As the new Post-Doctoral Resident at the APACenter, I cannot help but think of how much my education has impacted my sense of well-being. When I was younger, I attended private school from Kindergarten to 8th grade and was in advanced placement courses all throughout high school. Essentially, I was what you may call an “overachiever.” While being an overachiever has helped me in many ways, it also came with me being anxious due to academic pressure. I defined myself by the grades I made, and it impacted my overall mood. If I did great on a test, life was great! If I did not do well on a test, despite doing my best, life was terrible. Looking back, my parents only wanted me to try my best. They did not care if I was on the Honor Roll or got a C. However, at the time it did not feel that way. In working with other children and adolescents about these issues, I can say that is the same case. Most parents just want their children to do well in school so they can have many opportunities for the future. I think it is very important for parents to talk about their children’s stressors. In addition, it is important for parents to reflect on if their concern for their children’s education is conducive to the parent-child relationship or not. Below are some strategies parents can use either as talking points with their children or ideas which can offer some self-reflection about academics.
If you think about it, everything in the universe requires balance in order to function. As a self-proclaimed overachiever, I can say this is very difficult. Learning how to achieve balance in one’s life is a lifelong skill. Having balance makes for a well-rounded individual. Children need to know who they are outside of school or sports. They need to know what they like and do not like so they can engage in activities which will better them as a person. So much of the time we live for the big life events such as graduation, weddings, or a new job. Explaining the importance of taking a break to your children will help them to appreciate the little things in life.
Win or lose it is important to tell your child that you are proud of them. I think this is even more important when your child does not ace the test. I am sure we can all remember the first time someone said, “I’m disappointed in you” and how that felt. We all want to feel that our time and effort is recognized by those who love and care for us. By telling your children you are proud of them will help them to engage in positive coping for the future. Whether they are in college or on the job they can offer themselves those words of encouragement that you instilled in them.
As scary as it may sound, it is important for children to make their own mistakes. I am sure you can all remember letting go of your child’s hands as they took their first steps or letting go of the bicycle as they rode down the street. At the time, I am sure that was a scary situation for you as a parent. Even though your children fell on the floor or off the bicycle, they got back up and kept going. A part of life is making mistakes and growing from those mistakes. If your child does make a mistake, you are there to talk them through that experience. If you have honest conversations with your child about their decision making, it will help them to problem-solve difficult situations for the future.
Recognize the Signs
Every child is different even if they are in the same home. It is important to realize what situations may increase your child’s stress from academic pressure. Also, it is important to be tuned into what behaviors your child may engage in if they are stressed. For some children, they may become more emotional or stay to themselves more often than usual. Do not be afraid to ask questions to your child if you feel something may be wrong. This helps your children to be comfortable talking about their emotions with someone they trust. With that said, it is also important to talk with your child if you notice they are extra happy. Adolescence is a time of confusion about one’s self and how they relate to the world. It is important to prioritize the moments of excitement so you can begin to learn what makes your child happy.
Communicate with Teachers
Teachers are an important part of your child’s academic success. At the beginning of the school year it is important to set expectations for your child’s teacher to contact you. With that said, one must be mindful of teachers’ busy schedules. Children are at school for about eight hours every day. That is a lot of time someone else is spending with your child. This gets harder once children get into middle and high school. Take advantage of open houses and teacher-parent conference days to talk with teachers. It will require more work on you part, but it will be worth the effort.
Academic pressure is a heavy burden for many kids these days. The best way you can support your child’s academics is to be their best cheerleader. Have honest conversations with them as ask what they need from you. Hopefully, this will help not only them but you.