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16 Tips For Talking To Your Child About Report Cards (& Making The Most Of The Results)

Mother and daughter discussing school grades.

Report cards are one of the most nerve-wracking parts of your child’s education. Not knowing what to expect can be stressful for both students and parents.

For children and teens, poor report card grades can mean frustration, stress, and tears. For parents, poor grades are a source of concern that your child is facing an educational roadblock that could put plans for the future on hold.

To reduce report card stress, we’ve gathered our top tips to help you—and your child—make the most of report card results to plan for future success.

Understanding The Report Card

Report cards can be confusing. Changing curriculum and reporting standards mean that the report card is filled with grades and terms that may not mean much to a parent.

In order to address any concerns with your child’s report card, you need to be able to make sense of what you’re reading.

  1. Read The Teacher Comments (Not Just The Grade)
  2. In many cases, comments written by the teacher can be more helpful than the actual grade. These comments give you a better idea of the specific areas your child is struggling with (or excelling in) as well as how your child is performing overall.

  3. Book A Parent-Teacher Conference
  4. If less-than-stellar grades have you worried, book a meeting to talk with your child’s teacher. The teacher has spent hours a day observing and working with your child in the classroom. Often, he or she can paint a better picture of where your child may be struggling as well as suggest ways to focus on improvement.

  5. Put It In Context
  6. Depending on what grade your child is in, different skills and areas of performance will be the focus of evaluation.

    In elementary school, your child’s report card will mostly focus on behavioural and social skills. Performance in basic skills such as reading and writing are important to make sure your child is building the foundational skills he or she will need in the future.

    As your child progresses in school, more challenging material and concepts will be introduced. At this stage, it’s important to pay attention to any subjects your child may be struggling with or starting to fall behind in.

    Read our Stage-By-Stage Guide To Understanding Report Cards to know what to expect and how to prepare for each stage of your child’s education.

    Preparing For The Report Card Conversation

    Whether you are happy or disappointed with your child’s report card, have a discussion together about the results. This report card discussion is an important part of helping your child succeed by knowing his or her strengths and weaknesses. It also helps your child see you as an active participant in his or her education who is there to provide support.

  7. Plan The Discussion Ahead Of Time
  8. Before you sit down with your child, write down key points you want to discuss. Planning gives you the chance to think about what you want to talk about with your child (and how) so you can have a positive, more productive chat.

  9. Make A Statement Of Intent
  10. Tell your child upfront that you need to have a talk about the report card. Don’t beat around the bush.

  11. Sit Down Together
  12. Plan time as a family to have the report card chat with no distractions. Don’t talk about the report card in the garage while your child is lacing up his or her rollerblades. This is an important conversation that should be had with proper thought and planning.

  13. Remove Distractions
  14. Make sure you and your child talk in an area where you are able to focus on the conversation. Turn off the TV and put away any device that could distract you or your child from your discussion.

  15. Start With Something Positive
  16. Get off on the right foot by highlighting something positive about the report card, no matter how small. This helps your child relax and sets the tone for a positive conversation.

  17. Review Learning Strengths
  18. Reviewing a report card shouldn’t just be about the negatives; this is also a chance to identify where your child is excelling. Highlight your child’s strengths by saying something like, “You are doing great in math, which is awesome!” This encourages your child to recognize his or her strengths and builds motivation to keep improving other areas.

  19. Recognize The Struggle
  20. Let your child share his or her thoughts, comments, and worries in the discussion. Giving your child an opportunity to talk about his or her academic performance or why he or she may be struggling can give you valuable insight on the best way to help.

  21. Reframe The Complaints
  22. Children who are struggling the most in school are usually the most vocal. Have your child think about his or her complaints and what he or she needs to solve them. This teaches your child to think past his or her problems, and create a more positive view by thinking about solutions to problems.

  23. End With Optimism
  24. Assure your child that there is time for improvement and you are here to help create a plan for success.

    Planning For Success On The Next Report Card

    Setting goals is key when helping your child succeed academically. Planning ahead for the next term gives your child specific goals to aim for so the next report card discussion is a happy one.

  25. Identify Areas Of Focus
  26. Based on your child’s grades and your discussion together, identify areas or subjects that need the most attention for improvement.

  27. Set Goals With Your Child
  28. After you’ve talked with your child about which areas to focus on, come up with a plan for improvement. This should include what your child wants to achieve, the steps toward achieving that goal, and how you will provide support.

  29. Find Outside Resources
  30. If there are certain subjects that you feel you can’t help with, seek outside help. Look into study groups at your child’s school, extra after-class lesson time with your child’s teacher, or a tutor.

  31. Track Progress
  32. Plan a few minutes each day or week to check in on your child’s progress. Talk about what your child learned in class, what assignment he or she is working on, and any new things he or she is struggling with.

    Start Implementing Your Plan Immediately

    A bad report card can be a serious roadblock to future opportunities, but it doesn’t have to be. Report cards are an excellent chance for you and your child to review how things are going and set goals for future academic success.

    If your child receives a less-than-stellar report card, don’t wait for him or her to get back on track—start making a plan so your child gets the support he or she needs. Whether the solution is helping with homework, extra time with a teacher, or hiring a tutor, reviewing and understanding your child’s report card is the first step toward helping your child reach his or her full potential.

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