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How To Help The Overwhelmed Child
Burnout isn't just for adults anymore. With stacks of homework, lessons in everything from piano to tae kwon do, soccer practice and household chores, burnout has become a fact of life for many school-age children. Twenty years ago, one in 500 children suffered from emotional problems. Today the number is one in 28.
A recent University of Michigan study also found that a full third of high school students reported feeling "tense" every day due to their combined school and extracurricular workload.
A strong emphasis on standardized testing results is one of the culprits. Focus on test results has led to increased amounts of homework in many school districts. Between 1981 and 1997 the time spent on homework more than doubled for six- to eight-year-olds. With test results closely tied to school district funding, many schools even put undue pressure on young children to score well on exams.
To help your child, you first have to pay attention. If your son or daughter is experiencing two or more of the following symptoms, they may be warning signs of too much stress:
If your child has these symptoms, talk with him. Also take time to speak with his teachers, the school psychologist or your pediatrician, if appropriate. Parents can also help their child avoid burnout with the following strategies:
Make sure they're organized. Homework is much less stressful if your child has a comfortable, well-lit work space, plus all the tools he or she needs to complete assignments. Provide a calendar to keep track of regular and long-term projects and jointly agree on a study schedule. Once these are in place, however, back off. Research has found that the best high school students are those whose parents didn't apply tremendous pressure about homework during grade school. Too much supervision sends the message that your child is irresponsible or can't complete the work on his own.
Remember, even the best students can get nervous when facing tests or new activities. They don't want to disappoint their parents, teachers and themselves. With some attention on your part, parents can go a long way toward helping their kids avoid burnout and school-related stress.
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