Do you have a parenting worry that you can’t resolve alone? Do you need support from an expert to help your child? We’ve teamed up with Dubai’s leading mental health and wellbeing centre, The Lighthouse Arabia, to bring our readers regular, anonymous and free access to some of the UAE’s very best child and adolescent psychiatrists, psychologists, speech and language therapists and occupational therapists.
Dear Ask The Experts,
My son is smart, hardworking and position holder in the school. I feel his school has a very bad framework of exams. It is, test, test and test - mid term, end unit test, monthly test - in 9 subjects! My son is exhausted and tense. He is in Year 6. I am so upset for him but finances mean we do not have the option to change school - how can I help him to cope with this? A Worried Mum
Dear Worried Mum,
It does feel like an overwhelming amount of work for a young child to contend with; however, if you have looked at all your options and do not feel that there is another school he can go to, then it would be important to change your narrative around his experience.
Try to balance out his school activities with after-school relaxation, fun, unscheduled activities and activities that remind him that he is a child. Prioritise those activities like play dates equally to his tests and assignments. Such activities are not just good for his social and emotional development but they also allow him to destress and help him build the internal resources to return to his school work.
This is not just a story about an overworked child, but also a story about a hardworking child who has grit and is bringing his whole self to his work every day. Research shows that it is not the stress that is harmful, but the story we tell ourselves about the stress. Make sure he tells a story about resilience, hard work, dedication, and grit.
This is the motto of the Olympics. Life has put him in a circumstance where he has to show up with a non-negotiable discipline and commitment to his work. He will have to learn early on what it means to be conscious about his time—time to work and time to play. It will also be important that he takes care of his physical and mental health with the utmost consideration because he is under a lot more pressure—sleep, exercise, eating right, staying hydrated, socialising, having downtime, meditation—these will all be practices that he has to learn early on to incorporate in his life.
Remind him that he is learning some very important life habits—discipline, commitment, grit, hard work—early in life. And those are the most important things—the grades being secondary to his effort. He should do the best he can and not be overly concerned about the outcome. And remember, as a parent, what you do, how you speak about grades vs effort will impact his relationship with his grades.
Your child will be picking up on your emotions, your energy, and your story about the amount of work he has to do. If you change your mind-set about his experience, lighten up about the outcomes, and come at the task calmly, you can use your nervous system to help regulate his—its referred to as co-regulation. If you feel sorry for him or stressed for him, inevitability he will internalise your story line.