Assisting pupils under pressure

2016-02-04 06:00

AS the new school year began a few weeks ago, the topic of conversation among parents was the amount of homework their children were receiving and how they had to balance this with extracurricular activities.

When the Fever spoke to parents who have children in government, former Model C and private schools - all in the same grade - it was found that the amount of homework differs per school.

Some parents felt the work was too much, others felt that their children were coping well.

The Department of Education was contacted to establish whether it provided public schools with guidelines in this regard, but the information was not forthcoming.

Bernadine James, a Margate psychiatrist, said it was important for parents to assist their children to balance school, social life, sport and other activities by helping them set realistic goals.

“Firstly, this could involve the parents, between themselves, having a discussion about the current and future expectations of their child and reviewing whether these expectations are realistic,” she said.

They could ask themselves questions like “am I expecting my child to live out and accomplish my own frustrated career dreams?”

She said perhaps the child has different life purposes, interests, aptitudes, values and personality from the parent.

“It is important to remember that most children desire their parent’s approval, even though this might not always be obvious from their behaviour.

“Consequently, your child may take on an immense amount in order to achieve the parent’s approval,” she added.

James added that parents have to have an open, honest discussion with their child and ask them how they feel about the amount of homework they are getting.

“Perhaps your child is struggling for two and a half hours to get through homework that should take them a half an hour. If this is so, make an appointment to speak to your child’s teacher to discuss their behaviour and performance at school,” she said.

The discussion with your child should also cover:

• how they feel or think about the amount of sport they are doing; and

• are they so tired at the end of the day they don’t have energy to do homework.

“Some children are good at sport and coaches ask them to take on more. This could throw them off their balance,” she said.

Another example is a child who achieves excellent academic results - the child or the school could be pushing too hard and so are throwing them off their life balance. “Sometimes, parents may find it difficult to reach an agreement among themselves or children may not want to open up to their parents. In situations of conflict or difficulties in communication, counselling can assist,” said James.

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