The end of the first marking period is rapidly approaching and that can only mean one thing…report cards. As report cards are a formal representation of how children and teens are doing thus far this academic year, it should not be surprising that this can be a stressful time. What happens if your child or teen brings home a less than stellar report card? For children and teens, a bad report card often sparks, anxiety, shame and a fear of punishment. For parents, a bad report card often sparks frustration and worry. Here are five tips for turning a bad report card into a positive learning experience for your child or teen.

First, take a time out. It is human nature to tend to overreact to something bad. Yet the last thing you want is a yelling match. So, before threatening to ground your child or teen for the next six months, take some time to calm down, release your frustrations in a more productive manner and then proceed to tip two.

Second, have a discussion. Sit down, with no distractions and calmly talk with your child or teen about each grade listed on the report card. Rather than lecturing, ask questions and listen. Does your child or teen know why they received the grade? How do they feel about the grade? Is something else contributing, such as conflict with a teacher or peer? And, do not forget to discuss what led to the good grades as well, even if it is only in art or gym, this allows you to identify your child or teen’s strengths on which to build.

Third, do not make assumptions. I once had a client who had always received straight “A” grades. When in high school, he received his first “B” grade, it was devastating to him. To his parents, it was no big deal but to him, it was such a disappointment that he refused to post the report card on the family’s refrigerator for the first time ever.

Fourth, make a plan. Do not end the discussion without a plan of action. This could include more closely monitoring your child’s homework. Scheduling a conference with the teacher. Establishing rewards for progress. Seeking additional assistance such as tutoring or psychotherapy. Or, if struggling academically is a chronic issue, explore having your child or teen evaluated for a possible learning or processing disorder.

Finally, maintain perspective. You have had a discussion and made a plan. Now, focus on the future and not the past. Be optimistic. Remember that this report card is a single snapshot of your child’s progress up to this point; it is not the complete picture of your child’s potential.

If you use these tips, you can make this a learning opportunity and the next time your child or teen is struggling, they will be more likely to talk with you.