Was Your Child Held Back? Prepare Him for Repeating a Grade

It’s almost time to head back to the classroom, but what if your child has been held back a year? He wouldn’t be alone: Approximately 10% of K–8 students have repeated a grade, according to recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics. Help your child adjust with these tips from Margret Nickels, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Children and Families at the Erikson Institute in Chicago.


  • Frame the situation positively. Try saying something like, “You know how it was so hard for you to pay attention and read? We’re going to give you a little more time to learn. You’ll feel less stressed because your brain is now in a better place to learn all of these things. It will be easier for you to do the things we’re asking of you.”
  • Boost your kid’s self-esteem. “By ages 7-8, kids start to compare themselves to others in terms of competition—who’s smartest, who’s best at sports—so issues of shame and failure becomes more pronounced,” says Dr. Nickels. Help your child reflect on things that he’s great at, whether it’s drawing or riding his bike.
  • Facilitate friendships. Ease your child’s social fears by helping her get to know her new classmates. Arrange playdates with neighborhood kids in the same grade. You can also enlist the teacher’s help. If another student shares your daughter’s love of soccer, maybe the teacher can suggest that they kick the ball around during lunchtime. If your student is worried about missing her old friends, remind her that they can meet up at recess or after school.


  • Blame your child. Kids are held back for lots of reasons, including behavioral, academic, and social issues. But it’s never productive to accuse your child of not trying hard enough.
  • Get discouraged. “Parents shouldn’t view this as a failure, but as a new opportunity,” says Nickels. “Repeating a grade can give your child the foundation and the space to develop at their own pace.” Focus on the ultimate goal: fostering an environment in which your child can flourish.

Image: Kids heading back to school via Shutterstock

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  1. by jackie

    On August 30, 2012 at 12:59 am

    I’m a mother of 3 a now gonna be 4th grader n a set of twins.I’m glad to have found this article because my boy twin will be going into 2 grade and my girl has to do 1 grade again. We felt so horrible thinking it was our fault and even compared her with the twin.

  2. by melvis francis

    On August 30, 2012 at 2:43 am

    tnx 4 dis wonderful arcticle its bin helpful.

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