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Understanding Your Teen’s Academic or Educational Problems

“Why is my teen having academic problems?”

We get this question from concerned parents all the time. Once they notice the warning signs, many parents feel overwhelmed and uncertain about the next steps. This guide seeks to demystify the causes behind academic difficulties and provides a detailed roadmap for navigating and overcoming them.

Statistics on Teens with Academic Issues

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, “Eighty-seven percent of public schools reported that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted student socio-emotional development during the 2021–22 school year.” Respondents to the study mentioned, “increased incidents of classroom disruptions from student misconduct (56 percent), rowdiness outside of the classroom (49 percent), acts of disrespect towards teachers and staff (48 percent), and prohibited use of electronic devices (42 percent).”

Delving into the Root Causes: Why is my teen having academic problems?

To truly comprehend and address academic struggles, we need to understand the factors that might be influencing a teen:

Emotional and Mental Health Issues:

  • Emotional disturbances like anxiety, depression, or ADHD aren’t just buzzwords; they’re real challenges that can significantly hinder academic progress. The pressures of adolescence, coupled with academic expectations, can exacerbate these conditions, making it challenging for teens to keep up with their peers.
  • Symptoms like lethargy, disinterest, or chronic procrastination are often misattributed to laziness when they may actually be signs of deeper emotional or psychological struggles.

Social Challenges:

  • The quest for belonging can be both empowering and debilitating. Peer pressure, the intricacies of teen friendships, and the challenges of social media can create a tumultuous emotional landscape.
  • Bullying, both offline and online, can cause severe emotional distress, making academic concerns secondary. A teen grappling with social issues might experience a decline in academic performance due to the overshadowing stress.

Learning Differences:

  • Each student’s learning journey is unique. Some face academic difficulties because of conditions like dyslexia, ADHD, or auditory processing disorders.
  • It’s not that these students can’t learn; rather, they learn differently. Traditional educational systems might not always cater to these diverse needs, leading to apparent academic struggles.

Environmental Factors:

  • External factors play a crucial role. If a teen is navigating personal issues, such as family disruptions, substance abuse, or even socio-economic challenges, their focus on academics might wane.
  • Constant changes, like frequently moving homes or schools, can disrupt a student’s academic consistency, making adaptation and sustained performance a challenge.

10 Action Steps You Can Take Right Now

Recognizing academic issues is just the first step. The journey to resolution requires collaborative efforts, informed decisions, and an abundance of patience.

1. Have an Open Dialogue:

  • If you’ve just learned of your teen’s academic struggles, the first step is to ask your teen to set aside time to sit down with you.
  • Beyond asking about their grades, delve deeper. Create a non-judgmental space where your teen feels comfortable discussing academic problems, social issues, or any other concerns.
  • Your goal is not to provide immediate solutions but to listen, understand, and validate their feelings.
  • If your teen is open to getting help, let them know you’ll do some research on the next step.

2. Consult Their Teachers and Counselors:

  • School staff are invaluable allies in this journey. By maintaining open communication, you gain insights into any changes in your teen’s academic performance or behavior.
  • Utilize parent-teacher meetings to discuss specific academic struggles and gather feedback on potential interventions.Your teen’s teacher may have a perspective your teen didn’t have, which can shed some light on the problem.
  • Ask for references to specialists who may be able to help your teen—whether that be emotionally or academically.

3. Seek a Professional Assessment:

  • If you notice consistent patterns of academic issues, it might be time for a professional evaluation. Specialists can diagnose learning differences, offer insights into emotional challenges, and recommend actionable strategies.
  • Such assessments can also guide individualized education plans (IEPs) to support your teen’s unique learning needs.

4. Establish a Routine:

  • While you’re waiting for appointments with specialists or teachers, help your teen set up a weekly or daily routine. Adolescence is a time of change. Amidst this flux, a consistent routine offers stability. A structured day can imbue a sense of purpose and motivation, pivotal in overcoming academic difficulties.
  • While designing this routine, account for their input. A collaborative approach is often more effective than a prescriptive one.

5. Designate a Study Space:

  • Just like an artist has a studio, your teen needs a conducive environment to tackle academic tasks. This space should be free from distractions, be it noise or digital temptations.
  • Equip this area with necessary supplies – books, laptops, printers, and other items your teen needs to focus. Noise-cancelling headphones might also be a good idea if your teen is easily distracted. 

6. Encourage Breaks:

  • School can be stressful, and your teen may feel overwhelmed and pressured to keep going past their limit.
  • The brain isn’t wired for hours of uninterrupted focus. Encourage your teen to interlace focused study sessions with short breaks. This can rejuvenate the mind and enhance retention. A good rule of thumb is to set a timer and have your teen take a break every hour, for about ten minutes. 

7. Set Realistic Expectations:

  • It’s essential to differentiate between aspirational goals and unrealistic expectations. Constantly pushing a teen towards an unattainable ideal can compound academic struggles and dent their self-esteem.
  • Help your teen set goals for themselves each day. For example: “I will spend one hour on homework before dinner and one hour on homework after dinner.”

8. Stay Informed:

  • Invest time in understanding the changing dynamics of education. By familiarizing yourself with the latest educational research, tools, and methods, you can be better equipped to address academic difficulties in an informed manner

9.  Seek Professional Help

  • If your teen is unwilling to work on their academic struggles, or they just can’t seem to improve their grades despite hard work, they might need additional help.
  • Therapists or counselors can offer insights into the emotional or psychological barriers hindering academic success. They can introduce coping techniques, offering both the parent and the teen strategies to navigate and overcome these challenges.
  •  Sometimes, emotional needs must be addressed before academic issues can be solved. Treatment centers like Evolve that specialize in teen recovery may be necessary for teens with behavioral or substance abuse problems.

Taking Care of Yourself

You want the best for your child, and watching them struggle in school could be taking a toll on your emotional, mental, and physical health. That’s why it’s so important to get the support you need and take good care of yourself.

Support can come in many forms, including:

  • Online support groups
  • Local support groups (e.g. your local NAMI – National Alliance on Mental Illness – chapter)
  • Therapy
  • Confiding in close family and friends


Self-care can include making sure you:

  • Get sufficient sleep
  • Make time for yourself
  • Learn to effectively manage your stress, e.g. with regular exercise, yoga, meditation, etc.


Taking good care of yourself will help ensure that you’ll be there to support and encourage your teen.

When you’re fighting for your teen’s future, knowledge, understanding, and proactive intervention are your best allies. At Evolve, we are committed to providing the support, resources, and expertise necessary to turn academic struggles into opportunities for growth and success. Reach out today and talk to our support staff about your options.

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Our team is here for you. We are ready when the time is right. The process is complicated, so let us help guide you through the process.

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