According to KidsCount.Org, about 15% of high school students in the U.S. do not graduate on time (after four years in high school). If your teen is struggling with school, or has already missed the chance to graduate on time, here’s what you can do to help them reach graduation:
Don’t Give Up; Don’t Let Your Teen Give Up
Both parents and teens are discouraged and embarrassed when they realize they’re off track for graduation. Parents may think their teen will never finish school, and teens may just want to give up. Remember that most people, and most job applications, ask if you have a diploma, and what year you got it. They rarely ask if you need help getting to the finish line.
At some point in the future, if your teen can say, “Yes. I have a high school diploma,” that’s all that matters. Neither you nor your teen should be embarrassed to say that they needed exxtra help before they got their diploma.
There is no shame in preserving through difficulties, as long as you achieve the goal in the end. Help your teen make a plan to achieve that goal.
Communicate with Your Teen
Have an honest and open conversation with your teen about why they are not on track for graduation. Don’t yell or lecture. Ask for their understanding of the problem. Don’t accept as an answer that the teachers or the principal “just doesn’t like me”, or that “school is stupid”. Insist that they take responsibility for their behavior.
Let your teen know that this is a life lesson. It is not a total life failure. Learn the lesson and move on. Not graduating with their classmates is not the same as not graduating at all. There are still ways to get a diploma. Discuss possible options, such as returning for a fifth year, summer school, alternative schools, or online classes.
If your teen was struggling with classes because they did not understand the subject matter, look into finding a tutor, or taking remedial classes to improve their skills. If your teen is not graduating because of disciplinary problems or lack of effort, tell them they will have to face the reality that missing graduation could come as a consequence of their poor choices. If it’s unlikely the behavior will improve, consider options such as schools that help struggling teens.
Make your teen aware that online learning requires self-discipline and an organized approach to their classwork. Offer to help them develop and keep to a schedule for completing classwork online.
Communicate with Your Teen’s School
Request a meeting with the school personnel who work with your teen. If your teen is having problems with a particular class or a few classes, ask to meet with the teachers. Find out why your teen is failing in the class. Is your teen struggling to understand the subject matter or are they failing because they have not paid attention in class, not completed homework, or not studied for the tests?
If your teen is having disciplinary issues, attendance issues, or problems with their peers, such as bullying, ask to meet with a school administrator or counselor. Discuss ways to address these problems so that your teen can get the help they need to continue at the school.
Go to the meeting with an open mind. You may believe that the school has not handled your teen’s situation correctly, but be prepared to listen to their side of the issue. Ask the school personnel to work with you to develop a plan that will help your teen graduate.
The school counselor or administrator may recommend summer school or an alternative school program. They may suggest tutoring or other special help. If your teen has been expelled for discipline issues, they may recommend online courses. If your teen has emotional, behavioral or psychological problems, or problems with depression or addictions, the school may recommend that your teen enrolls in a therapeutic boarding school for troubled teens where they can get intensive therapy and academic help.
Sometimes problems at school are a symptom of deeper problems that need more help than a regular high school can provide. A therapeutic school for troubled teens provides individual, group, and family therapy, as well as high school classes. They offer a safe place for teens to get away from distractions and negative peer influences at their high school. At a therapeutic boarding school such as Sundance Canyon Academy, teens can focus on addressing their emotional, behavioral, or psychological problems and gaining course credits toward graduation.
Helping your teen to reach graduation will require you and your teen to consider options, make a plan, and reach out to people who can help your teen to achieve their goals.