How to Explain Bad Grades to Parents

by Erica Loop

You just flubbed the big test, got a less than stellar final grade or have an entire report card filled with F's. Explaining bad grades to your parents takes a mature sense of tact along with honesty and the ability to make amends. Even though the challenge of explaining bad grades is scary, stay away from made-up sounding excuses, don't turn on the waterworks and stick to the truth.

Figure Out the Reasons Why

When you come clean about your grades, it's likely that at some point mom and dad will ask why. Don't get caught off-guard and stumble through a sort-of answer or end up saying, "I don't know." There was a reason for your poor schoolwork. You may not have studied enough, didn't understand the material, felt awkward about asking for help or misread the test questions. For some students, medical conditions or learning disabilities interfere with their ability to achieve in school. If you've been ill, haven't felt well, are having trouble sleeping or can't concentrate in class, talk to your parents about seeing a doctor.

Talk About Stress

If stress or anxiety is a factor in your bad grades, let your parents know. You won't be alone: 32 percent of teens worry about schoolwork issues when it is time to go back to school, according to a poll of 600 high school students by the TeensHealth website. If school stresses you out tell your parents that you're worried that you can't handle the pressure. This doesn't mean that you are giving them an excuse. Instead, honestly explain the emotions and pressures that you're going through.

Ask for Help

Asking for help shows your parents that you acknowledge and accept your responsibility for your grades. Although promising to do better can help ease the situation, it is not always realistic. If you have poor grades because you don't understand the material or just can't keep up with the class, suggest that you get a tutor. Before you talk to your parents, look into helpful options at your school -- such as a peer tutoring program. Coming to your parents with an idea in hand shows that you are serious about turning your schoolwork around.

Apologize to Mom and Dad

It's likely that your parents want you to not only take responsibility for your actions, but to make amends. Acknowledge that it was you who got the bad grade and not the textbook, teacher or school. Tell your parents that you understand how your poor grades affect them. For example, they may stay up all night worrying that you won't get into college. Instead of a general apology for "bad grades," say something such as, "I know that my poor study habits got me a D in chemistry. I'm sorry that I didn't get a better grade. I understand that you expect more." If you haven't spent enough time studying or doing homework, acknowledge this. Offer to give up unnecessary activities such as watching TV, playing video games or chatting with friends online.

Photo Credits

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About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.