“I need help…my 15 year old freshman son has D’s in 5 classes!! What can I do?? I sit here and I know he’s doing homework but I’m at a loss! He won’t talk to me about it but just slams his door. Normally we get along really well unless we broach the school grades.”
Unfortunately this is a common problem with children and teens suffering from grief. Some find it very difficult to focus; they find themselves ‘spacing off.’ Others become apathetic about life; they just don’t want to live it and they can’t find the inner strength to think about consequences or the future.
After a lot of prayers about how to help my son, I realized that I had no idea what it was like to be a 13 year old kid whose dad and grandpa had just unexpectedly died. I wasn’t considering his grief at all; I was to centered on my grief.My 15- year old has struggled with grades ever since his dad died two years ago. I have discovered that he responds to stress and grief by procrastinating. He just tells himself that he will do it tomorrow… but tomorrow becomes another and another day and pretty soon his is in too deep. His problem with grades isn’t the tests, it’s zeros from little assignments.
In the beginning I focused on the grades. I got upset. I couldn’t understand why he couldn’t just take care of himself, after all I had so much personal grief and 3 other grieving children to take care of. I learned that was the wrong attitude and not very empathetic. After a lot of prayers about how to help my son, I realized that I had no idea what it was like to be a 13 year old kid whose dad and grandpa had just unexpectedly died. I wasn’t considering his grief at all; I was to centered on my grief.
Following the suggestion of other widows who had encountered this same problem, we went to see a counselor and I focused on loving him, dealing with the death of his dad and let the grades go.
I have done a lot of praying to love this child and to see him as God sees him. Answers have come over time and we are gradually doing better, definitely not there yet, but the light has come back into his eyes.
I have decided not to fight with him about grades and let the consequences follow. Fortunately he is in a good place spiritually and gets along well in our family. We talk about how Satan is using procrastination to prevent him from being the person he wants to be and doing things he wants to do in the future. He knows and believes this, but it just is very slow in sinking in.
I told him a year ago that he would not get a driver’s liscense without the good grades discount for the insurance. I explained that I just couldn’t afford to insure him without it. He loves to drive and wants to date, but unfortunately this is a consequence that he is going to feel in a few months when he turns 16. The threat of not driving has proven not to be enough, but hopefully no acctually being able to drive will make a diffference. We will see.I have done a lot of praying to love this child and to see him as God sees him. Answers have come over time and we are gradually doing better, definitely not there yet, but the light has come back into his eyes.
I have also had to get my head around the fact that he may have to take a different career path because of his choices. I am trusting that God is his father first, and that he will give him experiences that we teach him what he needs to learn. I am trying to focus on spiritual things with him… being honest, principles of agency, “doing much of our his own freewill to bring to pass much righteousness.” He also has to do yard work everyday after school until his grades come up. These were consequences we talked about before hand and he agreed to. When he didn’t follow through and still had missing assignments, I imposed the consequences we discussed.
I am trying to be patience and let time and experience be his teacher. I do go over grades with him, and I require him to talk to his teachers and bring home a signed plan by them. The consequence to not bring home the signed paper is the loss of dinner that night. Yes, I had to use food as an incentive, and he has gone without dinner because he didn’t follow through. As an aside, I also went without dinner that night and fasted for him so he would not feel resentful and know that his choice made me suffer as well.
Falling grades is a symptom of a larger problem with grief. It is one of the warning signs and is a signal that you need to seek professional help.These are some of the answers that I have gotten as I have prayed for help. I hope some of these may give you suggestions as you deal with your teen who is struggling. The very best suggestion I can give is to pray to love your child and know how to help them. The Lord will bless you with answers as you act in love.
I know this feel so unfair and this is rough on our kids, but I do think the end growth will be positive…. it just looks shaky in the murky middle.
Here are some comments from some other widows dealing with the same issues: