School stress? Help make it better, not worse

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With many families having early morning school runs, and between juggling homework and sport routines, many children may already be struggling to keep up with their parents’ expectations of academic success.

However, parents can follow tips given by experts to help their children with school, which will also help ease their stresses.

According to Cindy Glass, director and co-founder of Step Up Education Centres, panic, frustration, blame and even anger can leave parents and learners feeling helpless or even humiliated. “This should not be the case at all,” Glass said.

Glass said parents and guardians can follow the following tips to help their children if they are struggling with school:

• Know that mistakes and challenges are inevitable. Children are not robots and neither do they enter this world with an operating manual to hand. Effective learning can only take place when we accept that mistakes are opportunities for growth. Teach this to your children.

• Don’t panic. You cannot find effective solutions when you are focused on what could be or is going ‘wrong’. Panic will only add to your stress as a parent and, worse, it will most likely be internalised by your struggling child.

• Aim at developing a positive working relationship with your child’s teacher, listen to understand, and focus on working as a team to find workable solutions in assisting your child.

• Be careful of putting too much pressure on your child – this can be counter-productive and cause your child to ‘shut down’ or even give up. Blaming and punishing a struggling child will only add to the child’s already diminishing self-esteem and make positive results unlikely. Parents who add hours of extra study time to their children’s already pressured programmes run the risk of making them resentful, frustrated, exhausted and unproductive.

• Set realistic goals and realistic learning times, and minimise distractions by negotiating TV and cellphone downtimes.

• Seek help in the form of extra tuition.

• Enrol your child in a study skills course that is rooted in emotional intelligence skills. Skills in self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social interaction have been proven to increase children’s ability to learn more effectively.

“Learning is a process, challenges and obstacles are inevitable,” Glass said. “Acknowledge and embrace these as you seek to sincerely praise and encourage any progress or positive work ethic. As a parent, your biggest challenge is to help your child to recognise his or her value and purpose as a human being.”

Tumi Riba

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