factor that will assist them to avoid the compulsion and allure associated with internet overuse such as online gaming, social media and YouTube consumption.

A lack of confidence is a common concern for many children. Often all they need is a boost in self-esteem to get them on the right path and in an upward trajectory. A proficient tutor or ‘learning companion’ to set them on that path may be a wise investment.

Here are some elements to watch for and think about in order to determine if extra support may be required.

Is your child:

1. Speaking less and using simpler words? 

This may be a signal that they are not managing their work and may rather not talk about it. It may be a sign they are embarrassed, or upset, or even sad about not knowing how to progress some work. A child may not know how to ask for help. Is the answer to all your questions merely, “Good” or “OK” or a shrug, or even tears?

Tip: An experienced tutor may be able to gently help a child reveal where there are concerns and open up dialogue. There is a wise saying that it is difficult to be “a prophet in your own backyard”, meaning that children may open up and talk more freely about certain topics to a person outside of the family with less reservation.

2. Not completing work or not committing to a task for any period of time?

Many children need support to learn how to persevere to the end of a task. This is not something that is natural for all children, especially when the work is in project form and not just a maths worksheet. Learning to stick to a task and work at it to solve a problem or think sufficiently about the question to break it down into parts to solve takes time to develop.

Tip: A tutor may work with a child to encourage them to see where to begin and how to approach the problem. It is common that a child may be able to do a part of the task but not know how to apply that knowledge or gain the skills to fill in the blanks. Guidance to know what perseverance looks and feels like can be a tough lesson to learn. Having a ‘learning companion’ along the way can make a big difference.

3. Overly distracted? 

Children who are not used to working independently, can lose focus very quickly.  School provides discipline and guidance and when the teacher is not around, children’s focus can fall away readily. In any home today, there are myriad distractions that can absorb and immerse a child to the point where little else matters- social media, online games, YouTube, television. We need to remember that these devices, especially online distractions are expertly designed to keep attention and effort, conscious effort, is required to discipline these all consuming distraction.

Tip: When a child works with a tutor for a dedicated period all distractions –  visual, noise, technological – need to be managed. An experienced tutor will request the family arrange a space and time for such distracters to be at a minimum or completely eliminated. This gives the child being tutored an experience of how to manage a home and study situation and learn to monitor that themselves like turning off all devices during homework time and not listening to pop music while trying to master an essay.

4. Seeming overwhelmed?

Many children appear overwhelmed when they can’t attempt or progress a task. They often do not know where to start and that can be distressing or confusing. Or they get to a certain point and find it difficult to go further; they need someone to ask to guide their thinking to go to the next stage of the creative writing or maths problem.

Tip: All children want to learn to show how they are growing up, that they are capable and can achieve. Many children just need expert and insightful guidance to tailor advice and support for a particular child. Prioritising work and scheduling that is a learned skill and usually takes some time to master. Having an external professional teach those skills can make an immeasurable difference to the academic and personal life of that child.

5. Becoming upset more easily?  

Is your child becoming more anxious, especially when facing a challenge in their work? Are they giving up, are more emotional or behaving in a way that is not their normal manner?

Anxious brains cannot learn.

Tip: Working with a gentle, knowing tutor can support that child’s brain to calm so that they can in fact, think.

An insightful tutor will be able to talk with a child to lower anxiety in the child’s brain with strategies and conversation. They may be able to identify what the underlying issues may be that are causing upset and make the parents aware of those. They can also share simple brain calming exercises with the child, for the times when they are not around and the child identifies that they need to reduce their anxiety.

6. Less able to understand instructions? 

At any age, it is critical a child knows what a question is asking. Yet, as children move through the grades, the ability to interpret instructions and questions becomes even more urgent, especially in senior years of high school. The ability to break a question down and appreciate what it is asking are skills that develop over time and with constant practice.  Keen guidance is required as this is a learned ability.

Tip: An experienced tutor will be able to identify a child’s stumbling blocks and be able to coach the relevant concepts a question is asking. Even reading an instruction out loud, a couple of times, can make a difference. Examining specific words in a question like “compare” vs “explain” vs “examine” can all have different meanings in different subjects according to the curriculum and grade. Particularly in senior grades, understanding instructions is imperative for success.

7. Unable to articulate what is getting in the way of their work

and therefore, making it difficult for you, as a parent to help? 

It is often very challenging for a child to be able to determine what is wrong and where they are having difficulty and well as be able to explain that.

Tip: This is completely natural for a child to find it challenging to identify what is impeding progress. A proficient tutor will be able to identify through looking at past papers, working directly and in conversation with the child where problems may lie.

8. Talking about peers who seem to manage better and get higher grades?

Children are perceptive and know if their performance is lower than their friends or those they admire. It is not a bad thing to be aware and to want to improve – that is healthy. What we need to be mindful is not providing the opportunity for a child to improve, especially if they have identified they would like to feel more successful and be seen as more competent.

Tip: An aware tutor understands the self-esteem needs of children and can work with short and longer strategies to help that child appear more confident in class and for their work to start to show rapid improvement in ways that will generate a significant improvement. They can guide a child as to how to behave in class, what questions to ask and how to present work in a more meaningful way to gather praise and attention.

9. Losing interest or attaining poorer results in a subject where previously the child did well or even excelled? 

In today’s world, distractions and demands are many, varied and increasing. There could be a host of reasons for the dropping away of interest or marks, yet if a child is aware of this deterioration, it can affect their self-esteem and have significant consequences.

Any child needs to know they are competent at something. In particular, something in which they can direct their interest, develop their knowledge and gain accolades or kudos with friends and family. We all need to work hard to locate and identify those talents with our children as sometimes they are hidden and need some drawing out.

Tip: Because a tutor will work closely with a child and follow their way of thinking, they are often in a position to pick up on subtleties that indentify an interest or way of operating that will benefit a particular endeavour. A child may reveal that to a tutor when maybe a family or teacher overlooks or doesn’t see that child’s talent and how it can be developed and transferred.

10. Gifted in a particular area and has now turned their back on that endeavour? 

Children who are not stretched or challenged, especially in an area of high competence, may lose interest or not motivate themselves to take it further. It is not always common for a child to take the initiative to delve deeper and deeper into a topic if they do not have a witness to their passion or who are willing to engage with them and encourage.

Tip: Each tutor will have a specific area of their own curiosity and expertise. It may be worth the effort to locate one who may be passionate in your child’s field of interest and can lead and encourage in ways that are relevant and open windows of opportunity and knowledge that your child may not previously have known.

You may have observed any of the 10 listed behaviours and put it down to tiredness, laziness or ‘just how my child is these days”. What if you are wrong, what if your child really is struggling and does not know how to approach this subject with you?

May I encourage you to set time aside to discuss possible solutions to their current situation and the possibility of engaging a tutor for a short or longer term to ease this current difficulty? Chances are they may resist your offer at first, that is fine, yet at least you have made it and opened the door for future discussion. You may be surprised to see that your child will be eager to work with someone outside of the home with whom they can make mistakes without embarrassment and away from the view of peers.

Please do not wait for a poor report card or failed assessment to identify a problem. Talk with your child, and have that tough conversation, their future career may depend on it.

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