If your child is struggling in school, your child’s pediatrician is an important resource. Pediatricians can play an important role in finding out what’s causing your child’s challenges. They can also help you figure out what support your child needs.
Two doctors, Jennifer Zubler, MD, FAAP, and Myriam Peralta, MD, FAAP, connected on why pediatricians want to know how things are going at school and how they can help. See their shared responses below.
How does it help you to know how a child is doing in school? As a pediatrician, how can you help kids who are struggling in school?
Kids are growing and developing, and not just physically. A large part of a child’s well-being is how they’re doing socially, emotionally, and academically.
Pediatricians are important partners for families when it comes to learning and development. We can help identify areas where a child may need more support. We can also help uncover what else might be contributing to struggles or happening at the same time. And we can support medical or school intervention where needed.
Pediatricians work closely with schools and pediatric specialists to determine why a child is struggling and develop a plan to address that child’s needs. We advocate for the best support for the child and family.
What kinds of school struggles do you want families to come to you with?
Pediatricians want families and children to know that it’s safe to share any concerns with their pediatrician. That includes trouble with behavior, friendships, and mental health. We actually expect to have those conversations.
Part of the routine at well visits is to discuss any worries and questions children and families may have. However, you don’t need to wait for the next well visit. You can set up a separate appointment to discuss new concerns.
When pediatricians can’t help with a concern, they often guide families to the specialists who can. But your child’s pediatrician will still want to stay informed about how your child is doing with that challenge.
Do you prefer to talk with parents/caregivers with the child there, or one-on-one? Is age a factor?
Pediatricians are able to talk with children in an age-appropriate way. It’s usually better for children to be part of the conversation. It helps address any stigma around the issue.
It’s often reassuring to kids to hear that their doctor understands and will help find solutions. Involving children in discussions and decision-making helps build a trusting partnership. It can also improve their acceptance of any interventions and treatments.
As children get older, it’s important for them to become comfortable talking with their doctor. They need to be able to ask questions and express their own thoughts. So, for preteen and teen visits, parents are typically asked to not be in the room for some parts of the conversation.
If you feel you need to let a doctor know about an issue privately, call ahead of the appointment and let the office know your concerns. You and the doctor can work together on the best way to include your child in the conversation.
What can parents and caregivers expect when they tell their pediatrician that things aren’t going well at school?
Pediatricians typically ask kids how things are going at school — what they like, what’s going well, and what’s hard for them. The pediatrician may also ask parents to share their thoughts, along with any information the school has provided. This could include any school evaluations, notes from the teacher, report cards, and samples of schoolwork.
Based on that information and the concern itself, the pediatrician will recommend next steps to take. Those steps may be for the pediatrician, the family, the school, or all three. Keep in mind that it can take time and additional visits to determine the cause of school concerns and how to help your child.
One step may be to have your child evaluated by the school or a specialist. Your child’s pediatrician will help you know what to expect. The pediatrician may also set up a follow-up conversation to talk about new information, progress, and other recommendations.
A lot of families go through situations that can make kids feel worried. What should families share with you about their child’s anxiety? How can this help you address a child’s struggles in school?
A stressful situation can make it hard for kids to keep up with the people and the routines that help them feel secure. Sometimes stress starts to get in the way of everyday activities like school. That may mean kids are experiencing anxiety or excessive worry.
Talk with your child’s doctor if your child is having:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Trouble concentrating
- Fears and worries about everyday life
- Fear of leaving home or going to school
- Fear of separating from a loved one
- Physical complaints like headaches and stomachaches
Also, share any school concerns or difficulties with relationships with family, classmates, or friends.
Just as anxiety can affect school performance, difficulties with school can cause anxiety. Knowing about any anxiety and school struggles can help your child’s pediatrician determine the best way to approach your child’s needs.
Follow these steps to working with your pediatrician when your child is struggling.
About the author
About the author
The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.
American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists, and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety, and well-being of infants, children, adolescents, and young adults.