Give kids more space to be kids

It is evident that the stresses faced by schoolchildren come in multiple and varied forms (Support, guide students facing stress, by Miss Goh Xin Yi; Forum Online, July 31).

This begs the question of what else parents and educators can do to reduce the amount of stress our children face.

Schools are now shifting their focus to educating the whole child, but many parents still send their children to multiple tuition and enrichment classes each week.

We need to consider the costs when children spend time on these classes, away from their families.

Do these classes build character? Do they help children develop resilience or social and emotional skills?

There are certain key aspects of parenting that cannot be outsourced. Parents play a crucial role in influencing a child's attitude towards learning and achievement, and his ability to cope with stress. Often, it is our daily interactions with our children that makes the difference in their outlook on life.

Do we support their interests? Do we model the behaviour we want to see? Do we encourage them when they fail? Do we affirm their strengths and virtues?

Instead of filling our children's schedules to the brim, and sacrificing things like family time and sleep, it may be useful to examine how we can balance the time spent on structured activities with free time for play and exploration.

By giving children the space to be children, they get to exercise a degree of autonomy on how to spend their time, practise the skills of planning and prioritisation, and understand their own strengths and interests. When parents explore their interests with them, it works to build stronger family relationships.

In this way, children will come to understand that their worth goes far beyond their grades.

June Yong Chung Mee (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 07, 2018, with the headline 'Give kids more space to be kids'. Print Edition | Subscribe