Social and emotional trouble in school: 7 things to ask your child’s teachers

Is your child having trouble with social-emotional skills? Have you or your child’s teacher noticed changes in your child’s emotions or behavior around school or schoolwork? No matter who raised the concerns, it’s important to talk about the specifics with your child’s teacher. Here are some questions to get the conversation started.

1. Have you noticed my child withdrawing in certain situations?

Withdrawal can be a sign of anxiety, uncertainty, discomfort, and even anger. Knowing when your child tends to withdraw during school can help both you and the teacher know how to provide support. If your child withdraws during social situations at school, the teacher can find ways to help your child join in and be more included.

If your child is trying to get involved but is struggling, role-playing some social situations might help. And if your child is withdrawing during virtual learning, the teacher can find ways to reduce the stress of video learning.

2. Do you see my child get upset over schoolwork?

The work could be too difficult. Or your child might not understand what to do or struggle to follow class discussions. This frustration could cause your child to act out toward the teacher, other classmates, or even you.

Consider asking the teacher to make some changes to your child’s assignments. If your child has an or a , talk to the teacher about whether the plan needs some changes.

3. Are you seeing my child have trouble with other kids?

Your child’s difficulties may come from a personality clash with one or two other kids. If this is the case, ask if the teacher can take steps to reduce how much they interact. In school, for example, they can change seating arrangements in class and at lunch. This type of change shouldn’t cause too much disruption.

During virtual learning, the teacher can be strategic in assigning groups to work together. If your child is struggling to make friends, talk with the teacher about how the school supports social-emotional learning for all students.

4. My child is upset about some issues at home. Do you see any signs of that?

It’s not unusual for situations outside of school to carry over into school. That’s especially true if some schooling is happening at home.

If you’re comfortable, this is a good opportunity to share with the teacher what’s going on at home. A death in the family, tension between parents, issues with a sibling, and changes in a caregiver’s employment are important situations to mention. Kids have a hard time separating school from the rest of their lives.

5. When does my child seem to have the most trouble?

Are problems showing up during class time, in the lunchroom, or on the playground? The answer can help you figure out if your child is reacting to specific tasks or people, or having general difficulties all day.

If certain school subjects are causing frustration, start by addressing those skills. If unstructured times, like lunch and recess, are more challenging, focus on social skills.

6. Did you know that my child is particularly sensitive about ... ?

You know better than anyone what your child is most sensitive to. This is a good time to share that with the teacher. It could be that the teacher or other students are setting off your child without knowing it.

7. Are other kids in the class having similar challenges?

You don’t need to know which of your child’s classmates are also struggling — and the teacher can’t tell you anyway. But it is important to know if what you’re seeing is typical for your child’s age or if it’s a problem for all the students.

If so, there are things the teacher can do for the whole class that could also help your child. For example, some teachers use a point system for kids to earn free time. Ask about behavior expectations for the class and how the teacher enforces them.

Explore more conversation starters to use with teachers.


Read next