The start of a new school year, time when the distinction between excitement and anxiety is easily blurred. This year, however, after months when almost no one escaped home schooling, anxiety predominates. As a parent you may worry your children have fallen behind and lost enthusiasm for learning; and feel you’ve lost authority when it comes to getting them to do homework. How can you dispel those negative feelings?
Accept responsibility for the worrying: Children, especially young children, don’t spend time anticipating the future in the way adults do. They do, however, imbibe their parents’ mood – if you’re worried, they will be. Talk about what they can look forward to at school.
Talk to their teachers: Your children may be confused about home/work boundaries. No wonder they dread homework! Last year, it seemed to go on all day.
Ask their teachers to make it quantifiable, for example an amount of time to spend or number of pages to read. Many teachers have foreseen this problem. Ask, too, if some homework can be done without screens. Because almost all instruction last year was conducted remotely, many children became fatigued and learnt to turn off their attention when faced with screen working.
Ring-fence homework: Establish a quiet place for it – that way, the setting itself will soon trigger focus. Respect the time or quantity limit set by the teacher (set it yourself if they don’t). Stick to it even if they don’t accomplish everything.
Don’t micro-manage: Carol Dweck, Stanford professor and author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, points out that when parents sort out problems their children encounter, rather than letting them do so themselves, their children lose the chance to build self-esteem. If your child asks for help, counter their question with another question that will lead them to the answer themselves.
Reward them for getting through each homework session: Listening to music, taking exercise, talking with friends – all will enhance their mood. Let them choose.
Facilitate opportunities to socialise: As Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, explains, good social skills are not only integral to school success, they’re also associated with advancement and leadership later on. Encourage socialising in whatever ways your child feels comfortable.
Foster a growth mindset: Your genuine praise is important when your child succeeds. However, your response when they fail matters more.
If you try to console them, perhaps pointing out they’re good at something else, you’re inadvertently suggesting they’ll never succeed in that area. Instead, foster what Carol Dweck calls a "flexible mindset". Refer to poor performance as a chance to discover a better way to solve the problem.
The Daily Telegraph
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