It can be easy for parents to grow frustrated when faced with their kids’ school problems. Poor grades, disciplinary issues, and attendance problems can all hold your child back from meeting your expectations. What you may not realize as a parent is that your kid’s school problems really stem from mental illness that requires treatment, not punishment.

School Behavior Problems are Often a Symptom of Poor Mental Health

For many parents, the first sign that children are struggling is a call or email from a teacher. Because children are expected to focus on their schoolwork hours out of every day, behavioral issues often arise within that context, even without showing poor behavior at home.

Get Help Addressing Kids’ School Problems

Talk to a psychotherapist today about whether your child’s school problems are a result of mental illness.

When children act out at school, engage in risk-taking behaviors, or struggle to complete assignments, it generally isn’t out of a desire to cause problems or disobey parents or teachers. Instead, children who struggle with school may be responding to symptoms of mental illness that interfere with their ability to understand and follow instructions or interact with their fellow students or teachers.

According to the CDC, more than one in three high school students experience poor mental health, and nearly half felt persistently sad or hopeless. While this data was obtained during the COVID-19 pandemic, other studies have shown that kids and teens experience significant anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses at levels not seen before.

Does School Cause Mental Illness?

The strong overlap between kids’ school problems and mental illness may suggest that school itself may be causing the problem. Experts say that the rise in mental health issues among children and teens doesn’t stem from school directly. However, increased academic pressure on adolescents, and social pressures and traumatic events that happen during school hours may contribute to or exaggerate your child’s mental illness. More often, teachers and other school staff are the ones to identify mental health issues because they have training to help them recognize the symptoms.

Why Parents are the Last to Learn of Kids’ Mental Health Problems

Far too many children do not receive treatment, including psychotherapy, for their mental health struggles. Parents may not realize their children are struggling or may attribute symptoms to physical health concerns or simply poor behavior. Because parents are the gatekeepers to children receiving mental health treatment, this can create a barrier that results in kids’ school problems when their mental illnesses remain untreated.

Will Treating Mental Health Problems Help Kids in School?

If you are concerned about your kid’s school problems and want them to do their best in the classroom, the answer may be to seek out mental health diagnosis and treatment. There are federal and state laws that require schools to provide services and accommodations to children with mental and physical health challenges. However, before these programs take effect, your child must be diagnosed with a condition requiring accommodation. Often, teachers and school administrators will suggest what a struggling student’s diagnosis may be, but it is important to remember that only a mental health professional has the experience and training necessary to avoid misdiagnosis and properly assess the help your child will need.

The good news is that most childhood mental health conditions are treatable through medications, psychotherapy, and other treatment methods. Diagnosing and treating your child’s mental illness early will give them important tools to deal with and overcome the symptoms of their mental illness and improve their overall mental health. This, in turn, will make it easier for them to succeed in school. That’s why it is important for parents to take questions of mental illness seriously, and to get your children the help they need before it negatively affects their education, and their future.

David Stanislaw is a psychotherapist with over 30 years of experience. He helps children, teens and adults identify and address anxiety disorders and other psychiatric issues. Contact David Stanislaw to get help for your kids today.