Does your child dislike school? Do his grades leave something to be desired? As you and your youngster are preparing for back-to-school, it’s important to keep in mind the early warning signs that a problem may be on the horizon. Returning to school in the fall makes for a busy time of year for kids and parents alike, but don’t wait until parent-teacher conference time to inquire about your child’s academic progress. Unfortunately, many parents wait until it’s clear that their child is struggling before they take steps to correct the problem. By this time, the damage may already be done. To keep your child from slipping through the cracks, take a proactive approach by looking for these five signs that the new school year is posing problems for your child.

Your child doesn’t want to go to school.

Some children like school more than others, but if your child’s attitude about school takes a dramatic turn, or if his resistance to school persists more than a week or two, there may be cause for concern. Talk to your child first, but if you can’t seem to uncover the problem, then you may need to contact the teacher and possibly the school guidance counselor for help getting to the root of the problem.

Your child is misbehaving at school.

Your child isn’t usually a troublemaker, but lately, you’ve gotten a few calls from the teacher about your youngster acting out in class. If this is the case, then you may need to look into the matter. Most children have a reason for misbehaving, and it’s not that they just want to be “bad.” Your little one could be making trouble because he feels frustrated or discouraged. In this case, a little remediation could make all the difference. Once your child starts receiving positive attention for his schoolwork in the form of praise, stickers, and other incentives, then he’ll likely no longer find the need to misbehave in order to be noticed.

Your child doesn’t want to do homework.

I don’t know many children who look forward to homework time, but if your child starts to show an abnormal resistance to it (i.e. crying, shouting, or refusing to get started), then it may be because the work is too hard. The large majority of children seek to please their parents, so your child may be afraid that you’ll discover her “weaknesses” while helping her with her homework. If you suspect that this is the case, reassure your child that you’re there to help and that you’re proud of her no matter what.

Your child gets sick a lot.

Persistent and unexplained “sicknesses” like headaches and tummy aches may be a sign that all is not well at school. Of course, you should never ignore these symptoms; always have your child checked out by his pediatrician before jumping to conclusions, but if the doc can’t find a cause, then your little one’s condition may be directly related to school. Although these “symptoms” may be just an excuse to stay home from school, they could also be a result of school-related stress. Either way, you’ll want to investigate further to discover exactly what’s causing your child to feel bad.

Your child is bored at school.

If your youngster complains that school is boring, then it may be because the curriculum isn’t appropriate for her skills and ability level. Some children say they’re bored because they don’t want to experience the possible “failure” that could result from trying something that they perceive as too challenging. More often, though, kids who report frequent boredom at school actually require a more challenging curriculum. If your child’s grades are good but boredom is a problem, then talk to her teacher about possible enrichment activities or programs for gifted children.

You know your child better than anyone, and your parental instincts may just be among the most reliable resources you have when it comes to staying on top of your child’s school performance. When your gut tells you that something isn’t right, don’t dismiss it as a false alarm. At the very least, talk to your child and listen to what he has to say. If you demonstrate a genuine concern for his feelings (rather than judgment or criticism), he’ll likely open up and explain the situation. Once you know what the problem is, you’ll be in a much better position to find a good solution.

Typically, talking to your child and his or teacher will lead to a solution to the problem. Often, youngsters just need a little remediation or a good pep talk to get them back on track. If nothing seems to work, though, then a more serious problem such as a learning disability may be to blame. If you think your child’s school performance may be suffering because of a disability, find out what you can do to help.

Has your child ever struggled in school? If so, how did you know, and what did you do to solve the problem?