The December holidays seem like a distant memory and early morning school runs, homework and sport have become the focus of families across South Africa.
Teachers and children are settled into the school routines and, as with each new year, parents have expectations and hopes of academic success.
For some parents, hope is short-lived when they are forced to acknowledge that their child is struggling despite it being so early in the year. “Panic, frustration, blame and even anger can leave parents and learners feeling helpless or even humiliated. This should not be the case at all,” said Cindy Glass, director and co-founder of Step Up Education Centres.
Glass provided some tips on coping with a child who is struggling:
q Know that mistakes and challenges are inevitable. Children are not robots and neither do they enter this world with an operating manual in their hand. Effective learning can only take place when we accept that mistakes are simply opportunities for growth.
q Don’t panic! You cannot find effective solutions when you are focused on what could and is going ‘wrong’. Panic will add to your stress as a parent and, even more so, it will most likely be internalised by the struggling child. Remember that, despite outward appearances of negative ‘I don’t care’ attitudes, there is a child who fears failure and dreams of success! Acknowledging that there is a problem and choosing to seek positive solutions will be a far more effective approach.
q Aim at developing a positive working relationship with the teacher. Listen to them, try to understand and focus on working as a team to find workable solutions to assist your child.
q Be careful of putting too much pressure on your child. This can be counter-productive and cause your child to shut down and even give up. Children who are forced to add hours of extra study time to their already pressured programmes run the risk of becoming resentful, frustrated, exhausted and unproductive.
q Set realistic goals and realistic learning times. Minimise distractions by agreeing to TV and cellphone downtime.
q Seek help in the form of extra tuition.
“Learning is a process. Challenges and obstacles are inevitable. As a parent, your biggest challenge is to help your child to recognise his value and purpose as a human being,” Glass concluded.