how to help a teenager struggling in high school

The academic pressures of high school add stress to many students’ lives; if you’re the parent of one of those students, it can be extremely difficult to know just how to help a teenager struggling in high school. On top of their roiling emotional lives, teenagers face coursework of increased rigor and the looming specter of college. Factor in the day-to-day challenges of living through a pandemic, and it’s no surprise that many students’ grades will start to slip.

Since Piqosity’s focus is education, this article focuses primarily on meeting the academic challenges your teen may be facing. We understand, though, that academic struggles don’t happen in a vacuum—when a student falls behind, mental, emotional, and socioeconomic stressors are often at the root of the problem. We have provided a list of helpful resources and hotlines for these non-academic issues that can be found at the end of this article; this list is a starting point only.

When it comes to academics, though, here are five strategies we find helpful when learning how to help a teenager struggling in high school.

1. Meet With Teachers

If you find yourself lamenting that your child hates school, or if your teen is struggling with their coursework, one of the best first steps is to connect with their teachers. After all, they are the ones “on the ground” during your student’s class time, and will most likely be able to offer perspective on why your student is struggling.

Perhaps your teen is perpetually late to class, or sleeps through the period. Or, maybe they are engaged and putting in the effort, but still don’t seem to fully grasp the material. Either way, you have more information, and can formulate the best plan of action. Teachers often have insight into what strategies can best target a student’s needs: perhaps your teen needs help overcoming math anxiety, or would benefit from private tutoring.

Meeting with your student’s teachers also allows you to let them know of any extracurricular circumstances that may be affecting their in-class performance. Perhaps a close family member has been ill or in an accident; it would hardly be surprising if this was distracting them! But unless someone puts their teachers in the loop, it may just appear that your student has inexplicably stopped trying in class.

Finally, establishing a rapport with teachers indicates to your student that you are taking their education seriously and underlines the idea that they have a clear support system in place. This way, if they feel overwhelmed, they are more likely to address those feelings with you (or their teacher), rather than hiding them out of shame or confusion.

2. Establish a Study Routine

Frequently, a meeting between parents and teachers determines that the best way to help a struggling teen in high school is for the student to study more. If that’s the case for your child, and you want to know, “How can I help my struggling teen?”, one of the best things you can do is to help them establish a study routine.

Particularly when trying to institute a new behavioral pattern, sticking to a routine makes things much easier. Establishing and maintaining a study routine is just as important as establishing your student’s wakeup or bedtime. When your teen devotes specific time slots for studying while at home, they’re more likely to retain concepts they may not have fully grasped during the day’s lessons.

If their study time overlaps with a time when you are also home, this gives you a chance to glance at what they’re learning. If it’s something you feel confident in, you can jump in and help explain any concepts with which they are having difficulty.

Struggling to get your teens off their screens and into the pages of a good book? Check out our handy collection of Tips for Reluctant Readers.

3. Offer Study Support

Helping your child with studying is more than just yelling at them to stop playing video games and start their study time. Although it’s important to give teenagers space and independence when it’s time for them to prepare, you should aim to be a regular (if unobtrusive) presence during your student’s study hours.

Being nearby for study support shows your teen that you’re offering a safe environment for them to ask questions they may not have been comfortable with in class. And if you have the skill set to help them, it also offers a good opportunity to bond with your child through the process of learning.

If you find both you and your teen are stuck on a concept, it’s worth reaching out to someone else who can explain it better. This could be your teen’s teacher, a tutor, another family member, or even one of their friends. After your teen has learned the concept, ask them to explain it to you: you will learn something and your child’s understanding will deepen.

4. Model Organizational Skills

High schoolers have a lot to juggle: assignments and materials for six (or more) classes, extracurricular activities, keeping tracking of upcoming ACT Test Dates and SAT Test Dates, preparing for college applications (including staying up-to-date on the latest pesky FAFSA Changes), and much more!

Managing all of that requires impeccable organization—a skill that must be learned and practiced! One of the things that you, as a parent wondering how to help a teenager struggling in high school, can do is to model good organizational habits and in turn, help your teen with theirs.

While you don’t want to run your child’s life, it’s still a good idea to keep abreast of what is going on, academically. Then, if needed, you can step in to assist. For instance, while you might let your child take the lead on planning for their upcoming SAT or ACT test, you could offer to do the research on ACT Costs, SAT Costs, and fee waivers to lighten their load.

Staying organized may seem like something that only applies to day-to-day life but good organizational skills instilled during teenage years sets your teenager up for success later on. Beyond that, keeping organized allows them to keep all work and study guides for each of their classes in its own area.

Being able to easily find work for each class and maintaining organized and well-written notes is also extremely beneficial when it comes time to study for any upcoming tests. Indeed, good organization can have a significant impact on managing standardized test anxiety.

5. Utilize Tutoring and Other Educational Resources

Finally, one of the most useful tips to be successful in high school is to be proactive in the use of educational resources. In addition to providing parental support and maintaining active involvement in the education process, you may also choose to employ the services of a tutor, who can offer more specialized guidance.

Additionally, or alternatively, you might consider using an online educational platform like Piqosity, which offers affordable online courses that your child can take from the comfort and safety of their own home. Depending on your needs, our courses can be used for enrichment, remediation, or test prep. Our current high-school offerings include:

If you’re not ready to purchase a course, you can still register for FREE (no credit card information required) for our Community package, which gives you access to a Diagnostic Test, Video Tutorial Lessons, Gamified Practice, Piqosity Virtual Tutor and many of our key platform tools.

Parting Thoughts and Other Resources

We hope that if you have been asking yourself how to help a teenager struggling in high school, you have found some answers and strategies to employ. At Piqosity, we value each individual student’s success and we’re here to help ensure all students are well-prepared for their classes and beyond.

As we said above, our expertise is in helping students who are struggling academically; if your teen’s challenges extend beyond the classroom, we hope that the following resources may offer a starting point for your journey to equip them with the skills they need to handle whatever problems they are facing:

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Mental Health America: Eating Disorders
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry: ADHD Resource Center
LGBTQ Youth Homelessness Prevention Initiative
Feeding America Food Bank: Find Your Local Food Bank
The Everytown Support Fund: Gun Violence Resources
The Center for Racial Justice in Education

More Educational Resources by Piqosity: