There may be a host of reasons your child is having problems at school. Not all of these problems indicate a mental health disorder, however, when these problems persist and create difficulty for the school's teachers and administrators there is sometimes a tendency to diagnose and medicate.
A short list of the most common problems include not paying attention in class, social problems, not making friends easily, and behavioral problems including aggression towards other children or teacher and disruptive behavior in the classroom.
There are times when a diagnosis is useful for a child so that they can receive the proper help necessary for their success in school; however, these labels can also have damaging effects, and it has been demonstrated by research that these labels can cause a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Most children struggle at school either academically or socially at some point in their academic careers. Not all children who experience difficulty concentrating have ADHD, and not all children with social challenges have some form of autism (the rates of diagnosis are astounding, especially amongst young boys: Click Here for a link to the CDC website on that topic).
Some suggestions for parents with a child who is struggling at school:
♦If you child is struggling with academics, make an appointment with the child's teacher as soon as possible. Try to understand the teacher's perspective about the issue. Try some tutoring that focus on the problem areas. Have your child's eyesight and hearing tested which may be contributing to or causing an academic problem.
♦If you child is having social problems some parental intervention may be necessary. Organize regular play dates with other children in your child’s class. Talk to your child about some basic social cues and skills (Click Here for a link to a Parents magazine article on the topic). Sometimes children need reminding how to say hello and to ask someone if they want to play, and that their friend may not always want to play, but they should try again at another time.
♦If your child is experiencing behavioral problems at school begin by talking openly to your child about their feelings. Try these discussions out in the car for example - the lack of eye-contact can often make for easier for your child to share freely. Understand that it can be difficult to sit in a classroom for the better part of 6 hours per day. Ask your child about what they're feeling at school. Are they bored? Is another child distracting them? Do they have something on their mind? Remind them about behavioral expectation at school, to raise their hand, use an indoor voice, listen, etc. If your child experiences difficulty sitting still or is full of energy try organizing some physical activities such as Karate, soccer, swimming or gymnastics.
♦If possible volunteer some time at your child's school so that you can get a better perspective for yourself about what's happening in the classroom or on the playground.
If your child continues to struggle, meeting with a psychotherapist may be helpful. Sometimes there are emotional or family issues that are being played out in the classroom that psychotherapy can assist with.