Dealing With Report Card Stress

Report card stress is an all to common occurrence this time of year.

report card stress

Report card stress is an all to common occurrence this time of year.

You flip through the pile of bills, advertisements, and magazines and there it is…the dreaded report card. Reluctantly, you open the envelope. Your heart sinks. You had a feeling that things weren’t going well this quarter, but you weren’t prepared for this.

“Doesn’t he know that he’s never going to get into a good college with grades like this?” You wonder, “Does she want to flip burgers for the rest of her life?”

“What am I going to do now?” is your next thought.

Report card season can be an incredibly stressful time. So, what do you do when your child brings home a less-than-stellar report?

  1. Take a Break.

    It is never a good idea to address a problem when you are upset. Before you talk with your child about the report card, take a break to cool down. Take a walk, listen to some music, have a nap, pour yourself a cup of tea, or take a relaxing bath.
  2. Look for the Positive.

    Did your child raise their math grade from a D to a C? Have you noticed that he or she has been much more focused during homework time lately? Did your child make it through the whole semester without a tardy? Do your best to find some positive points in the report card.
  3. Feed them a Sandwich.

    Not a literal sandwich, a metaphorical one. Through my career as a teacher I learned that the best way to address something negative with students (or with parents during conferences) was to sandwich bad news between two positives. Here are a couple of examples:“Jimmy is a very friendly and outgoing boy. He’s been having some trouble focusing during our lessons, but has been making an effort to stay after class to clarify points that he missed.”“I noticed that you’ve spent a great deal of time reviewing for this test, but unfortunately your grade wasn’t very good. You’ve been turning all of your homework in on time though, so that will certainly help your overall grade in this class.”I acknowledge that this can be very difficult. We all want the best for our children and become incredibly frustrated when we feel that they are not living up to their potential. If your child is struggling, they already know. Bombarding them with all of the things that they have done wrong to get to this point is probably not going to help.

  4. Listen.

    Ask your child or teen why they think their grades were so poor. You may be surprised by the insight that they have to offer. Maybe you will learn that he’s been super tired lately because he’s going to bed too late, or that she is having a fight with her best friend that is throwing off her concentration, or that he never turned in a huge assignment because he lost it on his way to school.

  5. Make a Plan Together.

    First, work with your child or teen to come up with a short list of big issues that need to be addressed. Missing homework, poor test performance, time management issues, and/or problems with organization will probably be some of the top problems.Next, collaborate to come up with a plan to address these issues. A plan handed down from above by mom and dad is not as likely to be internalized as a plan that the student plays a role in creating.


Instead of focusing on grades, re-focus on ensuring that your child is learning how to learn. We are preparing students for jobs that do not exist today. Content can become outdated; learning skills and organizing skills last a lifetime. As a nice bonus, these skills also have a positive impact on report cards!

JS 05182017

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