If Your Child Encounters a Problem at School How Long Do You Wait to Intervene?

09/10/2017 08:22 pm ET

It’s only the first few weeks of school, so if your child comes home with a problem with their teacher or their peers, do you intervene right away or wait and see how the child handles it? What’s too soon? What’s too late?

The answer isn’t simple because it depends on the situation and the individual child. Let’s look at some examples.


Some kids take initiative on their own if they sense a peer may bully them and speak to the teacher right off. This is unusual however because most kids don’t pick up on this behavior quickly and are fast to fault themselves. But they may say to you that they don’t like a certain kid, which may cue you in to have a good conversation to learn what this is about.

If indeed, your child is being treated in a mean-spirited way, and it’s too new in the year for them to confront a peer they are hardly acquainted with, then a call or email to the new teacher might be in order as a preventative measure. Only do so after discussing this action with your child, and then proceed cautiously so the teacher doesn’t misconstrue you as an overbearing parent, just a protective one who likes to nip things in the bud.

Your Child is Placed in the Wrong Reading Group

Your child may come home with a reading assignment that is way over their head or just the opposite, it’s very easy. I’d give it a week to see if the teacher is actually evaluating your child to see the right placement. If after many days have passed and your child is overwhelmed or bored, it might be worth a call to the teacher to ask her or him how kids are placed in reading groups. With that information, you will understand what’s happening and may be able to provide the teacher who doesn’t know your child well yet with some valuable information about your child’s reading skills. Tread lightly as you get to know the teacher while looking after your child. With that in mind, you and the teacher both want your child to have a good start at the beginning of the year.

Your Child Feels Left Out at Recess and Lunch

If your child comes home saying school is awful, gently investigate what’s on their mind. You may learn they feel left out during unstructured times of the day and they don’t know how to initiate socializing with new kids. Give your child some tips on how to initiate conversation such as just saying “Hi, can I sit at your table?” or “Do you want to go on the jungle gym with me?” Kids may not always know they can initiate actively to meet new companions. They don’t have to wait to be invited. These kinds of parent-child conversations can be very helpful to your youngster and don’t need teacher intervention.

These are just a few sample situations that could come up. The main idea is to discuss with your child what troubles them early on before they feel lost and afraid. Let them know you are always their ally and will help them figure out any concerns they have. This in itself may solve many problems because then your child doesn’t feel so alone with their fears and worries. This gives them the ability to open up a bit more at school without your help because they know you are helping them when they get home.

You are with them inside their minds even if you are not present. When this is clear you strengthen the parent-child bond and assist your youngster to manage new experiences gracefully.

Laurie Hollman, Ph.D., is a psychoanalyst and author of Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior found on Amazon and wherever books are sold. Visit her website for more guidance: http://lauriehollmanphd.com.

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