How I make school report cards less scary for my kids

Learn from an educator and mom of two about how to talk to neurodivergent kids about school report cards. Get parenting tips on how to use report cards as learning tools.

Report cards can be a big deal for both parents and kids, especially at the end of the school year. For struggling students, getting a report card can feel like a make-or-break moment. They may dread seeing the report card comments. Each semester’s grades can feel like a great weight on their shoulders.

But I’ve learned that school report cards don’t have to be this heavy — or scary. 

For almost 16 years, I’ve navigated life as the parent of two kids — one with learning differences and one without. As an educator and parent advocate, I try to use report cards as helpful tools. I think this is important for all kids. And it’s extra important for neurodivergent kids. Here are four ways I make report cards less scary for my kids and me.

1. I try to avoid report card surprises. 

At the start of the school year, I write all the important dates in my calendar, including when report cards come out. This way I’m not surprised when they arrive at my house. 

I also use the parent portal at my kids’ schools so I can monitor their grades in real time. A lot of schools offer this kind of access. Some of them will even send an email each time a homework or test grade gets entered in the system.

There’s one other important step I take so I won’t be surprised when I see my kids’ grades. I try to build strong relationships with their teachers so we stay in touch about progress. This is especially important for my child who has an . Getting frequent updates is a key part of tracking progress toward meeting annual IEP goals.

2. I talk with my kids about the value of report cards.

Before report cards arrive, I talk about how I view them with my kids. I see report cards as snapshots — not the whole story — of my kids’ progress throughout the semester and year.

I also talk about the overall value of the report card without putting too much emphasis on the grades. I remind my kids that reading the teacher comments in their report cards is just as helpful as seeing their grades and can provide good insight.

For example, my oldest son has average grades but really good relationships with his teachers. I celebrate the whole picture in addition to talking about report card grades.

3. I recognize the effort my kids made. 

It’s important to view the report card as more than just a reflection of final academic performance. I try to see the bigger picture and recognize the effort and progress my kids are making. 

For instance, one of my kids struggles with some big concepts in math. So we make every effort to celebrate his progress on the smaller ones. Those successes might not be visible in the final grades. That’s why we need to recognize those milestones along the way and praise his hard work and dedication.

In other words, I give the kind of praise that helps build self-esteem.

4. I help my kids move forward and plan for what’s next.

I help my kids see the report card as a road map. We look at the report card together and plan for where they might need extra help. 

For example, my son receives support for . I help him understand that it’s OK to make mistakes or have setbacks — they’re just part of the learning process.

I also let him know that I understand his challenges but believe in his abilities. I use the report card to come up with a plan to tackle these challenges and set goals for the future. Our goal-setting discussions help teach important life skills like coming up with a plan and sticking to it.

And last but not least, I remind my kids that no matter what grades or comments come home, every child learns at their own pace. Every report card is a chance to reflect, learn, and grow. And every setback can be reframed as an opportunity to help my kids move forward.


Explore related topics