Tips for repeating a grade
How to adjust to the news any parent dreads hearing: "I failed"
When told our child must repeat a grade, as parents we ask ourselves what we could have done better, where we went wrong and why we didn't act sooner.

Our children are often beating themselves up with the same questions, except they also have the added emotional burden of having their friends in a different class, needing to make new younger friends, dealing with humiliation and shame, being a victim of bullying or teasing, and taking a huge knock to their self-esteem.  So what can we do to make this difficult transition easier?

Quick tips for classroom recovery
  • Don't add to the fingers pointing in their direction.  Although it may come naturally to be critical and ask all the "why's", it is imperative that you be as supportive as possible.
  • "Why" questions usually end up with excuses as answers.  Very often a child will try to blame somebody or something else.  "What" questions simply ask for the facts.  For example, "What do you think will help you do better this year?  What will make things easier?  What can you do to improve this year? What can I do to help you?"
  • You can also talk about what you've observed to try and get the conversation going.  You could mention things you've noticed such as mood changes, being tired all the time, getting more detention than usual, being sad over a puppy dying, etc.  Then try and figure out which things are really upsetting your child and may be part of the problem.
  • If your child has a learning disability or behaviour problem, this issue may be magnified during a repeat year.  It is important to get professional support such as a tutor and psychologist involved, especially if there are particular subjects that need help and specific emotional issues that need addressing (such as emotional withdrawal, depression, anxiety).
  • If your child's grades dropped suddenly (from a B to a fail for example) it is important to find out why, as this is out of the ordinary.  This is especially true if you've also noticed an attitude or behavioural change.
  • You also need to understand what your child is truly capable of.  Is he/she being lazy or is the work really too difficult?  Talk to the teachers involved and find out what their opinion is.  Also, don't be shy to keep asking questions.  Make sure he is placed in the right class with a teacher who understands the unique problems your child is facing.  Questions to ask the teachers include:  Has my child participated less?  Is he/she hanging around different friends?  Is my child bored or tired or irritated?  Does he seem overwhelmed?  Have you seen a change in attitude?  Where does he battle the most?
  • Be careful of "learned helplessness", where children learn that if they act like they can't do something then somebody else will do it for them.  Don't give them the answers when they're doing their homework, for example.
  • You can, however, help your child manage his/her homework.  Don't assume he/she understands everything, even if they say they do.  Children do need structure and supervision, and if his/her grades continue to drop, don't let them do their homework in their room with the door closed and music on.  Leave the door open and check in every half hour.  
  • You may want to consider giving rewards for an improvement in grades.  Don't make a big deal out of it and don't punish him/her for non-performance.  But sometimes a little incentive goes a long way to help with their motivation.  
  • Check your child's progress all through the year.  That way, if you spot something wrong you have time to fix it before it's too late again.
  • Make things easier for your child by helping him/her to set up play dates with "old" friends or give them a few lines they can throw out if they get teased, such as:  "I needed to get better at some stuff.  No big deal."
Starting the year over is the perfect opportunity to succeed.  Don't allow your child to give up and stop trying.  If you keep a positive attitude, they will too.
Kids are really resilient.  They bounce back far quicker than we do, and with a little bit of help, 2012 really can be a huge success.

What have you learned from having your child repeat a grade?

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