Parents should not add to secondary school stress
Three weeks into school, Josiah Khaw is starting to feel the academic rigour.
The Secondary 1 student from Catholic High School foresees longer hours in school and taking on tougher subjects.
The transition from primary to secondary school bring new challenges. For the 13-year-old, not only is he in a new environment, he also has to learn new subjects such as history and literature.
The teenage years will also mean physical, emotional and mental changes.
Said Josiah to The New Paper: “I was taking five subjects in primary school, but now I have seven... my teachers are going through the content at a gradual pace so it’s okay.
“I think it will get more difficult over time but I have seniors who can guide me,” he added.
A sports junkie, Josiah also plans to take up floorball as a co-curricular activity.
This means he will have to commit to training sessions that will end at 7pm thrice a week, a far cry to his primary school days which typically ended around 2pm.
His mother, Madam Joyce Xiao, 41, a pre-school teacher, said that she believes in self-directed learning and tries not to stress Josiah too much.
The mother of two children said: “I want to give him a chance to be independent but if there’s a need where I have to step in, I will.
“Children are smart, and if you as a parent feel anxious, they will feel it too.”
According to Dr Carol Balhetchet, the transition period to socially adapt from primary to secondary school is already tough, parents should not add any additional stress.
The clinical psychologist told TNP: “The kiasu (scared to lose out) parenting style is like a plague to a growing child.
“Parents are still finding ways to push their children to achieve the best. Even though they mean well, this means more stress.”
Dr Balhetchet said that the education system in Singapore is akin to preparing for a runner’s marathon.
“There must be a system in place where the child gets equal amounts of time to play, study and socialise,” she said.
Having spent over two decades working with youths, Dr Balhetchet added: “The social element is as important as academics, because it is during play that a child learns how to get along with someone, adapt to changes and be independent.
“These soft skills are crucial when they go on to their university years and in their working lives.”
A way to manage both study and play is to plan ahead and be organised, said Dr Balhetchet.
“Planners or calendars are helpful to structure time,” she said.
Former Cedar Girls’ Secondary School student Eugenia Long, 17, however, did not find this useful as she would still procrastinate.
On alternate weekdays, she attended tuition lessons and training sessions as a member of her school’s track and field team.
Weekends meant catching up on assignments, said Eugenia, who is keen to pursue a diploma in sport and exercise science in Republic Polytechnic.
On her O-Level results that was released last week, she said: “I felt like I could have done better if I was more consistent but I felt tired easily, both mentally and physically, especially after my training sessions.”
In situations like these, it is crucial for parents to step in and offer a source of support, said Dr Balhetchet.
“Parents should always have their child’s back but not be on their backs excessively.
“Let the child know that you will always be there, while respecting boundaries,” she said.
“Children cannot be alone and academic life can be lonely. Parents need to be there for their child.”