As a parent or guardian, it is sometimes so disconcerting to see the amount of work our kids are expected to finish in one night. Multiple subject requiring them to answer load of problems, and projects that they need to complete in a short amount of time. Not to mention, the countless standardized tests that they need to prepare for.
A student’s reality
For instance, other than a national exam for educational measurement, students of an international school should also prepare for the Cambridge International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) exams. Passing the IGCSE allows them to apply for any university of their choosing anywhere in the world. Which means it is an added weight on their little shoulders.
Add to the fact that universities also look for their extra-curricular achievements because it shows a holistic experience. So if you look at how they divide their time between finishing all of their school work and having an active role in school organizations, it is both impressive and frightening.
For this reason, a lot of our kids dread going to school rather than be excited for it. This is dangerous if we want our kids to nurture their natural tendency to learn and be curious. So how can we lift off some of the pressure from them?
One of the simplest ways to do it is through helping them craft a study habit that works.
Creating an effective study habit
The most common mistake our kids make is studying only when there is an exam. What this promotes is cramming and procrastination which can harm their retention. Sometimes they will talk about forgetting what they have learnt minutes after an exam. This is because the information they just ingested was not given enough time to digest before they need to use it for their exams. So here’s how you can assist them with studying.
- Allow them to set a specific time to study
The first thing you need to ask them is what the optimum study time is for them. You need to know so you can make sure that there are not a lot of distractions in the house while they are doing their school work. Yes, this includes you coming in and out of their rooms.
However, you need to make sure that they are relaxed first. Tell them that when they set a study time, to give themselves an hour of relaxation before it starts. It is also important that they take breaks in between subjects so that they will not be mentally strained. A good method is called the Pomodoro Technique. The Pomodoro Technique states that a person should focus on a task for 25 minutes straight, and then taking a short break (about 5 minutes) before starting a new task. After four pomodoros (or four intervals), take longer breaks in between, which lasts for about 15 to 30 minutes).
- Help them organize their exam schedule
Some parents do this by creating a large calendar that everyone in the house can use. They assign a color to each person, and they can just put their schedules on it so everyone knows how one person’s schedule can affect theirs. You can ask them to put the schedules for schools events and exams on the calendar so that everyone in the house knows when the ‘Do not disturb’ sign is lit. It does not have to be a calendar, you can be creative with your own system at home.
- Look for signs that they are frustrated
Just because you made sure the environment is already conducive for studying does not mean that they will not feel overly stressed. If they cannot figure out a problem or are unable to understand a lesson, they will most likely feel frustrated. Mood can have a big effect on their studying, so look for signs that you need to step in to help them. This includes looking impatient with themselves, feeling tense, and lashing out.
However, not that help should be gladly offered. If you are also not in the right mindset or mood, it is better not to help at all. Most importantly, do not forget to give positive feedback and cheer them on.
The physical effects of stress
Stress has effects on our body that, when in the wrong context, may be harmful to us. When a person is feeling overly stressed, the part of our brain called the hypothalamus triggers the autonomic nervous system and the pituitary gland to create epinephrine and cortisol. These two are stress hormones and are responsible for heightened heart rate, blood pressure, memory, pain tolerance, and muscle power.
While in hindsight, experiencing those does not sound harmful, in the wrong context, it can be problematic. You see, our body’s reaction to stress is also called the fight-or-flight response. It is what tells us to run from a life threatening situation.
So let us consider that for a second: our children, when overly stressed, reacts in a way that normal people should when placed in a dangerous situation. And is school supposed to be dangerous?
Indeed, academic stress has been one of the main causes of anxiety among our kids. The least we can do is make sure they have a comfortable study space and that we know when to approach them when they look troubled.