New School Year, Same Grade: Helping Your Child Cope
Being “left-back” can be a traumatic event for kids. Here’s how to help your child cope with going back to school after retention.
Approximately 2 million students are retained each year. And studies show that a child’s fear of being held back is almost as intense as the stress of losing a parent. Kids who are held back are more likely than their peers to drop out of high school. And they are also more likely to have behavioral problems, low self-esteem, and trouble with social relationships.
As alarming as those findings are, there is a lot you can do to help your child cope with going back to school.
By mentally preparing your child for the challenges ahead and letting your child know you believe in his or her abilities to succeed, you can help bolster your child’s confidence and ease the stress of starting school in the same grade.
What you can do
Before the school year starts, it’s important to meet with your child’s teacher and school officials to see what accommodations are going to be made to help ensure your child’s chance to succeed. Will there be tutoring available? Will your child be in a smaller class with more opportunity to interact with the teacher? Will there be remediation for basic skills your child may lack? Will there be opportunities for communication between the teacher and you?
Over the summer, use the following suggestions to help make going back to school less stressful:
- Acknowledge your child’s feelings about being left back. Show your child lots of love and affection. Let him or her know you have faith in his or her abilities to do well in school. Don’t ever let your child feel that he or she has disappointed you.
- Commend your child for all the things he or she does well, whether it’s scoring a run in a softball game, completing a challenging project, or learning how to do a cartwheel.
- Talk to your child’s siblings. Let them know how important their encouragement is. Don’t tolerate teasing or name-calling.
- Reassure your child that this school year won’t be a playback of last year’s. Explain changes that will be made at home and school to help him or hersucceed.
- Put a positive spin on back-to-school time by getting your child excited about an activity. Encourage your child to get involved with sports or to join the band. This will show your child that school isn’t all work and can be fun, too.
- Offer your child nutritious meals and snacks, and make sure he or she gets to bed on time. That way your child will have the energy needed to focus on schoolwork.
How your child may feel about going back to school
Children who have been retained often feel embarrassed and worry that other students will make fun of them or think they are stupid. They may feel like failures and doubt their ability to succeed in school. Retained children also have a real sense of loss as they watch their friends move along without them.
Given these feelings, it’s easy to see why getting your child excited about the upcoming school year may not be easy. But positive self-concepts, good peer relationships, and social, emotional, and behavioral strengths are all traits your child will need to overcome any negative effects of being held back. The messages you send and the environment you create for your child should reinforce those positive traits.
Signs of stress
Having to repeat a grade is likely to be stressful for your child, even with your continued support. Keep an eye on your child’s mental health by looking out for these symptoms:
- Unpredictable behavior
- Trouble sleeping
- Crying, sadness, or other signs of depression
If you see any of these signs or any other indications that your child is not coping well, arrange for your child to talk to a mental health professional, doctor, or school