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All work and no play makes children stressed

Update: October, 05/2014 - 20:21

by My Ha

We try our best to inject small moments of calm into our hectic daily lives, but when we push all day to accomplish everything on our to-do lists, we often sacrifice the fun parts of life. Sometimes the everyday stress, compounded by the pressure that comes with being a parent or a teacher, can rub off on children.

Recently, at a primary school meeting, my children's teacher encouraged parents to set a schedule at home for kids to finish their homework. She also asked parents to help them develop daily routines and good work habits before they pushed them out into the real world.

The advice represented a wake-up call for me - I couldn't have agreed more. I felt lucky she was teaching my child.

In recent years, the stress of school has become one of society's major concerns. Heavy workloads, overcrowded classrooms, low salaries for teachers, and "deadly" high school and college exams have put a lot of pressure on teachers. Many have passed this pressure on to our children.

Some of my children's teachers encourage them to do homework in between classes, so they don't have to do it when they get home from school. For a long time, every time I told my daughter to sit down to do homework, she said she had already done it in class.

The fact that she did her homework between classes means she had no break, no time to run around in the school yard, and no time for even a breath of fresh air in the beautiful, shady garden. She didn't have time for a good laugh with her best friends or just running around with other kids. She had to sit there, I'd imagine, rushing to finish her homework.

"So you had no break today at school?" I'd ask her.

"My teacher said you have to make good use of your time," she'd answer.

The bus picks them up at 7:15am and drops them off at 5pm. We live close to the school, so they get picked up last and dropped off first. It breaks my heart when I look into the bus every day and see children asleep in their seats.

Trust me, I'm the kind of person who thinks every minute you're not accomplishing something you're wasting time. I feel rushed all my life. There's always some force behind me, pushing me forward, making me go until I finish all the tasks I've given myself. But that has to change.

"So during break, what do your friends do?" I asked.

"Well, they play hide and seek," she said. "We used to bring a ball to play football, but we're not allowed any more. Now we sing Korean pop songs and dance with friends."

"If you like to do things with your friends, then go ahead," I said. "Get out of the class and play with them."

At this, her eyes brightened. "You'll do your homework in the evening at home, because that is when it is meant to be done," I said.

It is difficult to draw a clear line for your children between work and play. During early primary school, they're combined. But I believe actually sitting down at a table and staying focused for a half hour, learning essential skills, should be an everyday routine.

An avant-garde education expert visited our school at the weekend, and proudly said: "Parents, please only take care of the well-being of your children. Let the teachers here at the school do their job. Please do not interfere!"

I totally disagree with his statement. Parents must take responsibility, not just let all the work fall on the teachers' shoulders. Learning to read and write is only part of what kids need to learn. Parents need to teach them so much more.

If we can stay focused long enough to do what we need to, I believe we can make time for the enjoyable things in life.

Children do need to sit down and focus on work on their own for a certain period of time - but not so long that they sacrifice their breaks at school, which are also important. My children sit down at their table to do homework every day, which brings a pleasant, peaceful feeling to the house. I told them to go out and play during their breaks at school, and I they have begun to do so.

I wish I had a camera attached to the school yard's tree so I could record the happy moments they spend with their friends. Those times should be treasured, especially looking back on them from adulthood. — VNS

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