Expert Advice

Seventh-Grader's Grades Drop Suddenly

Middle School Expert Advice from Connie Collins

Q
My seventh-grader is having trouble in her classes this year. Last year she made honor roll every marking period, but this year her grades have significantly dropped and she has trouble passing tests. She seems like she doesn't care. We've tried grounding her, but nothing seems to work. What do you suggest?
A
Is this your daughter's first year in middle school? This transition is often traumatic for adolescents, especially if they did exceptionally well at the elementary level. Your child does care -- never doubt that. But she may be struggling to keep up with the increased homework and/or information load.

Grounding her is not very logical at this point unless you know that her behavior is absolute defiance. I would urge a meeting with you and your daughter and her teachers. Talk about what they perceive as the problem. It is probably very different from what she sees. Ask about her abilities and strengths. Work together, make a plan including suggestions from her. Follow through with the plan. If it doesn't work, talk again.

Another suggestion might be to ask the school counselor to meet with your daughter for a few sessions to see if the counselor can determine the source of the problem. It may not be the work at all, but your daughter's social interactions. Kids this age can be very rough on one another, and she may feel that she doesn't fit in. Her counselor may come up with ways to help her feel more comfortable both socially and personally.

Most importantly, listen when she speaks. Hear what she says between the lines and follow up accordingly. Continue to support her with expectations and boundaries.

Connie Collins, professional school counselor, worked for 35 years in public education as a teacher and counselor at the middle school and secondary levels. Collins worked daily with the parents of the students in her various schools, and has facilitated several parenting groups.

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