Advice Column, Education, Health, Parenting

The link between emotional challenges and poor academic performance

Have you ever considered that your child’s struggles at school may be because of emotional challenges?

The academic year, as we are already aware, hold many stressors for children. What we are not always conscious of is that a child’s emotional state can directly affect the need to perform academically. In fact, according to Kerry De Jager, Head Franchisor at Step Up Education Centres, South Africa says, “Children who are experiencing emotional challenges (pain, uncertainty, family challenges, low self-esteem and fear) are more likely to struggle with the academic demands of formal schooling.”

Think of a time as an adult, for example, where you have had an emotional challenge. “It is incredibly difficult to focus on our jobs and careers when our emotional state is one of pain, blame or demotivation. As an adult we have developed the skills needed to cope with stress and anxiety and yet our emotional state sometimes hinders our ability to function in the workplace,” Kerry explains.  She adds that developmentally some children are not yet ready to deal with these stresses and furthermore an emotional immature child will not have the coping skills to deal with the way their emotions make them feel. As the stresses of the year creep up on them, their emotional state will have a greater and greater impact on their ability to concentrate on their academic work. “An emotionally stable learner is able to take in and retain new information more effectively. Concentration skills are better and social relationships are a great deal more positive.”

Kerry gives the following tips to parents who you have a child who is struggling at school:

  1. It is important to look at your child as a unique individual and realise that academic performance cannot be looked at in isolation. If your child has not performed as well as what you expected, try and find out why.  Aim at honest non-judgemental conversations that will enable you to understand the emotional state that your child has been in during the academic year.  Are they emotionally able to cope with the grade that they are in? Has it been a particularly difficult year at home? Has your child had a significant change in their lives like a new sibling or perhaps a divorce? Has there been a change in friends at school or at social clubs? All these questions may provide some insight into why they have not performed as well as you anticipated.  They will also afford you an opportunity to work together to find positive solutions.
  2. Remember that everyone wants to achieve success, whether they are willing to admit it or not! It is not in their nature to want to fail. Our role as parents is to guide, support, encourage and motivate our children to rise above the challenges of life to achieve the best version of themselves!

“Each child is unique and their needs all differ. If you take the time to try and understand why a child is performing the way they are, it is a huge step in the right direction. Be patient with your children as they navigate the world with you at their side!” Kerry Concludes.

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