In our 2018 Annual Parent Survey parents told us that 2 in 5 children have experienced stress relating to homework (42%) and exams (41%), so you are not alone if your child is also feeling the pressure of schoolwork. Many parents were also concerned that the school’s high expectations were putting pressure on their child (53%).
Expectations can help us learn to strive for things and therefore help children work to reach their full potential. However, expectations that are set too high can have a negative affect and cause pressure when they feel unrealistic, inflexible or inadequately supported. As parents, we can play a big role in helping our children to maintain a positive outlook on their schoolwork by supporting them at home.
If you feel your child is under too much pressure from schoolwork, here's how you can help:
Talk to the school
Having a good relationship with the school (or at least knowing the best way to start a conversation with them) really helps when it comes to addressing any problems head on. With joined-up help from both home and school your child will feel listened to and supported.
If you think the school may be putting too much pressure on your child it’s okay to let them know. Get in touch and explain you’d like to talk through your concerns. The first point of contact will usually be your child’s class teacher or form tutor. If you think it would be helpful, ask to speak to the SENCo or a member of the pastoral care team as well – your child’s teacher may suggest this anyway.
To find the best solution it helps to be clear about what your concerns are so make a list, keep a diary or ask your child to write a letter so it's in their words. Parents’ evenings are another great opportunity to have a constructive discussion about the work or any feelings around it. Have a look at our information on how to make the most of parents’ evenings. But if you're worried, don’t feel you have to wait until then.
Find out more about communicating with the school.
A consistent routine at home can help everyone feel at ease when life gets stressful. Being organised yourself will help, but encourage your child to take control and organise their own things too - organising their own time can help children feel more in control and more able to handle pressure. If they’re feeling pressure from the amount or type of schoolwork they’ve been set, work together to make a plan to tackle it, remembering to set aside time to relax!
Encourage a good balance
Make sure time at home with your child is well balanced, allowing for time to socialise, relax, have fun, do homework, eat regular meals and get enough sleep. No matter how busy things are it’s important to recharge your batteries. Regular exercise and hobbies are a great stress reliever too. All of this contributes to good health and wellbeing.
Take time to listen
Offer a place or time to talk things through. By listening to your child’s worries and respecting their feelings, they may feel relieved to have released some of their fears related to schoolwork. Be positive with them (even if they’re not feeling that way), and let them know they can talk about it at any time.
Recognise stress triggers
We all experience stress differently so the ability to recognise your own signs of stress is really important. It helps you anticipate problems, be more prepared and think of ways to help, even when those feelings can’t be avoided. Helping your child to understand this can help them cope with stressful situations. Try asking them to write down their triggers and reflect on things that may be contributing to stress.
Put yourself in their shoes
It’s not always easy to remember how you felt when you were at school, but trying to empathise with your child’s situation can help you understand what they might need, and help them feel listened too and supported.
Read Roberta’s story: How studying maths with her son helped Newtownabbey mum Roberta understand the pressures of school.
Talk to other parents
It often helps to talk to others going through similar experiences, so you can reflect and share ideas. And, if you find you’re not alone with a particular concern, it could be that it’s a wider issue in your school community that needs be raised at a Parent Council or similar parent voice group? For example, if lots of children are having trouble with the amount of homework set you could ask for the schools homework policy to be discussed.
Supporting homework; Supporting your child at exam time